Resources COVID Testing for Travel

COVID testing for travel has been a topic on our boat lately. Stephen and I will be at the Annapolis boat show in October then on to France to take delivery of new boats from the various factories for some of our clients.

So I thought I would share what we have learned while researching COVID testing required for travel including re-entry into the US.

covid testing for international travel

COVID Testing Requirements for Travel

With the delta variant keeping things in flux, COVID testing requirements are different for every country and changing frequently so be sure to read local requirements and check them often for chanages as you plan your trip and as your are on your trip especially if travelling abroad.particularly if you’re not vaccinated or are traveling with unvaccinated children.

Some destinations require negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test taken a certain amount of time — usually 72 hours — before departure. These 2 things, type of test and the limited amount of time to receive results, make COVID testing for travel challenging.

nasal swab being taken for a pcr test

What type of COVID-19 test do you need?

The PCR test, the most reliable tests for detecting active COVID-19 infections, is the most common required test for travelling, especially internationally. So that is the test we focused on in our research. Note, again, that it is important to read your destination’s requirements because restrictions can be stricter or more lax. For example Hawaii only accepts PCR tests from a specific list of COVID testing providers. Note that most destinations will not accept these tests that have quick turnaround times but are less accurate:

  • antibody test – blood tests that identifies that you have had a COVID-19 infection
  • rapid antigen test – check for proteins that are present on the virus’ surface.

Since PCR tests take about 72 hours for results, look for the “rapid PCR test” that offers results as quickly as 30 minutes. But note the rapid PCR may cost you.

How long will test results take to arrive?

Most destinations use a 72-hour period, from the testing time until either the time of your departure or arrival at your destination. But read the specific rules for your destination as timeframes vary.

So you may need to identify PCR testing locations that offer same-day results or provide rapid PCR tests analyzed on-site if a short timeframe could wreck your travel plans.

Some destinations allow you to quarantine upon arrival until your test results arrive, but in that case it is vital to be prepared to receive a positive test result and be prepared to quarantine wherever you are for two weeks which can be inconvenient and expensive.

Where to Get COVID Tests for Travel

Tests might be free or require a copay with your health insurance. Or you may find that you have to pay out of pocket if the test is for travel rather than symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.

Some rapid PCR testing options in major US metropolitan areas include:

  • Complete Health Partners in Nashville, TN. Results in 30 to 45 minutes. $250, no insurance.
  • Urgent Medical Care and MRI in Jersey City, NJ. Results in an hour or less for travelers. $250, no insurance.
  • Medical Offices of Manhattan in New York City, NY. Same-day results. Cost: $225 plus doctor consultation fee.
  • Frontage Laboratory in Exton, PA (near Philadelphia). For travelers with same-day turnaround. $200.
  • COVIDCheck in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Denver. Results in 1 to 8 hours. $199 without insurance, $149 convenience fee with insurance.
  • Elite Medical Center in Las Vegas, NV. Results in 24 hours. $299 with $49 using promo code “Welcome Back Vegas.”
  • WeTestU in San Diego, California. Offers mobile RT-PCR testing for travel. $199 for 2-3 day turnaround, $249 for 24-hour turnaround, $349 for same day.
  • Saguaro Bloom in Scottsdale, Arizona. Same-day RT-PCR testing. $279. No insurance.
  • Venistat Mobile Labs in New York, New York. Results in less than 24 hours; most results between 6 to 10 hours. $115 with insurance, $190 without.
  • DMCovid-19 Test offers travel PCR testing by housecall nationwide in all states except Alaska and Hawaii; it also has nine physical locations. Cost: $299 for next-day results.
    Test Well in Reno, Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe, California. Offers RT-PCR tests for travel with guaranteed same-day results. The cost is $149 for travel (but you can file a claim with your insurance for reimbursement).

COVID-19 testing at convenient locations for most larger US towns and cities:

Major US pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid as well as store-related pharmacies like Walmart, Costco, Kroger, and Publix often offer PCR testing for free if using insurance. Turnaround times can vary greatly from 2 to 5 days so ask your questions before taking your test to ensure you have the best chance of having your test results for travel.

Passport Health has a more than 100 locations in the US that cater to those who need a negative PCR test to travel.

These options offer online appointments which can save time and some offer drive-up self-swabbing testing which reduces your chances of coming into contact with a COVID-infected person right before your trip.

COVID Testing for Kids Traveling

Many larger US drugstores offer testing for kids. CVS and Walgreens test patients 3 years old and up; Rite Aid, 4 and older.

Acceptance of take-home COVID-19 tests for travel to US

For international travel to the US, airlines can accept at-home instant tests for which administration is remotely supervised via a real-time telehealth session. This can be useful for areas abroad with limited access to testing. Available options:

  • Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test
  • Amazon’s COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC

Mail-in COVID-19 testing

There are quite a few mail-in PCR COVID-19 testing providers available. Be sure to check if a service is valid for your situation and destination.

Most do not accept insurance (Pixel will). Some are for adults only. Some require a teleconference appointment.

Note that some of mail-in testing companies have teamed up some airlines and the state of Hawaii as approved COVID testing providers. So while mail-in seems slower, it actually is a good testing option for travel to the Hawaii and with certain airlines because your test will receive priority.

Popular mail-in COVID-19 testing providers include:

  • Everlywell: Results 1 to 2 days of lab receipt. Adults only. $109
  • LabCorp’s Pixel: Results 1 to 2 days after lab receipt. Adults only. No upfront cost with insurance, $119 without.
  • Vault: Test taken during a telehealth appointment. Results 1 to 2 days of lab receipt. For children or adults. $119
  •’s Azova: Test taken during a telehealth appointment. Results available 12 to 24 hours of lab receipt. Included in Hawaii’s trusted testing partner program and for travel to Bermuda. $118.99
  • OnSight Safe: Results available within 2 days of lab receipt, expedited processing available. For children or adults. Physical testing locations in New York City, Tampa, and Van Nuys, CA. Starts at $127.95.


Airlines, Airports, & Hotels offering COVID testing

In what seems like a game of trying to figure out the best testing for you, the options keep expanding…which is good and bad. 

Good because you have more options, bad because it is challenging to know when to quit researching!

covid and quarantine spelled out on a scrabble board

The list is changing rapidly of what airlines, airports, and hotels are offering. So we recommend you check with your specific facilities and companies to know what is available, their costs, and the turnaround times. Some of these may be your best option so don’t overlook checking their websites or making a phone call.

Airlines like United Airlines offer bundles of COVID tests to help you deal with the multiple tests you may need during prolonged travel.

For US sailors and travelers, note that hotels like the Baha Mar Hotel in the Bahamas offers free rapid antigen testing upon arrival and departure. Note this may NOT be the right test for entry to your next destination.

COVID-19 testing is required to enter the U.S.

Once you have left our great nation, you have to have plans for returning. Unless you are returning from a US territory or arriving at a land border from Mexico or Canada or are a member of a flight crew, a negative COVID-19 viral test result within 3 days of your return is required to board your flight home. Note if your trip is less than 3 days, you can use a negative test result from a test taken before departing.

Health passport apps are convenient

A digital health passport app can be useful when traveling to some countries as it may expedite your travel by exempting you from strict testing and quarantine requirements. These apps also make keeping track of your COVID-19 vaccine records and COVID-19 test results easier.

But the bad news is that you may need more than one app depending on your activities. This situation should improve as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and many airlines around the world are working together on a Travel Pass app.


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2 thoughts on “Resources COVID Testing for Travel”

  1. Hey folks – great article. I travel extensively between the US and France, returning two weeks ago from my last trip. At this time, vaccinated US citizens do not require a Covid test to get into France, just your vaccine card. To return to the US, you will need a Covid test, however, check out the CDC accepted Abbott BinaxNOW self test sold through You carry it with you and test prior to departing for the US and get your results thru the NAVICA app. Worked perfect for me, and no hassle of trying to schedule a test in France. Let me know if you have any questions.

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