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Testing and Trip Insurance during Omicron

by | December 6, 2021

Published in our biweekly newsletter on 12-5-21. For travel updates straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Two things on travelers’ minds this week

Abbot BinaxNow antigen home test for Covid, laid out on a laptop computer

When I was coming back from Egypt, I took an Abbot BinaxNow self-administered test with eMed video observation. Photo: Billie Cohen

Hi everyone, Billie here. As you know, we get traveler questions daily, and right now everybody’s asking us about testing and travel insurance. So I’m here with advice on both.

Starting December 6, in response to the Omicron variant, all travelers flying into the U.S. must show a negative Covid test taken within one day of their departure (instead of three). This goes for U.S. citizens too, whether they’re vaccinated or not. (Read the full CDC details here.) This is good news. If everyone on your flight is negative that close to takeoff, you’re all in a much safer environment. And the one-day test window is much easier to comply with than it might sound. Remember that the U.S. does not require a PCR test—which means you can pack rapid, self-administered antigen tests with you, take the test via video and wifi at your convenience, and have results in about 15 minutes. (See our articles It’s Easy to Get Tested to Come Back to the United States: Your Questions Answered and How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel for info on which specific tests are eligible.) WOW List local experts can also set up tests for you. Wendy, Brook, and I have had dozens of travel-related Covid tests at this point, both self-administered and arranged by WOW Listers right at our hotels—Brook even had a nurse drop in by helicopter on her safari.

Now, insurance: Omicron has triggered a lot of questions in our inbox, and we’ve answered them in our How to Buy Travel Insurance article below (we also have info on medical evacuation coverage and Cancel For Any Reason coverage in our travel insurance section). If you have a trip coming up and you haven’t bought insurance yet, it’s still an option. But know that very few policies will cover border closures. Many will cover you if you test positive before or during your trip, and there are separate emergency-assistance programs that can get you from an overseas hospital to one of your own choice at home—even if you have Covid.

Despite the doom and gloom of news headlines, we are seeing that many people are still traveling now. We hear from them every day and are monitoring their experiences. Below, read two first-hand reviews by readers who’ve just returned from Thanksgiving trips overseas. No matter when you’re comfortable traveling, we’ll be here to help. In the meantime, stay safe and have a great week. —Billie





How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It

orange life preserver on hook at lake

Photo: Pixabay

Travel insurance can be confusing, especially during Covid. So we’ve created this primer that lays out everything from what you can expect it to cover (even now) to when you need it and when you don’t.





“They helped us locate an incredible hillside villa…within walking distance of the town for shopping and restaurants…”

Hotel Taïwana in St. Barts

The view in St. Barts. Photo: Hotel Taïwana

“Our family had an incredible trip to St. Barthelemy over Thanksgiving Week 2021, thanks to Peg and her staff. They helped us locate an incredible hillside villa overlooking Gustavia, which put us within walking distance of the town for shopping and restaurants. The group included our 6-month-old granddaughter, so we had to rent various equipment and have certain foods in the refrigerator when we arrived, which all came together flawlessly. We committed to the trip in May 2021 when the pandemic was feeling relatively under control in our area, but not necessarily in the Caribbean. Peg was able to include a clause in the contract for the villa which allowed us to postpone our rental for up to a year if St. Barts was closed to tourists at the time of our reservation. Peg is based in the US but her staff includes a concierge on the island to assist with needs that might arise like last minute reservations or taxi scheduling.” —Sara Gowing




“Belize’s Gold Standard Safety precautions were followed by all of the people we had contact with, inside and outside of the hotels…”

empty white sand beach with a few green trees and light turquoise water in Belize

Belize’s beaches. Photo: Shutterstock

Patricia interviewed me over Zoom and it was clear that she would give me all the time I needed to describe our family’s interests. She promptly sent several proposed itineraries that included time in the jungle and at the beach. She sensibly included downtime so we wouldn’t overdo it, and also warned us about long drives and bumpy roads for some of the excursions. Our first destination, Chaa Creek, was outstanding. The staff and the food were excellent and we enjoyed the on-site activities. The off site guides were experienced and a lot of fun. We felt safe and appreciated all they had to share about Belize, as well as their senses of humor and photography skills. Our second destination, Las Terrazas, was also good and away from the noisy downtown. Belize’s Gold Standard Safety precautions were followed by all of the people we had contact with, inside and outside of the hotels. Belize in general seems to take Covid very seriously and that was a relief to all of us. It was also very convenient and stress reducing to have someone come to our hotel room to give us the rapid antigen test the day before departure.” —Stephanie Wright



We’re Here to Help

As a travel journalist and consumer advocate for the past 30 years—first as Condé Nast Traveler’s advice columnist, then as TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate—I’m all too aware of the travel concerns that need to be addressed as a result of this pandemic. For many trips, you’d be wise to use an extremely well-connected, extremely knowledgeable, destination-specific, trip-planning specialist who can act as your local fixer. You’d be even wiser to find and contact that trip planner via The WOW List, which is the first step in my WOW approach to trip planning, created by popular demand from my longtime readers. It’s the approach used by the travelers who are submitting these trip reviews and getting benefits including priority status, VIP treatment, my advice from the start of your trip planning, and the chance to win a surprise, custom-designed WOW Moment on a third qualifying trip. It all starts when you tell us about the trip you want via the questionnaires on The WOW List. —Wendy


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