It is possible to go on vacation and get back home? I have this terrible habit of being sad about the end of vacation at the beginning of and throughout a vacation. Who knew that in 2021 getting home would not be the obvious end of a vacation?

On January 12, 2021, the CDC announced a new mandate requiring travelers to provide a negative Covid test, taken while on vacation, to return to the US. My initial reaction and one I still believe is accurate, was this is another major disruption to the travel and hospitality industry. What the mandate did was inspire destinations and resorts to be creative, which they have!

Resorts providing Covid testing
Resorts providing Covid testing

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To quickly recap the CDC mandate, beginning January 26, 2021, to get back home to the US, you must provide a negative Covid test taken within three days of your return home — meaning tests will have to be taken while on vacation. If guests don’t get tested (or the result is a positive), they will not be allowed on the plane back home.

This mandate leaves travelers with a lot of questions and concerns.

  • Does it make sense to plan a vacation for the first part of 2021? Yes.
  • Should I go on the vacation I’ve already planned and paid for? Yes.
  • Do I have to take a test on vacation? Yes*
  • Is it mandatory if I’ve already had Covid? No*
  • Is the test mandatory if I’m vaccinated? Yes*
  • Is the test free? Sometimes
  • What happens if someone in my family/group tests positive?
  • Does insurance cover any of the cost of testing or staying if the result is positive? Sometimes

First things, first. Everyone has their own risk threshold. Meaning, some people are more cautious and nervous about Covid than others. I’m assuming if you’re thinking of leaving the country or have already planned a vacation out of the country, you’re somewhat willing to take a risk.

That said, if you’re thinking of taking a vacation or have one already planned and you’re questioning how this new mandate should change your plans, you’re not alone. I’ve been advising clients to go on vacation, take a test before leaving (which is a requirement of most destinations, anyway), and be smart while they’re away. Hand sanitizer and masks are your friends, social distance, and avoid group activities. There is no guaranteed way to avoid Covid but these actions will minimize the risk.

As of January 26, 2021, and until further notice, proof of a Covid test (and negative result) taken within 72 hours of traveling back home is required for all travelers (age 2+) returning to the United States. The only exception is if the traveler can prove they had Covid within three months. Being vaccinated does not override the test requirement.

Many resorts are making arrangements for testing to be done on the property, others are partnering with labs nearby. I’ve seen lists of properties that are charging between $33 and $150 per test, others are offering the test free of charge. Assuming that in 2020/2021 and beyond everyone is purchasing travel insurance, check the fine print for whether the cost of the test is covered.

Speaking of cost, in the case of a positive test and required quarantine, insurance may cover the costs (airline fees, resort charges, etc.) under the trip interruption clause but it’s definitely something to clarify. An interesting (and amazing!) policy some resorts are adding is free or discounted stays if a positive test is returned and quarantine is necessary.

I’ve heard conflicting information about what happens if part of a family or group has a positive test result, which means how the situation is handled varies from resort (and country) to resort. In some cases, the quarantine rule is “by room” meaning everyone staying in the same room would be forced to quarantine if one person tested positive. Other resorts have an individual policy which would only force the person(s) with the positive test to quarantine.

Ultimately, I believe for those who wish to travel and are relatively comfortable doing so, the mandated test to return home should not prevent going on vacation. There is a LOT of misinformation and even more variation between countries and resorts. If you’re thinking of going on vacation, save yourself time and money — not to mention avoiding the stress — and work with a travel agent. Use the contact form if you’d like my assistance — it’s free!

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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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