Travel Tips

These At-Home COVID Tests are CDC-Approved for Travel

These At-Home COVID Tests are CDC-Approved for Travel
Written by Publishing Team

We’ve been road-testing BINAXNow, Ellume COVID-19, and Cue home tests to see how they actually behave while traveling.

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WWhen the CDC released new guidance on COVID testing requirements for international travel, effective December 6, many U.S. travelers who had already been abroad had to scramble for a COVID test within a calendar day of returning home. The new rules shorten the testing period from three days to one day and apply to all travelers – vaccinated or not – aged two and over.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “At this time, all air passengers, age 2 or older, traveling to the United States, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to submit a viral test result for COVID-19 negative or recovery documented unless they are exempt.”

This means that all travelers entering the United States must provide evidence of a negative COVID test (PCR, antigen, approved home tests, or self-tests) taken within one day prior to travel.

Some countries, such as Iceland and Denmark, make it very easy and affordable (in some cases, for free!) to get a test result on the same day; But this is not the norm all over the world.

Until then, bringing a batch of home COVID-19 tests or self-exams is less of a hassle. And just last week, President Biden announced that Americans with private health insurance would soon be eligible to reimburse for at-home COVID tests; These exams will also be a qualifying expense for FSAs and HSAs. More details are expected in January.

There are a few potential drawbacks that travelers should be aware of before purchasing and packing these tests (see below for our full reviews).

To meet the CDC’s requirements, tests can be self-administered as long as they meet these criteria:

  • The test must be a viral test for SARS-CoV-2 (DNA amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) With Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The test must include a telehealth video call During which a person authorized by the manufacturer supervises the testing in real time. (Note that some FDA-authorized self-tests that include telehealth may require a prescription, according to the CDC.)
  • The telehealth provider must issue a report Confirm the identity of the patient, the name of the laboratory or health care provider, the type of test, and the date the sample was collected.
  • Airlines and US officials at ports of entry should be able to review Confirm your identity and paper or digital documents with your test results.

For those who prefer to take the test at the destination, many airlines as well as international hotels, including in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, have offered testing options and resources to help Americans meet CDC testing requirements abroad.

Would you prefer to pack a self-test? The CDC warns that some countries may have rules or restrictions in place regarding the import of unauthorized or registered COVID-19 test kits there. The CDC advises, “Travelers who are considering bringing an authorized test from the United States with them for use outside the United States should contact the authorities at their destination for information prior to travel.”

Home COVID tests approved for international travel

So, what are the options for test kits for those who want to try bringing one with them? We’ve tested the following COVID-19 test kits that meet CDC requirements, offer a self-test option, produce results without a lab, and include telehealth.

The BinaxNOW Antigen Home Kit is sold as a six-pack set for $150, which comes out to $25 per set.

BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test

Buy now: Buy it: $150 for a pack of six,

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test is one of the few tests on the market with an emergency use authorization from the FDA that does not require the user to ship a sample to a lab. It is a rapid antigen self-test designed to detect asymptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19. May be used for children younger than 4 years old when the sample is collected by an adult – those 15 and older may collect their own sample.

BinaxNOW is developed by Abbott, a medical and health diagnostics company. A telehealth professional guides users through self-testing at home during a video call via, which will also send COVID-19 test results to their email. The standard kit comes with one nasal swab – the sampling technique is less invasive than the very deep nasal swab sampling we’ve all been hearing about (if we can’t bear ourselves).

“she was excellent AFAR publisher Brian Kincaid, who used BinaxNow’s home tests for himself and his family on a trip to Costa Rica in the spring of 2021, says his only advice is to make sure you have a “strong Wi-Fi connection” so you can download the app and make a remote healthcare video call. “They walk you through the whole process,” he says, noting that the test is very similar to a pregnancy test — after 15 minutes or so the results are visible to the reader. “The healthcare provider goes back to the camera to check the results you hold in front of the camera, and then you can see them right away [your] Results in the app.

After getting his results, he uploaded them directly into the United Airlines app to check in for the flight back to the United States. “I repeated the process with my wife and son, and 45 minutes after we started, my son was walking back to the beach for an afternoon surf. We were there with some friends who had been nervous all week hoping the local clinic would be open, no streak or any problems at Get back results quickly.

When purchased with a scheduled video note from Azova, Ellume COVID-19 home test kits cost $50 each.

Ellume COVID-19 Home Test with Azova

Voluntary recall notice: On October 1, 2021, Ellume released a file voluntary summons of a lot of Ellume COVID-19 home tests, due to an “increased chance” that the tests may provide an incorrect positive result (also known as a false positive). in a Safety Communications on October 5, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that this problem was “due to a recently identified manufacturing problem” and that “negative results do not appear to be affected by a manufacturing problem.” To see if your Ellume COVID-19 home test is included in a product recall, compare the batch number on the test case to the batch numbers on the Ellume’s website. If you have unused tests from an affected batch, you can request a product replacement via

Buy now: Due to supply restrictions, Ellume COVID-19 home tests are currently only available at your local pharmacy. Book a video viewing via

Although BinaxNOW has received a little more attention, Australia-based digital diagnostics company Ellume was actually the first company to market for a home COVID-19 test, partnering with Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines to give passengers easy access to home antigen tests. (A 15-minute test with video note by Azova, an online healthcare provider, will give results for both asymptomatic and asymptomatic cases, for ages 2 and up.) How fast was that? Dr. Shaun Parsons, CEO and founder of Ellume, has been moving home flu testing to market since 2010 and was able to focus on — the 2020 buzzword — quickly to get approval for a COVID test. “The FDA knew all about our technology, from the work we were doing [on the flu test],” Parsons told AFAR. “We feel as though we’re on the cusp — we’re almost done. As a company, we’re already looking to combine our flu assets with our COVID assets for a joint COVID-flu test, which is a natural progression. he is coming! “

Until then, international travelers can pack one test kit for each family member over the age of two — as long as Wi-Fi is adequate and a week-long video call is scheduled, they can take the Ellume test anywhere in the world. The kit contains an easy-to-use smartphone app that asks you to record the patient’s vitals (name, age, and address), and then offers a mandatory video tutorial that you can’t quickly provide through (a bit annoying at the fourth transition, but understandably necessary). Following the step-by-step instructions, you wipe each nostril, dip the swab into the liquid, and hold a fluid reader near your phone for 15 minutes. The bell goes off, and you’ll get your results, which are also emailed to you.

A friendly reminder that for all antigen tests, false positives can be obtained. (My 2-year-old son got one and it sparked quite a bit of panic and had a follow-up PCR test at a nearby clinic.) A false negative is really dangerous. That’s the trade-off,” says Parsons. “So we said we’d be chasing the positives very hard. As a result, we had the best clinical performance of all the rapid tests available on the market. We think this is still very important when traveling. If you take our test and it’s negative, you can be pretty sure you’re negative.” – Laura Danin Redman

Cue COVID-19 test for home or over-the-counter use

Buy now: $90 a month for Cue + Full Membership

On March 5, 2021, Cue Health received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration to sell an over-the-counter lab-quality molecular COVID test. It is a DNA amplification test that gives fast results – the whole process takes less than 20 minutes – but the accuracy of the PCR level. Think of this as a home investment for COVID testing for frequent travel, in-person meetings, or business travel; Companies like Google and the NBA sent Cue packets to employees, and American schools were using them to test grades K-12.

At a minimum, you will have to purchase Cue Reader – a small box about the size of a packet of Post-It notes – and a pack of 3 or 10 single-use nasal swab tests. You plug the reader in and charge, and while you’re at it, download the Cue Health app (available on iOS and Android). When the application is fully installed, you can follow it step by step: insert a “warm-up” cartridge into the reader, make a nasal swab, and then insert the swab into the cartridge. After about 20 minutes, the results appear on your phone – you can also print them.

The results are incredibly reliable—according to Cue, an independent Mayo Clinic study, Cue’s COVID-19 test matched central lab results with 97.8 percent accuracy—but it’ll cost you: Cue’s reader alone is $249; Pack of three swab tests $225. To access the CDC compliant supervised exam for international travel, you must sign up for a Cue + Complete membership ($90 per month), which also includes 20 exams per year; discounted cue reader ($149); 20% off additional COVID-19 tests, plus free same-day delivery in select markets; 24/7 access to board-certified physicians; electronic prescriptions and prescription renewals; and laboratory tests ordered by the doctor.

Although the price is high, these have been the best tests I’ve used in the past six months, including on my children (aged two to four). I still have to use it outside but I plan and will report on the ease of my telehealth appointment. —LDR

Correction (May 11, 2021): The original version of this article stated that the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Test, available for $24 at Walgreens, meets CDC requirements for international arrivals. This test does not meet CDC requirements and is intended for personal use. The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Home Test, available on and listed above, meets CDC requirements for international arrivals.

Michelle Baran, Lindsey Matthews, and Laura Danin Redman contributed to this article. she was Originally published May 10, 2021; Updated on August 11, October 6 and December 6 with new information.

The products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you purchase through our links, which helps support our independent publications.

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