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Here's why it's still easy to meet 1-day testing for entry to US -- even in the middle of nowhere

Dec. 07, 2021
5 min read
COVID-19 tests in short supply
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The pandemic is a big deal. Trying to plan a trip (or get home from one) amid very rapidly changing entry rules is an extraordinarily stressful ordeal. Trying to meet some tight-turnaround PCR testing requirements in some locations can be quite the challenge. But once the dust settles, meeting the new one-day COVID-19 testing rule to reenter the United States specifically shouldn't be a big deal in the vast majority of situations.

My family was recently above the Arctic Circle in Finland and were able to do our U.S. reentry tests from the warmth of our cabin while the snow swirled outside. All things being equal, getting rapid turnaround tests for travel in that region of Finland might not have been the easiest assignment. However, since we ordered eligible DIY tests before we left the U.S. and packed them in our backpacks, the process almost couldn't have been easier.

As long as you can plan ahead and will have access to decent Wi-Fi, the new reentry testing time frames themselves shouldn't be a huge barrier to your travels.

Here's how we were able to test for reentry to the U.S. in the middle of the Arctic without missing a beat.

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Order your approved test ahead of time

By now, you've probably run across at-home COVID-19 tests as they are everywhere from Walmart to gas stations and drugstores. The catch for travel is that you can't just randomly pick one up at the drugstore and assume you are good, as it is going to need to be registered and proctored via a video call to work for travel.

The first "at home" test to be approved for travel was the Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card via eMed and that's the one that I have exclusively used across multiple international trips.

However, there are also a couple of additional options I haven't tried such as Qured and Ellume, but also approved for reentry to the U.S.

With the Abbott test via eMed, you can order six tests that include the proctored video testing component for $150. Testing for a whole family adds up, but at around $25 per test, that's not an awful added cost to travel.

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You need to add some extra time for shipping but, in my experience, it doesn't take long because it is shipped via FedEx overnight. Within a couple of days from placing an order, the tests have always arrived at my house. As long as you have at least a few days notice before a trip, you should be able to place your order and have the tests in hand and ready to pack along for the ride.

Bring the test on the trip

We put the four tests we needed (plus the two backups just in case) in our backpacks when we crossed the ocean to the U.K. and then onto icy Finland. This is an obvious and small step -- but also essential as you can't use the tests if you don't remember to bring them with you.

Testing in northern Finland (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Take the tests a day before you fly home

We took these tests a few days before we were set to reenter the U.S. under the old three-day testing rules, but we could have just as easily done it one calendar day before returning home. Note that it is not tied to a 24-hour clock but rather a calendar day. So if you depart for the U.S. on a Wednesday regardless of it is at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. you need to test no earlier than Tuesday.

Don't open the test kits until you have a test proctor on the video call (here are full instructions on using the Abbott tests with eMed). Once you start the process, it only takes about a minute or two to do the test.

Once the actual setup and swabbing portion is complete, they start the on-screen timer for the 15 minutes to elapse for the test to process. This actual swabbing part of the process is identical to the home Abbott tests you can get everywhere. If you have done those, it should feel quite familiar.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Once 15 minutes are up, a new person will come back on the screen to help read the results. You can do something else during that time as long as you are back when the time is up.

This is approved for children ages 4 years and up -- but if you have a family, note that this will take a while if you are doing it all with one computer as going through one roughly 20-minute process at a time does add up and gets a bit monotonous. The times my husband and I have each been using our respective computers to do it simultaneously have gone by much faster.

Bottom line

But whether you run things concurrently or do one at a time, as long as you have ID, the right kits and Wi-Fi, the process is extremely simple and efficient.

There may be very valid reasons you are considering adjusting or postponing travel right now but for most travelers, the compressed timeline for testing before reentry to U.S. rules is still easy enough to do with just a little advance planning and some solid internet.

Featured image by Portland Press Herald via Getty
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.