Your guide to at-home COVID-19 tests for international travel
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As of Monday, Dec. 6, the U.S. is requiring all incoming air travelers over the age of 2 to submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure. To ensure you get test results in time, consider using an at-home COVID-19 that can be administered remotely while abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently accepts three major at-home tests for use by inbound passengers: Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test, Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test and Qured’s video-supervised rapid antigen test.
Each test can be taken from wherever you are in the world, as long as you can access the internet to have your test proctored. We’ll break down all you need to know about using each test.
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Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test
Since the CDC first approved the use of at-home COVID-19 tests for entry into the U.S. in May, many travelers have used the BinaxNow test for international travel.
You can buy a six-pack testing kit through eMed for $150, which also allows for next business day delivery for orders processed and approved by 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.
“This is accepted by airlines and cruise lines for individuals whose trip originates from the U.S. and are returning to the U.S. from a trip abroad,” says Optum.
Optum advises users to allow up to three business days for delivery, and we strongly advise ordering the tests as early as possible to account for any mail delays.
Both options from eMed and Optium include access to a virtual visit.
To use a test, simply visit eMed.com/app/start-testing and click on “I want to start testing” to begin a virtual visit, during which a guide will show you how to collect a sample and take you through the testing process. Testing results will be available through Abbott’s NAVICA app in as few as 15 minutes. Be sure you are located somewhere with a strong Wi-Fi connection.
A few things of note regarding the BinaxNow at-home tests. Although all Abbott tests have been extended for use for a full year, the expiration dates previously written on tests distributed prior to the extension of its shelf-life may not be accurate, so be sure to look out for a note with your tests kits detailing how to calculate the correct expiration date.
Abbott also makes a BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Test you can find at national pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS that is not suitable for travel.
BinaxNow tests must kept at or below room temperature, so if you are traveling somewhere hot, keep that in mind.
Lastly, tests are authorized for use by those age 4 and older. Test takers under 14 must be accompanied by an adult during specimen collection.
Read more about how to use the BinaxNow test in our guide here.
Ellume COVID-19 Home Test
A second option for international travel is Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test, which is currently only sold in-store at local pharmacies, after which you must pay $20 online for a video observation to take a proctored test virtually.
“Due to supply constraints, as of Sept. 3, 2021, AZOVA will sell only the video observation visit for the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test,” says digital health technology platform AZOVA. “You can purchase the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test from your local pharmacy.”
AZOVA and Ellume also guarantee results in 15 minutes and their test is suitable for those age 2 and older.
My local pharmacy in Washington, D.C., was out of Ellume tests, but I was told they would be back in stock and cost around $30 per test.
On Oct. 1, Ellume voluntarily recalled more than 2 million tests, citing “higher-than-acceptable false-positive test results” incorrectly indicating that a user had tested positive for the coronavirus, but assured that the incidence was “limited.”
Double-check any Ellume tests before purchasing to ensure it was not part of the recalled batch.
Check out our guide to using Eullme tests here.
Qured video supervised rapid test
A third option for travelers going abroad is Qured’s video-supervised rapid antigen test, which promises to deliver test results within two hours.
“Our supervised rapid test can also be used for outbound international travel, covering you for both legs of your journey,” says Qured. Its Quidel QuickVue kit has received Emergency Use Authorization from both the Food and Drug Administration and CDC.
Travelers can buy two Qured tests online for $45, after which you should receive an email with a link to activate your kit and schedule your supervised video consultation.
Shipping is free with expected receipt of the test within two to five business days and tests are shipped the next day when ordered before 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can also pay $14 to get the test within two to three business days.
Be sure to order your test kit well before you depart the U.S. and bring it with you on your trip so you can complete the test within the one-day window.
Double-check any expiration dates and age requirements.
Several airlines have also partnered with the testing providers, including American Airlines, and travelers flying with American can use promo code AATRAVEL15 when purchasing Qured tests. Some airlines have also begun using apps such as VeriFly, which allows travelers to upload their negative test results digitally.
Additional reporting by Vikkie Walker
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
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