Hawaii's Safe (but not incredibly easy) Travels Program
Update 6/24 - this program is set to end on July 8. I guess you can stop reading 🙂
Hawaii’s Safe Travels is a state sponsored program which allows travelers to bypass the states mandatory quarantine by providing proof of a negative test in advance of their arrival to #Hawaii. (It’s important to note that at this time they will only accept proof of vaccine from residents of Hawaii who received their vaccine in Hawaii and are returning home or between islands, although this is expected to change once the vaccination rate exceeds 60%). This was a crucial step in reopening the critical economic needs of an island and obviously you want such a thing to be verifiable and structured. So how does it work?
Well technically it should be 3 easy steps that begin once you’ve booked your flight.
Once you’ve got reservation details log into the Hawaii Safe Travels website and register for an account with your travel details. Basic contract tracing info is collected.
72 hours before your flight take a PCR test with one of the States Trusted Travel Partner Labs. They will not accept tests from anywhere else.
24 Hours before your flight have your results and upload them to the account and receive a QR code for easy clearance.
It proved to be significantly less straightforward than that. Let’s look at each step.
Registering your account is easy. Its only important to know that you’ll need access to the phone number, email account and method of ID you provide during travel. In other words, if you travel with a passport or Global entry card because your state ID is not federally accepted, use one of those to register with.
Next, selecting your lab. There are a good number of labs available in all the major gateway cities including some Walgreens and CVS locations, so you should be able to find a location - but now you have to consider your timeline. The test must be completed no more than 72 hours before your departure time, and the results should be uploaded 24 hours out, meaning you need to confirm the lab you’re using will provide your results inside of 48 hours. Most are reluctant to “confirm” this is possible so there’s a little bit of trust and a lot of stress in “assuming” it will be ok. If this were an important or inflexible trip you may considering 2 methods to hedge your bets but now you’re getting a little expensive.
The major airlines - who let’s face it are trying to be helpful because these are routes they can sell and fly and make money on - have even partnered with at home testing kit labs which means you order a kit, receive it in the mail, log into a zoom chat, spit in a tube in front of a nurse, and then drop it at UPS. This is very convenient but you now add mailing a kit into your timeline mix, checking tracking and hoping the lab comes through. The majority of the time this works but personally I think the last 72 hours before a trip are the most stressful in terms of getting all your ducks in a row, and I literally travel all the time, so I can only imagine for the yearly leisure traveler with a family of 5 this part could be anxiety inducing. For this trip I did use the Vault at Home test kit and it worked out just fine.
24 hours out I completed my health attestation, uploaded my test results. Then they emailed a QR code which is then basically your ticket around the island as you’ll need it to check in to hotels & attractions as well. But there’s not really a way for your airline to know you’ve done that so from the point of check in until arrival at the airport I was peppered with alerts from United with things like ‘you are required to quarantine’ and ‘you need to provide documents’ which was confusing at first, because I had already taken those steps.
About an hour before the flight, I received another message from United indicating there was a way to pre-clear for expedited arrival service and to see an agent. What it didn’t say was what agent. It wasn’t the one checking you in or taking your bags. Instead, they had a separate line set up for this post-security, which is smart from a crowd control perspective but something I would have planned a little extra time for had I known before arriving to the airport.
In this pre-clearance line they take all the details of your negative test and verify them again within the safe travels system. It required having a paper copy of your test and all the log in information for your safe travel account, luckily I had both although I hadn’t planned to since I thought that was what the QR Code was for. After passing that test I was given a color coded wristband to wear for the flight and arrival into Honolulu airport. Having that, I will say, was excellent upon arrival. Wrist band? Go that way and leave! No further checking, so it was worth it to do all of that in advance.
So - what’s the conclusion? Well, I traveled with a group of 10 and no one had a problem so maybe it wasn’t all that hard, but they had me guiding them through it step by step! And Hawaii is BUSY ! Maybe not as busy as the Christmas I spent here in 2017 but obviously plenty of others are willing to go a few extra steps to travel safely and get back to enjoying the South Pacific island life.