10 problems that could ruin your 2023 vacation

10 problems that could ruin your 2023 vacation - Getty Images

10 problems that could ruin your 2023 vacation – Getty Images

Last year was a salutary experience for both travelers and the tourism industry. The summer was dotted with thousands of cancellations and major flight delays as airlines and airports struggled to get back to normal after the pandemic.

There were shortages of rental cars and severe problems caused by strikes, technical failures and record heatwaves. With bookings for this summer skyrocketing, what are the chances of a repeat? We assess the risks and threats associated with holidays and travel in 2023.

Flight disruptions

Risk assessment: 4/5

Flight Disruptions - Carl Court

Flight Disruptions – Carl Court

Last summer’s chaotic sequence of cancellations and delays was largely due to a surge in demand as pandemic restrictions ended amid severe staff shortages. UK airports are now confident the situation is under control – Heathrow, for example, has said it is on track to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels ahead of the holiday peak in 2023.

However, Eurocontrol, an agency advising on pan-European aviation policy, recently warned that challenges remain across the sector overall – including supply chain issues, possible industrial action, airspace bottlenecks and technological change.

All of this means that 2023 will be an extremely challenging year, he said late last month. Meanwhile, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary recently drew attention to the impact of the war in Ukraine, which is limiting air traffic over Poland and also preventing long-haul airlines from flying over Russia. He warned that additional pressure on German and northern Italian airspace could cause problems in the summer.

The return of the Covid bureaucracy

Risk assessment: 1/5

The return of Covid bureaucracy - Iakovos Hatzistavrou

The return of Covid bureaucracy – Iakovos Hatzistavrou

Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 have been lifted by most countries in the world, including most recently Japan and China (although China requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours of arrival).

If you are not vaccinated, you will face several obstacles in some countries outside of Europe – such as a negative test result – and still cannot travel to the US.

The risk for 2023 is the emergence of a new dangerous strain of Covid-19 and the imposition of new travel restrictions. I rated the odds of this as low, but honestly I’m guessing. Who knows what could happen?

Lack of car rental

Risk assessment: 4/5

Car Rental Shortcomings - Getty Images

Car Rental Shortcomings – Getty Images

As I reported last week, many key holiday destinations experienced a major car rental crisis last summer as a post-pandemic surge in bookings and a decline in rental vehicles pushed prices to record highs.

The crisis has abated somewhat, but the increase in demand this year means that peak season prices will rise even higher in 2023 in most destinations, and there may well be some shortages again. In popular destinations like Tuscany, prices have skyrocketed over the past summer and have more than doubled overall since 2019.

The Algarve saw a big jump in 2022 and another increase this year – now it is 47 percent higher than before the pandemic. Even more modest price increases – in Spain and Greece – are still higher by 16 and 22 percent. compared to 2019. The answer for any high season traveler is to book now, months in advance – you’ll guarantee your car and almost certainly get a better price.

Passport trouble

Risk assessment: 2/5

Passport Woes - Paul Grover

Passport Woes – Paul Grover

In 2019, the renewal time for a British passport was only two to three weeks. Now you have to allow a maximum of 10, and last year around 360,000 people had to wait even longer. Now, even though the waiting time has not improved, the renewal cost has increased.

The problem for travelers was compounded by two things. Firstly, many of us cannot risk being without a passport for 10 weeks, so you have to pay almost twice as much for expedited service. Second, Brexit travel rules mean you must have at least three months of validity on your document on the day you leave the EU. Passports therefore need to be renewed earlier than before.

Brexit queues

Risk assessment: 3/5

Queues after Brexit - Chris Craggs / Alamy

Queues after Brexit – Chris Craggs / Alamy

As the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the government limits the time we can now stay in the EU, all UK passports must be checked and stamped by hand.

This has resulted in significant queues for UK nationals arriving at peak times at many European ports and airports – and it’s often difficult to predict how long you’ll have to wait.

EU proposals to introduce a new Entry/Exit System (EES) in May that would automatically register and track visitors from non-Schengen countries were intended to speed up work at airports – though there were fears that it would actually cause more delays at ferry ports. However, this has been postponed until at least the end of the year.

Cost spiral

Risk assessment: 5/5

Spiral of costs - Oleg Elkov

Spiral of costs – Oleg Elkov

Even in November, I predicted a sharp increase in the cost of flights and holidays for this year. Unfortunately, this prediction turned out to be correct, and in spades. The surge in demand has already driven prices up significantly.

Investigation just published by Which? said the cost of booking summer package holidays has increased by more than £19 on average compared to the same booking period last year. Of the six popular destinations, Greece saw the largest increase (up 30 percent), while the cost of holidays in Italy, Spain and Turkey increased by a fifth or more.

Meanwhile, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the cost of airfare increased by a staggering 44 percent last year, the biggest increase since statistics began in 1989.

IT faults

Risk assessment: 4/5

IT Faults - Orlando Sentinel

IT Faults – Orlando Sentinel

Two weeks ago, all flights in the United States were suddenly grounded for two hours due to a glitch in the country’s air traffic control system caused by a corrupted file. Around 10,000 flights were delayed and 1,300 had to be cancelled.

It was the latest in a long line of IT outages that affected travelers. In October, cyberhackers shut down several major U.S. airports. Last summer, all flights to Gatwick were grounded by a glitch in the air traffic control system, and earlier this year British Airways suffered three major outages in less than four weeks.

Aviation – which operates on complex and sometimes outdated information systems – is very vulnerable to such events. Will we see more this year? Almost certainly.

Extreme weather

Risk assessment: 3/5

Extreme Weather - James O'Neil

Extreme Weather – James O’Neil

Last summer was hot – and not in a good way. In the UK we had the hottest day on record on July 19 when Coningsby in Lincolnshire hit 40.3°C (104.5°F). This was a huge increase from the previous record – temperatures had never exceeded 100F in the UK before.

Europe fared even worse, with three intense heatwaves in France and the south of the continent. Overall records were broken in 12 different European countries, there were widespread droughts and severe fire problems. The Met Office recently said climate change has made such events much more likely.

Of course, such extremes are the most directly serious for the local people who have to endure them. But they will also affect tourism. Last July, Luton Airport had to close the runway as the asphalt melted in the heat, and there was widespread disruption on the railway as the tracks buckled. We can only hope for cooler weather this summer.

Strikes in Great Britain

Risk assessment: 5/5

Strikes in Great Britain

Strikes in Great Britain

Among the disputes that led to the strike last year were a Border Force strike at six key airports and ports over the Christmas period, a strike by baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport in November and several national rail shutdowns. Disputes between railway workers and the civil service remain unresolved, and we expect further railway shutdowns on February 1 and 3, and a major civil service strike on February 1 – including further actions by Border Guard personnel.

Let’s hope a solution can be found, but given our strong negotiating position, it seems unlikely that further disruption to the transport sector will be avoided this year.

Strikes in France

Risk assessment: 4/5

Strikes in France

Strikes in France

The French tradition of fighting for your rights through direct action is nothing new. Its roots go back to the revolution of 1789. The problem for us is that transport is a favorite destination and this applies not only to the French themselves, but very often also to tourists. Last Thursday’s general strike, which affected both Eurostar and the ferry lines, could be repeated.

But the biggest threat to travelers is French air traffic control strikes, as so many flights to and from the UK take place over French airspace. I had fights canceled due to strikes in May and September last year. There has been a truce since then, but last week Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary predicted more such strikes this summer.

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