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How we organised an essential family trip to visit grandparents in Spain
It’s been over 18 months since we saw my parents in Spain – and with Dad not feeling too great, and a new granddaughter recently arrived – it was more than time for a reunion. But visiting a non-red country with 3 kids felt daunting – organising all the COVID tests, timeline and paperwork. Here’s the story of our long awaited, successful reunion…
Meet the family
We’re the Fosters, and there’s five of us. I’m mum Kate, there’s my husband Ian, and we have three kids: Danny, 11; Collette, 8; and our little lockdown surprise Holly, who’s just three months old. We decided that travel for us really was essential… it wasn’t possible to get childcare for the kids, and my parents really needed some practical support with their property – as well as to finally meet baby Mira. So we booked our flights and started to research all the tests we needed to sort out.
Think about your dates
I went online and worked out that as a family we’d need a test before we flew out to Spain, a test in Spain before we returned, plus a Day 2 & 8 package for the adults on our return as we weren’t fully vaccinated. Also, as Ian had an important work contract starting shortly after we got back, I splashed out on a Test to Release for him… but what I didn’t realise is how careful you have to be about all your dates.
Planning the dates and times of when you need to take your tests are key, taking into consideration the entry requirements and postal delivery services – that’s how long before you fly you need to take the test, plus the delivery and processing times.
Thankfully, I’d been lucky in the dates I’d chosen for our flights, and we were flying on a Friday. If we’d travelling on a Tuesday or Wednesday – due to Royal Mail not delivering on a Sunday – the at-home tests mightn’t have worked for us and we would have had to either hand deliver, or pay extra for a private courier to get the samples to the lab in time.
With four of us needing testing, it would have been very expensive if I’d had to book in-person tests.
No-tears COVID testing
Once the tests arrived, they were really easy to use. I had been a bit worried that the kids would find them uncomfortable but it was actually totally fine. Super easy in fact, as they’re only a lower nasal swab PCR test, not the brain tickler tonsil swabs. We only needed to test the older children but this kind is actually suitable for children of all ages.
Happy to help
There were really clear instructions in the pack, and an Essential Checklist card reminded me of what I had to record: bar code and the Royal Mail tracking number.
I’m a bit of a worrier, so I decided to give the call centre a ring and check that I was doing everything right. They told me how important it was to activate the test at the same time as taking the sample, and how important it was to get all the information right, as the details had to match my passport.
They also suggested that I took a few minutes to watch the video on the MyHealthChecked website to make sure we took the samples correctly – it was really reassuring to see exactly what we had to do.
Priority post was a breeze
The call centre team also reminded me that I had to get our samples to a Priority Postbox before 12noon, Mon-Fri, or risk my sample not getting to the lab in time for processing. I didn’t know where my priority postbox was, so I went online to look at https://www.royalmail.com/services-near-you.
Everything on track
The next day, I was planning to call back and check that everything had arrived OK – but I didn’t need to, as I received an email letting me know that the lab had received our samples. After that, I kept a close eye on my emails and waited for the results to arrive.
Our results arrived within 24 hours of the sample being processed at the lab, but it’s really important to take Royal Mail delivery times into account – the time ‘til your results arrive isn’t just from the moment you drop the package in the post, it’s from when it arrives at the lab. They need time to get everything logged and on the system, and do the actual processing.
Fit to Fly and off we went…
We got the email to let us know that that our results were ready, and I popped online and downloaded our certification – and we were off to the airport. We had a wonderful family reunion and got lots sorted for my parents, then 2 weeks later, it was time to head home.
Testing before we set off
The MyHealthChecked team advised me to keep an eye on the GOV.UK website to check Spain’s status, and be clear about what we needed to do on our return.
Myself, Ian and our older son Danny all needed a negative test before setting off, and I had to sort out some in-clinic ones in Malaga, which was quite stressful and pricey compared to the MyHealthChecked experience. I got some help from a local hotel, who were used to helping their British visitors with their testing requirements and were able to point us in the right direction for tests in Spain.
My HealthChecked took care of everything
I was glad that I’d organised our Day 2 + 8 package with MHC before we left – I had everything ready for the Passenger Locator Forms on the plane.
Though Collete (my middle daughter) didn’t need a test before we set off for the UK, both older kids needed to do the Day 2 test under the new rules – so if you’re travelling as a family be really careful to check all the details of what the latest rules and age the exemptions are on the GOV.UK website.
Quarantine period and testing
As we weren’t fully vaccinated, us adults needed to quarantine for a full 10 days – and take Day 2 and Day 8 tests. I did a big online grocery shop to arrive the day after we landed, and we treated it as an extended family holiday!
Our Day 2 tests arrived right on time, and I was allowed out to pop them in the Priority Postbox. I also organised a Test to Release kit for Ian to use on Day 5 so he could start work more quickly – he’s self-employed, so it was definitely worth it (and I could send him on errands after that!). His test arrived on Day 5, and we sent the sample back straight away for processing as soon as possible.
Getting back to normal
It certainly wasn’t our usual summer package holiday – and we worked really hard on Mum and Dad’s property whilst we were away – but it was so good to see them and get them safety set up for the year to come. Now Dad’s health is failing, they will be looking to sell and return to the UK, so we’ve got everything sorted to begin their journey home.
DISCLAIMER: COVID Travel Diaries are fictionalised accounts of real travel stories experienced by MyHealthChecked customers. Please be sure to do your own research and check the latest government guidelines before you book travel or tests.
Reviewed and updated 29/11/2021
Date of publication 02/08/2021