Pre-travel testing thoughts, tips

HONOLULU – When Jeff and Jean Lilley flew to Dallas to be present for the birth of their first grandchild, they knew there was a chance they’d have to quarantine when they returned home.

However, they report their experience with Hawai‘i’s pre-travel testing program for incoming passengers, which started on Oct. 15, was largely positive. Jeff, the pastor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, says preparation and practice were key to a smooth return to the islands and bypassing the mandatory, 14-day quarantine with a negative test result from a trusted testing and travel partner.

After the birth of their grandson Franklin, the couple spent nearly three weeks with him and his parents. While it wasn’t required, they also got tested when they arrived in Texas. “We all wanted to be sure no one was exposed, particularly Franklin,” Jean said.

Even before leaving Honolulu, the couple familiarized themselves with the functionality of the Hawai‘i Safe Travels application and set up their individual accounts. They feel it is really important to have a smartphone in order to be able to download PDF files of required test results, literally on-the-fly. They also researched information on the state’s trusted testing and travel partners; labs, pharmacies, clinics and online providers of approved pre-travel COVID-19 testing. They picked one of the national pharmacy chains for their tests in Dallas.

By the time they departed Dallas early one morning, they had not received their results and Jean says she was a little anxious about that. After landing in Los Angeles for a layover they discovered their negative test results were in. They’d already practiced uploading PDFs from their smartphones into the documents section of the mandatory travel and health form. By the time they landed back home, their results had been verified, and they sailed through health screenings at the airport without any issues and with no quarantine requirement.

Jeff said they were prepared to quarantine if necessary because they have jobs where that’s possible. They’d decided that even if the pre-travel testing program had not debuted on Oct. 15, they were going to travel regardless for the momentous occasion of Franklin’s birth.

“I’m glad the state has this program for people needing to travel to the mainland for various family reasons,” Jeff said.

Jean added that if not for the birth of their grandson they probably would not have traveled while coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.

Here are the Lilleys’ recommendations for preparing to travel out-of-state:

• Set up your account at travel.hawaii.gov well in advance;

• Familiarize yourself with what kind of information you’ll need to provide about your itinerary, current health status, residence/lodging and testing status;

• Know your technology and practice uploading PDF files to your phone so you can seamlessly transfer them to the Safe Travels app. Follow the directions on uploading a quality PDF file for your test result with the required information, which will help improve chances of expediting verification of test results. Visit ets.hawaii.gov/travelhelp/ for more information;

• Review the options for trusted testing and travel partners, as the state doesn’t accept COVID-19 testing from non-approved partners. Research which partners provide testing in your departure city or town and be sure to schedule within the 72-hour departure window.

The Lilleys were among the 204,685 trans-Pacific and international travelers to arrive in Hawai‘i since Oct. 15. They were lucky their test results were verified by the time they landed, as it can take two to three days to get results back if a passenger is unable to upload them prior to departing for the islands. During that time travelers are required to quarantine.

7 Comments
  1. Kristi Owen November 11, 2020 6:32 am Reply

    Which pharmacy chain did you use in Dallas? My kids are flying home from Costa Rica in a week & need to test in Dallas on the way back. They have a 1 day layover there.


  2. Nadya Penoff November 11, 2020 7:32 am Reply

    Excellent information! I would add that if you fly to a smaller city, schedule your test weeks in advance before your return date!!! I waited until my last week and found all the appointments were taken and no walk-ins were allowed. Quarantine was my option.


  3. Kauaidoug November 11, 2020 9:05 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing but it really illustrates it’s best to just stay put and this system is far from foolproof as a failure at any point in their trip could have gone haywire if their results failed to materialize.


  4. Kauaidoug November 11, 2020 9:20 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience but it’s clear your trip could have gone sideways in so many ways. Unless you must go just stay put. We saw this play our in Oahu and it’s heading this way as we play whackamole. Record cases on the mainland are off the charts and heading our way on airplanes.

    The number of cases on the island should be a big red number that cannot be missed at the top of the page. Finding out how many cases can be a hunt. With new cases reported everyday it might be time. As a local at this time I want to know how many cases are on island before I head to Walmart! Mahalo


  5. Elizabeth November 11, 2020 10:21 am Reply

    Thankyou for posting this.
    Very clear and informative 👌


  6. Patrick H Flores November 11, 2020 10:57 am Reply

    Mr. and Mrs. Lilley, thank you for your post, the biggest concern for us, my wife and I is dealing properly with the process.
    Patrick Flores, Wailua Houselots


  7. Joe November 11, 2020 9:05 pm Reply

    Our group of three flew from LAX to Kauai 2 weeks ago. We used the Vault (saliva based) test via the mail. Our results arrived within 48 hrs, with time to spare. We made sure to complete the Safe Travels form, uploaded the test results via PDF, then completed the health questionnaire within 24 hrs of departure. We immediately received our QR code. Once we arrived in Lihue, the procedure was efficient and thorough. We were anxious about the prospects of quarantine due to a technicality of something that we may’ve missed, however we were careful to re-read the process follow the steps exactly.

    Overall the travel was seamless and felt safe with the exceptions of the following observations that we thought were either being too carefree, careless or just uninformed:
    1) Passengers especially in first class who would unmask to sip their drinks for 30-40 minutes 2) Passengers wearing neck gaiters which are proven to be no more effective than no mask


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