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Read all about Kacie Darden's experience traveling to Aruba.
Original article published to bluepineappletravel.com.
On January 26th, the United States changed their international travel protocols and we now require a negative COVID test for incoming passengers (or proof of recovery from COVID in the past three months). I traveled to Aruba and flew back on Sunday 1/31 in part to experience the new protocols so that I could share them!
But first, how about a picture of why I love Aruba. My boys and I spent two months on this island working and schooling this fall, so we are familiar with all of their entry protocols (which include COVID testing and mandatory insurance). We also just fell in love with it and wanted a dose of these sunsets in our lives this winter.
Now, as always, I am not going to ever try to tell our Blue Pineapple clients what your best travel choice is right now. Everyone needs to make their own responsible travel choices that best fit their personal risk levels. However, if you do choose to travel, it is incredibly important that you know how to do it, both safely and legally, which is what I am here to help with! So, this is my experience with the newest travel policy to enter the United States, which can be found here. Also, I am always supportive of reviewing and following all of the local rules and protocols, even if they are different than what you are accustomed to at home.
Because this policy went into effect while we were away, there were many updates as we traveled. The government of Aruba has done an excellent job providing resources and information for travelers. Many hotels have on-site testing. Many hotels around the world are providing free or reduced priced testing depending on where and how long you are staying (I have been joking that it’s the new hotel amenity!).
My hotel did not have on-site testing available yet (you could pay Medcare to come and test you), but we were very close to the facility that did. Even though the United States will allow either PCR or Rapid/antigen tests, some states only allow PCR. I live in Georgia, and a rapid/antigen test is allowed. Because the rapid tests are cheaper and a bit less invasive (and I was testing my kiddos too!), we chose those. They charged us $50 per person for the test. They were not taking appointments for rapid tests, so we drove up and parked. You can see that there was a shaded and distanced waiting area for the test.
We filled out a form, and waited our turn. When we were called in, we went inside and to a cubicle where our tests were taken. They told us that we would have emailed results after 10pm that same evening. This timing is another thing to keep in mind. The US is requiring a negative test taken within 3 days of travel. We chose to get our tests done 2 days before travel because we were told we would have results back in the same day. We did it one day closer than required in the event that anything happened to our flight (delays and such) our COVID results would still be admissible for us to board the flight. Even with a line, we were in and out within about 45 minutes total and on our way to Baby Beach! When I texted my husband this selfie, he joked about us getting our COVID tests while in swimsuits.
That evening, I received an email with login information for my test results. When I logged in, I had two of the three negative results. I emailed the testing facility, and they quickly emailed me back the third pdf with our negative result. My amazing hotel (Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba) printed off all of my negative test results as well as the required attestation form. If I had one tip for people traveling where testing is required, it is to find a way to print all of the forms. Having the physical copies rather than digital ones really makes the process easier when you are in the airport. Because you know you will need the attestation form to fly home, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and print out one for each member of your traveling party before you leave home.
On our departure day, we gathered our things, our passports, our negative covid tests, our attestation forms, and plenty of masks, and we headed to the Aruba airport. If you haven’t traveled during the pandemic or to places that require testing, you might not realize that you can’t really check in and get your boarding pass online. I still get that little reminder on my app that “it’s time to check in” but you quickly find out that you can’t yet. That’s just because your forms need to be cleared by the agent at the counter upon your arrival, so don’t stress when you can’t do your online check in as normal.
When we got to the desk, the agent looked at our passports, COVID tests, and attestation forms. She stamped the attestation forms and told us that we would need to turn them in at the gate. She also told me at that point that she did not need to see the COVID tests again, as they had been approved, so I was able to put them away.
In Aruba, you then go through security as normal. You also get to clear customs and immigration for the United States at the Aruba airport as well. That makes your arrival home so much easier! But do be prepared, because it means you literally go through security twice (but then you don’t have to wait in the long lines at your home airport!). When we made it through security as well as US customs and immigration, we went to our gate. They announced there that you were to bring your attestation form to the desk to turn it in along with your boarding passes. At that point, they collected the attestation forms and stamped our boarding passes as approved.
Once you get through that, you don’t even have to take out your passports again in Aruba (because you have already cleared US customs and immigration!), so you just need those stamped and approved boarding passes. I have also reminded folks and in-flight services are lower right now, so pack snacks! I have been flying Delta, who also blocks middle seats (unless you, like me, are traveling solo with your children, and then they will let you sit together!). You do have to keep your mask on throughout the entire flight, though you can lower it briefly to eat and drink. We had an easy flight back home after that!
We really found the process to be very straight forward. The questions I have been asked by clients lately are the “what ifs,” and I do think it is important to think through those, and the answer is very destination specific. If you did test positive in Aruba, you paid for insurance on arrival that would cover your quarantine housing and medical care. The housing is kept private, but it is safe, clean, has wifi, and AC, and the government actually posts a daily count of positive tests as well as hospital capacity. Their transparency has been remarkable throughout the pandemic, which is part of why I keep going back. The next question I have received is about a quarantine upon returning home. Some states have had a quarantine in effect for some time already. A national quarantine is under review, but nothing has been approved at this point. Right now, the CDC does recommend you testing yourself again 3-5 days after you return home and self isolate for 7 days, but it does remain a recommendation.
This might be a controversial statement, but I’m going to throw it out there. I actually like getting on planes when everyone pre-tests. I know it’s not a perfect system, but it feels like everyone is making a best effort. I don’t love the impact on my business, of course, but I am trying to look on the bright side of things from a broader perspective! Combining mitigation strategies such as testing and mask wearing along with cleaning and air filtration is our best way to limit transmission, and I like being a part of that. Though you do need to sincerely think through the what-ifs of travel, you also combine that with mitigation strategies as well for the best outcomes, and absolutely insure yourself properly too!
If you are prepared and willing to test and follow local rules, there are still places abroad that are welcoming US citizens. Regardless of when you decide to travel again, now or much later, we are here to help guide you through the process. Please feel free to reach out when you are ready to start planning your next trip!