There is now a long list of countries that people from the United States can travel to without taking a COVID test before. That includes neighbors Mexico and Canada. The only catch is that people still need to show proof of a negative test to get back into the US.
As of now, eMed’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test is still the only at-home test approved for returning international flights. It’s accepted by US and international airlines and cruise lines, with partnerships with United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.
How the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test works
You can order a six pack for $150.00, which is eligible for insurance reimbursement, on the eMed website and it’ll be shipped to your home or a pick-up location (just note that someone needs to be available to sign). If you buy them from the store, it needs to have a white and red sleeve — only the BinaxNOW Home Test works for the verified telehealth test.
To use the tests, you’ll need to create a digital health pass account and download the app. The profile links to your test after a questionnaire, and each person who plans to use a test has to be registered separately.
A day before you’re flight back to the US, go to eMed.com to start your virtually guided test on your phone or computer. The virtual meetings are available 24/7, though plan ahead with some leeway if you want to be on the safe side. Early reviewers of the service complained of hours-long wait times, but those issues seem to have cleared up. Your results are ready in an eMed Lab Report 15 minutes later (a spare test is good backup in case of any inconclusive results).
Just one note of caution: Whatever you do, do not remove or tamper with the outer cover before starting the session. Any opening of that outer cover beforehand — which helpfully says “Do not open until instructed to do so” — means you can’t do a verified test. One friend joined a session only to be told that she couldn’t get a verified test because the outer box was already opened. She was still able to test to see if she had COVID, however the results were not certified for travel.
Why you should travel with a BinaxNOW COVID test
Even if the US does soon drop testing requirements for vaccinated travelers as requested by the wider travel industry, people who have immunocompromised family and friends back home can feel more at ease with a negative test in their hand.
Not to mention the tests are convenient when you need them to travel to another country that requires proof of a negative result. COVID-19 testing in the United States is once again a major hassle. Public testing sites are being taking down across the country, and results can take three days to receive. The testing sites that remain open and able to provide a rapid test can be costly. I paid $250 for a travel-ready rapid test at the XpresCheck in Denver International Airport
To put it simply, a verified home test provides piece of mind when it feels like a lot of things are up in the air and you, too, would like to be able to get up in the air to get to your destination. At the very least, it means you don’t have to think twice about trying to decipher appointments and locations and qualifications in a country with a language you may or may not be conversational in.
On multiple trips abroad, my results at hotels and pop-up clinics have been slow to come as I waited to make sure I could get the right information in by the right time. Thankfully I’ve made all my appointments, but there have been close calls. Keeping a test as a backup avoids that anxiety even if the BinaxNOW test isn’t your primary option.
That alone makes ordering a six pack worth it — even if you do have to figure out how to do an insurance reimbursement for $150.