Traveling to another country can be a pleasant hassle. Speaking a new language, finding your way around, or even making sure you are not eating something you would rather not. However, COVID-19 restrictions are continuing to add another layer of complexity to overseas travel.

If you are planning an international vacation this summer, know the rules before you run into an unexpected roadblock.

New COVID-19 Testing Requirement for International Travelers Returning Home

In December 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a revised COVID-19 requirement when returning home from an international destination.

If you are traveling internationally, you must submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day from your flight home. If you recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days of your flight home, you could submit documentation from your doctor to satisfy this requirement.

Even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, or had COVID-19 before, you must meet this requirement. However, these rules do not apply to travelers under 2 years old.

The one-day requirement is not a 24-hour requirement from your flight time. So you can take a test any time the day before your scheduled flight.

Mask or No Mask on Public Transportation?

Many people flying or taking other public transportation are confused about the latest masking requirements.

In February 2021, the CDC issued the federal mask mandate for travelers on public transportation (trains, planes, cabs, and buses) and in public transportation areas (airports and train and bus stations). However, in April 2022, a Florida federal judge ruled the mask mandate was unlawful.

Shortly thereafter, Amtrak and major airlines such as Delta, American Airlines, and United revised their masking requirements, allowing it to be optional for their passengers.

The Biden administration filed a notice of appeal on April 20 in response to the judge’s ruling. However, launching an appeal could take months, and if the order stands, it is uncertain if the CDC could issue a new federal mask requirement in the future.

While the CDC recommends wearing a mask on planes, in airports, and in other transportation hubs, it cannot require masks at this time.

Are You Planning a Summer Cruise?

The CDC also has a COVID-19 color status for cruise ships that participate in a voluntary reporting on their COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew. The CDC reviews the ship’s health and safety protocols reported by the cruise line. The CDC then assigns a color status to that ship:

  • Green: Zero cases of COVID-19 on the ship
  • Yellow: Less than 0.3% of total passengers and crew are infected with COVID-19
  • Orange: More than 0.3% of passengers and crew are infected with COVID-19
  • Red: More than 0.3% of passengers and crew are infected along with sustained transmission, and the ship’s health resources are overwhelmed
  • Grey: The cruise ship operates under a foreign flag and may have its own health and safety measures but does not report to the CDC

The CDC also recently revised their cruise ship vaccination status threshold for “fully vaccinated,” meaning receiving a full course of vaccine and booster shots according to CDC vaccine guidelines.

  • Vaccination standard of excellence: 90% of passengers and 95% of the crew are fully vaccinated and up to date with booster shots
  • Highly vaccinated: 90% of passengers and 95% of the crew are fully vaccinated
  • Not highly vaccinated: Less than 90% of passengers and 95% of the crew are fully vaccinated

If planning a summer cruise, check out your cruise ship’s status and determine if the risk is acceptable to you. The ships will be running, however, and may still have vaccination requirements in place.

The Guidance Keeps Changing

With COVID-19 and the Omicron variant affecting different populations, countries may change their COVID-19 testing and masking requirements at any time. Other countries may still require proof of vaccination to enter, as well. So keep up to date on the areas you are traveling to avoid hassles interfering with your vacation.

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