Skip to content

What to pack in case you test positive abroad for COVID-19 and can’t return to the US

Dec. 28, 2021
4 min read
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.

Editor's Note

This post has been updated with new information.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with new information.

As the world continues to adjust following a holiday travel boom and the onset of the COVID-19 omicron variant, destinations are still limited. In many cases, even vaccinated people must show proof of a negative test before crossing borders.

Travelers returning to the United States from abroad have to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flight. That means if you visit family in a reopened country in Europe, see friends in the Caribbean or plan a vacation to a resort in Cancun, and you test positive for COVID-19, you won't be allowed to come home right away.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG's free daily newsletter.

Instead, you'll have to quarantine in the country where you're currently staying. In some places, you might be able to stay at your hotel or a family member's house. Some hotels and resorts even offer discount packages for those who have to quarantine and can't return home. But other countries might require you to stay in a government-run quarantine facility.

The omicron variant has recently led to a spike in cases, even among vaccinated people. So, travelers should be more prepared than ever to quarantine at their destination if needed.

In this article, I've cultivated a list of essentials you may want to pack for your next trip. These items could become extremely useful if you end up needing to quarantine away from home.

More: How omicron is affecting cruise travel

My personal picks

For me, the biggest thing is my work laptop. At the start of the pandemic, I was in South Africa with just my iPad Pro, increasingly worried about being stranded. (We managed to get on a flight home before things totally shut down.) Although the iPad with a keyboard case is suitable for writing a story, managing email or doing light multimedia work, I don't think I could effectively use it for two straight weeks. Even though that's usually all I take with me during personal travel, my laptop will accompany me on all trips for the foreseeable future.

Related: How COVID-19 is affecting air travel

Another major thing isn't a physical one: travel insurance. Some destinations require travelers to have insurance for medical care and transportation if they get COVID-19 during their trips, so this one is a no-brainer.

While many hotels and resorts offer on-site COVID-19 tests for travelers getting ready to return home, you shouldn't count on it. Instead, pack some CDC-approved at-home COVID-19 tests. However, plan to account for shipping times if you're ordering these tests online.

Related: 10 unexpected items I won't cruise without — including a roll of duct tape

To me, those are the essentials. The things I would bring on vacation anyway — my iPad, magazines, headphones, some extras of prescription medications — should tide me over otherwise. I'll bring a few extra sets of clothing, but I plan to rely largely on hotel or other local laundry services.

TPG staff picks

When I polled other members of the TPG team, they also had some creative suggestions. Here are a few other things staffers would bring on an international trip in case they test positive on the way home and have to quarantine before returning to the U.S.:

  • N95 or KN95 masks to use while in public indoor areas
  • Phone chargers/power banks
  • Extra medication, including cold meds and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen
  • Thermometer, pulse oximeter and electrolyte tablets
  • Extra underwear
  • Backpacker's laundry detergent
  • A deck of cards
  • Pre-downloaded movies or episodes of shows you'd like to binge
  • A pillow in case you get stranded at the airport overnight
  • If traveling with children, anything they'll need, including activities, clothes and standard over-the-counter medications
  • Snacks and drinks if you're quarantining in a hotel, to avoid high resort prices (You can get these at a local shop at the start of your trip or just before taking your test.)

In the end, think of what you'd want for both comfort and work if you were stranded unexpectedly in a hotel room. By doing so, you'll set yourself up for success if you need to quarantine at your destination.

Additional reporting by Ashley Kosciolek and Katie Genter.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees