The travel industry feared for the worst, amid news of the Biden Administration potentially rejiggering travel requirements for international arrivals.

Now, with the official details released, the worst was avoided, but the damage has already been done to future plans all over the globe.

A reintroduction of overnight bans spooked travelers around the globe, and risks of false positives abroad continue to drive people to stay domestic for a majority of trips.

If you’re entering the United States, new testing protocols for all arrivals are coming into in force, including for US all citizens. In short, you’ll need a covid-19 test to travel much closer to departure than before, and there are some asks, but not mandates for after you arrive.

Mask Mandate Extended Through March 18th, 2022

The federal mask mandate, which gives stronger enforcement possibilities to mask wearing on planes and inside airports, has officially been extended to march 18th.

The mandate was due to expire January 18th, unless extended, and given the current state of the global health situation, the Biden Administration has deemed it necessary to extend the mandate a further two months, at the very least.

New US Travel Testing Requirements

Previously, the US used a 3 day rolling system for pre-flight testing for all fully vaccinated arrivals, and a 1 day system for unvaccinated US citizens and permanent residents. All visitors must also be fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine.

If you were flying on Friday, any time from Tuesday onward was fine for a PCR or antigen test for fully vaccinated travelers, and this included self tests taken under video supervision.

Now, for all flights commencing December 6th, 2021 and onward, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to test no more than one (1) day before departure. There’s now no nuance or added flexibility for being fully vaccinated, when it comes to pre-flight testing requirements.

The good news, however, is that any time the day before is fine. So if you’re flying any time Friday, any time on Thursday or Friday would work. Supervised antigen tests are also still accepted, as are a variety of others, so rapid options should be easy.

The move puts a slight damper on the notion that getting vaccinated and boosted would offer travel “unlocks” not enjoyed by those who are not. Here’s how the White House describes the new travel measures.

Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: 

Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.

White House

What This Means For Trip Plans

Now, your last day of vacation, or preparing for vacation will be spent sweating it out until a negative result is received. Travel is wonderful, so it’s often “worth it”, but you won’t officially “know” you’re flying anywhere until the negative result is achieved.

If anything, this makes the tele-health style testing even more attractive than before. It’s not always easy, or fun to find a rapid test site abroad, particularly on the last day of a vacation, and these tests allow you to meet US requirements in comfort.

With the Abbott Labs BinaxNow test kits from eMed, or Qured LFD tests, among many others, there’s options for testing in the comfort of your own cozy hotel, rental or home, with video supervision and prompt digital uploading of the results.

PCR tests may provide a more accurate picture, but testing times and costs in most of the world make these less attractive to travelers. A 24 hour or less PCR test in the UK costs upwards of £150 (circa $200), versus faster antigen tests available for a fraction.

Breaking It Down: New US Travel Rules

Many reports suggested the US would introduce mandatory quarantine or additional mandatory testing after arrival. The briefing from the White House suggests neither will happen, after all. Full details should be available on the CDC website shortly.

But hey, at least some papers got money for clicks, right?

These moves may prove impactful in limiting the spread of covid-19 and as they currently exist, they won’t fundamentally change trip plans. Testing on a specific day, versus a few specific days prior to travel isn’t a huge ask, even if a small inconvenience.

For now, it appears that the most draconian measures have been avoided, and these steps will allow travel plans to continue, with an added layer of safety.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. You may not like it, but the only escape from this is to vote in Republicans. They are the only party who will roll back what you have been seeing for the last two years.
    The current party clearly lied when they said vaccines were the path to freedom. They have no intention to restore anyone’s freedom. You’ll have to take it back yourself, even if you have to hold your nose while you do it.

    1. I also suggest you get your hands on Robert Kennedy’s book about Fauci. Some shocking and completely referenced stuff in that book. Don’t expect your TV to mention anything at all about it.

    2. I will say, I think many people value personal freedoms now, more than before. Parties and candidates will clearly tap into that, as these issues continue and life remains largely sub-standard to what it was years ago, in terms of simplicity and enjoyment. There are risks for both parties here, but the democratic party seems to have banked on the notion that people enjoy restrictions, and i think in the voting booth, the truth has come out, no matter how much people publicly endorse certain things.

  2. I keep laughing at anyone who got vaxxinated.

    Like, why?

    Doesn’t stop transmission, can still get covid.
    Travel restrictions the same. Lol.

    Talk about a bait and switch.
    Talking to vaxxers is like talking to Charlie Brown. Their just always going to get the football pulled at the last second. They can’t stop being suckers.

    1. Do you actually believe that vaccines have no use?
      You can still get shot whilst wearing a bulletproof vest but your chances of survival increase very significantly.

  3. This is how reporting gets a bad rep! “Reporters” who read other people reporting or go by hearsay “report” garbage and people actually listen to them. This is directly from the CDC website updated 11/29 (i.e. fairly recently, in other words this is the last the CDC has said about it):

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel-during-covid19.html

    Actually it says exactly the contrary to this reporting! If you are vaccinated, you need to provide proof of vaccination and still 3 (three) days negative test. What has changed is that now people are segregated by vaccination status. If only “reporters” would actually report and read the source…

    1. LOL, at you. Here’s the FIRST THING YOU SEE when you go to that page.

      “Travel Requirements have changed. Starting December 6, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.”

      I also provided a link to the White House statement on the matter, which was crystal clear.

      You’re welcome to test 3 days before and see how that goes, but I wouldn’t suggest it to any other reader or human on earth, other than yourself.

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