Many of us have been craving the sun, sea, and sand after our lives were turned upside-down by Covid-19.

Simple pleasures like going on holiday were put on hold but 18 months on since the first lockdown, our lives seem normal again with trips abroad well and truly back on the agenda.

But understandably, there is still plenty of nervousness amongst potential travellers and plenty will have probably been put off my confusing rules and restrictions.

I hadn't been away since Covid struck so when London Luton Airport got in touch to tell me its annual press trip was back, I jumped at the chance.

They told us we would be away for just a day but I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to tell readers about what it's like to travel right now to the British holidaymakers' most popular destination of Spain.

Watford Observer: Malaga, Spain Malaga, Spain

I was only in the southern city of Malaga for around eight hours, but if you're prepared to do the admin to get yourself to Spain and back, the warm Mediterranean climate is enough to make me want to go back immediately.

Before the pandemic, it was just the passport and boarding pass - and a visa depending on where you're going - that you'd need to be on your way.

Not anymore. I had to fill out no less than three online forms and make sure I had my Covid vaccination pass sorted. There were two passenger locator forms to fill - one to be allowed past Spanish airport security and another to get back into the UK.

The forms require plenty of personal details and it certainly doesn't fall within the calm holiday spirit. Then there was also a requirement to book a Covid test once back in the UK.

Because I am double vaccinated, my requirement was to take a PCR test within two days of returning home. The test I took was paid for by the airport but holidaymakers can fork out around £70 to have one.

Watford Observer: The EasyJet plane for the 4am flight out from Luton to MalagaThe EasyJet plane for the 4am flight out from Luton to Malaga

But what about the journey itself? It was an extremely early start on Wednesday morning arriving in Luton at 4am, meeting two other journalists and two from the airport's communications team.

I was intrigued by what services the airport would provide and what the rules would be. At London Luton, face coverings were mandatory in the airport and there were hand sanitising stations. The shops and restaurants and bars were all open as was duty-free so it all seemed mostly normal.

Watford Observer: A hand sanitising station at London Luton AirportA hand sanitising station at London Luton Airport

Passport control was just as I remembered it to be but it is easy to get a little flustered when you try and remember which of the forms you'd filled out you might need.

The EasyJet flight out to Malaga was near-capacity with around 140 people on board. I, along with everyone else (except those exempt), had to wear a face covering throughout the journey which was uncomfortable to say the least. I'm not sure I could have handled a much longer flight although I probably should have worn a more comfortable mask.

But it was reassuring to see where a mask may have slipped or been removed, cabin crew would readily remind the person to put the mask back on.

Watford Observer: The EasyJet flight was nearly full The EasyJet flight was nearly full

Apart from the face coverings, nothing much else was different, except cabin crew weren't taking cash. Food and drink was still offered on the plane and the toilets were open.

I was sat next to a gentleman called Paul who had last flown exactly a year before. He was flying out to see friends and appeared very calm and relaxed and happy to be back on a plane.

When we arrived at Malaga airport, I noticed straight away there were plenty of signs about Covid-19, including in English.

Watford Observer: An information sign about Covid-19 at Malaga AirportAn information sign about Covid-19 at Malaga Airport

It turns out Spain is very hot on its mask wearing - as I headed through the airport and onto the train that runs into the city centre, I noticed literally every single person I saw was wearing a face covering. The compliance there compared to England was quite staggering.

Before we left the airport, I had to show my QR code from my Spain passenger locator form and a whole new Covid checkpoint had been created. I'm told there were infrared cameras taking passengers' temperatures as they passed through.

Watford Observer: A brand new checkpoint at Malaga Airport where we had to show our Spain passenger locator forms and had our temperature checkedA brand new checkpoint at Malaga Airport where we had to show our Spain passenger locator forms and had our temperature checked

Once out of the airport, it was time to relax knowing that I had passed all of the Covid-related entry requirements.

The weather in Malaga was perfect. Bright blue skies and around 25 degrees but it wasn't humid. Our group walked into the city to find our tickets for the City Sightseeing Malaga hop-on hop-off bus that had been booked.

Watford Observer: The hop-on hop-off Malaga city tour bus The hop-on hop-off Malaga city tour bus

We visited several spots via the bus including La Malagueta Beach and Castillo de Gibralfaro, which is a 14th century castle on the top of a hill that gives stunning views over the sea and into the Bullring arena.

Watford Observer: Views over Malaga from a viewing point near Castillo de GibralfaroViews over Malaga from a viewing point near Castillo de Gibralfaro

Watford Observer: La Malagueta beach in Spain La Malagueta beach in Spain

The city wasn't heaving - as to be expected in October - but there was a great atmosphere and there was plenty of choice to eat and drink. We had lunch by the port and rounded off the day with cocktails on a rooftop bar which gave more stunning views.

Watford Observer: Malaga, Spain Malaga, Spain

Watford Observer: Me on a viewing point looking out onto the sea off the shores of MalagaMe on a viewing point looking out onto the sea off the shores of Malaga

Even though I was in Malaga for just a few hours, it felt so so nice to be abroad, taking in the wonderful weather and local culture. It definitely made the 3am alarm worth it.

Watford Observer: Malaga, SpainMalaga, Spain

Back at the airport, I chatted with Darren and Jaine Winter who were waiting for their flight to Heathrow. I asked them how their holiday had been and what advice they would give to those at home might be worried about travelling abroad.

They said: "We've had no problem at all with this trip as long as you are prepared to do what you need to do. In fact travelling has seemed easier this year."

Mr Winter added: "I don't think the forms are too onerous; it certainly was earlier in the year because of testing and quarantine, but if it keeps people safer, it is not the end of the world. You have to be prepared to wear a mask on the flight and through the airport as well as some other places in Spain."

Watford Observer: Jaine and Darren WinterJaine and Darren Winter

Mrs Winter said: "I don't really think there is a barrier to travel now. I don't think the elderly or vulnerable should be worrying. All airlines are taking the situation very seriously and it feels safe."

Watford Observer: Malaga Airport was busy for the journey backMalaga Airport was busy for the journey back

For the return journey, I had to show the Spanish authorities my passport and boarding pass as well as my UK passenger locator form. It was at this moment I learnt a valuable lesson - always check you have sorted everything you need!

I'm not sure where I went wrong but it turns out I hadn't completed the UK form properly the night before and I hadn't received the confirmation email.

I was in the boarding queue frantically looking through my emails and I couldn't find what I was looking for. Fortunately I was towards the front of the queue so I just about had time to fill out the locator form again.

I knew what information I needed to provide so it only took around five to ten minutes to complete but it was a headache I, nor my fellow travellers or airport staff, needed. Once done, the confirmation email is instant and this time I had checked out correctly, and I was able to board the plane.

Watford Observer: In this queue, I realised I didn't have what I needed to get on the plane homeIn this queue, I realised I didn't have what I needed to get on the plane home

After another relatively uncomfortable journey back with the face covering on, we landed in Luton and I was the first off the plane. Although we only had hand luggage, it took just 15 minutes between leaving the aircraft and clearing passport control.

I went back to the airport on Friday evening to visit the designated walk-in Covid testing centre. The airport has a drive-thru centre as well. At the walk-in, a man from testing provider Collinson swabbed my throat and nose and told me I'd receive my result within 48 hours.

So how did I find my daytrip to Spain?

Obviously, I can only go by my experience flying from Luton and what I witnessed in Spain - and I didn't stay in a hotel or anything like that - but if I'm being honest, I felt much safer - and happier - in Spain than I did in England.

I am living with long-term effects of Covid - a condition called parosmia which has distorted my taste and smell since July 2020 having contracted the virus in late March that year - so I am well aware of the risks of this disease.

Watford Observer: Hand sanitiser in Malaga AirportHand sanitiser in Malaga Airport

But I felt there were adequate measures in place at the airports both home and abroad as well as on the flight, and as long as you are prepared to fill out the forms and comply with some of the rules, it's well worth the journey, especially if the weather in Spain is as good as it was. If you are worried, I genuinely would recommend flying out - in fact you're probably much more likely to catch Covid here than abroad.

Watford Observer: MalagaMalaga

Watford Observer: MalagaMalaga

London Luton is obviously desperate to get more passengers through the door. The airport saw 1.8 million pass through between July and September of this year, which is way down on the 5.2 million over the same period in 2019.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced this week the PCR testing requirement for vaccinated travellers would be dropped to a lateral flow test from October 24, which he says will make it cheaper, easier, and simpler for families.

Clare Armstrong, who is head of passenger service at London Luton, told us the Government needs to go further to help airports "unlock the rest of the demand" by restoring confidence in travel and "making it as easy as possible".

She added: "We know people may be nervous about travelling again, but preparation is key. It’s no longer a case of just turning up at the airport, you do need to spend some time understanding what documentation you require both in your destination and on return to the UK.

"Providing you’ve done your homework there should be no reason to panic and with airports and resorts still quieter than usual it’s a good time to travel."