As reported… everywhere (including USA Today), the CDC has again found a new and creative way to make sure American’s can’t easily go on vacation by requiring travelers to provide negative test results before flying home. In short, if you decide to go out of the country for a getaway, say to Cozumel or one of these five destinations, beginning January 26, 2021, you’ll have to be tested while you’re there and bring the negative test result to the airport to be allowed on the plane to get home.

As usual, the CDC mandate leaves me with far more questions than answers with regards to the protocols. What is the cost of the test? Where do people stay if they test positive? At what cost? How do employers react when an employee goes away for a weekend and is gone for two weeks? Does that take away personal and vacation time? What if you’ve recovered from Covid or have been vaccinated? What happens to the money they spent on a flight? Last-minute flights are expensive, is there a price guarantee? What happens if everyone else in the family or group has a negative test? What about false positives?

What’s most frustrating to me is these mandates designed to keep people from traveling when it seems perfectly clear to me the objective is to keep people from traveling. What does the CDC gain by requiring a negative test (if there is so much cost, so many unanswered questions, and voluminous amounts of red tape) instead of simply shutting down tourism and travel entirely?

CDC requires negative test to return home
Punta Cana – one place the CDC requires a negative test to return home

Statement from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans. This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021 and will become effective on January 26, 2021.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes. Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

If you’d like to be completely confused, read the entire CDC statement here.

As of this writing (1/13/21), although the mandate does make traveling potentially more stressful, there is no additional ban on international travel (from what’s already been established). Many resorts are setting up on-premises testing, some at no cost, to make it easier to comply with the mandate. If you want to go on vacation, you should be aware of the procedures, requirements and risks, then decide if you’re comfortable traveling.

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About the Author

Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise), blogger-in-chief at, lover of all things travel (especially UNESCO World Heritage Sites), wannabe comedian, and the person you should call if you're thinking of planning a vacation.

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