What it’s like Traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19

What it’s like Traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19

When Hawaii announced that traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19 would reopen its borders to mainland visitors with an approved negative test, the opportunity to work with some local businesses became real.

Our friend RJ had also been working remotely from Oahu since September and meant we had a place to stay as well. Using our Delta flight credit from a COVID-19 canceled trip to Spain in March, we booked our late October trip to Oahu. This information about traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19 is as of November 2020 and should be rechecked at Hawaii’s COVID-19 site linked below.

The Prep for Traveling to Hawaii

We had flown once before during COVID-19 to visit a close friend in Baltimore, and flying Delta, we felt relatively safe and confident with their health protocols. And as we are both pursuing status with Delta, it was our choice of airlines to fly to Hawaii. Our early morning flight was out of Sacramento International Airport, with a shortish layover in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport that evening. Traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19 is not a completely simple process. You must get tested; you must test negative (to avoid a two-week quarantine); you must register your information with Hawaii’s Safe Travels.

After we had booked our flights, the next step was scheduling our COVID-19 test at an approved trusted partner of the Hawaiian government. You can check this site for a list of nationwide, and now Japanese approved test sites: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/. The most important thing is you have to get your test within 72 hours of your FINAL DEPARTING FLIGHT. So our 6:00 AM flight from Sacramento was not the flight to look at to count 72 hours back from; it was the 3:00 PM Seattle flight that we needed to use as our countdown. 

Getting Tested
Kat getting the same type of test we did at CVS Pharmacy but at UC Davis a few months back.

Getting your COVID-19 test will differ depending on where you live, where you are traveling from, and what airlines. Some airlines and airports are offering rapid 15-minute testing, and this is the route we would’ve preferred had we been flying from Oakland as it is a free test in that airport. In some locations, a 15-minute test will cost you upwards of $130. However, most approved testing locations are 2-3 day turnaround for results, which means knowing your 72-hour window is significant. We got our tests 70 hours before our flight at a drive-in CVS Pharmacy for free. CVS is one of the few testing partners that you can get asymptomatic testing for free. Many other places will charge you around that $130 amount for a “voluntary” test (meaning you are taking the test for a pleasure reason, not for work or possible exposure). It was super easy and painless; imagine sticking your pinky fingernail into your nose and twirling it around. That was how deep we self-administered our swabs. After getting tested, we waited anxiously for our results. 

We were extremely anxious waiting for these results 2 hours from landing.

When we say, “we waited anxiously,” we’re not exaggerating. Because traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19 is dependant on testing negative (if you want to skip the two-week quarantine), not having our results the night before a flight caused quite a bit of stress. We ended up reaching out to the testing labs (Abbot) to follow up on the results as two full business days had passed. A few hours later, we got Alex’s negative results. Knowing we had one of us with a negative test and sharing quite a bit of saliva (being a couple and all), we were quite confident Kat had a negative result. However, we did not get her confirmed lab result until 2 hours before landing in Hawaii. For whatever reason, they sent the two tests that we took at the same time to two different labs. 

This was our location when we received Kat’s test results.

We were so anxious about these results because they are used to help with contact tracing and screening visitors. Hawaii requires all travelers to register on their Hawaii Safe Travels website within 24 hours of landing. This is where you add information about where you are staying, what flights you are taking there and back, and where you upload your COVID-19 test results to show officials when you land. This is the only way to avoid a two-week mandatory quarantine. If you do not have this filled out and don’t have your test results, you are quarantined, and there is a delay when officials can check your results if you receive them after landing. We did not want to have to worry about one of us getting quarantined and not the other, so we’d recommend if you’re traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19, get the rapid test, or make sure you get a test early in the 72-hour window.

Day of Traveling to Hawaii during COVID-19

Check-in to boarding is relatively the same at Sacramento’s Airport. We checked in via Delta’s mobile app, dropped the luggage off at the attendant, a contactless experience, and headed to TSA. At TSA, they have you approach as a family, ask you to lower your mask to check ID, and then have you distance 6 feet from others while you are putting your carry-ons through the x-ray machines. All the bins for your carry-ons seem to sanitized after each use, and TSA agents also are aware of the distancing protocols. Once through TSA, waiting at the gate, many chairs are taped off to encourage physical distancing. Delta’s boarding process also has been adapted to make a lot of sense with COVID-19. After boarding first-class, families with small children, and military, they invite the last 5-10 rows of seats at the back of the plane to board and then move forward from there. This way, people aren’t crossing paths with as many people, and boarding is spaced out so people can put their bags up and sit down with no wait.

Our sunrise view on our Delta flight to Seattle for our layover.

The flying experience is not that bad, in our opinion. Flying Delta makes things very easy and reassuring when it comes to our health. Everyone wears masks for most of the flight (minus eating and drinking), air filtration is constant (and you can read about that on most airlines), and Delta is still not filling flights to max capacity. We miss Delta’s meal service, which has been replaced by snack bags given out every few hours. We do enjoy the Biscoff cookies, though! 

Encouraged physical distancing stickers at Seattle Tacoma International Airport

Our layover in Seattle was also enjoyable. Similar to Sacramento, SeaTac blocked off some seats at the gates. We grabbed lunch at the airport. They had everything served by staff, and it was contactless as well. Staff sanitized the tables after use, and it was pretty empty, so distancing ourselves was not a concern. For our final leg of our trip, boarding was the same as before. The lengthier flight meant we would’ve got six snack bags between the two of us, so we politely turned a few down.

Enjoying some Seattle Clam Chowder for lunch at the airport.

Any flight to Hawaii will include the filling out of an Agricultural Declaration form. This helps protect the ecology of the Hawaiian Islands. Please don’t bring things that you shouldn’t and respect these beautiful islands. After filling that out, we just had to wait for Kat’s test results. Once we received those somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, we inputted them into the Safe Travels website and waited to land. 

Make sure to fill out your Agricultural Declaration form before deplaning!
Landing in Hawaii

Upon landing and deplaning, we were greeted by an empty and closed down terminal wing. We seemed to be the only flight in this section of the airport at the time. No shops or food of any kind was open. There was a slight presence of National Guard or state troopers that were helping keep things orderly. We were asked to show our QR code from the Safe Travels website, and those who hadn’t filled that information out were escorted to one of the empty gates to fill it out. Once we showed the code, the officer directed us to a table where we presented our negative test results and our QR code. He then scanned it and signed off on our Safe Travel registration, giving us the green light to waive the two-week quarantine. 

Inputing all your information on the Safe Travels website before landing will save you time!

After all of that, we were in the Aloha State, not under quarantine, and ready to visit our friend and help support some local businesses! We can’t wait to talk about the people we met at these businesses on the blog, so definitely stick around and follow us on Instagram and YouTube to see more!

Final Thoughts

If you’re thinking about traveling to Hawaii for vacation, here’s a word of warning while you look for lodging. If for whatever reason, you arrive in Hawaii with a pending, positive, or not trusted COVID-19 test, you will have to quarantine in a hotel. This could be a problem if you booked an Airbnb or vacation rental as you will now need a hotel. Ensure you are prepared for any possible outcome unless you are positive that you will receive a negative test. However, if you stay with friends or family on the Hawaiian Islands, you will be allowed to quarantine there instead. The other thing that caused us some concern with not getting an immediate test result was if you are asked to quarantine, you cannot rent a car. Rental companies cannot rent vehicles to people unless they have the two-week quarantine waived by officials. Now you can understand why we were anxious about getting our results so last minute.

a Sea Turtle hangs out on the beach in Haleiwa, Hawaii

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