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Why the Brexit could actually mess up your travel plans

Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent
esvee, Flickr

With the British pound plummeting to its lowest levels in three decades, there has been much discussion of how now may be the best time for Americans to travel to the UK.

Indeed, the strength of the US dollar means you’ll spend less money in the UK, where a majority of voters stunned the market by choosing Thursday to split from the European Union. In the wake of the so-called Brexit, Americans might save $20 a night on a hotel room in London or get some bangers and mash for a bit cheaper.

But the Brexit could also complicate your trip to London — particularly at the airport, says Jason Clampet, co-founder and head of content at travel intelligence site SKIFT.

With the UK as a part of the EU, London’s Heathrow airport has been seen as a seamless intermediary for travelers. EU citizens can get in the same line as UK citizens, while foreign travelers (including Americans) have to go through customs separately.

Once the Brexit is finalized (which could take a couple of years) all EU passport holders will have to get in line with all the other “international” visitors. This could make waits longer for everybody, including Americans who will have to be processed along with EU passport holders.

“These changes won’t happen overnight because it is capital-intensive to make these adjustments, especially because Heathrow just rebuilt a number of their terminals,” Clampet told Yahoo Finance. “But now passengers will have to think differently about traveling.”

Another key difference for travelers will be that if you’re traveling through London to a final destination in another European country, you’ll have to claim your luggage and re-check it, which is an added hassle. Previously, with London as a hub for all European travel, we didn’t have to worry about whether our luggage would make it to our final destination.

Though Clampet says he doesn’t see this being a substantial impediment for people deciding to travel to the UK, it will certainly “affect travelers’ perception of a destination.” Perhaps frequent business travelers may decide to fly to other major European hubs like Frankfurt or Paris where they can avoid the hassle of a layover in London.

Alternatives to the UK

In addition to London, US travelers will likely opt for other European destinations this summer.

“We're likely to see Spain and Portugal enjoy one of their best summers of tourism ever as travelers look for destinations they perceive as safer following earlier terror attacks in Brussels and Paris,” says Clampet.

Spain is already the No. 2 country in tourism revenue after the US (in 2015 it had $75.5 billion in revenue) and the country had over 1.5 million American tourists in 2015 (a 23.6% increase from 2014), according to the Spanish consulate.

“Goods in Spain and Portugal are cheaper overall than Germany or France so it’s already a top destination, but with the current uncertainty in the UK, these two countries could be even more attractive now,” says Clampet.

In general, as people plan their vacations, they would be inclined to avoid countries that are experiencing significant turmoil or anti-immigrant sentiment. For those looking to make a Eurotrip, countries like Spain and Portugal may be an affordable alternative in the near term.

When it comes to Brits and their likelihood of traveling, Clampet says they will be acting a lot more cautiously and conservatively when it comes to making financial decisions.

“What typically happens when an event happens in a country is for about four to six weeks, people in that country don’t want to go out or spend money,” Clampet says. “Though I don’t think the British stayed away from pubs over the weekend, they are hunkering down and wondering what’s next.”