Most people can agree with this sentiment: After a year of raging pandemic that forced families to comply with safety requirements and go into hiding in their homes, everyone could enjoy a vacation.
But if you’re planning on flying in the air and traveling overseas, there’s one thing you’ll need before you go home: a negative COVID-19 test result. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requires international travelers to be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of returning home, even if they are vaccinated.
If you don’t have a plan before you go, the requirement can be costly and time consuming to find quick results abroad.
Luckily for Carlsbad’s Nicole Hammond, she planned the requirement out before taking a vacation out of the country last spring.
“I’m a planner, and having three kids under the age of 5, I’m definitely wrong on the mitigation side of any possible risk,” Hammond said.
Hammond and his family had their eyes set on Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after positive reviews from friends who traveled there.
While planning his family’s trip, Hammond discovered the new reality of COVID-19 testing requirements for international travel. Depending on where you are traveling, many countries have entry testing requirements, while some do not have entry testing rules.
Most airlines take the step of advising passengers of the testing requirements in advance. In addition, the International Air Transport Association has created an online map showing the requirements for entering each country.
Regardless of the requirements to enter another country, you will need a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of your recovery to re-enter the United States.
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The CDC requires all international travelers aged 2 and over to have a negative COVID-19 test result or recovery document produced within 72 hours of the date of your return to the United States
The rule applies even if you are vaccinated, according to CDC guidelines.
“Airlines should refuse to board anyone who does not show a negative test result for COVID-19 or recovery documentation,” according to the CDC website.
For Hammond and his trip to Mexico, she was surprised that the only testing rules in place were about getting home.
“I was surprised that there was no need to test to enter the country [Mexico] but only to get out, because I’ve heard some discrepancies depending on where you’re going as to what they need, ”Hammond said.
Hammond has found that some testing companies can charge hundreds of dollars to provide rapid COVID-19 test results in time for an departing flight.
Another CDC-approved option is to use a self-administered test that you can purchase in the United States and bring with you.
But this option comes with its own rules.
The CDC requires you to use a “SARS-CoV-2 virus test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) ”and you must have a telehealth appointment or witness doctor to administer the test.
NBC 7’s Allie Raffa has more on the risks of the Delta COVID-19 variant.
Some FDA-cleared self-tests that include a telehealth service may require a prescription, the CDC Online says.
Hammond knew all of this and was lucky: the Mexican resort where his family stayed provided rapid on-site testing. The cost? Only $ 20 per person.
“I’ve heard numbers for Hawaii that are around $ 100,” Hammond said. “So $ 20 per person wasn’t bad.”
The return of the Hammond family home has gone quite well. She said the only problem she encountered was having difficulty sharing her negative test results using an app on her phone. But luckily, the resort had printed hard copies of the test results, and she was able to use them to board her return flight.
A good reminder to always have a backup plan, Hammond said.
“My advice to other families is to plan ahead: do your due diligence to understand where you are going and what the protocols are,” Hammond said.
Hammond also recommends checking which test you are taking and that it is the appropriate COVID-19 test the CDC needs to board your return flight. Apps like VeriFly will share requirements with users based on the country they are visiting and help share test results with airline staff.
The Hammond vacation went well and they booked another trip to Mexico this fall. After several months of keeping his family indoors, Hammond said the trips were good for the family and supported businesses internationally.
“In the hospitality industry, supporting businesses is important to our country and to the world,” said Hammond. “I would encourage people to start considering traveling.”