What is involved in a US citizen flying to the UK for a week and back?
September 23, 2021 9:31 AM   Subscribe

My mother lives in the US, but my sister and her children live in the UK. My fully vaccinated mom has been planning on flying to London and back in October to visit them, and she says that she can't do this because the travel restrictions don't lift until November. I believe she is confused and those restrictions only apply to UK citizens going to the US. What are the actual rules for US citizens flying to UK and back as of October 20th? Is there a simple guide I can give to my mom to reassure her?

This is pretty confusing because all of the websites don't really mention the second half of round trip tickets so it's easy to read a flight back as "traveling from the UK to the US" which is banned. She's done this trip many times before covid and logistics won't be a problem, and everyone involved is as vaccinated as possible right now. Her trip would be October 20th to October 31st or November 1st, so any quarantine time would make it pointless. Here is my understanding of the timeline for this kind of trip, as of the October 4th UK rule changes:

1. ASAP purchase a round trip ticket from Nashville (where she lives) to London and back
2. Prior to flight, register with the UK passenger locator site
3. As of October 4 no pretest required for fully vaccinated travelers to UK as long as she has her vaccination card
4. On October 21st (or maybe 22nd) after arriving, take test in the UK according to their rules. Are these tests easy to find? It says the rules will switch to cheaper linear flow tests starting in October but that may not be in time
5. Nothing else required in the UK as long as she tests negative.
6. On October 29th or 30th, get a Covid pretest for flying back via the US rules and have that proof. Getting this at heathrow might be the easiest option, is there a long delay on these types of tests?
7. Fly back to the US on October 31st or November 1st, no further testing or quarantine required as long as she tests negative

Does this sound right? Obviously there is risk in doing this, but she was telling me it would be easier to do this flight around Thanksgiving time or Christmas time, which I think is wrong because the airports will be way more crowded and the US is unlikely to remove the return flight pretest requirement before then. I think end of October is probably the safest time in the next 3 months to fly to the UK and back, and the dates work for both my mom and sister. So, I appreciate any information that confirms my plan or tells me it won't work, thanks!
posted by JZig to Travel & Transportation around London, England (7 answers total)
 
As a US citizen, she can enter the US before the travel restrictions lift in November. For the entire pandemic, entry restrictions have not applied to citizens. (Source: We live in Germany and my husband was able to fly to the States and back in June.) I will leave it to others to answer the rest, but generally, yes, she will be allowed back into the States with a test.
posted by dame at 9:52 AM on September 23, 2021


Best answer: I'm boarding a flight to the UK in a few hours as we speak!

Unless things change, make sure that she books the day 2 test through one of the listed providers on the UK government's website. She will need the booking reference number when filling out the passenger locator site.

If she does this early enough, she might be able to select one of the cheaper options, get them to mail the testing kit to your sister, and then use the booking reference from that. However, if she's doing it at the last minute, she'll have to book one of the 60-80 GBP ones, which will give her a booking reference online.
posted by movicont at 11:16 AM on September 23, 2021


Best answer: The US Embassy in the UK specifically states:
If you are visiting the UK, you may return home to the United States. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your final destination. Please consult directly with your airline and follow all UK government guidelines when making travel arrangements.
In case you need something to show your mom.

Regarding travel around Thanksgiving, I usually fly from Europe to visit family in the US during that time. As long as flights are direct, I've never found that the International flights/gates are at all crowded. It is the domestic flights that are crazy, not the international ones. Europeans don't have vacation then and Americans don't tend to go to Europe during that time I assume.
posted by vacapinta at 11:21 AM on September 23, 2021


Don't forget that the airline may have its own testing/vaccination rules that are stricter than the US government's rules, and she will have to comply with the airline to get on the plane. Make sure she gets the specific test type that the airline requires.

I researched flights to a formerly direct-flight European destination and discovered that the pandemic has caused enormous upheaval in routes and schedules. Even when I was able to discover a direct flight (to an adjacent city from my preferred one) the flight only operated a couple of times a week rather than daily, and there may not be a direct flight to smaller cities. It probably won't apply to your mother, but overseas layovers also may require test results within their time window before allowing you to catch a connecting plane, and layover connections will need to be longer for all this checking. I was advised to avoid Heathrow at all costs for a connecting flight because the delays are extensive and connecting flights are often missed. This was all a lot to coordinate: We found it helpful to use a travel agent, which we haven't done for years.
posted by citygirl at 1:10 PM on September 23, 2021


This is pretty confusing because all of the websites don't really mention the second half of round trip tickets so it's easy to read a flight back as "traveling from the UK to the US" which is banned.

It is exactly the same as traveling from the UK to the US, which is not banned if she is a US citizen. It doesn't matter that she has a round trip ticket.
posted by bashing rocks together at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2021


Hello! I am a US citizen who resides in the US, and just had a trip to the UK at the end of August. I cannot speak to the Oct. 4 changes, but:

Prior to flight, register with the UK passenger locator site
Yes. This is pretty easy and the site works well. You can upload proof of vax there easily. Print everything out just in case!

take test in the UK according to their rules. Are these tests easy to find? SO EASY. The UK has a site with listed providers, but you can also just order a self-test to be sent to your hotel or wherever you are staying. Please note: NHS England will accept a test from a private provider, while NHS Scotland will only accept NHS tests, so check to see. (I am not familiar with Wales or Northern Ireland requirements, but they are all different! Fun!)

Nothing else required in the UK as long as she tests negative.
Correct.

On October 29th or 30th, get a Covid pretest for flying back via the US rules and have that proof. Getting this at heathrow might be the easiest option, is there a long delay on these types of tests?

I did mine at a private provider near my hotel. They have testing sites at all of the airports, Paddington Station, etc. My preference was to do a rapid antigen test the day before my flight back to the US so that I wouldn't worry about turnaround time at the airport.
posted by bedhead at 9:45 PM on September 23, 2021


Here's a not for profit provider offering day 2 test kits for £48

Testing for all - day 2 tests
posted by knapah at 1:58 AM on September 24, 2021


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