I Really Don’t Understand The New CDC Travel Guidelines, But That Is Expected I Guess

This post may contain affiliate links; please read our advertiser disclosure for more information.

New CDC Travel Guidelines Don’t Make A Whole Lot Of Sense To Me

After dragging their feet for a bit we finally have new CDC travel guidelines for vaccinated people. They are pretty much what I expected but I still don’t really get them, well some of them. I would say that some of the recommendations defy logic when you put it all together.  But let’s take a look at what the new CDC travel guidelines say and where I get lost in the weeds a bit.

CDC Travel Guidelines For Fully Vaccinated People

Here are the highlights from the CDC site:

Fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States and do not need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling – wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing, and washing hands frequently.

Because of the potential introduction and spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, differences in disease burden and vaccines, and vaccine coverage around the world, CDC is providing the following guidance related to international travel:

  • Fully vaccinated people can travel internationally without getting a COVID-19 test before travel. That is unless it is required by the international destination.
  • Fully vaccinated people do not need to self-quarantine after returning to the United States, unless required by a state or local jurisdiction.
  • Fully vaccinated people must still have a negative COVID-19 test result before they board a flight to the United States. And get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days after returning from international travel.
  • Fully vaccinated people should continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling internationally.

Where I Find The Disconnect

The CDC finally came out and said what we all thought they would a few weeks back.  My guess is they were holding off until after the peak travel of Spring Break in order to not encourage even more travelers.  Either that or they wanted more people to get vaccinated before making the announcements.

Domestic Travel

For domestic travel they essentially say to continue to follow social distancing protocols and mask wearing guidelines.  Besides the fact that social distancing is not possible while flying this portion all makes sense.  The CDC also says that there is no need to quarantine after travel if you are fully vaccinated. There is no need to be tested before or after your trip if you are vaccinated during domestic travel.  I have no issues with this and it makes perfect sense.

International Travel

For international travel they say there is no need for a test to board your departing flight unless the destination requires it.  We have started to see countries open up to fully vaccinated passengers so this makes sense to me.

There is no longer a recommendation to self quarantine after your international trip, unless you obviously have symptoms of Covid-19 etc.

The next bit is the part that makes no sense to me.  They are still requiring you to have a negative test result before boarding your return flight to the United States.

This Policy Seems Contradictory

So let me get this straight. People that are not vaccinated can fly around the US and are only suggested to get a test before and after their flights.  It isn’t required but strongly encouraged.  There is no such suggestion for vaccinated people, you are all clear for takeoff and landing.

When you leave the country there is no requirement of a negative test either, unless the destination country requires it.  But, when you return to the United States you need a negative test even as a fully vaccinated citizen?

Flying in the country with more than twice as many covid cases as any other country, that is fine.  Going to a country with substantially less risk, requires a test to fly home.  How does that make sense?  Wouldn’t you be leaving danger and going to a place that involves less risk with less cases?  So why is it okay to fly around the US without the testing requirement, even unvaccinated people can, but on that return flight you need the test?

I mean it isn’t like the US is even the most vaccinated country right now and that would be the reason:

with a vaccination rate of 49 doses administered per 100 people, the U.S. is beat by Israel (113), Seychelles (105), the United Arab Emirates (89), Bhutan (61), Chile (58), the U.K. (55) and Bahrain (51). (Source: Forbes)

I guess it just doesn’t make sense to me.  Flying around the most affected country in the world, fine.  Coming home from a less risky country, nope, that requires a test.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, traveling is a great privilege.  One that we hopefully don’t take for granted any longer after the last 13 months of lockdowns and couch lounging.  And, if you are able to travel internationally you should simply be happy to be doing it and a test isn’t the end of the world. I get all of that, I really do. The requirement does complicate things but that isn’t the part that bothers me.

The part that bothers me is the fact that there are more requirements to enter the most covid diseased country on the planet (by a long shot) than to travel around it.  That just doesn’t make sense to me at all.  If a fully vaccinated is pretty safe to travel in the US then going anywhere else should be no different.  Heck, it should actually be theoretically safer! I am sure this will change in the coming weeks or months but we will have to live with the hypocrisy during the meantime.

It is likely that they are waiting for Government to make the change and then they will update their recommendations.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

More Like This


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I think they are worried about people bringing & spreading a foreign variant unbeknownst to them. The JNJ and novavax trials showed effectiveness of their vaccines dropped to under 60% against B1357 (South Africa strain).

  2. As long as you travel internationally, there is the risk of picking up a strain of the virus from someone in the great mix of humanity. The newer variants have changes to the spike protein and thus, NO ONE really knows how effective the vaccines we are taking right now are against the newer strains. So, they don’t eat people returning from international travel that are positive….thus, the need for a negative test to return. If you get COVID after you’re vaccinated it is possible/probable it is a strain resistant to vaccines. So, do you really want people bringing it into the country spreading it to others? Conversely, if you’re vaccinated and test negative, requiring you to quarantine is complete overkill! IMHO, the guidance is NOT contradictory.

    • A variant is no more likely to crop up in Canada than in Texas, hence the contradiction. We actually do know how effective the vaccines are against variants. In South Africa where B1351 is prevalent, Pfizer has proven to be literally 100% effective.

      • And what about effectiveness against the variant from Brazil and the newest one reported from India? The bottom line is until herd immunity is reached, it’s a race between reaching herd immunity (and developing effective boosters rolled out timely) and variants that render the vaccinations ineffective. Requiring a negative test upon recently to the US from international travel is an attempt to tip the scale toward reaching herd immunity.

  3. The CDC was heavily politicized last year and the prior head has recently stated some really weird conspiracy theories that add little credence to the premise that they had been operating on a scientific basis. Straightening out the organization is bound to have some kinks, and you’re completely right to point them out. It’s unfortunate that even some fairly obvious flaws haven’t been addressed yet but I believe we’ll get there in a few months.

  4. We have a summer trip planned to California. Right now they say travel to their state is strongly discouraged and you have to quarantine for 7 days if you had a negative test within 3 days. It is nothing about vaccinated people. My husband and I will be fully vaccinated by then, but I doubt our child will. Super frustrating- I already had to cancel this trip from last summer!

    Hopefully things will improve soon! Good luck with your travel plans, Mark!

  5. Well, at least it is only an antigen test now. Yes, it makes no sense at all. Perhaps by the end of April they will drop the test requirement.

    • An antigen test is a lot easier to get quick results for sure. I would think in May or June it will be dropped but April would be great 🙂

  6. I had respect for the CDC prior to Covid. Post covid I realized they are another useless government agency with a bunch of government employees who’s primary concern is collecting a paycheck. The CDC had 16 years since SARS-1 to prepare for a pandemic, but did nothing. This was under Bush, Obama and Trump. The CDC had no plans for nationwide testing, no plans for nationwide contact tracing. Their vaccine distribution phases were pure foolishness. Under their plan people ages 65 to 75 would still be waiting for a shot. They put the least vulnerable ahead of the most vulnerable. Most of the states realized the CDC vaccination plans were asinine and opened up appointments for the older population. The CDC should be privatized. Operation Warp Speed proved that private companies with the support of government are much more effective than tax dollars supporting government employees. If the Nation Institute of Health and the CDC were in charge of making a vaccine – we would still be waiting.

    • Spot on. Never trust government to spend your money effectively. That’s why the stimulus check is also a pharce, most of it is for themselves to spend it, basically forcing me to sign up for a mortgage of $20k and paying me $1400.

  7. Lol. Who the hell will *ever* listen to the CDC again?

    They have been wrong on everything. Like John mentioned… they are the typical government agency, that is staffed by desk jockeys, who don’t want to be wrong.

    So, they terrify the public with ‘worst case’ all the time.

    I’ve hit 30 countries, with out a vaccine since 2020, and crossed international borders every 10 days or so.
    None of this has slowed down my travel or stopped us from going anywhere.

    The sooner people realize they were lied to by the governments of the world – the brighter the future will be for all of humanity.

  8. I know this isn’t the point but the US has achieved greater immunity than all but Israel, Bhutan, and possibly the UK. Bahrain, UAE, Chile, and Seychelles used the Chinese vaccine whose efficacy is far below that of even a single shot of Moderna/Pfizer. US COVID deaths are now the lowest in over a year. The US screwed up plenty but vaccine supply isn’t one of them and that has allowed the US to leapfrog other countries to reopening.

    As for the CDC recommendations, the CDC is always 2 steps behind because nobody there wants to be blamed for being 1 step ahead and possibly wrong. The CDC says international travel is different because it could spread new variants. That’s not out of the realm of possibilities but it’s overly cautious. That possibility exists even in non-pandemic times. The Pfizer 6-month update shows the vaccine effective against known variants. So far there is no *known* covid risk that is greater with international travel than domestic travel.

    The CDC may also be thinking about administration. Easier to have a blanket “get tested” policy enforced at the border than a vaccination verification process or state border controls. If this is the case, the CDC should say so but they like to shroud their true reasons, mistakenly believing the public will comply with the seemingly contradictory recommendations instead of question them and erode the CDC’s credibility.

    • That is true on the border crossing – having a broad approach does make it easier on the agents for sure.

  9. Remember the CDC is who we have been listening to for the past year. Much of what they do makes little sense. Much like the Covid theater we see in stores with dots on the ground or making people stand in lines to enter. Eventually we’ll all just stop paying attention.

  10. Very little of what the CDC has done in the past year makes any sense at all. Their director started crying about “impending doom” and almost immediately after that, they released their updated recommendations on vaccinated travel.

    I predict almost all of these restrictions/recommendations will go away once enough people have been vaccinated and the other numbers drop to a tolerable level. I don’t think people are anywhere near willing to put up with this as they were a year ago.

  11. “They are still requiring you to have a negative test result before boarding your return flight to the United States.” They need to get rid of this, period!

    The only sense it makes is Dollar$ And ¢ents.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


  • MtM recommended tool to track & organize credit cards
  • Best card offers personalized for you
  • Track bonus deadlines, fee dates & 5/24 status
  • Full Travel Freely overview

Free Sign-Up

  • MtM recommended tool to track & organize credit cards
  • Best card offers personalized for you
  • Track bonus deadlines, fee dates & 5/24 status
  • Full Travel Freely overview

Free Sign-Up

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join thousands of MtM readers who are subscribed to receive a once daily email with all of our posts. Never miss out!

You have Successfully Subscribed!