Testing mandate creates ‘a huge logistical challenge’: TPG readers react to new CDC policy
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
We may only be halfway through the first month of 2021, but the headlines have been rolling since Day 1.
This week’s big travel news is the CDC’s new requirement that all incoming travelers must be COVID-negative in order to enter the United States.
Interested in daily travel news, tips and updates? Sign up for TPG’s daily newsletter.
The ruling, announced Tuesday, goes into effect on Jan. 26, and applies to everyone regardless of nationality. Anyone entering the U.S. on Jan. 25 or earlier will be exempt from the testing mandate.
- Where can I travel right now? A country-by-country guide to reopening
- Traveling soon? Here’s where to get a PCR test in the US
- Need a COVID test to enter the US? What to do if you’re already abroad
Understandably, the news has caused a significant kerfuffle among expats, digital nomads and travelers alike. A number of concerns have arisen: Where can someone find a test result on short notice? What about travelers who are already overseas but need to return home? Will the results be accurate? What should a traveler do if they receive a positive result before travel? And since testing doesn’t come cheap, how will travel costs rise with these new requirements?
TPG reached out to the members of our TPG Lounge Facebook group to get their opinions. With nearly 500 comments as of press time, they had a lot to say.
Getting a test on deadline can be difficult
“I live in Mexico City,” said TPG Lounge member Kevin Gilbertson. “We had to call around to get a same-day test where we waited in our car for a few hours to get tested. Other places had a four-day wait.”
Gilbertson said he had heard of locals queuing up at test locations as early as 4 a.m. in order to sell their place in line.
Megan “Lundy” Lundquist owns a boutique travel company and frequently spends time abroad as a digital nomad. Currently based out of Costa Rica, Lundy has been weighing her options since the news was announced Tuesday.
“I’m trying to confirm appointments to get the test here,” she said regarding her current situation. If she can’t find a test in time, Lundy will have to accelerate her return to the U.S. in order to meet the exemption requirements for travelers entering before Jan. 26.
TPG Lounge member Jochen Moser agrees. “It makes things more complicated by a lot,” he said in the Facebook group. “Getting a test stateside is a lot easier than in Costa Rica.”
Cost is a further deterrent for international travel
Many testing sites require that travelers pay for their COVID testing out of pocket — often in the $100 to $125 range, similar to the cost in the U.S. One TPG Lounge member reported that tests in France cost $75 apiece, while tests in Taiwan allegedly range from $200 to $330.
These costs can add up quickly, especially for larger parties such as families.
Ruben Sainz Beltran glumly predicted that pre-travel testing could add up to “$300 to $500” to a typical family vacation’s expenses. However, other travelers aren’t deterred.
“I heard hotels in the hotel zone of Cancun are offering tests for $69,” Lindsey Jensen told TPG Lounge members. “That’s certainly a draw for those people wanting to travel, making the logistics of finding testing in a foreign country much easier and more convenient.”
“Considering I paid an insanely low amount for my all-inclusive in Cancun for June, adding the cost of testing for us still makes it cheaper than going to Florida and feeding two teen boys for a week,” Sarah LaDawn said in the TPG Lounge Facebook group. “I’m going to hold tight for a bit before booking flights, just to see how things are going — which was already my plan, since I don’t have to make any payments until May.”
Many travelers are canceling their trips — again
“I’m probably canceling planned trips to Aruba in February, and Mexico in March,” said another TPG Lounge member George Thurlow. “Both trips were planned to be pretty short, and I typically don’t stay in large resorts: I had an Airbnb booked for Aruba and a resort and two smaller hotels for Mexico.”
The new testing requirements pose “a huge logistical challenge,” said TPG Lounge member Gavin Diaz, who had to cancel his honeymoon in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. “Now I’m concerned I won’t be able to get a test to return home, as I’ve rebooked [our trip] for this year.”
Some are scrapping Travel altogether
“[I] was planning a Mexico trip since I had the temporary Southwest Companion Pass,” said TPG Lounge member Paul Conrad. “But we gave up when we saw this news, paired with the new CDC warnings for Mexico.”
The CDC order and resulting uncertainty “is exactly why I have planned to stay in the U.S. for vacations in 2021,” said Katie Scarlett Edwards in the TPG Facebook group. “We will see what happens for plans for 2022.”
Other travelers are sticking with their plans
“I’m going to St. Kitts in February,” Travis Andrew said in the TPG Lounge. “[It] looks like their policy for stays for less than seven nights were to have you tested at the resort, at your cost of $150, before you left anyway.”
“I’m in a Facebook group of people who travel to far-flung destinations like central and western Africa, and have continued to do so during COVID,” said TPG Lounge reader Maddie Winters.
“If they can find out how to get a COVID test within 72 hours in places like Burkina Faso and Mali, you guys can figure it out from Aruba and Mexico,” Winters said. “Destinations aren’t dumb. They know where their clientele is coming from right now. They’ll set up facilities.”
TPG Lounge member Christina Nickels Hatfield is “not changing our plans one bit,” she told the group. “We leave for Puerto Vallarta [on] Feb. 1, and return March 10. It took me less than two minutes to find several places to get a test. The $125 fee is 100 percent worth it. Onward and upward.”
International travel won’t be impossible after Jan. 26. — just more complicated in logistics and potential risk. Travelers would do well to identify testing locations and timelines, make back-up plans in the event of a worst-case scenario and budget a little bit extra to cover testing fees.
Featured photo by M Swiet Productions/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees