Updated: Oct 25
At-home tests are making it easier to prepare for Covid-era travel.
Many of us would like to ensure we’re coronavirus-free before we travel. After all, nobody wants to infect Grandma or unknowingly spreading the virus to another state—or, even worse, a remote island. Thankfully, it’s become much easier to get quick Covid test results, whether you are seeking a mail-in-option that eliminates having to visit a public-health clinic or testing site, or you require an in-person test on a short timeline.
Below are several of your best options for a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test with the last-minute results you need for many destinations. Note that some places will not accept results from mail-in tests, so we’ve included a sample of quick-turnaround in-person tests currently available in a few major U.S. cities.
Whatever testing method you pursue, keep in mind that, while Congress has stipulated that Covid tests be free when “medically necessary,” insurance companies are interpreting that differently and may or may not cover pre-travel testing.
In-Person Tests Besides your general practitioner, who may be willing to expedite a test for you based on your travel needs, Walgreens offers drive-through tests at select locations with results in three days. There is no cost if you qualify under C.D.C testing criteria, which includes living in a place where there is community spread of Covid; some locations will seek reimbursement for certain lab costs from your insurance. CVS has drive-through testing—as well as walk-up testing in some locations—and reports that the average turnaround time is two to three days. Tests are free for those who meet certain criteria related to symptoms and exposure, and $139 otherwise.
The COVID Consultants The price: $219 (+$15 if you need results returned on a Sunday) The promise: Results are guaranteed in 48 hours from the time you mail in your sample; they are delivered via email, plus a phone call from a physician if you test positive. The process: Fill out their form and The COVID Consultants will immediately send you a kit (you can choose between a sputum test or nasal swab) and an invoice. Once your kit arrives within five business days, collect your sample and send it to their lab via the included packaging for expedited shipping. Get more info on The COVID Consultants.
ImmunitiRx The price: $225, with a 10% discount on orders of 4 or more kits (+$15 if you need results returned on a Sunday) The promise: Results are typically reported 24 to 36 hours after their lab receives your sample; they are communicated via text or phone call, as well as an email that you can print out for travel. The process: Order a kit online by 3:00 p.m. CST on weekdays and ImmunitiRx will send it out via FedEx two-day shipping. Spit three to four times into the supplied cup, then deliver it to a FedEx DropBox for overnight shipping to the lab (box and shipping label provided). Get more info on ImmunitiRx.
Pixel by LabCorp The price: $119 (but Pixel will bill your insurance upfront) The promise: The turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours after their lab receives your sample. The process: After you complete an eligibility survey (which currently allows individuals to receive tests without evidence of symptoms or exposure), you’ll receive a kit to collect your sample via a swab that is inserted in each nostril just until the tip disappears—not the “deep nasal swab” sometimes used in other Covid testing. Samples can be mailed any weekday to the lab via the included FedEx packaging. Get more info on Pixel by LabCorp.
VaultHealth The price: $150 The promise: Results are typically returned 48 to 72 hours after your sample arrives at their lab; you can elect to have them emailed to you, or log in to Vault’s website to receive them. The process: Receive your testing kit in the mail, then do a Zoom video call with a test supervisor (available without an appointment from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST Sunday through Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday), who will guide you through the process of saliva collection. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to collecting your sample. The kit includes prepaid materials for overnight shipping. Get more info on VaultHealth.