You can get a COVID-19 test for travel from the comfort of your couch

Jan 20, 2022

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Earlier this month, I took a COVID-19 PCR test at a pop-up tent in my New York City neighborhood, with results promised between five to seven days. I finally received my results 10 days after being swabbed.

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These turnaround times already pose significant problems for public health, but the long waits for results won’t work for virtually any destination with a pre-travel testing requirement.

Many testing facilities say they can provide results between 48 and 72 hours, but that isn’t always true, especially now that the omicron variant has exploded worldwide. Now, travelers have to be more resourceful in finding a COVID-19 test and are using options such as at-home tests or paying extra for results that can arrive in as little as an hour.

But did you know there’s another way to get a COVID-19 test with expedited results? Even better, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your couch. Here’s what you need to know about in-home COVID-19 testing.

What is in-home COVID-19 testing?

Mia Sloan checks the details of how to receive proof of her in-airport Covid-19 test results for a flight to Hawaii after being denied boarding earlier because her previous testing laboratory was not on Hawaii's list of approved labs during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, November 18, 2020. (Photo by Patrick FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that at-home and in-home COVID-19 tests are not the same, even if they sound similar.

At-home COVID-19 tests, such as Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test and Qured’s video-supervised rapid antigen test, are approved for travel to the United States. At-home tests are extremely popular for travel purposes but can be challenging to find in some parts of the U.S. right now due to the omicron surge as well as increased demand in testing for travel. They’re tests you can purchase and administer to yourself.

In-home COVID-19 testing is different.

This is a concierge service where a testing provider comes to your house, apartment or hotel and swabs your nose. In-home testing offers travelers the convenience of not having to wait in a line to get tested. We’re calling it in-home testing, but some facilities also provide testing at your office for large groups.

How can I get an in-home COVID-19 test?

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Generally, you can make an appointment with a facility that provides in-home COVID-19 testing. But if you’re in a rush to get a negative result before your trip, you may want to make an appointment a few days in advance as some facilities also tack on an extra fee for same-day or last-minute testing.

Some in-home COVID-19 testing options include:

  • DMCovid-19 Test: Offers travel PCR testing by house call nationwide in all states except Alaska and Hawaii. It also has nine physical locations. Cost: Price varies by location and whether it’s in-home or in the office.
  • LabDX: Offers in-home COVID-19 testing generally with same-day results in Miami Gardens, Florida. Cost: $129 for a home visit. Mention the discount code LABDX10PTSGUY for an exclusive $10 discount from TPG.
  • OnSite Safe: Offers home or office visits for groups of five people or more in New York City. Cost: $184 with next-day results available with expedited processing for an extra fee.
  • Quality Health Care Concierge: Offers a concierge in-home testing service in South Florida. Cost: Varies by the test taken and turnaround time.
  • Welz: Offers same-day in-home rapid testing in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles with a 15-minute turnaround. Welz also offers PCR testing with a one- to five-day turnaround time in New York only. Cost is free with insurance, but the federal uninsured program will cover the fee if you’re uninsured.
  • Zeel: Offers COVID-19 swab PCR testing in homes and offices administered by LPNs and RNs to the New York metro area. Available in New York City, Westchester County, Nassau County, North Jersey and Lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. Cost: $249 for the first person tested plus $50 per additional person with results within 48 hours.

Can I use an in-home COVID-19 test for travel?

JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale Arizona
JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/ The Points Guy)

The U.S. requires all incoming air travelers 2 and older to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure. To ensure you get test results in time for travel, you may want to consider using an in-home COVID-19, particularly if at-home tests are unavailable.

Generally, in-home tests should be approved for travel purposes, as long as they meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s requirements and you get a physical or digital copy of your results. But you’ll want to double-check you’re taking an in-home COVID-19 test approved by your destination. That means you don’t want to take a rapid antigen test if you’re flying to countries such as Canada or St. Lucia, which only accept PCR results.

For instance, TPG public relations manager Grace Farley recently used the in-home concierge Welz testing service to visit Paris. She said she found the test easy to schedule and plans to use it again for other international trips.

“[I] needed a negative test to enter [France] and found a place that will come to your home for free, making it … super easy and convenient,” Farley said. “I received my rapid antigen test results within 10 minutes and uploaded it to Air France.”

TPG travel editor Madison Blancaflor also used Welz to get a free rapid antigen test for a recent last-minute trip to Jamaica. “It was an incredibly simple process,” she said.

“I signed up through the website for a same-day test (you can’t book days in advance, so log on early in the day if you need to book a test), someone contacted me via text when they were on their way during my selected two-hour window and then they administered the test and had me fill out paperwork once they arrived … You can also request a PCR test, but my test administrator did give me a heads up before they arrived that the labs are backed up by up to a week … Thankfully, my destination accepted antigen test results, so it all worked out. I’d definitely recommend the service if you live in one of the cities where they operate — I certainly plan to use them again.”

When TPG senior writer Katie Genter attended a work conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, and needed a PCR test for international travel, her “best option” was to pay a testing service from a local lab to come to her hotel room. While other testing options in the area were a little cheaper, they required a drive to the facility, and she didn’t have a car during the trip. A technician came to Genter’s hotel room at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa for an extra $50 fee, and she received her test results in under 16 hours.

“It was convenient and modestly priced at $200, so not only would I do it again if circumstances required it — I wish more destinations had similar services available for travelers,” Genter said.

Featured photo by Jackyenjoyphotography/Getty Images.

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