After a particularly tough year, Nicola Smith was planning to spend Christmas abroad with her daughter and granddaughter to create “new memories”.
Her husband, Steve, died in a motorbike accident in July – and the toy shop she owns had to shut for huge parts of 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
So Nicola, 60, from Morecambe, was due to fly to Canada on Monday to visit her daughter, Philippa, and three-year-old granddaughter Martha.
It would have been the first time she had seen Philippa since she suffered her own trauma: Philippa’s husband, Tom, died in a white water rafting accident last year.
But her hopes of getting abroad to see her family were dashed on Monday morning when Canada brought in a 72-hour ban on flights from the UK.
“I just wanted to go away where we could make new memories,” said Nicola.
“I haven’t seen Philippa since Tom drowned and she’s having such a hard time so far away from her family with a lockdown, and she was trying to work from home with a three-year-old with no family within thousands of miles.
“She was so looking forward to just having her mum there.”
Canada is one of several countries to have banned arrivals from the UK because of concerns at the spread of a new variant of coronavirus.
Nicola said this year had been “horrendous” and when she woke up to the news of the travel ban she was in “disbelief”.
Christmas Day will be the five-month anniversary of Steve’s death, so she was looking forward to getting away to somewhere she hadn’t spent the festive season before.
Nicola also hasn’t seen her granddaughter since she was a baby – so the Christmas trip was going to be an extra special time for the family.
“I speak on Facebook messenger to her but it’s not the same,” Nicola said. “She doesn’t really know who I am but she’s been getting excited for grandma coming.”
It’s not yet clear when the UK travel ban to Canada will be lifted – or whether she will be able to rebook her flight.
“You come so far and then it’s taken away again,” Nicola said. “If there’s a flight on Christmas Eve I’ll go but nobody knows what’s going to happen”.
Nicola is one of many people who have had their plans to go abroad for Christmas disrupted at the last minute.
Canada, India, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Austria are just a few of the countries that have blocked UK arrivals.
Ferry services from Portsmouth to France have been disrupted after France announced on Sunday it was closing its border to the UK for 48 hours.
Late on Sunday, former BBC reporter Carole Madge boarded a ferry to travel to France with her daughters Isabella and Juliet Hussell.
She said: “We were really excited. But sadly, once we got onboard and into our cabin, the announcement came out that we wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
British man Nick Kennedy, who lives in France, was looking forward to sharing Christmas with his parents who were due to travel there from Swindon on Tuesday.
“We don’t get enough time together as a family, so we wanted to make the most of it.” he said. “We want to get our son to spend as much time as possible with his English grandparents.
“It’s a big disappointment as a family. All I can hope for is that the borders re-open very, very quickly. We’ve got to wait until Tuesday to see if there’s any possibility of movement before Christmas.
“Many people, including my family, don’t believe the borders will be open.”