Here is something from this morning’s WSJ on the problems associated with being abroad and testing positive for Covid 19. Now, if I am getting on an airplane for an 8-10 hour flight, I would like to know that the people around me are not positive for Covid 19, but it’s not like it is going to reduce the transmission of the virus in the US. If they are masked, that reduces my risk, but if they take it off to eat, they will likely spread it to others near them.
The Extra Time in Europe No Traveler Wants but Everyone Should Prep For
Anyone testing positive for Covid before boarding an international flight to the U.S. can find themselves stuck for days—and out thousands of dollars
Updated June 1, 2022 8:17 am ET
It’s the souvenir no international travelers want this summer: a positive Covid test stranding them abroad.
Peak vacation season is still a couple of weeks away, yet travel agents and travel insurance companies say they are hearing more tales of travelers stuck abroad due to the U.S. government’s rule that people produce a negative test to enter the country by air.
A reader emailed from Hungary on Monday lamenting a positive test after a cruise and the confusing rules around it. Travel agency executive Jay Johnson says his agency has travelers stranded in Spain, Italy, England and Ireland. Xavier Becerra, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, tested positive in Germany during a G-7 meeting in May and isolated in Berlin.
It all has me furiously searching for travel insurance, something I rarely buy, for my son’s graduation trip to Switzerland and Italy in July.
Although Covid restrictions have eased around the globe, U.S. travelers face a big hurdle when they fly home. The country still requires passengers boarding international flights to the U.S. to test negative a day before departure or prove recovery from Covid in the past 90 days. (Tests aren’t required for land crossings from Mexico or Canada.)
The rule, which the travel industry is fighting to eliminate for vaccinated travelers, has been in place for nearly 18 months. It threatens to snare more passengers this summer as international travel expands beyond recent favorites Mexico and the Caribbean, to Europe and other far-flung destinations amid rising Covid cases.
Vacationers and business travelers testing positive face pricey extended stays and rebooked flights, confusion over which quarantine rules reign and a near daily scramble to test negative or get a doctor’s note vouching for recovery from Covid. Then there’s the off-the-charts stress.
Jane Ann Regan, a marketing consultant from Pittsburgh, was stuck in Italy for an extra 10 days in May after testing positive at the end of an 11-day trip to Tuscany and Florence with her husband and two adult daughters. Ms. Regan says she was so frazzled by the challenges and cost of her extended stay, she didn’t eat much: “I went to Italy and I lost weight.”
If you are finally taking that foreign trip this summer, prepare now for the possibility of getting stuck for a week or longer.
Know how to get home
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who test positive for Covid avoid travel until a full 10 days after the symptoms started or, if no symptoms, 10 days after the date of the positive test. Other countries have their own recommendations.
The CDC’s rule for international flights sets no timetable, however. It simply says U.S.-bound travelers, including U.S. citizens, must show the airline a negative Covid test or proof of recovery to board a flight to the U.S. It calls them Option A and Option B.
Plan for both.
Hillary Unis, a sales leader for TripActions, a travel expense and management company, opted for daily testing after she tested positive on New Year’s Eve in Paris. Ms. Unis, 31 years old, finally got a negative result after nine extra days in her Airbnb so she could return to Austin, Texas.
It’s possible to test positive for up to three months after contracting the virus, so it’s wise to check out proof-of-recovery options before you leave home. See if your healthcare provider can provide a doctor’s note in case of a positive test abroad and what the conditions will be. Telehealth companies are an option, too. QuickMD charges $75 and will issue letters 10 days after a positive test.
Those who have had Covid in the past 90 days and thus don’t have to test to return should secure a proof-of-recovery letter at home before their trip.
Check with your airline about ticket-change and rebooking policies, including any fare difference, and ask hotel or vacation rentals in advance about policies for extending a stay. Neither will be easy: Spare seats and empty rooms will be in short supply this summer.
Airlines and the government don’t track the number of stranded travelers, but travel advisers at Coastline Travel Group, a California-based network of agencies, have seen so many recent cases they shared strategies on a call in late May.
“These people are just getting bounced around from hotel to hotel” as they wait for the green light to come home, says Mr. Johnson, Coastline’s president, of some clients. “It’s bad.”
Consider travel insurance
Unless your budget can handle the hefty expenses of an extended vacation, consider insurance. Ms. Regan estimates her hotel, added airfare, food and other costs totaled at least $5,000. Ms. Unis estimates $4,000.
Mr. Johnson says travel insurance is a must today. His agency makes travelers sign a waiver if they decline coverage.
SquareMouth, a travel-insurance shopping site, says the majority of searches today are for insurance that protects stranded travelers rather than more comprehensive trip-cancellation policies.
The average premium on SquareMouth’s site for a smaller package of benefits is $83, compared with $242 for a trip-cancellation policy, says Megan Moncrief, SquareMouth’s chief marketing officer. Terms to search are “trip interruption” and “trip/travel delay” coverage.
You can usually purchase these policies any time before a trip. But Mr. Johnson says he has noticed some companies recently instituting stricter requirements about how close to a trip policies may be purchased, given a deluge of claims from stranded travelers.
Terms of the policies vary, so it’s important for travelers to read the fine print. Ms. Moncrief says typical limits on hotel, meal and local transportation expenses are between $1,000 and $2,000 per person, with many capping per-day expenses.
I found one policy on SquareMouth for my son’s trip to Europe with his girlfriend for $82 for two, with coverage of $2,000 each in hotel and other expenses and $1,000 in additional flight costs. But after more digging, I realized the definition of quarantine was too strict to cover any extra hotel or Airbnb costs. Self-isolation isn’t covered unless ordered by a doctor and in force 24 hours a day, with no exceptions to leave for food or other provisions.
Pack like you will be stranded
Packing for a longer-than-expected vacation requires some thought, too.
Ms. Regan’s husband didn’t have enough medication on hand. They were fortunate to find pharmacies in Florence to fill a prescription. She advises packing extra medicine and other essentials.
Ms. Unis wishes she had brought extra Covid tests for the daily testing.
It wouldn’t hurt to bring multiple credit cards if credit limits are a concern.
And despite that out-of-office message, it might be wise to bring that work laptop. Ms. Regan left her computer at home and found herself painstakingly preparing a presentation on her phone.
Ms. Regan says she won’t travel internationally again until the restriction is lifted.
“You’re rolling the dice,” she says.
SO RATHER THAN SPEND AN EXTRA 10 DAYS ABROAD, YOU CAN FLY TO CANADA OR MEXICO AND DRIVE ACROSS THE BORDER. OF COURSE, SOME HAVE ADVOCATED GAMING THE SYSTEM BY SQUIRTING THINGS IN THEIR NOSE TO CAUSE A NEGATIVE TEST, BUT THAT CAN’T BE RELIED UPON.