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Testing mandate creates 'a huge logistical challenge': TPG readers react to new CDC policy

Jan. 14, 2021
7 min read
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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.

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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.

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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

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge throughout the U.S., screening travelers for signs of illness has become more and more important. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP)

"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.

Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel is getting easier — but it still isn't a guarantee

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

(Photo via Shutterstock)

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.

Related: These resort hotels offer on-site COVID testing

"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

(Photo by David Prado Perucha/Shutterstock)

"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

(Photo by LStockStudios/Shutterstock)

"[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

(Photo by Shutterstock)

"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."

Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel has gotten easier — but it still isn't a guarantee

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."

Bottom line

(Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

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 image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases