Read more about COVID-19 testing before traveling to Europe

Good news for travelers who are eager to dust their passports after spending 2020 at home. There is an increasing list of countries that will reduce COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The European Union has recently expanded its list of EU member states that are considered safe enough to accept tourists after being largely closed to American tourists for over a year and has been vaccinated by other countries. We encouraged tourists to open the door.

According to travel search firms, countries have just begun to announce plans to reopen, but in anticipation of a reopening in Europe, destinations such as London, Paris, Barcelona, ​​Frankfurt and Amsterdam have been off limits to Americans for months. There is growing interest in. hopper.

Even if the restrictions are relaxed, travelers should plan ahead and travel abroad as COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements will still need to be navigated and the testing may not be covered by insurance. You may need to budget a little extra.

Carrie Wallace, founder and president of Chicago-based Cerulean World Travel, said:

According to the company’s economist, Addit Damodaran, international flights make up only about 25% of hopper bookings, suggesting that many travelers are still at home, but destinations will resume. Interest is growing with it.

Hopper’s most frequently booked international destinations are cities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, already open to tourists. However, the day after Iceland announced that it would be open to all vaccinated tourists in March, the number of searches for flights from the United States to the country surged 93%, and the number of searches in European countries has been on the rise since late April. Hopper says there is.

United Airlines said searches for flights to Europe increased by 19% the day after reports of Europe’s short-term resumption first surfaced in April. The airline is launching a new flight between New York and Dubrovnik, Croatia, a week earlier than expected, adding a fourth flight a week. The Croatian flight will begin on July 1st, the same day as the other two recently announced flights from Chicago to Reykjavik, Iceland and Washington to Athens, Greece. United also said it would resume service to Barcelona and Madrid and add flights to Italy in July.

American Airlines said last month that it plans to fly about 80% of its international capacity in 2019 this summer, adding more seats to destinations such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to avoid traveling until they are fully vaccinated, and even those who are fully vaccinated are spreading new variants of COVID-19 and worldwide. It states that it is necessary to monitor the impact.

Travelers may feel that they are ready to go on the road if they are vaccinated, but the vaccine is not licensed to skip the COVID-19 test. Negative test results are required regardless of vaccination status in some countries, such as Aruba and Italy, where U.S. tourists need to fly on “COVID tested flights” to avoid quarantine. is. The type of test required also depends on the destination.

US travelers also need tests to get home. Anyone entering the United States, including those who have been vaccinated, will depart the flight unless they have shown recent positive tests and notes from a doctor or public health authority to prove that they have previously recovered from COVID-19. A negative test must be done within 3 days before. They were allowed to travel.

Also, while many destinations in the country have relaxed travel restrictions, Hawaii requires a negative COVID-19 test by one of the state’s approved test providers to avoid a 10-day quarantine. ..

Whether these tests are covered by insurance varies.

Federal law passed in response to a pandemic requires insurers to cover COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic people free of charge, except for testing for employment or public health surveillance. However, federal agency guidance on coverage does not cover the tests required for travel, Kurani, senior policy analyst at the Nisha Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email.

Insurance companies cover medically required tests, but they aren’t usually intended to include travel, said Christine Glow, a spokesman for the health insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Program. ..

However, if a clinician charges for a COVID-19 test and says it is necessary, the insurer will pay for it for whatever reason, and many will cover home tests, Grow said. Travelers need to contact their insurance company to better understand which tests are covered and which are not.

A couple of Chicago travel advisors said they covered the pre-departure test, but the client had to pay at his own expense while abroad.

According to program administrator Nick Toscano, Doctor’s Test Centers at both O’Hare and Midway Airports do not file claims, but provide customers with the information they need to request a refund. I will. Some people struggled to get a refund, but in many cases insurance companies covered the test, he said.

At Doctors Test Centers, the process takes two days, but the cost of a accelerated PCR test is $ 145 and the cost of a rapid antigen test is $ 120. According to Toscano, travelers can get advice on immigration requirements and the test center is hiring additional staff ahead of the summer travel season.

The websites and apps of major US airlines have information on immigration requirements for your destination and options for where to take the test.

For overseas testing, some travel advisors and tour operators are responsible for logistics. At Downers Grove-based luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent, clients are responsible for pre-departure testing, but when traveling abroad, the company has doctors bring tests into hotel rooms or book appointments at private clinics. I will arrange to do it. , Vice President of Development.

It may not be an option for those who are planning their trip independently, but travel advisors said they had no problems finding the option and suggested asking hotels and airlines for information.

“It’s very comfortable in most places,” said Debbie Wilensky, Glencoe’s Lakeshore Travel Travel Consultant.

Many resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean offer on-site testing, some at a cost, said Hannanowicki, travel advisor to Chicago-based Sunset Travel and Cruises.

Travelers may also be able to find tests at the airport. Mexico City, Cancun, Paris and Zurich airports all undergo COVID-19 testing onsite. In Paris, the test is free.

There is one way to skip finding tests during the holidays. The CDC recently offered travelers the option of packing FDA-approved self-examinations, as long as telemedicine services with providers that can oversee the examinations are included. It disqualifies many household COVID-19 tests.

Abbott’s Binax NOWCOVID-19 Home Test meets the requirements as long as the antigen test is purchased through or a specific pharmacy. Similar versions without telemedicine components are not covered. United Airlines allows travelers to link test results to the app, but travelers from other airlines can also use the test, Abbott said.

American Airlines has a home PCR test option using LetsGetChecked, but it is only available on flights departing the United States. Another home test is available for travelers from the UK to the United States.

Unlike the Abbott test, which gives results in about 15 minutes, travelers using LetsGetChecked ship samples for same-day analysis. American is evaluating more pre-flight test options and said it would “share faster.”

The Binax NOW test is priced at $ 150 in packs of 6, and the American LetsGet Checked test is priced at $ 119. Both companies state that they provide itemized receipts that can be submitted to the insurer, but it is up to the insurer to refund the regular inspection to the traveler.

You may not need to travel on a self-test, but Wilensky said it could be a good option for those who feel more comfortable knowing that the test is covered.

According to travel agencies, travelers travel to meet their testing needs, such as departing from a city where testing is readily available and having a strong internet connection to handle telemedicine calls. You should consider designing.

Wallace will carry a paper copy of the test results or vaccination status, even if the traveler can submit the records to the app, and the personal information of the test results will be the contents of the ticket and passport to avoid problems at the airport. It was recommended to reconfirm that it matches.

Access to the tests and processing time have been improved enough that it’s generally not a problem to get results in time for the flight, but Wallace still recommends getting them as soon as possible.

She said the demand for COVID-19 testing had eased, “people got results faster, but it was dangerous three to five months ago.”

Lauren Tunbach

Chicago Tribune

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