The 5 Biggest Mistakes Travelers Make when Getting a COVID Test Before Traveling

Many of the world’s best travel destinations are opening up for tourism (thank goodness!), but are requiring a negative COVID test to travel. I have traveled internationally a few times during the pandemic and have seen many people get turned away at the airport for making a mistake with their coronavirus test requirement. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as showing up with a piece of paper and hopping on your flight. Each destination has different requirements and processes, and travelers have been running into unexpected complications that can ruin their hopes for traveling at all. Here’s what you need to know and the mistakes you need to avoid!

1. You didn’t get your test from an approved lab

Keep in mind while traveling during the pandemic that your destination might only accept tests from an approved list of labs. Hawaii and French Polynesia / Bora Bora currently work this way. Finding the right lab near you can be stressful, and sometimes costly. For my recent trip to Bora Bora during the pandemic, I ended up paying $350 for guaranteed overnight results – because there were no other labs in the San Francisco area that could guarantee me overnight results, and since I was flying on a Tuesday, and there were no labs open on the weekend, I was out of luck on a free test. On that note, keep in mind what day you’re flying and how that will work with the testing requirements! I will say that the peace of mind of KNOWING your test results are guaranteed was worth every penny though versus rolling the dice with an expensive trip.

2. Your test wasn’t taken within the required time frame

Different travel destinations are requiring different strict time frames for when incoming travelers should take their COVID-19 test. Whereas most countries specify that a test be taken within a certain number of hours of your departure from your home, a few require the test to be taken within a certain number of hours of your arrival—a specific distinction that is easy to miss but can have huge consequences. Be sure to read everything carefully, and know exactly what the specific requirements are for your destination.

3. The results don’t explicitly state the type of test you took, or the date you took them

The COVID-19 test that’s usually required is a specific kind (for example, nasal swab versus saliva, in-person test versus mail-in kit), and the officials checking your documentation will look for proof of that on your certificate. If it’s not there, you could have a big problem. In my experience, it is usually a nasal PCR test that is required, so make sure that’s stated on your paperwork.

Likewise, double check that your date, and time, of testing is written CORRECTLY on the results.

4. You didn’t print out all of your paperwork

Speaking of paperwork, no you can’t just show it on your phone screen. Airlines require you to print it out for your trip – and this includes any government or destination-specific online paperwork you fill out before the flight as well. 

5. The rules changed, and you didn’t know it

Remember that government and tourism rules change all the time, as do CDC travel recommendations. Continue to check the latest government tourism website for their up-to-date COVID requirements up until your flight. 

I know that it’s a stressful time to travel, but if you keep these potential pitfalls in mind while planning your travel during the pandemic, you’ll be in paradise in no time. 

Happy (and safe!) travels!!

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Christina is a leading luxury lifestyle and travel blogger with over 2 million readers. Follow her on instagram @jetsetchristina.