Travel overseas is already a high-bar excursion. But travel overseas during COVID sets a whole new level of difficulty. Even the most seasoned traveler will need to be extra prepared and informed if they want to keep their plans on track.
Below I have posted our experiences going into and out of Italy from the US. This trip took place at the end of July, 2021.
On United, we flew Denver-to-Newark then Newark-to-Milan. Inside of Italy, we took EasyJet from Milan to Sicily. Note: there is nothing easy about EasyJet. (Pro-tip #1 w/ EasyJet always book SpeedyBoarding. Pro-Tip #2: For any airlines you are flying make sure you have their apps downloaded onto your phone and you are logged in.)
In Denver AND in Newark we were required to show our Vaccination Card as well as the EU Passenger document before we were permitted to board our flight. (didn’t matter that we already had our boarding passes for the Newark-to-Milan leg).
(more on those items below)
For our OUTBOUND leg we needed the following documents/items:
- U.S. Passport (I think that goes without saying)
- Vaccination Cards. You know the little one they handed you when you got your shots? Don’t lose that. You’ll need to present it multiple times during your outbound journey.
- EU Passenger Location Documents. United required us to fill this out before we got to the airport. This is a multi-page form you fill-in online. It takes a few minutes. I strongly recommend you print out the completed PDF version you get back. Don’t just print the first page with the QR code. In Denver and in Newark airports, every page of this document was inspected by the ticket and gate agents.
- Abbot Home Test kits Also recommeneded by United. In order to return to the United States you have to test negativre for COVID within 3 days of your retrun trip. United told us to bring these tests with us as finding a testing facility in Italy might be difficult. Buy these and throw them in your luggage.
For RETURNING to the U.S. from Italy:
- U.S. Passport (of course)
- Negative eMed Labs COVID Test results. You’ll get your results pretty quickly. But make sure they are within the 3 days of travel. Ticket agents check the dates. We got them printed at the hotel when we got to Milan. You won’t need this inside the country, but once you reach the leg of your trip returning to the U.S., you’ll need them.
- Even if you are able to get your airline to post your boarding passes, make sure you check-in at the ticket counter. We found additional screening that got us onto the plane, which held others up at the gate.
A word of caution if you are doing the Abbott Home Test:
You need a good hour to complete the COVID TEST. You need a laptop or an iPad with a camera. I don’t think you can do this test if you just have an iPhone. Not only do you need the camera to be steady, but the person on the other end (yes there is a live human involved in this) has to see you AND the test kit in the camera. There are multiple times when you have to present your ID to the camera along with the QR code from the test and the test results card. The iPad worked great. NOTE: This is a technical experience not to be done if you are in any way rushed or impaired. You need to have GOOD lighting. You need EXCELLENT WIFI because you will be on a video call with a real human. You need a quiet room because you need to hear what the tech is telling you to do, and they need to hear you. The test recommended by United was this one from Abbott. (note: they make you buy more than one per person because the likelihood that you will screw it up the first time is VERY high).
A bit more about this friggen test:
- Read VERY CAREFULLY the instructions on the TEST box. Do not open the box until told to do so by the online technician.
- You’ll need to download the NAVICA app onto your phone and create (or login) to your account.
- You’ll be instructed to open up a new URL on a different device (I strongly recommend a laptop or iPad).
- It took 45 minutes for the session to connect to a live technician who walks you through the rest of the process. They use your device’s camera to view you, validate you, and the kit, and walk you through the procedure. While they observe, you open the test kit. Fill a TINY hole with drops. Open a swab, and stick it up your nose. Then you have to thread this swap back into the test card WITHOUT picking up the test card. You seal the test card around the swab, and let it sit. (my instructions should be in no way taken as the offical instructions.)
- Once you have sealed the test card, do NOT disturb this card. They warn you that it could invalidate the test. It has to sit for 15 minutes. So like, if a strong wind comes by and blows this thing around, you might be screwed. The technician will start a timer for 15 mintues, which conunts down on your screen. Just sit there with it. After the timer expires, another technician gets back on with you, and you have to show them your results. (see photo). And hopefully you are negative. Because if you’re not, well God help ya.
Two notes here: 1. If you’re not going into Italy, but traveling to the EU, I suspect the EU doc is still required. This is a multi-page form that you should have printed out. 2. If you are not doing a home test, you will still need to show proof that you are COVID Negative. In Mexico this was easy. In other countries, outside of Italy, I don’t know how this is being handled. But the U.S. won’t let you back in if you haven’t tested negative within 3 days of your return trip back. Gate agents specifically check the date when you got your test. Good to have this printed out too.
A quick note about Easy Jet in Catania: Give yourself a LOT of time. All this pent-up travel demand is totally overwhelming security lines everywhere. We had over 2 hours and were still tight because their check-in process was understaffed, disorganized, and SLOW. Do not assume the terminal you are going out of is the same as the one you came in on. (good advice whenever you’re flying).
I want to add here a little about how CAR RENTAL has changed since the last time we were in Italy. With EuropeCar and SIXT car rental you MUST HAVE an International Drivers License (International Driving Permit) or they won’t release the car to you. I have never been asked for this before, and we’ve driven in Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy. But now this is required. (Unless you go through HERTZ, which our friend did, and he had no problem.) Btw, hat tip to the wonderful people at OS Car Rental at Catania Airport – Sicily – Fontanarossa for bailing us out. They were great.
Good luck my friends. Remember to give yourself a lot more time than you normally would. Keep your head on a swivel and be ready to pivot. If it gets too much, drink a beer, take a breath and pay the extra money. Go forth and conquer.