Your guide to at-home COVID-19 tests for international travel
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This looming requirement has discouraged some Americans from traveling abroad, for fear that they will test positive and be unable to return. If you do decide to travel internationally, the most convenient way to ensure you receive results within the 24-hour period ahead of travel is to take an at-home COVID-19 test administered remotely.
There are several major at-home tests accepted for use by inbound passengers, including Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test, Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test and Qured’s video-supervised rapid antigen test; there are some other acceptable tests for which travelers must purchase add-on virtual service.
You can take a test anywhere 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 type of test.
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Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 home test
Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first approved the use of at-home COVID-19 tests for entry into the U.S. one year ago, many travelers have used the BinaxNow test for international travel.
These tests are available for purchase through two sellers, including eMed, which sells a pack of six testing kits for $150 plus $21 for standard FedEx overnight shipping. Next-day business delivery is available for orders processed by 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.
When ordering through Optum, you have the option to pay $5.99 for standard shipping within four to seven business days, or you can pay $9.99 for expedited shipping within two to four business days.
Both options include the testing kit itself as well as a supervised visit with an eMed certified guide to help you administer the test before verifying test results through a third party.
After taking the test, you’ll receive an emailed report from an eMed lab containing your test results. You’ll then present this to an airline representative either on a printed sheet of paper or on your phone.
Although anyone age 2 and older can use these tests, test takers age 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult during the test.
To use this test, first set yourself up somewhere with a strong Wi-Fi connection. Next, visit eMed.com/app/start-testing, and click on “I want to start testing” to begin a virtual visit; during the visit, a guide will walk you through the testing process and show you how to collect a sample.
Be sure to download Abbott’s Navica app, where testing results will be available in as little as 15 minutes.
There are a few things to note regarding the BinaxNow at-home tests. First, although all Abbott tests have been extended for use for a full year, the expiration dates printed on the tests that were distributed prior to the test’s shelf-life extension may not be accurate. Be sure to look out for a note in your test kits detailing how to calculate the correct expiration date.
Abbott also makes a BinaxNow COVID-19 self-test you can find at pharmacies nationwide including Walgreens and CVS, but these tests are not suitable for travel.
BinaxNow tests must be kept at or below room temperature, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling somewhere hot.
Read more about how to use the BinaxNow test in our guide here.
Ellume COVID-19 home test
A second option for travel is Ellume’s COVID-19 home test, which you can find on the Target, Walmart and Kroger websites, among other places.
After you purchase the test, you must pay $20 for a video observation through Azova to take the proctored test — similar to the BinaxNow process.
If a family is testing together, you can all join the call at once, but each person testing must make their own appointment.
At the time of your scheduled video call, you’ll be connected to a proctor who will guide you through the testing process. Results will be available in 15 minutes or less via text and email. You can also get results directly through the Azova app in the form of a QR code, Credential ID or PDF.
In 2021, Ellume voluntarily recalled more than 2 million tests, citing “higher-than-acceptable false-positive test results” that incorrectly indicated a user was positive for the coronavirus. Despite the recall, the company assured users that the incidence was “limited.”
Even so, be sure to double-check any Ellume test before purchasing to ensure it was not part of the recalled batch.
You can read our guide to using Ellume tests here.
Qured video-supervised rapid test
Another option for travelers returning from abroad is Qured’s video-supervised rapid antigen test, which provides test results within two hours.
You can buy one Qured test online for $35, after which you should receive an email with a link to activate your kit and schedule your supervised video consultation.
If you select free shipping, you can expect to receive the test within two to five business days. Tests are shipped the next day when ordered before 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can also pay $14 to receive the test within two to three business days.
While the iHealth rapid tests from the U.S. government don’t meet the requirements for use for travel on their own, you can purchase supplemental telehealth proctoring service through iHealth for $24.99; the addition of the proctoring service makes the test eligible for use.
A number of other at-home tests can be used for travel when proctored virtually through Azova, including:
- The Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test: Test kit and video observation services cost $89. You can also purchase directly from CVS for $9.99 and get it administered virtually through Azova for $20.
- The On/Go COVID-19 At-Home Antigen Self-Test: Test kit and video observation services cost $55.
- The Azova At-Home RT-PCR Test: Test kit and video observation services costs $114.99 for a nasal swab test or $118.99 for a saliva test.
- The Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit with Video Observation: Test kit and video observation services cost $89.
Azova offers stand-alone proctoring services for the above tests for $20.
Additionally, you could buy the InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test at either Walgreens for $24 or Walmart for $20. The same goes for the Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test, which is also available at a number of retailers, including Amazon, for $24. Both of these tests can be proctored through Azova.
Be sure to order your test kit well before you depart the U.S. to allow for shipping and delays affecting availability.
You’ll need to bring it with you on your trip, so be sure to make room for it in your suitcase and try to carry it on if possible, in case your checked luggage gets lost.
Make sure to double-check any expiration dates and age requirements that might affect the validity of each test.
Several airlines have also partnered with testing providers to provide at-home tests at discounted rates. For example, American Airlines flyers can use promo code AATRAVEL10 when purchasing Qured tests.
Some airlines, including AA and Alaska Airlines, have also begun using third-party apps, such as VeriFly, that allow travelers to upload their negative test results ahead of travel. Other carriers, such as United Airlines, will ask you to upload the test through the airline’s own app during the check-in process.
As of late May, the Biden administration has not wavered on its decision to require all incoming passengers to the U.S. to submit a negative predeparture test to enter.
Additional reporting by Vikkie Walker.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
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