Will the country let you in? Will you need a test to get in – and get back home, too? How do you prepare for the worst? We’re here to help with a COVID-19 travel checklist for your next trip abroad – whether that’s coming up next month or not until next summer. Print it off and save it to work through!
Of course, now may not be the time to travel at all. Public health officials are still encouraging Americans to forego any unnecessary travel, domestic or international.
Keep in mind that travel requirements are changing constantly, so you’ll want to double-check there aren’t any additional requirements for your destination or for returning home before your trip.
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International COVID-19 Travel Checklist
What do you need to do before heading out? Check this list of resources:
1. Book a flight with a free change and cancellation policy
If you are looking to book a flight for upcoming travel, make sure it’s on an airline that is offering fee-free changes or cancellations – luckily, that’s almost all of them. This gives you the flexibility to change your dates free or cancel your flight to get a voucher if something happens and you need to cancel your trip.
Related reading: Can I Get a Refund Instead of a Voucher for My Canceled Flight?
2. Book a hotel or Airbnb that offers free cancellation or a full refund
Now more than ever, it’s important to make your travel plans as flexible (and refundable) as possible. One of the best ways to book risk-free right now is to book accommodations that can be canceled for a full refund.
Many hotel chains are offering free cancellation as far out as the day before your trip, making it easier to back out last-minute and get your money back. If you’re hoping to stay at an Airbnb, be sure you filter for and select a place offering a flexible cancellation policy. Check out our guide to Airbnb’s cancellation policy for how to protect your booking during COVID-19.
This goes for organized group tours, packages, excursions, and other pre-booked activities: make sure you read the fine print. If at all possible, only book things that can be fully canceled for a refund.
3. Check if the country you’re heading to requires a COVID-19 test to enter
Does the country you’re traveling to require quarantine or a COVID-19 test to enter? Check our international travel restrictions.
Each country’s requirements vary widely. Some countries like Barbados, Cambodia, and most of Europe require a 14-day quarantine to enter – if they let you in, period.
Many countries that have restarted travel are only open to travelers who present a negative COVID-19 test before entry. But just what kind of test you need – and when you need to take it – varies by country. Some countries also require you to purchase a medical insurance policy for your visit. See what the country you’re visiting requires and prepare to take the test – and get results – in time.
A few countries, like the Dominican Republic and Mexico, do not currently require a COVID-19 test to enter. But remember: Things are changing rapidly. Be sure to check often for updates.
4. Get tested within the country’s specified time frame, if necessary
If your destination requires a COVID-19 test to enter, you’ll need to work backward to time that test – and results – in time. Present a test that’s too old, and you won’t be able to enter. If you don’t get the results in time, that’ll throw a major wrench in your plans.
First, read our master guide to COVID-19 testing for travelers for all the basics. Then, check which type of COVID-19 test you need and when you need it.
Finally, find a local testing site that can get you the test results in a timely manner and schedule an appointment. Most countries will accept either paper or electronic versions, but you’ll want to be sure you get the correct type of test results to present.
5. Prepare in case you test positive before departing for your trip
Even if the country you’re heading to doesn’t require it, we highly recommend getting tested before your international trip. It’s the right thing to do – for many reasons.
Trust us: you do not want to figure out getting treated or seeking medical treatment while planning to quarantine abroad.If you do test positive, you’ll want to change or cancel your flight and cancel your accommodations and anything else you had booked (hence, #1 and #2 in this list!).
We know, this is the worst-case scenario, but it has happened – and you don’t want to be caught off-guard if it does.
6. Make a plan to get tested before flying home
Yes, you’ll need proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of your departure flight back to the U.S. to get back home. This new requirement took effect Jan. 26, and it means you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test in the country you’re visiting.
There’s a lot to unpack with this new COVID-19 testing requirement – and we answer all questions about this international travel testing rule here. Be sure to take a read through so you know exactly what you need to get back to the U.S.
And some good news for travelers heading to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean: Hyatt is offering free COVID-19 tests at all their Latin American properties, including their all-inclusive resorts like the Hyatt Ziva and Zilara. Other hotels and resorts, big and small, are stepping up, too.
That’s likely your best bet for getting a COVID-19 test abroad. Just be sure to contact your hotel and figure out a plan for getting tested before you head out: The last thing you want to do on vacation is scramble to get a test in time to fly home.
7. Make a plan in case you test positive before returning home
As of late January, you’ll need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of your flight back to the U.S. Test positive before your flight home? You won’t be getting on that flight.
So you need a back-up plan in case that happens. A few things to ask yourself:
- Does my hotel allow COVID-19-positive travelers to quarantine at the hotel?
- If not, what is my back-up lodging plan?
- Does my hotel offer discounted rates for two-week quarantining travelers? Or maybe even extend your stay for free?
- Can I afford a two-week additional stay in the destination?
- Can I be away from work for two additional weeks if I need to quarantine abroad?
These questions are just a starting point for ensuring you’re prepared, just in case.
8. Present your negative test result and attestation form before boarding your flight back to the U.S.
When it’s time to leave, you need two things in hand: a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of your departure flight time, and an attestation form. Without these things, you won’t be boarding your flight.
Read more about this testing requirement for international returns so you know exactly what you need.
If you’re traveling internationally anytime soon, you know there’s a lot to keep straight. Travel is going to get harder before it gets easier again. And in many cases, it’s not the right time to travel at all.
Whether you’re considering international travel, planning a trip, or heading out soon, take a look through this international travel COVID-19 checklist and make sure you’ve got a plan for each before boarding that plane.