According to guidance from the CDC, everyone returning to the US via air travel needs to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day before travel. That means if you board a plane on Friday, you need to take a test no sooner than Thursday.
This could present a challenge to travelers with busy schedules who don’t have time to go to a testing site. The good news is that the CDC has approved specific brands of at-home tests that you can administer from the convenience of wherever you’re staying.
Good to know:
This policy applies to travelers two and older, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, as of December 6, 2021. However, if you recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days, you can also travel with proof of recovery, which includes a positive test result and a note from a healthcare professional.
What tests are approved by the CDC for international travel?
The CDC has approved a few rapid antigen tests for international travel. Since PCR tests usually require you to mail the sample from your home to the lab, they aren’t suitable for overseas travelers returning home. You need one of these rapid antigen tests to meet that one-day testing requirement.
Each of these tests requires you to book a video appointment so a trained medical professional can walk you through the process. No software is required, but you need a device with a camera and web browser.
Abbot BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Home Test
This rapid test can detect COVID-19 infections in travelers aged two and up — and those 15 and older can administer it themselves. Schedule a video call through eMed.com so a medical professional can guide you.
After you collect the sample, it takes about 15 minutes for results to hit your inbox. A 2-pack costs around $70 and includes the cost of the video call.
Abbot also sells a BinaxNow self test at pharmacies like Walmart and CVS, but the CDC hasn’t approved these for international travel.
The Video Supervised Rapid Test for Travel costs $39. A health advisor from Qured will supervise, via web browser, while you take the test. Results come through in two hours.
Cue COVID-19 Test for Home or OTC Use
The Cue test is the most expensive but has been used by companies like Google and the NBA to test employees before in-person meetings and events.
It’s best for frequent travelers because you need to buy a monthly membership, which starts at $50 — plus the Reader, which costs $150 with a membership. The cheapest option comes with 10 COVID-19 tests per year and 24/7 access to doctors through the app. Select markets have free same-day shipping.
Does insurance cover COVID-19 tests for international travel?
If you have private insurance, your provider is required to cover the cost of eight at-home virus tests a month, thanks to legislation from the Biden Administration. If you buy from a “preferred” retailer, you may be able to order one for free through your insurance. Otherwise, you can request reimbursement after paying out of pocket.
Do I need a test for domestic travel?
No, you can fly domestically without a negative COVID-19 test result. However, an at-home test can help ensure you don’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19. If you don’t have private insurance, you may be able to pick one up for free through your local government or select health clinics.
You can also order at-home testing kits online. Even brands that aren’t CDC approved can help provide at-home screening.