My experience using the instant at-home COVID-19 test that’s CDC-approved for travel to the US

May 14, 2021

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Update 5/14/21: This post originally suggested that customers may be able to share one of their test kits with someone else, however an eMed representative confirmed that all six tests are intended to be used by the individual listed on the original order.

Update 5/26/21: As noted on the order page, this test may only be used by individuals four years of age and older.

Update 6/3/21: American Airlines has confirmed that it will accept results from Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test as well.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded the testing program for international travel to the United States, allowing airlines to accept at-home instant tests that include remote supervision.

I purchased a six-pack of Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test for $150 through eMed, which includes supervision for each test and currently appears to be the only at-home instant test to meet the CDC’s supervision requirement (at this time, the CDC hasn’t released a list of eligible tests).

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While this eMed six-pack is compliant, a similar version sold through pharmacies may not be, so be sure to select the option that includes an “eMed Certified Guide.”

My six-pack arrived the day after I placed my order, and appeared to be valid through Sept. 17, so I’ll be able to use the remaining kits for future trips. You’ll need to order the kit before you depart the U.S., and bring it along on your trip so you can complete the test within the required three-day window.

When it was time to test, I downloaded the NAVICA app, created an account and logged in via the web browser on my computer. I then began a short questionnaire.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

There was an option specifically for people testing for reentry to the United States, so that’s what I picked.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

I was prompted to select my airline and country from a drop-down menu, with a field to enter the city as well.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

After I completed the survey, I clicked to begin the test. Juan joined the call a minute or so later and began walking me through the process.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

After asking me to position the camera so he could see both my face and the entire test kit, Juan instructed me to break the seal on the test and begin the process.

In total, it took just a couple of minutes, from opening the kit to preparing the card to conducting the all-too-familiar nasal swab.

After that, Juan started a timer for 15 minutes and we said our goodbyes — he told me he usually conducts 12 tests per hour over an eight-hour shift, or nearly 100 tests every day. Go, Juan!

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

A new guide, Lianne, appeared a minute after the 15-minute timer was complete. She seemed to have a bad connection, so we communicated using the chat function, which worked just fine.

After scanning the QR code on my test and confirming the negative result — one thin pink line, instead of two — she sent me my results via email and ended the call. The results were available instantly in my NAVICA app as well.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

I also got a special “pass,” which included a QR code and could be shared via text, email and other methods.

(Screenshot courtesy of NAVICA)

While other approved tests could pop up, Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test seems to be the best option for now. United Airlines confirmed that this particular test is compatible with the airline’s “Travel-Ready Center,” and American is accepting the test as well, making it easy to link your results with your reservation.

As the airline notes, “The BinaxNOW Home Test kit is lightweight, about the size of a day planner and fits easily into a passenger’s carry-on luggage, briefcase or purse. It is recommended that passengers travel with more than one BinaxNOW test in their possession in the event of an inconclusive test result.”

I was prompted to enter my name and date of birth when placing my order, and an eMed representative confirmed that all six tests should be used by the individual listed on the original order. While it may be technically possible for someone else to use one of your tests, that’s not how the product is intended to be used. Either way, you’ll want to make sure to bring at least one spare test along, in case of an “inconclusive” result.

For right now, this instant, supervised at-home COVID-19 test appears to be a traveler’s best bet for packing a test that’s CDC approved, letting you take 15 minutes out of your trip for an at-home test rather than losing a day looking for a lab at your destination.

All photos by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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