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Woman holding a self-PCR COVID-19 test
Dominique VERNIER | Adobe Stock

How Do I Get a PCR Test in Time for Travel?

SmarterTravel

Although the United States accepts certain rapid tests for travel, there are plenty of other destinations that require a PCR test for entry—which can present a serious problem for travelers. Given the current shortage of PCR tests, finding an available appointment can be an impossible challenge—and then you might not even get your results back within the 72 hour window that most destinations require. So how can you get a PCR test in time for your flight? We’ve found some options for travelers. 

One warning: Be prepared to pay for the convenience of getting a PCR test back in time for your flight. Most health insurance plans do not cover COVID tests for travel, and many rapid PCR test providers will charge extra for quick results. 

Rapid PCR Tests

Check to see if your destination accepts rapid PCR tests. These RT-PCR tests offer PCR accuracy but results can be delivered quickly (sometimes in less than an hour). Rapid PCR testing sites can be found at many airports, but if you don’t have an appointment, lines can be extremely long (and you won’t be guaranteed to be able to get a test, no matter how long you wait), so schedule in advance if you can.

XpresCheck

XpresCheck operates many of the airport testing locations, and they offer Rapid PCR tests for $250 with results in as little as 60 minutes. Appointments can be booked online. 

CVS Minute Clinic

Some CVS Minute Clinics offer Rapid PCR tests, which promise results “within hours.” However, appointments for these tests are extremely limited, so you may struggle to actually book one. Lab tests cost $139 out of pocket. 

Urgent Care

Try your local Urgent Care center, as many are now offering rapid PCR test options. Make sure you call or book online (rather than just showing up) as wait times are extremely long at most Urgent Care centers across the United States.

PCR Tests With Fast Turnaround Times

Currently, many PCR testing locations are taking up to a week to return results. If you need results quickly for travel, there are some companies that specialize in COVID tests for travel, promising to get results back within a certain time frame.

If you’re relying on a test that requires you to mail in a sample (or doesn’t guarantee results in a certain amount of time), you may wish to book a second test with another company just in case your first one doesn’t come back in time. 

Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC

Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC
Amazon

Even Amazon has gotten into the COVID test game, offering a FDA authorized PCR test for $39.99. This is a mail-in test, but Amazon claims you will get results within 24 hours of the sample arriving at the lab. However, this means you could be cutting it close for getting results in time for your flight if there are any mail delays. 

Passport Health

Passport Health focuses on providing tests specifically for travel or to return to work/school. They do not generally offer tests to symptomatic individuals or close contacts, meaning it may be easier to find a PCR appointment here than at other overwhelmed testing centers. Passport Health has locations in: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New JErsey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. 

However, note that Passport Health does not guarantee results within 72 hours. 

Azova

Azova COVID-19 At-Home Test Collection Kit components
Azova

Looking for a RT-PCR test for Hawaii? Azova offers two easy options, both are which approved for the Hawaii Safe Travels Program. Choose from an in-person test for $119 or an at-home saliva RT-PCR test (with video observation) for $114.99. Be sure to follow Azova’s guidelines on when to book your test in order to get results in time for your test as the at-home test requires you to mail in a sample for processing. 

Same-Day COVID Testing Services

Many local companies have sprung up to meet the needs of travelers who need rapid PCR test results. If you Google: “Same-day PCR tests near me” you should be able to find a clinic or concierge medical service that will guarantee COVID results in time for travel. Some will even send a technician to your house to collect your sample, saving you the time and hassle of going to get a test. Of course, these concierge services tend to be pricey, and you can expect to pay anywhere between $150-$450 for these tests. 

Here are some examples of same-day PCR testing companies:

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