Here’s how to determine whether you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test before your next trip and the best time to do it.

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Getting tested for COVID-19 before a trip is an essential precaution for travelers to take to help reduce the spread of the virus. Basilico Studio Stock/Getty Images

With the holidays fast approaching, you may be considering traveling to visit with friends and family who you haven’t seen in a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with the disease still in our midst and the new Omicron variant raising concerns, it’s crucial travelers continue to exercise caution. This is especially true if you’re going to be around people who can’t be vaccinated or those who are at risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.

Getting tested for COVID-19 before a trip is an essential precaution for travelers to take to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Many overseas destinations require travelers to be tested before arrival, but details about testing requirements can vary greatly depending on your destination.

Healthline spoke with health and travel experts to help clarify who should be tested for COVID-19 before travel, which tests are the most accurate, how to research testing requirements for your destination, and when you should do it.

According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to get COVID-19 testing before travel unless your destination requires it.

The CDC states that people are generally fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second shot of a two-dose series like Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or 2 weeks after a shot of a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends delaying travel until you are. But if you must travel, it’s advised that you get tested both before and after travel.

Dr. Eric Adkins, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said it is generally recommended that you get tested 72 hours before you plan to depart, which allows enough time for a lab to process your sample.

“If you’re choosing to get tested for your own personal comfort or for that of your loved ones that you are going to be around, you can choose to get tested at a shorter time interval, such as 24 to 48 hours,” said Adkins. “Just be sure you allow enough time for your test to return before you get together with your friends or loved ones.”

Adkins noted that nucleic acid amplification tests are generally the best type of test to get. They are performed using PCR technology to detect the presence of the virus, he explained. This allows you to know if you have an active COVID-19 infection.

The CDC also recommends getting tested 3 to 5 days after you return from your trip.

In general, the CDC also recommends testing any time you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and when you’ve been in close contact with someone who has developed COVID-19.

When it comes to travel, testing requirements may vary depending on where you are going, which is why it’s important to research ahead of time.

For travel within the United States, the CDC lists contact information for state, territorial, and local health departments to help you find local testing requirements.

According to Sasha Brady, a travel expert and reporter at Lonely Planet, some destinations, such as Hawaii, require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, in particular, if you have not been vaccinated.

She also noted that cities, such as San Francisco, have mandated that people provide proof of vaccination before entering venues such as restaurants, bars, and museums.

“To make sure you have the right paperwork before traveling anywhere, check the official tourism website of the state or city you are traveling to, as they usually have a section dedicated to COVID-19 protocols,” she said. “City and state government websites will also provide you with the most up-to-date information on pandemic policies, such as testing and vaccination requirements.”

Brady said international travel entry requirements vary depending on your destination, and the rules are constantly changing as the pandemic evolves.

Some countries, such as the U.S., require that all arrivals, even vaccinated passengers, present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flight,” said Brady. “For many, it’s not a requirement.”

She suggests consulting with the U.S. embassy in your destination country for the most up-to-date information.

The airline you are traveling with should also have relevant testing information on its website, she said.

For travel to the European Union, you can consult the Re-Open EU website.

Adkins noted that even if a COVID-19 test isn’t explicitly required for a particular destination, it’s a good idea to get tested both before and after your trip so that you can remain as up-to-date as possible about your status and take the appropriate precautions if necessary.

With the rise of the Omicron variant, experts are still learning about the risks it may pose to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Testing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated or boosted if you’re eligible are still the most effective ways to lower your risk of COVID-19 and help stop the spread.

We understand that you’re worried about your health and safety away from home and the safety of the communities you’re visiting worldwide. As regulations and requirements for travel shift, we’re here to help you navigate this complex and often confusing landscape. Whether you’re driving to a natural wonder in your state or flying around the globe, we can help you protect yourself and others.

Check back often to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones on your next journey.