COVID Rapid Testing Options for United States Travel

by | Published Dec 20, 2021 | Edited May 4, 2022


  1. COVID Rapid Testing Options for United States Travel
  2. COVID Testing Options for Entering Canada
  3. Canada to Ease Travel Restrictions and Testing Requirements on Feb 28

As most people start to consider international travel again as a possibility, I’ve found most are turning to the United States for a short trip to get them outside of their comfort zone in a world where travel has been difficult in the past two years. Personally, I’ve been to the US a few times this year and recently came back from a trip to Las Vegas, so I’ve had to do my fair share of testing due to entry requirements.

As of December 6, 2021, the United States has now stated that all inbound travelers are required to produce a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within one day of travel (not necessarily 24 hours). This means that if you are flying to the US on a Friday, you can take the test anytime on Thursday to satisfy the testing requirements.

Rapid antigen testing is a quick and convenient option that only takes 15 minutes to produce a negative or positive result. This means that it is easy to complete the test the day before your travel, unlike a PCR test which can take up to 48 hours to receive the results.

COVID-19 rapid antigen options do vary by province, so for this article, we have focused on the bigger retailers that are offering rapid testing for US travel as a service. We have also captured options for COVID testing when returning to Canada in a different article.

Related: Canada Easing Travel Restrictions and Testing Requirements as of February 28, 2022

Walmart Rapid Antigen Testing

covid-19 rapid antigen testing walmart

As of December 2021, Walmart is offering COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

The rapid antigen test can be purchased for $19.97 at select locations within the provinces that are currently offering the test. Not all Walmart stores offer rapid antigen testing, but Walmart plans to continue to expand the program over time.

Walmart suggests booking an appointment online; however, I have found that availability is incredibly sparse for the time being. You may have additional luck calling the participating locations, but I haven’t tried this personally.

When you book online, you are booking for one person and one test. I have heard from a close friend that he was able to bring his partner to test at the same time, simply by calling ahead and asking if he could bring her to test as well since they are traveling together.

You can find the most up-to-date information on Walmart’s COVID-19 testing, including how to book an appointment, on the Walmart COVID testing webpage.

Costco Rapid Antigen Testing

As of December 2021, Costco is only offering COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in two provinces: Alberta and Ontario.

The rapid antigen test can be purchased for $16 at select locations within the provinces that are currently offering the test. Costco’s testing program seems to be limited at the moment, with very few locations and testing slots available. While Costco has the lowest price out of all of the available options on this list, it might be very difficult to actually find an available appointment.

You can find the most up-to-date information on Costco’s COVID-19 testing, including how to book an appointment, on the Costco COVID testing webpage.

Rexall Pharmacy Rapid Antigen Testing

covid-19 rapid antigen testing rexall pharmacy

As of December 2021, Rexall Pharmacy is offering COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.

The rapid antigen test can be purchased for $30 at select locations within the provinces that are currently offering the test. I could find quite a few locations that offer testing nearby, but availability was sparse for the following weeks when I checked their online booking tool.

If you are looking to book a rapid antigen testing appointment at Rexall, you could try to call a specific location and see if they can book you in over the phone. I don’t believe that they are taking walk-in appointments at this point in time.

You can find the most up-to-date information on Rexall’s COVID-19 testing, including how to book an appointment, on the Rexall COVID testing webpage.

Shoppers Drug Mart Rapid Antigen Testing

As of December 2021, many Shoppers Drug Mart stores are offering COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

The rapid antigen test can be purchased for $40 at select locations, making it the most expensive test on this list. That being said, the convenience of Shoppers Drug Mart cannot be beaten when it comes to testing. Many locations offer testing so you should be able to easily find a location near you if you are in one of the above-listed provinces.

I’ve tested at multiple Shoppers Drug Mart locations a few times in the past for travel and I have always been able to call ahead to book an appointment with a few days notice. Shoppers do not have an online booking tool for scheduling COVID-19 testing.

I have a few colleagues who have had success with walk-in appointments for rapid antigen testing at Shoppers Drug Mart in advance of their cross-border travel. While I personally wouldn’t leave it up to chance as I like to be prepared, this can be another option to keep in mind.

You can find the most up-to-date information on Shoppers Drug Mart COVID-19 testing, including a store locator and directions for how to book an appointment, on the Shoppers Drug Mart COVID testing webpage.

Switch Health Rapid Antigen Testing Kit

Switch Health has partnered with Aeroplan to offer COVID-19 home testing kits, including rapid antigen tests. These tests are purchasable online and will ship anywhere in Canada with 5-7 business day free shipping; when I ordered, it took around 3 business days to arrive.

Switch Health COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing Kit Box

The Switch Health tests are sold in packs of two for $79. Upon purchasing, you will also receive 500 Aeroplan Points. These tests can be used for two separate occasions or for two different people; I bought this kit specifically for myself and my girlfriend to use for a 48 hour Las Vegas trip.

The kit contains everything that you need to conduct two rapid antigen tests. The tests will be conducted while you speak with an ASMO medical representative via video chat on your mobile device. Once the sample has been tested and 15 minutes have elapsed, you are able to upload a photo of your test result. From there, you will be provided with a PDF report which includes your personal information and COVID-19 rapid antigen test results which can be provided during travel.

Switch Health COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Box Contents

The instruction manual for the kit is publicly available if you are curious and want to know more about the process before ordering.

The Switch Health rapid antigen testing kit might be the best solution for your travel needs if you are located in a province that doesn’t have easily available rapid-testing for travel, or if you simply want the convenience of being able to test in your own home. Price-wise, it is on the upper end of the range of options and is comparable to Shoppers Drug Mart.

Conclusion

Your availability of COVID-19 rapid testing options depends on where you live and what retailers are offering tests. Aeroplan’s partnership with Switch Health has provided Canadians in more remote locations with a convenient option for a reasonable price if you do not have any testing options nearby or if you are simply looking to complete the test in your own home. 

Thankfully, there are enough options that you should be able to find one that fits your schedule and budget in advance of your next US vacation.

Hugh Campbell

Hugh Campbell

Senior Editor at Frugal Flyer
Hugh has been involved in the miles and points game since 2015 but has scaled up his knowledge and points-earning potential in recent years. In 2019, Hugh stepped things up when he met Reed in addition to a few other miles and points fanatics (err degenerate churners) and has since been able to capitalize on the various expertise that each member brings to the group.

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3 comments on “COVID Rapid Testing Options for United States Travel

    • Hi Joe,

      Absolutely – we will be posting an article on this topic in the coming weeks.

      If you are returning back to Canada from the USA, I recommend calling any Walgreen’s nearby to see if they offer NAAT PCR testing as that satisfies the Canadian governments requirement. NAAT PCR tests are offered free and have a quick turnaround time of under an hour for results which is way better than waiting up to 48 hours for a PCR test. You could also look into CVS to see if they have any available testing options as well.

      Similar to our notes on rapid testing, Switch Health does offer a PCR RT-LAMP test kit for inbound travel to Canada. While more expensive, this option would allow you to test in your hotel room and receive the results within the hour.

      I hope this helps – keep an eye out for an article coming in early January with more details!

      Hugh

      Reply