Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel

by Brook Wilkinson | September 28, 2020

Many of us would like to ensure we’re coronavirus-free before we travel. After all, nobody wants to infect Grandma or unknowingly spreading the virus to another state—or, even worse, a remote island. Thankfully, it’s recently become much easier to get quick Covid test results, no public-health clinic or testing site necessary.

A growing number of companies are enabling travelers to get test results within just a day or two of their departure date, via mail-in-kits, with no in-person appointments or car lines to worry about. While testing may not pick up a very recent infection, it’s a useful tool—especially if combined with a period of pre-trip self-isolation—for responsible travelers who aim to minimize our collective risk.

Such pre-trip Covid tests are now required by a few U.S. states and many foreign countries. Typically, to enter the state or country, you need to be able to show negative results from a Covid test taken within anywhere from 48 hours to 7 days of your arrival. Below are four of your best options for getting such a last-minute result; these are all RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that have received Emergency Use Authorizations from the F.D.A. and are performed in CLIA-certified labs. While Congress has stipulated that Covid tests be free when “medically necessary,” insurance companies are interpreting that differently and may or may not cover pre-travel testing.

Note that some destinations will not accept results from mail-in tests. Here are a few options for quick-turnaround in-person tests:

In New York: The Medical Offices of Manhattan performs PCR tests at their three locations, with results available in 24 to 48 hours if needed for travel. Patients must see a doctor there first; the office visit costs $199, and the test costs $85. The New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine offers PCR tests with same-day results; the test costs $295, and an official certificate for travel an additional $35.

In Los Angeles: Good Life Medical Services has drive-through PCR testing for $125, with results typically returned in 48 hours. Next-day results are available for an additional $125. Travelers with flights booked on Air Tahiti Nui receive a 10% discount.

In San Diego: US Specialty Labs does drive-through PCR testing for $85, with results in 24 to 48 hours; there is a $150 fee to guarantee a 24-hour turnaround.

The COVID Consultants

covid-19 home testing kit with vial, instructions paper, biohazard ziploc bag, and shipping box

Spit in a cup, and The COVID Consultants will have your results back to you within 48 hours. Photo: The COVID Consultants

The price: $219 (+$15 if you need results returned on a Sunday)

The promise: Results are guaranteed in 48 hours from the time you mail in your sample; they are delivered via email, plus a phone call from a physician if you test positive.

The process: Fill out their form and The COVID Consultants will immediately send you a kit and an invoice. Once your kit arrives within five business days, you spit into a cup and send the sample to their lab via the included packaging for expedited shipping.

Get more info on The COVID Consultants.

ImmunitiRx

The price: $225, with a 10% discount on orders of 4 or more kits (+$15 if you need results returned on a Sunday)

The promise: Results are typically reported 24 to 36 hours after their lab receives your sample; they are communicated via text or phone call, as well as an email that you can print out for travel.

The process: Order a kit online by 3:00 p.m. CST on weekdays and ImmunitiRx will send it out via FedEx two-day shipping. Spit three to four times into the supplied cup, then deliver it to a FedEx DropBox for overnight shipping to the lab (box and shipping label provided).

Get more info on ImmunitiRx.

Pixel by LabCorp

The price: $119 (but Pixel will bill your insurance upfront)

The promise: Their average turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours after their lab receives your sample.

The process: After you complete an eligibility survey (which currently allows individuals to receive tests without evidence of symptoms or exposure), you’ll receive a kit to collect your sample via a swab that is inserted in each nostril just until the tip disappears—not the “deep nasal swab” sometimes used in other Covid testing. Samples can be mailed any weekday to the lab via the included FedEx packaging.

Get more info on Pixel by LabCorp.

VaultHealth

The price: $150

The promise: Results are typically returned 48 to 72 hours after your sample arrives at their lab; you can elect to have them emailed to you, or opt to log in to Vault’s website to receive them.

The process: Receive your testing kit in the mail, then do a Zoom video call with a test supervisor (available without an appointment from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST Sunday through Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday), who will guide you through the process of saliva collection. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to collecting your sample. The kit includes prepaid materials for overnight shipping.

There are other companies that test by mail, including Everlywell and VitaGene, but they will currently send kits only to people who are showing symptoms and/or have been exposed to a known Covid-positive individual.

Get  more info on VaultHealth.

Tell us about your experience

If you’ve used one of these companies or gotten quick results elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you: Write to questions@wendyperrin.com and tell us about your experience.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Kishore Desai

    We are flying to Hawaii in early November. Hawaii govt has announced, beginning 15th October, we need to have corona test, 72 hours before our flight. We live in Orange County, California. Any recommendations for the test?

    1. Brook Wilkinson Post author

      Hi Kishore,
      You can find the specific requirements for which tests meet Hawaii’s standards at https://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/covid-19-updates/. I recommend that you call these three companies that offer mail-in test kits and see if any of them meet those standards. If so, an at-home test will definitely be more convenient–and likely less expensive–than finding a medical office that can test you and return results in time. Good luck!

  2. Richard McIntyre

    Hi Brook, Richard Mcintyre again. I am taking a flight to Costa Rica on Nov.29. They require a confirmed negative COVID test with 72 hours of the flight. Thanksgiving is the 26th and most people don’t work on the 27th. I would need an email confirmation no later than the 28th of November prior to a 6:00 AM flight on the 29th. I know it is crazy. What would you suggest?
    Thanks for your time.

    1. Brook Wilkinson Post author

      I checked with The COVID Consultants, as they have the quickest turnaround time, and they told me that you could mail them a test on Friday with a Saturday-delivery label, and they could return results Saturday evening. You would have to confirm what your local FedEx drop-off location’s deadline is on November 27. I recommend that you call The COVID Consultants and FedEx for more info. Good luck!

    1. Brook Wilkinson Post author

      Good question, Richard. Pixel will accept Medicare for payment. Their also representative told me that, if Medicare or your private insurance denies the claim, they will submit your bill to be paid via government funding.

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