Getting a COVID-19 test done before departing for a trip has become a prerequisite. Your best course of action is to stay informed and plan ahead on what is required.
Depending on where you are going, your testing requirements are often set by the officials within the destination you’re heading to. They involve a specific type of test that’s admitted within a certain timeframe for validation to be conducted by an authorized health professional or proctor.
“In most cases, you will need either an antigen test, that is administered or monitored by a health care professional with proof of results and dates, or a PCR test,” said Amy Short, AAA’s manager of strategic partnerships and online sales. “If you’re going on a tour, it will also be instructed by the company’s operator.”
As of now, COVID-19 testing is required for international travel and cruises; Hawaii and U.S. commonwealths and territories have had stipulations. Puerto Rico has updated requirements for passengers on domestic flights to show a negative antigen or PCR test, taken by an authorized health care provider, within 48 hours before arriving. With its Travel Partner countries, requires a negative PCR test taken no more than two calendar days before the scheduled day of departure.
Various factors can bring about changes in travel testing requirements. “Check them again, often including multiple times, in the months and weeks leading up to your departure,” said Short. AAA’s partnership with Sherpa, can provide helpful info on COVID-19 related travel requirements—visit AAA.com/KnowBeforeYouGo.
WHERE TO GET TESTED
Many places offer COVID-19 testing at either no cost or differing prices, including medical clinics and CVS, RiteAid, and Walgreens. Airports also have testing clinics, including at JFK, Newark, Logan, and Denver.
Pre-scheduling an appointment may be required, and at some venues, walk-ins might be possible. Ask about the turnaround for your results as the timing could impact your departure. Also consider getting a backup test from another source.
“Some areas offer free testing, and your local health department is a great resource to find those,” said Strong. “Drugstore testing is usually cost effective, while those set up at airports can be costly.”
Another point to remember is flight delays may affect the validity of your pre-travel COVID-19 test.
“It’s going to depend on the rules of each country, so air travelers should familiarize themselves with [them],” said Perry Flint, a spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association.
For flying to the U.S. from a foreign country, the CDC requires a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before traveling by air.
Some hotels might offer onsite testing that can be booked at an additional charge. American and United airlines can provide guidance on where you can get tested. They can also help you obtain self-tests authorized by the FDA or the government of the country where you are, that meet re-entry requirements.
They must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test), include a telehealth video call conducted in real time, and have viewable results for airline and customs officials. For example, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Home Test has a proctor supervising every step. Also, Cue Health offers COVID-19 testing through its Cue+ membership service.
“Some travel operators, such as Royal Caribbean, have a partnership with testing services and you can order your kit right through them at a reasonable price,” said Short.
As of January 15, 2022, the Biden-Harris administration has required insurance carriers to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests. Check with your insurance provider for more information.