Coronavirus Testing Before Travel: Getting Tested to Enter Hawaii, USA


International Travel around the world these days is a much more complicated experience. As a result of testing requirements, the lack of any one international standard and vaccine cards of varying levels and integrity, it’s a confusing time for travellers. On my first experience through the testing environment, I thought I would share my thoughts on navigating through the testing process to prepare for travel.

This post is one chapter on our trip during the pandemic to Honolulu Oahu, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Marriott Bonvoy and further enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Coronavirus Testing Before Travel, Getting Tested to Enter Hawaii

The world had changed quite substantially since we last travelled on an international trip At the time of our travels on this trip, each country now had a patch work of different rules and regulations surrounding their entry and exit requirements that reflect travel between destinations during this Coronavirus pandemic environment.

It’s certainly added a large level of bureaucracy to travel, in addition to some fairly strict effort to review requirements including any transit information. As a result, I’ve added a post on how we approached the experience of travelling between Canada – United States – Hawaii, including navigating the testing requirements..

Screening Requirements at Vancouver International Airport:

At the time of this trip, on the Canadian side before departure, there was a Canadian requirement that Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) performs temperature checks at the passenger screening checkpoint located within the airport itself. Passengers with a temperature reading of 38 degrees Celsius / 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher were to be denied boarding and access to the secure area of the airport for 14 days, unless a medical certificate is provided which confirms the elevated temperature is not related to COVID-19. Canadian travellers were also required to be vaccinated for domestic Canadian flights.

Testing to Fly into the United States:

In addition to the temperature checks, as a pre-requisite in order to enter the United States from Canada, a negative COVID Antigen test (or better) was required. This testing information was collected by the airlines and screened either through the United Airlines app or in advance through the internet.

At of the time of this trip, Canadians were only permitted to “fly” into the United states for travel by air. The land border between Canada and the US remained closed to Canadian citizens to drive across by car, making air travel the only option possible in order to enter the United States.

In order to fly into the United States, the US government required a negative antigen test, or any type of molecular test, taken within the previous 3 days of the US bound flight. The antigen tests are generally the cheaper variety and are typically around the $100 CAD price point in Vancouver, Canada.

Researching all the travel requirements meant navigating through lots of information provided by United Airlines. It required a careful examination of all the policies, to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Making matters more challenging, were that many of these screens were only available after you had purchased a ticket. This made advance research on destinations a little difficult.

United Airlines was pretty integrated with requirements for travel built right into the It involved electronic uploads of all documentation for automated electronic review. Traveling under this new era certainly meant closely following all the requirements.

Navigating Safe Travels Hawaii with a PCR Test:

Secondary to providing a test to get into the United States, the state of Hawaii had a state requirement for all travellers to test negative or be vaccinated prior to entry into the Hawaiian Islands. While Hawaii accepts American Vaccination records as issued by the Center for Disease Control, they hadn’t gotten around identifying a way to verify international vaccination records. As a result, as Canadian travellers, we had to under go a COVID Test PCR / NAAT test in a similar category to all to the non vaccinated travellers. If you successfully passed the PCR test, you were given eligibility to enter Hawaii in order to apply for “an exemption” from the 10 day quarantine.

The Hawaiian testing platform was managed through a web based portal called Safe Travels Hawaii. It was a pretty elementary platform consisting of a secure log in, an instructional video and a QR code generator.

The Safe Travels Hawaii site offered a link of “Trusted Travel” partners where testing could be performed. Initially, it was a little confusing as the state list of approved “Trusted Travel” partners was hosted on internet landing pages published by Canadian Airline Carriers Air Canada and Westjet. The state did not seem to take into consideration that Canadian travellers could access Hawaii on Alaska, Delta or United Airlines from Canada by connecting through the United States. It took a little research but it was more the location and status of the testing clinic as a “Trusted Travel” partner that was of importance. The State of Hawaii didn’t seem to care whether travel was on specific carriers.

The Trusted Travel partners were limited to some national drug stores and speciality travel clinics. Interestingly, most were centered closer to the airport and none where situated in my Vancouver suburb. The Hawaiian test requirements were 72 hour prior to your last inbound flight to Hawaii; in our case this was a Tuesday at 1:15 PM. As a result on a Sunday morning at 10 AM (some 52 hrs before our flight) we drove into Richmond, BC for a test at the Bon Voyage Medical Clinic.

Finding a PCR Test near home:

The Bon Voyage Medical Clinic offered easy testing and booking for international travellers. After navigating to their website, we easily selected a time.

Navigating through the Buffet Menu of Covid Testing

Their Richmond location happened to be almost permanently set up at the Sheraton Vancouver International Airport in a meeting room.

We attended the quiet test location, which was a much quieter experience than the mass vaccination convention centers set up in my community. The PCR test was $190 CAD, which was pretty standard in the Vancouver Region with a set price point pretty much everywhere.

Getting a PCR Test:

On admittance, the clinic verified our identification. I used my Canadian passport to verify my identity. There was only one reception person and one nurse working a room that had approximately 5 testing stations.

The test involved a “shorter” nasal swab that was placed up both of my nasal tubes by the nurse. While it was uncomfortable, like a needle, it was pretty much done within 15 seconds. I’d rate it as a 5 out of 10 on the dis-comfort scale.

MrsWT73 didn’t enjoy it, rating it worse off at a 8 out of 10 on the discomfort level. She would later come out of the testing room with very watery eyes.

The tests samples were sent to a centralized analysis center called LifeLabs; a bio-medical testing center. Once the test samples had undergone the microscope, the results were returned to Boy Voyage for authentication. Bon Voyage produced a code suitable under the Hawaii Trusted Travel partner testing. Our test results were promised next day by 11 PM. In reality, the test results were received on Monday at 11AM.

Waiting for Test Results:

The time spend waiting for the test results was a bit like waiting to be paroled. Admittedly, it took a little bit of the steam out of getting excited for a holiday. Much like an anxious smoker waiting for a cigarette, I was nervously checking the device for any sign of an email. At the time of the trip, rapid testing and testing facilities were not prevalent through our region. It would be our first experience getting tested and with the possibility of asymptotic cases, we had no guesses as to whether our trip would proceed.

Eventually, we received our negative test results. With the results ready, we followed up with the last steps of our trip. We booked airport parking, finalized hotel and other car transfers to avoid cancellation challenges and difficulties.

In terms of Hawaii, we uploaded our test results into the Hawaii Safe Travels Oahu. This spit out a QR code that we used to verify our travels. We would end up needing to present this at check in every time we changed hotels in Honolulu.

This wouldn’t be so bad doing it at the last minute but it does add some time to any travel preparation assignments.

Getting a Test to Return to Canada

After our ten day Hawaiian Island adventure, on our return trip back to Canada, at the time of our travels, the Government of Canada required an expensive PCR test for all travellers entering or returning to Canada. As a result, we had to locate a PCR testing provider in Hawaii that could test us within three days (72 hours) of travel.

I booked a test months in advance through Clinical Labs of Hawaii. I found lots of availability up to about 48 hours prior to travel. I would still recommend making advance reservations as far in advance as practicable in order to get your preferred choice of times.

We were able to locate a travel testing facility in the Sheraton Waikiki through Clinical Labs of Hawaii. A few of my travelling colleagues were presenting themselves to CVS asking for a test. However, I elected to just pay outright for a diagnostic test at a travel clinic.

At the Sheraton Waikiki Docs on Call, listed for an appointment using the on line interface. We presented ourselves at our pre-assigned time.

It was a bit less organized than our departing experience from Vancouver. There was a line of about ten people at 10 AM. I chatted with some other travellers in line, including a lady who refused to vaccinate and was getting antigen tests every two days so that she could go out in restaurants in Honolulu as part of the Safe Travels Oahu mandate requiring all guests to be vaccinated in restaurants and other communal spaces.

The testing in Hawaii was a similar to Vancouver. It was a single nasal swab 15 seconds in each nostril with a fresh nurse who wished me to be well.

In this case, after our test, we were given a card that displayed the account information in order to get our results. We weren’t given any promise on time or when we would expect them. We were also expected to set up a separate account, which was a little high on the pain in the tail factor. Among the last things you want to be doing taking away from your beach time is navigating clunky information technology platforms.

We ended up getting our test results later that afternoon. With a negative test result, we were able to upload our information into the Arrive CAN application, endorsing our pre-clearance to return home to Canada.

My Thoughts on Undergoing the Testing Procedures:

The testing requirements for travel certainly added large inconvenience factor for travels. There was substantial research and interaction time that was required in order to navigate many of the portals and requirements in order to secure testing through different providers, in addition to confirming requirements through airlines. Perhaps the largest lesson learned was that I would plan to allow for an additional 2 – 3 hours on the compliance side, not withstanding any travel for testing.

If you have experienced diagnostic travel testing, do you have any tips to make the process go smoothly ?

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