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The New Rules for International Travel and returning to US From Your Vacation Abroad

For those of you who have an International trip or want to plan an International trip, you may have read or heard that requirements are once again changing on January 26th, 2021. The CDC order requires You will need proof of a negative Covid-19 or Recovery letter that needs to be taken 3 days prior to your flight home.

As a travel professional for over 10 years, I’ve taken time to try to explain this as best possible for you:

I am a US Citizen. Does this rule apply to me?

YES! This rule applies to ANYONE flying to the United States from another country.

What kind of test will I need?

Get tested no more than 3 days before your flight to the US departs. Make sure to be tested with a viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19. Also make sure that you receive your results before your flight departs and have documentation of your results to show the airline. If you show up at the airport without this, you can be denied boarding regardless of your departure destination.

What kind of documentation of my test result do I need to provide?

CDC requires that air passengers arriving in the US have a paper or electronic copy of their test result for review by the airline before you board and for potential review by public health officials after you arrive in the US. Here is more:
Passengers must also fill out a CDC attestation form.

The test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy) of a laboratory test, and must include information that identifies the person, a specimen collection date and the type of test administered, as well as verification information, such as the name and contact information for the laboratory that performed the test.

If you are traveling from Newark International Airport or one to the NYC airports, there are testing centers that provide quick results to the required PCR test. Here is a place I have used in New Jersey that is near Newark International Airport and easy to reach for northern New Jersians even if their flight is from a New York City airport. There are others in NYC or check near your home. Allow 24 hours for results, and this is an out-of-pocket expense.

Where to get the test needed for travel in NY and NJ?

New Jersey

New York

  • CareCube offers tests at their locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Long Island City. The cost is $200 without insurance, with results in 24-48 hours.
  • The Medical Offices of Manhattan performs tests at their three locations in Manhattan, with same-day results. The office visit costs $199 (your insurance may cover this), and the test costs $225.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Manhattan, using saliva samples. The cost is $184 for results in 1-3 days, or $208.75 for results by midnight the next business day.
  • The New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine offers tests with same-day results in Manhattan; the test costs $395, an official certificate for travel an additional $35.
  • Urgent Care of New York performs drive-up tests at its four locations in Westchester and Rockland counties for $75 (they accept most insurance for the cost of the visit), with results in about 20 minutes.
  • Med2u Inc. does home/office visits in New York City. The cost is $200, plus a $100-$200 travel fee; results are available by 8 p.m. the next business day.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the New York area (including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.

What happens if I test positive?

You will have to self-isolate and delay your travel back home until you can prove that you have a negative test. Don’t worry – I can help you figure out what insurance you need to make sure you’re covered.

What if I recently recovered from COVID-19?

CDC does not recommend getting tested again in the three months after a positive viral test, as long as you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months, and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”

I have multiple flights back home to the US! Do I still have to take the test and when?

If you are arriving to the US via one or more connecting flights, your test must be done in the 3 days before the first flight in your itinerary, but only if the connecting flights were booked as a single passenger record with a final destination in the US and each connection (layover) is no longer than 24 hours long. Don’t worry…..I can book your flights the correct way.

I’m traveling on business and not for leisure and will only be out of the country for 4 days. Do I need to test?

From one business traveler to another, yes, you still need that test.

My flight is delayed and pushing me out of my 72 hour window for the COVID test validity?

Sorry to say this, but you will need to be tested again. No exceptions.

Yeah, but who is really checking to make sure that people have a negative test or documentation of recovery before they board a plane to the US?

The airline will confirm a COVID-19 negative test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before boarding. Air passengers traveling to the US are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery.  Airlines must confirm the negative test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before boarding. If a passenger chooses not to provide a test result or documentation of recovery, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

What happens if I test positive before departing or while abroad?

Before travel: People should self-isolate and delay their travel if symptoms develop or a pre-departure test result is positive until they have recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must refuse to board anyone who does not provide a negative test result for COVID-19 or documentation of recovery.

For your return: If you test positive in a foreign country, you will not be able to board your return flight until you have completed the self-isolation rules and test negative after that time. THE PROPER TRAVEL INSURANCE is critical; don’t worry – I can help you with that.

If I tested negative before my flight, do I need to get another test when I get to the US?

CDC recommends that travelers get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home or otherwise self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days. If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days. Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel

I have the vaccine!!!! I’m good right??

LUCKY YOU! Personally, I can’t wait to get my vaccine! Regardless of having the vaccine, you still need to provide that negative test. No exceptions.

Booking your trips with a travel professional will be invaluable moving forward.

All travelers (including those who have recovered from COVID-19) should remember to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from people who are not in your household, and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing and before eating. Travelers should look for symptoms of COVID-19, and take your temperature if you feel sick. Anyone sick with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and delay further travel.

As always, I am here to help you navigate this new landscape.

luxury travel advisor Theresa Jackson on one of her adventures journeys

At Enlightened Journeys Travel, we design handcrafted travel itineraries for your immersive journeys of a lifetime.

Keep exploring – Life’s an adventure!

I look forward to opening hidden doors in exclusive travel for you!
Theresa