In early January, England entered a strict national lockdown, with leaving the house pretty much banned. At first, although you could go out for exercise (as well as buying essentials), it was been illegal to travel for non-essential reasons. The official rules stated ‘outdoor exercise should be done locally wherever possible’ – which means ‘avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live’.
Needless to say, this put a serious stymie on day trips. But with the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown having stepped up another phase on March 29, we’re starting to plan escapes and excursions once again. Here’s what you need to know.
Can I take a day trip in England from March 29?
Although travel and overnight stays were forbidden for months, the UK’s blanket ‘stay at home’ order has now been lifted as part of ‘Step 1’, along with the previous ‘stay local’ rules.
Non-essential travel is still discouraged, but different households are now allowed to meet outdoors, including on private land. Many parks, gardens and stately-home grounds are already open, and others will open from March 29. So are day trips allowed now?
The answer is yes… but with some qualifications.
Official guidance says ‘no holidays’ from March 29, and government advice is still to stay local and minimise travel. However, travelling out of your local area is no longer actively illegal – and government sources have confirmed that day trips are now permitted, though you should shop for food and fuel in your local area rather than stopping off along the way.
Bear in mind also that any outdoor attractions (such as theme parks) and hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants, as well as many attractions, will still be closed for now, leaving your day trip options a tad limited.
So if you’re desperate to get out there, you likely won’t get in trouble for doing so. But if you’d rather play it safe, it might be worth holding off on travel for just a couple more weeks.
Can I take a day trip in England from April 12?
Things are much clearer under the government’s ‘Step 2’, due to take effect from April 12 at the earliest. A new wave of businesses will be allowed to open, including holiday lets by individuals or households, pubs and restaurants serving outdoors only, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas. And from this point, day trips will (finally) be back in earnest, as long as you stay within England.
The main thing to bear in mind is that this date is subject to change if things don’t go as planned. Also, remember that indoor pubs, restaurants and attractions still won’t be open – but outdoor drinking and dining will be allowed. Bring on the beer gardens!
For a quick preview of what the official guidance might look like at this point, we took a look back at the rules introduced in May 2020 after the initial UK lockdown. Government guidance at the time stated that, as well as people now being able to exercise an unlimited amount or simply to enjoy being outside in nature without exercising, ‘day trips to outdoor open space, in a private vehicle, are permitted’.
The government stated: ‘You can drive as far as you want to, for example, to go and walk in a particular area that you are fond of, as long as you maintain social distancing.’ This was okay ‘because this does not involve contact with people outside your household’.
Under these rules, the public in England was allowed to drive anywhere as long as they didn’t enter Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. That included driving to take a walk in the countryside, or to visit a park or a beach.
However, it is worth noting that even when the government removed restrictions on day trips, many residents and local councils remained keen to deter people from visiting their area. Beach towns near London such as Margate, Herne Bay and Camber Sands urged day trippers to stay at home, with North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale saying, ‘Please don’t come to the seaside – we’re still shut.’
Meanwhile, Cumbria Police urged people not to ‘rush to the Lake District’, the Peak District asked people to continue using their local parks instead of making the journey to the National Park, the mayors of Yorkshire seaside towns Scarborough, Whitby and Filey said ‘now is not the right time’ to visit and Visit Cornwall also asked visitors to stay away.
That was the outlook at the start of last summer – and the exact rules for the new Step 2 are likely to differ when they’re formally announced. But either way, one bit of unofficial advice will continue to stand: wherever you day-trip, just don’t be a dick, okay?
When can I take a day trip in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?
The rules and dates in the other nations of the UK are different to those in England. In mainland Scotland, the blanket restriction on travel is expected to be dropped from April 26, but you’ll only be able to visit certain areas under the revived tier system. In Wales, people were previously expected to stay with a five-mile radius of their homes, but this limit has been lifted from March 27. And in Northern Ireland, the stay-at-home requirements will be eased from April 12.
Most cross-border travel within the UK is still banned. For non-Scottish residents, travel to Scotland is likely to remain illegal until soon after April 26. And those looking to travel to Wales won’t get details on when that might be possible until April at the earliest.
So yes, things are still kinda complicated when it comes to when, where and how you can finally head off on a day trip around the UK. Still, after months of dreary winter lockdown, we’re jazzed about the prospect of getting back out there as spring arrives. Time to dust off that Zipcar membership!