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Trip Panic! Or just Butterflies?

Finally something has happened that put me on the defensive. The new variant spreads like wildfire and is too often asymptomatic. That means failing PCR and Antigen tests unexpectedly, and a glut on the testing infrastructure.

I am leaving the country on Wednesday, and I got my test today. While normally I would have expected a result by midnight, I am worried this time around. And since I feel in good health, normally I would be expecting a passing score; but this time who knows?

So for the first time in years, I purchased trip insurance (and it covers flunking a COVID test).

I had toyed with the idea of a second trip in February, but that’s on the back burner now. Just too nervous unless I have to go.

But for those with more intestinal fortitude than me, if I were to plan a trip before the Spring, I would still concentrate on the countries that have demonstrated a will to stay open and those with little paperwork involved. Fortunately for me that includes the Balkan States, Ukraine and Hungary. Go ahead, someone say it: “you can’t predict, things can change tomorrow”. Yes, but I could be hit by a car tomorrow, but history says that is unlikely since I look both ways before crossing streets and since I look at countries that have shown consistency in policy.

But my trip to Hungary and Ukraine (now there is an underappreciated destination) in March is still on and I will be greatly surprised if COVID affects it. Still, it is also insured.

Any other travel hardliners getting butterflies? I don’t mean the “I never planned on traveling before 2023” people. I mean hardliners who have traveled through this thing and had intended to continue.

Posted by
1 posts

Thank you for your note. It has helped me. My flight leaves Dec 28, 2021 for Italy but I’m flying out of Reno and right now (Dec 26) I’m stuck two hours away in Tahoe in a blizzard.

Besides the driving worries, COVID worries there’s also flight cancellation worries. I don’t want to sound chicken but I just think postponing vacation till after winter and COVID season in Italy is probably a good idea., any comments welcome.

Posted by
18725 posts

The idea of the post wasn't to scare anyone off LOL. Ive been to 9 countries since COVID began, but I have avoided Italy, France, UK, etc. as their rules and attitudes were just too fluid. But many have had very successful trips to the same places. Just not my cup of tea, not right or wrong.

But you are right, I left off flight cancelations. And one other; failing the return test. Now my insurance has "trip interruption coverage, but I would have to read the fine print to see what it would cover if I got stranded someplace. My guess is not much more than the flight rebooking fee. But I would rather be quarantined in Budapest than my hometown.

Posted by
10340 posts

Can you take the ten extra days at the end of your trip if you test positive? I say this because my triple vaxxed, mask wearing 36 year old son in New York just finished his Omicron isolation. Meanwhile, a 40 year old nephew who lives in the Canaries was negative when he flew to the family in Austria, but today, 4 quarantined days later, he tested positive before his flight to France. All the rest of the family is awaiting results. So figure extra time. If you test positive, look up my post on how to fly to the US after positive test results. Otherwise, everyone I know in Europe is living normal lives for now with some restrictions. Things could change in January.
The only other consideration is hospital beds if you run into a problem: accident, emergency surgery, etc. But much of Europe has more resources and ICU available now than the US.
My own situation: we're flying back transatlantic in two months; the experts think the peak will be in February. I have flown transatlantic five times since the start, but I have no desire to board a flight at this moment. I'm triple-vaxxed and had a breakthrough case, but it's too much hassle right now.

Posted by
18725 posts

For me, the time isnt an issue. Most of my work is remote these days. But the cost of 10 extra hotel nights might be a bit much for some. I wonder if the trip insuance would cover any part of it? "Trip Interruption"

Posted by
302 posts

" I say this because my triple vaxxed, mask wearing 36 year old son in New York just finished his Omicron isolation."
Change the age to "40" and a different US state and otherwise the same- except, he has now been isolated for 8 days at home (so far nobody else in the household has caught it) and the home test is still very pink/positive. It could take longer than the 10 days in your worst case scenario planning.
You would also need to have food delivered? Can you? As a careful planner, having this all figured out ahead of time might be your new travel normal...

Posted by
3985 posts

We’re booked for Sicily for April 20. We also purchased trip insurance for the first time in years. We were in Florida 2 weeks ago and aren’t planning any trips in between. Going to lay low, clean out my basement, and hope for the best. Good luck with your trip Wednesday, I’m sure it will be fine.

Posted by
18725 posts

and the home test is still very pink/positive. It could take longer
than the 10 days in your worst case scenario planning.

I had this discussion on another thread and people were swearing that it didn't matter what color the test was. You wait 10 days and a doctor will give you a letter saying you can travel and that's all you need to get home.

Posted by
492 posts

I think the scientific consensus is you can still show as positive (because tests are still detecting the particular bits of the virus they're designed to detect, even if those bits are the detached, scattered and inactive remnants of the virus). So rather than expecting someone to test negative, you just need to be recovered and armed with the proof you are recovered - a statement from a physician. After that 10 day period you won't be infectious and so are no longer a threat to those around you or any place you might be traveling to.

I'm still scheduled to travel to the UK at the end of this coming week. I'd imagine we'll know whether that will indeed be the case in the next day or two. The determining factors are...

  • Whether there will be anything to do once there. Any kind of lockdown announced this week means we cancel, as will uncertainty as to the potential for lockdowns while there (such as, say, skyrocketing case numbers and a government statement this week along the lines of "OK, we won't lockdown for New Years but might immediately after").

  • Whether the numbers look good. South Africa's omicron crisis came on fast, and then began to settle down fast. Conceivably, we could start to see signs of the same happening in the UK this week (I follow probably 2 dozen scientists and epidemiologists and other such sources in the UK just to see what their take on omicron is, and many are discussing how London cases already may have peaked and may begin to decline). This is in addition to news about severity, hospitalizations, toll upon the NHS, transportation and other services interruptions, etc. I could pull the plug on this trip quick, but am comfortable waiting until the last minute to do so because it won't cost us anything to cancel last minute, and I'm curious to see if the numbers settle. One could argue, if London's infection rate began to skyrocket about 2 weeks ago (3 weeks by the time we'd get there), that'd make for a significant percentage of the population there that is recovered, no longer infectious, with an acquired immunity to omicron and thus safe to be around. Mind you, I feel awful saying that but I'm just being pragmatic. I'm not cheering for mass amounts of acquired immunity among a local population for our silly vacation's sake, but am simply acknowledging the kinds of factors that come in to play in this day and age re: risk assessment. These are the same considerations I make at home on a regular basis, when it comes to deciding whether it's worth it for us to go eat out at a restaurant, see a movie in the theatre, attend a wedding, or work from home vs. in the office.

  • Confidence we won't be a burden upon our host country. I'd very much not want to infect anyone in a country we're visiting, and likewise would very much not want to suck up resources that should go to the local population. I don't want to take up a hospital bed in the UK that should be available to someone who lives there. So we're double vaxxed, with boosters received back in November. We're lower risk (20s-40s), I purchased travel medical insurance (that includes trip delay to cover the costs if we test positive while there and have to hang out in a hotel room for 10 days, and also would cover medical expenses if things got very bad), we happily wear our N95 and KN95 masks at home and would continue to do so abroad. I also feel quite confident the vendors we're using while there (tour guides and a couple other businesses we have something booked at) really are looking forward to having us. They seem to be eager to conduct business and carry on with life and living, and are thrilled to have us albeit sympathetic of all the hoops a tourist has to jump through and now omicron has changed the formulas.

So we'll see what this week brings, and whether this trip is still in the cards. Fingers crossed!

Posted by
492 posts

I should add - we'll be taking a buncha our own lateral flow tests with us. We plan to test at least every other day while there, and that schedule lines up with things like ensuring we test in the AM before boarding a train, testing in the AM before visiting a museum, and so on. This should help reduce any kind of risk we pose to others, as well as prevent any kind of nasty surprises. I buy and use lateral flow tests on a regular basis at home anyways, so have a ready supply to take with us. This is in addition to the tests that are required for the trip already - the pre departure, Day 2 PCR, and pre departure for our return. Testing is just a regular part of our lives now, even when not traveling.

Posted by
492 posts

But the cost of 10 extra hotel nights might be a bit much for some. I wonder if the trip insuance would cover any part of it? "Trip Interruption"

James - I've been assured by our insurance provider (Trawick) the "Trip Delay" coverage is what applies to this. Truthfully that's the key piece of coverage I wanted, so the coverage I specifically asked for. They cover something like $150/day up to $2000 already as part of their standard policy, and you can upgrade it a bit if you want. In our case, there's 2 of us traveling and for what really was a tiny premium increase we're each covered for like $400/day for things like lodging and food. Let's hope we won't need it, but I feel more comfortable having it. Mind you, you still have to have the means to pay these added expenses, with the insurance company then reimbursing you after you file the claim.

Posted by
15657 posts

It's at times like these I thik of that great philosopher Clint Eastwood who once said:

You have to ask yourself, do I feel lucky .Well, do you punk?

That's really it. Do you feel lucky. This variant, while reportedly not as bad as Delta, is spreading faster than any other.

I'm currently in England with some of the most relaxed Covid rules that many people don't follow. I have decided to curtail my activites until I get home next week and get my booster.

I have my return test scheduled and all I can do is cross my fingers. I still have a trip planned for this April and have no plans to cancel as of now.

Traveling now is not for the inexperienced, the inflexible, or those who can't "go with the flow." If for many reasons two weeks can't be added to your travel plans in case of a positive test, then I would suggest the traveler truly re-consider their plans.

Winter is the worst time for Covid. Perhaps rescheduling to a warmer time of year might be more prudent.

Posted by
4469 posts

James E, so you're thinking Ukraine will still be ok in March from the perspective of it possibly being a war zone? Someone else posted about a possible war in Bosnia and I was surprised they weren't talking about Ukraine.

Posted by
18725 posts

If Bosnia & Herzegovina is of great interest to you, might not be a bad idea to push it towards the front of your list as it isn't as stable as many other places.

Ukraine? Yes, I will make my 5th return trip in March. There are direct flights from Budapest to 3 cities in Ukraine, all under $60 each way (Wizz and Ryan). Entrance requirements are a PCR and a COVID insurance policy (about $5). Most everything is open in most cities. The Christmas markets are open too if anyone needs a last minute destination (they stay open longer for Orthodox Christmas): https://ukraine.ua/visit/ukrainian-christmas-markets/

As for war, that started in 2014 and has been ongoing ever since, with the loss of 13,000 to 15,000 souls so far.

If you were to superimpose a map of Texas over Ukraine, the eastern border with Russia is about where Houston is located and Lviv is about where El Paso is located.

Posted by
938 posts

I might be wrong, but it seems your major concern is if a quarantine of 10 days in a hotel would be covered by trip insurance.

I found this "Trip interruption coverage
This coverage will reimburse you for missed portions of your trip if you’re forced into quarantine due to a positive Covid test. It can cover 100% to 200% of your prepaid and non-refundable trip costs, depending on the policy, says Benna.

For example, Trawick International’s Safe Travels Voyager Plan covers expenses if you’re forced to quarantine domestically or abroad due to a positive Covid test. “These plans may also provide reimbursement for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation expenses incurred if you are injured or sick while traveling on your trip,” says Bailey Foster, a spokesperson for Trawick International." (https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-pandemic-travel-insurance/)

Posted by
492 posts

The Trip Interruption is actually different from Trip Delay.

Trip Interruption provides reimbursement for unused, non-refundable
insured trip costs if the trip is interrupted due to your becoming
sick with COVID-19 while on your trip.

Trip Delay provides coverage for transportation, meals and lodging
when you are quarantined by a physician or government.

So it'd be Trip Delay that'd be what covers you if you test positive and are stuck having to isolate. Trip Interruption would only cover expenses you'd already incurred when you bought the policy - so say you had to cancel the trip and lost out on airfare, hotel deposits, etc. "Unused" trip costs are different from the costs you'd incur as a result of having to isolate or quarantine.

Trip Delay covers new expenses assumed as the result of having to quarantine - 10 additional hotel nights, 10 additional days of meals, as well as additional transportation costs incurred (I think the base economy equivalent).

Posted by
8627 posts

I dont read it as an insurance question at all. Its a concern that with an uncontrolled omicron surge, the likelihood of getting positive test results will be higher, and the result will be increasing restrictions on movements. Thus making travel too difficult. The prediction that up to 70% of all people will test positive (with omicron) at some point in time is certainly a possible policy changer.

We've done four domestic trips this year, including Hawaii. I have a Europe trip scheduled for May, and am holding off on airline reservations until its closer. Thats my reaction. I'm not going to plan on anything else until we see how the next few months fall out.

Posted by
18725 posts

Stan, maybe a tad off subject, but not really. The game changers I mentioned were

Failing PCR test before departure
Failing the Antigen test prior to return
Quarantine in a far away land
Time to get test results
Flight Cancelations
The cost implications of both (insurance apparently has all that covered)

Others might have an increased anxiety over changing rules, I generally stick to places that have demonstrated a more uniform response. And I am reassured a bit by the fact that the new variant isnt loading up hospitals. So for me, it was the inconvenience and cancelation and delay issue. The posters covered that well -- except flight cancelations and I am thinking the airlines will respond to that in the next 30 days (or they go broke).

Thank you all. I feel better.

Posted by
45 posts

Let's hope the new 5 day policy will apply for international travel. With the virus as highly transmissible as it is, I think every traveler should assume they will test positive and make plans based on that.

Posted by
2112 posts

Just on the news, the CDC changed the quarantine period to 5 days. Lets see if it filters down to the US travel restrictions

But only if you are asymptomatic.

Posted by
18725 posts

With the virus as highly transmissible as it is, I think every
traveler should assume they will test positive and make plans based on
that.

Agree, sort of the basis of the post.

Posted by
18725 posts

Okay, one positive thing. I got tested at CVS and Walgreens yesterday about noon. Both showed up here a few minutes ago (NEGATIVE). Despite all the frightful news about the shortage of testing and backed up labs. Appointment was easy the night before and it took about 36 hours to get results.

Posted by
33296 posts

congrats on those results. they were a little slow?

PCR?

I too was negative a few minutes ago, but mine was one out of the box NHS posts out, Lateral Flow.

Posted by
2765 posts

I am traveling in March. I figure there's no need to even think about testing, etc. for another 45 days which will be about 2 weeks before my trip. I do watch just in case (for example I saw that some places are saying "booster" within 6 months. so I did the math, I will be fine!)

I have an apartment rented so just to make it simple I have it insured with a cancel for any reason policy.

Posted by
18725 posts

Nigel, I have to admit that I am totally ignorant about Test at Home kits for PCR tests. I bought some antigen tests to take with me, but I'm not concerned about anyone but me accepting them. Last trip i got my PCR results in about 12 hours. So this one was slow. Despite all the press about tests in the US right now, making a next day appointment was easy (at two locations) and I figure 36 hours was reasonable. These were free, but I could have paid $169 and gotten the test results in 12 hours or $250 for one hour PCR results. I had an appointment set up at one of those as a backup because of all the press. Just canceled it.

Checked my flights tomorrow. Again, despite all the cancelations reported over the holidays my flight has flown, more or less on time, the past five days and I am hopeful it flies tomorrow too.

That's all I can do, except go along for the ride and see how this works out.

Posted by
8627 posts

PCR tests must be analyzed in a laboratory by a certified tech. The only PCR at-home test kits Im aware of, are for sample collection only. They still have to be shipped to a laboratory. Don't see how they could be proctored or in any way give you a result that would be acceptable proof for anything other than your personal knowledge.

Posted by
2221 posts

We used the eMed Binax Now proctored tests in August before returning home from Iceland. They are very easy to use and are accepted for return to the US. These are NOT the ones you find in the drug stores, as those are not proctored. These you order from EMed and and they come with very specific instructions. You are not allowed to open the box until you are online with a proctor. They want to see the entire thing unopened and watch every move you make with it. We had 5 people traveling and it was so convenient to use those vs finding a testing center and working our itinerary around their hours. We did this in the morning before checking out of one hotel. Our kids have also used these for returning from Mexico and Canada in the last few weeks, and we will be taking more of them back to Iceland with us in February.

Posted by
1451 posts

Bon voyage James E! Glad your tests came back negative and I hope your flight takes off as scheduled.

Posted by
492 posts

Not to spook anyone but simply to share a story as food for thought -

I had a PCR test today (I get tested regularly) from Walgreens. I'd booked it several days ago, and had it scheduled for 10AM today. About 9am today, the pharmacy called to say their online portal was down so they could not administer any tests and had to cancel mine. They had no idea when it would be back up (it had been down all day yesterday, also). Bummer, but no big deal as this was not a test I needed right away for travel or anything. Fast forward to about 11am and the pharmacy called again to say their portal was back up so they could in fact do the test and I could feel free to swing by at my earliest convenience.

I've gotten tested at Walgreens many times (only once before by PCR, other times by ID NOW/NAAT). On a few occasions I have had issues - been called the day of my test to say they had to cancel because they were out of supplies, didn't have staff to administer it, computer systems down, so on, so forth.

I offer the above so no one takes for granted a slot will be available for testing when you might want it, and that it might fall through even after you've booked it. Best to have some redundancy in place.

As anyone who's regularly used pharmacy testing services can tell you, hiccups happen; appointments are often unavailable for many days and weeks; they may run out of staff or supplies or computer systems may go down even if you have a test booked. One area we are way, way behind many other countries in is testing. Don't wanna turn the discussion political but that we've only seemed to figure out now, with 2021 coming to a close, widespread, readily, immediately, and even freely available testing is a big deal is kind of a massive failing.

Posted by
18725 posts

1885BD, I believe you. I listen to the news and it sounds terrible. Its why I made the back up appointment at the expensive place. Fortunately the pharmacies here are well staffed and well stocked and it has never been a problem. Maybe just a regional anomaly? I had a Walgreens test the other day. Got my result in 36 hours and then the next morning got an email from a lab saying they did Walgreens testing and the system had crashed and if I didn't get my result to log in (they had instructions) to get the results (but I guess I got lucky, cause I got mine direct from Walgreens the night before).

Posted by
492 posts

James - Definitely the right call to have had that backup! Glad you got your results and all seems good to go for your trip!