As expected, the U.S. did indeed announce big changes for all international travelers, including fully vaccinated Americans.

President Biden led off his press conference reiterating that the Omicron variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. He then laid out his administration’s plan, which is available on

Here’s what travelers need to know:

“Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.”

As I wrote a couple days ago, I don’t think that changing testing requirements from three days in advance to one is a huge deal for most Americans since they’re typically traveling to popular destinations where antigen tests are abundantly available. On top of that, most international travelers were already getting their tests done within 24 hours of their flights and many are done in the airport just hours before boarding. Which frankly, should be the new normal as a lot can happen in the previous time period of three days.

The other major announcement, which should come as no surprise to anyone, is the federal government is “extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation: The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.”

Even if the Omicron strain wasn’t a concern, you know they were going to extend the mask mandate since it’s flu season and more importantly, the Delta variant is running rampant in much of the United States. I’m willing to bet they will extend it again in March through June and hopefully they bring it back annually each flu/coronavirus season.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with wearing a mask on a plane or in an airport and in fact, I prefer it during the winter months since one of my biggest pet peeves about flying, even pre-pandemic, was constantly getting sick on planes from people traveling while sick and worse, not covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

I know this won’t be popular with everyone, including those in the travel industry but they’re definitely breathing a sigh of relief because they’re not requiring quarantine on arrival.

The U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement that it’s tightening the pre-departure testing window for entry to the U.S. from three days for vaccinated travelers to one day. “We hope this measure to narrow the pre-departure testing window will be temporary until more is learned about the Omicron variant. In the meantime, the travel industry urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.”


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9 Comments On "It's Official: The US Just Made 2 Big Changes for Travel and This is What Travelers Need to Know"
  1. TDHill|

    This is a very specific point, but the ruling testing is for “one day in advance” of the international flight, not 24 hours. While some countries are sticklers for the exact number of hours, the US has been a bit more kind with test results timing, as indicated on the CDC website under the FAQ: (which still needs updating for today’s rules, but still explains the US thinking):

    “The 1-day period is 1 day before the flight’s departure and the 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses 1-day and 3-day time frames instead of 24 hours and 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator. By using a 1-day and 3-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken.

    For example, if you are fully vaccinated and your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after. If you are not fully vaccinated and your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.” It makes a big difference for people taking late night flights. Thanks for always keeping us updated on the latest travel news!

  2. Kristin Zern|

    the 24 hour time period to get a Negative PCR test is not to easy or non complicated. First of all it takes 12 hours to get the results at an airport testing centre. And only a few Airport Testing centers offer Rapid PCR tests. The US is requiring that all travellers entering the US to have had a Negative PCR test. Not a Negative Antigen Test. Second of all, airlines have their own requirements and insist that a traveler have a Negative test to fly within their country. Third, A traveler as a Transit traveler (not actually entering the country but changing to a flight headed to the US) needs to have a Negative Test. The problem is logistic but still anxiety provoking. If any of the flights are delayed or canceled the flyer has to start all over with the testing. I just returned from Spain, from a city without Rapid Testing available and by the ingenuity of the test centre they were able to get me on the connecting flight to Madrid with 5 minutes to spare. And then I had an appointment at the Madrid Testing Center to get a Negative Rapid PCR test for the flight from Madrid to Boston. Which left in 4 hours. Both tests cost together 135 euros.

  3. Tim|

    I don’t mind traveling with a mask on but I wish they would ease on enforcement with small children. We flew from PHX to MCO in September and it was a nightmare trying to make sure my 3 year old twins kept their mask on. The flight crews were generally pretty good but the amount of times someone at the airport tried to tell my 3 year olds to cover their nose was ridiculous.

    The other problem I have with the masks is that flights no longer have food options on board. While food on airplanes isn’t the best, it was nice to have if you need a snack or a quick meal.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Agreed. But the reason flights don’t have food isn’t because of Covid. It’s because the airlines don’t make money selling it. Always bring your own or snacks

  4. Jim Rydell|

    This is getting more confusing than ever. At the top the quote that JJ shows says “ Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.” “
    But when you click the link that TDHill gives just above that goes to the CDC site it says: “Effective Nov 8, 2021 before boarding a flight to the USA from a foreign country, all passengers 2 & older are required to present a negative COVID-19 viral test result, within a time period based on their vaccination status (see table):
    Fully vaccinated: No more than 3 days
    NOT fully vaccinated: No more than one day

    So it seems if one is “fully vaccinated” yih still can do the test 3 days before???

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It is confusing but regardless of vaccination status it’s now changing to 24 hours in advance.

  5. meg|

    agree with you about the masks! prefer them especially on a plane so I don’t get sick! and also keeps my face warm in cool weather!

  6. Jim Rydell|

    Thanks for clarification JJ!

  7. Rob|

    My concern is the cost of having thee tests done at the airport before departure. I know of one couple who paid $250 per person.

    And my other concern is getting the results. Our son had to delay his departure by 24 hours recently becuase his test results didn’t come back in a timely manner. It cost him a wasted night at. his arrival destination, and it cost him an extra night at the hotel at his departure city while he waited another day for his negatie test results. A lose/lose for him all around.

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