How to Navigate COVID Travel Requirements

How to Navigate COVID Travel Requirements

February 2022

How to Navigate COVID Travel Requirements

Ready to start traveling again?

There is a new layer to travel in this post-pandemic world – navigating all the COVID entry requirements. This is not just for your vacation destinations but also extends to your country of origin as well – you have to be able to get back home! With many trips under our belt, I am here to help guide you in learning how to accommodate for these changes and get back to traveling. Dealing with these changes is not difficult – it just takes a little extra reading and planning. 

Most importantly, know that requirements can change with little to no notice so it is critical to be ready in the event changes may impact your trip. It is essential that once you identify the source of truth for your travel requirements that you check it frequently! Hopefully at this point in the pandemic, restrictions will continue to decrease and it will be easier for everyone but I cannot stress enough how important this is for your travels. 

Now is a good time to mention traveler’s insurance. For larger trips that would be a hassle to cancel and get the money back, it is probably best to have traveler’s insurance. Not every travel insurance company is equal in this post pandemic world. You have to make sure the terms cover you 1) if you get COVID ahead of the trip and need to cancel and 2) if you get COVID while on your trip and are stuck. Without coverage for both these situations, the insurance is worthless so read the fine print. We use World Nomad which does cover for both situations. 

Other travel considerations:

  • Look into benefits of a travel credit card – we break down ours here. We make sure to book all travel expenses through this credit card to 1) get the benefits but also 2) to have a third party help recover travel expenses. 
  • Pay attention to airline cancellation polices. Many airlines still have flexible policies that give travel credit if canceled due to COVID even if the flight is non-refundable.
  • Look for accommodations with generous cancellation policies. We still use Airbnb but pay more attention to the host’s cancellation policy.

Get the Free DESKRIB Guide “How to Find the Perfect Airbnb” – sign up here

COVID Testing

Regardless of the requirements for where you are going, be a good traveler and take a COVID test before you go. Molecular tests such as PCR are best at detecting asymptomatic COVID. If you have any COVID symptoms, it is best to reschedule that trip. Every flight when you check in (both domestically and internationally), you have to legally attest that you have not had any COVID symptoms. Before a big trip, Kevin and I self quarantine to avoid a situation requiring us to cancel. It is also best practice to test 3 – 5 days when you return home to ensure you remain COVID free. 

Many international destinations require COVID testing and it is important to read the fine print around what is actually required – pay attention to the type of test accepted and the resting window.

Type of Test

  • PCR Test: A specific type of molecular test. Some destinations require a PCR test and do not accept another other type of test – the report must state “PCR”. These typically take the longest to result so it is important to take this test at the earlier portion of the testing window. Most places requiring a PCR test give a 72 hours testing window.
  • Molecular test: Broad category of COVID tests that are NAAT approved and include PCR. Some destinations specify that the test must be a molecular which gives the traveler a bit more flexibility. Our favorite molecular test can be found at Walgreens called ID now and results are ready in a few hours.
  • Rapid / Antigen Test: These are not molecular tests and only detect the presence of an antigen. They are not as specific so and not sensitive to detect COVID so many destinations do not accept them for travel. For those destinations that do accept them, they cannot be self-administered at home tests and must be observed with an official report to provide the negative result of the test. The testing window is often shortest for these at 24 hours.

Testing Window

Pay attention to the verbiage around the testing window. You need to identify when the end of the testing window is then calculate back the allotted time for the test and results. Some destinations state testing window ends before the flight into the country, other say testing window ends at boarder crossing – these are very different and change the time at which the test window starts.

Example: requirement is PCR test within 72 hours of flight. If the flight is a 1PM on Friday, the testing window starts Tuesday at 1PM.

Domestic Travel in the USA

  • Early in the pandemic, certain states had COVID travel requirements but almost all of them have lifted these and are “open”. This is why I have felt far safer traveling internationally than domestically as all international destinations have entry requirements that everyone traveling has to abide by. That being said, domestic travel is far easier and besides wearing a mask, everything is back to normal. 
  • Hawaii is one exception to the above and had some of the strictest requirements for travel in the USA. We visited in February 2021 and I have an entire post outlining how we navigated the entry requirements there. Currently, requirements for entry and for activities, including dining, continues to include vaccination status and testing. If you are looking to travel to Hawaii, it is important to stay up to date on their requirements. 
Vaccination RequirementsYes
Testing RequirementsYes – from Trusted Testing
and Travel partners only
Mandatory QuarantineIf you do not meet entry requirements

International Travel

When you are considering an international trip – before looking at anything else – you have to look at their entry requirements. You can find these entry requirements on the country’s official travel website that will now have a COVID section. Do not book anything until you are certain you can meet those entry requirements and be able to accommodate if they change between the time of booking and the time of travel. Many countries have started to allow for international travel again so that is a good start – most were not accepting international travelers, those looking to travel for the sole purpose of tourism, or some did not accept travelers from the USA due to high case counts.

It is important to pick a destination that has historically not been so reactive to various COVID variants. For example, Europe has opened and closed multiple times due to variants which is a large reason why we have not been back there since the pandemic – to us, it is too risky to book a big trip there to have another variant pop up that Europe then decides to close to travelers. That being said, I think moving forward they will be better about managing these restrictions. Countries like New Zealand and Australia feel like may never open – they have been so locked down and I wonder when they will open borders to international travel. 

The next thing you need to consider is will the country you are departing from allow you back in when you return from your trip. It is one thing to travel to a destination that will permit you entry but if you cannot get home, that is going to make your relaxing vacation quite stressful. Do not forget to check the your home country’s official travel website’s COVID section to make sure you will be able to get back home. 

Let’s go through some examples! 

Things to look for when searching include the vaccination requirements, testing requirements, mandatory quarantine, and country restrictions (ie make sure your county of origin is permitted in).

In order to get your boarding pass, many airlines are now requiring the uploading of all of the required documents to the travel portal in order to issue the boarding pass. If you do not have the documents or the approved documentation, they have the ability to withhold your boarding pass and then issue at the airport only after someone verifies all your documentation. Documents are also typically checked upon border inspection.


  • Find the official website –> search “Canada travel COVID entry requirements” and pick the result for the official website
  • Identify the situation that applies to you such as reason for travel and country of origin
    • For our trip, we were vaccinated travelers visiting Canada for tourism from the USA
  • Currently accepting vaccinated travelers and depending on the country of origin or countries traveled to in the 14 days leading up to the trip may be required to take a COVID test upon arrival and may or may not need to quarantine
    • From USA as a vaccinated traveler, it was not mandatory to be COVID tested upon arrival but we were randomly selected to have one completed at the airport. Because we were traveling from the US and did not travel to another country in the 14 days leading up to the trip, we did not have to quarantine upon arrival or while waiting for the results of the test.
  • Molecular test required to be completed and resulted within 72 hours of travel
  • Entry paperwork to be completed via the ArriveCAN website/app
  • Do not forget to check on province specific requirements
    • For Quebec, photo ID and proof of vaccination was required to entry or participate in any indoor activity
Vaccination RequirementsYes
Testing RequirementsYes – molecular within 72 hours
Mandatory QuarantineDepends on country of origin

South Africa

  • Find the official website –> search “South Africa COVID entry requirements” and pick the result for the official website
  • Identify the alert level and the mode of transportation in which you are arriving to South Africa
    • Currently “Adjusted Level 1” and arrival mode would be “International Flight”
  • Identify entry requirements
    • “Adjusted Level 1” and “International Flight” requires a valid negative PCR test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel
  • Traveler Health Questionnaire to be complete at the airport or can be printed and completed ahead of time (saved us lots of time to have it completed in advance!)
SummarySouth Africa
Vaccination RequirementsNo
Testing RequirementsYes – PCR within 72 hours
Mandatory QuarantineNo (if requirements are met)


  • Find the official website –> search “Croatia travel COVID entry requirements” and pick the result for the official website
  • Identify the situation that applies to you
    • For us, we were “Third Country Nationals” and #8  “persons who travel for tourist reasons”
  • Identify entry requirements
    • “Third Country Nationals” and “persons who travel for tourist reasons” required either vaccination or testing
    • Testing could be either PCR or antigen (recognized by the EU)- The PCR test result must not be older than 72 hours and the antigen test (recognized by the EU) result must not be older than 24 hours counting from the time the test was taken until the arrival at the border crossing point
      • Note: “border crossing point” is a tricky one!
  • Complete a health declaration upon arrival
Vaccination RequirementsDepends – either test or vaccine status
Testing RequirementsDepends – either test or vaccine status;
if test PCR within 72 hours of boarder crossing
Mandatory QuarantineNo (if requirements are met)

United States

  • Find the official website –> search “United States travel COVID entry requirements” and pick the result for the official website
  • Current advisory for anyone arriving by air travel: negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding.
    • This includes US citizens!
    • The mandate only mentions viral test so an antigen test meets the requirement.
    • At home self tests are not acceptable – you need proof of the negative test
    • There are two ways to make this time frame work:
      1. Arrange for a rapid antigen test prior to departure – many tourist destinations have this set up at the airport for convenience
      2. Purchase antigen tests for travel – there are approved self administer rapid tests that are done with video surveillance that are approved for travel (we used these from eMed)
  • Foreign national air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated.
Vaccination RequirementsYes if not USA citizen
Testing RequirementsYes
Mandatory Quarantine

Travel Documents 

In order to get your boarding pass, many airlines are now requiring the uploading of all of the required documents to the travel portal in order to issue the boarding pass. If you do not have the documents or the approved documentation, they have the ability to withhold your boarding pass and then issue at the airport only after someone verifies all your documentation. Documents are also typically checked upon border inspection.

Make a folder 

Once you know the documents you need, make a list and grab a folder. I write down all the requirements we will need on a post-it and attach it to a folder. As I obtain the documents, I check them off of the post-it and place them securely in the folder. It is so much easier to have all your documents printed for entry. 

Do not rely on your phone

If your battery dies or you do not have connection at the destination – remember border control is going to be way before you have access to a local sim card to activate service on your device – it is always best to have a hard copy of these documents. 

If you cannot print, download

If you do not have the option to print, make sure to download the files to your phone or take a screenshot so that you do not need to rely on network connection. When we traveled from South Africa to Botswana, we did not have access to a printer and our Google Fi service did not have coverage in Botswana. Thank goodness I downloaded the documents as that saved us from being stuck at the border with no entry – it was a happy accident that I downloaded them and now intentionally do it ahead of these situations and am passing that knowledge to you. 

I am happy to provide any travel consultation and advice if you are unsure, have questions, or would like another set of eyes to confirm entry requirements – here!

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