Passport-free travel escapes to save your summer
Summer 2023: it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. The chance, after years of uncertainty, to fly away carefree into the sunshine. But for anyone with a passport ticking towards its expiry date, that week in the Balearics or Algarve could well be in jeopardy.
In 2022 the Passport Office reported ‘unprecedented’ levels of demand in passport applications – with an estimated 9.5 million processed. And they still don’t seem to have caught up. The estimated wait time to get your shiny new travel doc remains fixed at up to 10 weeks; a figure not aided by recent Passport Office strikes.
But it’s fine so long as your passport’s still valid, right? Not necessarily. When entering the EU passports need to have been issued within the last 10 years and be valid for at least three months beyond the intended day of departure. Which potentially puts you in tricky territory if yours is either very old or due to expire sometime this year.
But there is good news: there are other options besides the EU. Whether you need a getaway that allows a shorter passport validity – or one that doesn’t require a passport at all – your summer hols hitlist is below. Just be sure to check gov.uk and with your airline before booking, as rules are always subject to change.
No passport required
Long crescent stretch of sand, luminous shifting blues; when the summer sun shines on Port Soif Bay, you could almost imagine you’re in the Caribbean. But this isn’t the Caribbean, this is Guernsey – cast off the Normandy coast, far enough from the UK to feel like an adventure but blissfully passport-free to visit. Besides lovely beaches to explore (other corkers include Fermain and Pembroke Bay), you’ll get dramatic coastal walks, WWII history and sleepy bloom-lined villages. Stay for longer to island-hop to Bailiwick of Guernsey neighbours Herm, Sark and Alderney, and you’ll see just how low-key and lovely the Channel Islands can get.
Do it Aurigny flies from London Gatwick, or you can get a ferry from Portsmouth. Fermain Valley Hotel (from £162, fermainvalley.com) is set above a beach.
Isles of Scilly
Dotted off the southwest coast of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles feel like another world – relatively undiscovered and unspoilt, with a fraction of the summer crowds. Following a transfer by ferry, flight or even helicopter (chic!) to largest island St Mary’s from Cornwall, you can lazily bed in for a week of walking and beach-going, or hop between the other castaway idylls. Subtropical Tresco is home to fabulous gardens and castle ruins, while St Agnes is a rural gem of patchwork fields, crowned by a 17th-century lighthouse. With more than 35 fine beaches to choose from in the archipelago, many of them white-sand, who needs Marbella?
Do it Penzance Helicopters runs 15-minute transfers from Penzance to Tresco and St Mary’s. On Bryher, Hell Bay (from £105pp, hellbay.co.uk) is dressed in sea-and-sky tones and has its own onsite crab shack for seafood fans.
Yes, this is Scotland – but due to various geographic quirks, Tiree happens to be one of the sunniest places in the UK. The nearby Gulf Stream lends some warmth to its waters, too, so all in all it feels far further south than the Inner Hebrides. Just about 12 miles by 3 miles, Tiree is compact enough to lend itself to a long weekend or a lazy week, where you can check into a self-catering cottage and make the most of the beautiful beaches and highly rated windsurfing scene (the breeze here is as famed as the sunshine).
Do it Loganair flies from Glasgow and Southampton, or you can take a ferry from Oban. Stylish The Reef Inn (from £145, reef-tiree.com) has just eight whitewashed rooms channelling Scandic chic.
Just like Guernsey, the largest Channel Island doesn’t require a passport to visit from the UK – you can board a flight or ferry with other valid photo ID, such as a driver’s licence. On arrival you’ll be rewarded with plush beaches that look as if they’ve been plucked from sun-drenched Mediterranean waters, and rugged rocky cliffs that provide plenty of walking adventure. Pay a visit to Mont Orgueil Castle – set above fishing port Gorey for the best part of a millennia – and tour the island’s own wine estate, La Mare, where crisp white tipples suggest that you’ve accidentally decamped to nearby France.
Do it EasyJet flies to Jersey from Gatwick, or you can get a ferry from Portsmouth. The Atlantic Hotel (from £145, theatlantichotel.com) is set on the gold sands of St Ouen’s Bay.
Though barely off the coast of mainland Wales – it’s connected by a strip of bridge to Bangor – Anglesey comes with island appeal that make it feel like a further-flung escape. With much of the cove-carved coastline declared an Area of Natural Beauty, it’s the perfect spot for kayaking, swimming and paddling; sometimes with the hazy figure of Snowdonia as your backdrop. Neolithic history awaits at Bryn Celli Ddu, an ancient tomb, while Beaumaris Castle is a fabulous (if unfinished) medieval pile for history geeks.
Do it Trains go from London. Be transported not just to another place, but an entirely different bygone century by the palatial exteriors of Château Rhianfa (from £120, chateaurhianfa.co.uk).
Short passport duration A-OK
Check the latest entry requirements on gov.uk and with your intended airline and tour operator before booking.
You’ll only need a passport valid for the length of your stay (plus a valid eTA; about the price of a London coffee) to enter the world’s second-largest country – where there’s no end to the ops for summer exploration. Take in the picturesque lighthouses, sand dunes and lobster feasts of cute Prince Edward Island in the easterly Maritime provinces if you want a classic beachy summer break vibe, or self-drive across westerly British Columbia to spot wildlife ranging from grizzly bears to whales.
Do it Discover the World (discover-the-world.com) has a 10-night Atlantic Discovery self-drive holiday from £1,579.
As with its neighbour to the north, the US only requires visitors to have a passport valid for their proposed length of stay (plus an ESTA); so this could be the perfect opportunity to tick off that bucket-list weekend in New York or a tour of some of the country’s jaw-drop national parks. The beaches of California and Florida are waiting, too, but for the ultimate Americana experience head to the wilds of Grand Canyon and the glitz of Las Vegas – journeying through otherwordly sun-baked landscapes on a self-drive break.
Do it Audley Travel (audleytravel.com) has a 15-day Cultures & Canyons of Western USA trip from £3,885.
If you’ve yet to tick off Japan, don’t wait until the oversubscribed spring cherry blossom season to travel – visit in summer, when festivals erupt across Tokyo and sunny but refreshing climes beckon in the mountains of Nikko or northern island Hokkaido. Determined to hit the beach? The southerly islands of Okinawa are proper chill-out resort territory. Your passport only needs to be valid for the length of your intended stay.
Do it Inside Japan Tours (insidejapantours.com) has a 13-night Japan Unmasked tour from £2,660.
For those that feel they’ve been robbed of the Balearic sun, newsflash: you can still get a fly-and-flop hols, but with added Indian Ocean exoticness. The weather in Mauritius is warm and sunny through the UK summer months but it’s a cheaper time to visit and humidity is lower too. In between relaxed days on the beach, visit rum distilleries, go on hikes and e-bike through villages. All that’s needed is a passport valid for the duration of your stay.
Do it Turquoise Holidays (turquoiseholidays.co.uk) has a special offer seven-night holiday to LUX* Le Morne Resort from £1,669.
Could your time-ticking passport be the push you need to finally visit Down Under? As with the above, Oz only requires your passport to be valid for the length of your intended stay. And turns out the British summer is one of the best times to visit the South Australian outback – when climes are warm but not baking and wildlife is out and about rather than sheltering from intense rays. Try road-tripping from the coast in Adelaide to Coober Pedy and back over around 10 days, taking in wineries, epic fossils, opals and ‘roos on the way.
Do it Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) has tailor-made Australia holidays at a range of price points.