Whoops: Couple Traveling to Hawaii Learns Why Its Bad to “Assume”

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

One of my first jobs in the entertainment industry involved working for a prolific movie producer who was legendary for two traits. One was his knack for finding great projects.

The other was his famously hot temper. Of the many orders screamed at me, this one stuck — and is a good lesson for many situations, in general.

“Never ‘assume’! Don’t ‘assume’ anything! Find the answer, so you don’t [mess] up anything else!” 

(The in-person version is much more colorful. And terrifying.) My sin? I assumed that actor X was had received a script we sent his agent. I didn’t know for sure.

Well, someone assumed their “reputable pharmacy’s” COVID-19 test would allow them to bypass Hawaii’s 10-day quarantine.

Some background: folks must receive a negative COVID-19 test from a “trusted testing partner” not more than 72 hours before their departing flight to Hawaii.

In her post, “You Might Think It Sounds Nice to Go to Hawaii. We Tried, and It Was a Disaster,”  Slate’s Anna Rao writes that she and her husband planned a Kona getaway last month. Their daughters scheduled a “Work from Hawaii” trip and the couple decided to meet them there.

“The logistics of booking a flight, reserving a townhouse, and getting a fast-turnaround COVID-19 test just prior to travel, proved to be not-too-difficult,” she said in the piece.

It sounds like Ms. Rao and her husband live somewhere in the eastern United States. So they flew from the Washington, D.C., area to San Francisco, where they hopped a connecting flight to Kona.

But before they boarded their flight to the Aloha State, she “noticed long lines and a sign that said, ‘Pre-Screening for Hawaii Travelers.’ We had already uploaded the results of our test and a Hawaii Health Form to the Safe Travels Hawaii website—but just in case, I asked the flight attendant at our gate whether we needed to do anything more. He shrugged and told me that the screening was for other flights and ours would be in Kona.”

Once they landed in Kona, though, they were in for a rude surprise.

I had been sure our $200 per person COVID -19 test results from a reputable pharmacy would be accepted, mostly because I hadn’t found another option to meet Hawaii’s testing requirements. The state required that we get tested at a maximum of 72 hours prior to boarding and have the result ready to show upon arrival. Though the Safe Travels Hawaii program has a long list of approved partners for COVID-19 tests, they were mostly located on the West Coast, or else did not offer the kind of quick-turnaround test that was required.

A screening agent gave them two choices: quarantine for 10 days in a hotel room or head back to the mainland. (The couple couldn’t even stay at the Airbnb they booked.) They opted for the latter and returned home (to a snowstorm, of course).

I know some colleagues and family members who have visited or are planning trips to Hawaii. And they are based in the middle or eastern United States. Finding a quick turnaround COVID-19 test wasn’t as easy as they hoped. All opted for extended layovers in Los Angeles so they could get tested onsite at LAX — where there’s a trusted testing partner.

All of us know plenty can go wrong when we travel. Assuming something will work isn’t necessarily the best option. In this case, Ms. Rao’s assumption that her COVID-19 test would pass muster was a no-no. (But she was able to write about it, so she has that going for her. 🙂 ) I think it was an honest mistake — but one that could’ve been prevented. Getting a test from somewhere on the West Coast might’ve cost a little extra time and money. But it would’ve been worth it.

At least, I assume. 😉


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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  1. This is the second article I have read on this subject.

    As someone who is traveling to Kona next month, from the East Coast, there is no language in what the state of HI is putting out that makes it even remotely possible you can take a test with an unapproved organization. So, I respectfully disagree with your wording saying it was an “honest” mistake. Even a cursory reading leaves no doubt. No matter how many times you read the rules, or parse the language, there is no way to interpret it any other way.

    They broke the rules, knowingly, and got caught.

    • I totally agree with SKF that these folks are either did not read the rules or trying to go around it. I live on the East coast and I have been wanting to go to Hawaii. I ruled against it because of their test requirement. I went on the Safe Travel Hawaii website and I did check out the authorized testing partner list. Note the word “Authorized”. When I went into one of the authorized testing partner’s site (CVS), in big block letters, it states that your insurance does not cover Covid Test for the purpose of travel and the cost is around $136. I think a lot of the people (I am not implying that this couple did that) thinks that they can just get a Covid PCR test from either a government operated free sites or just tell the walk-in clinic (ex: CVS, CityMD…etc) that s/he might have came into contact with someone who is infected so their insurance will cover the cost. Even if s/he went to one of the the authorized clinics, but if s/he doesn’t explicitly state that test is for travel because then the result not guarantee 72hrs. turnaround. The lesson learned here should be that Your Medical Insurance Does Not Cover PCR Covid Test for the purpose of travel. If you want a guarantee 72hrs turnaround then you should state to the provider up front that you require the test result for travel but know that you may be asked to pay for the test up front.

      • Completely agree that’s what is supposed to happen. In my case, I’ve had two tests specifically for quarantine purposes in NYC (one to go to Hawaii, one coming back to get out of NYC quarantine). I was very specific in both the appointment request and upon getting the tests what the purpose was (and obviously for Hawaii they needed to provide the documents). In both cases, they coded it as “possible COVID exposure” and it was covered. Despite being completely transparent, I think they’re doing so many tests, they just code everything the same. Obviously YMMV, site specific and you should expect to pay, just a note that going to a clinic that takes your insurance MAY yield a free test.

  2. Having recently traveled to Hawaii, there are so many things wrong with this article. Given her layover was at SFO and describing the pre-clearance program there, it’s safe to assume they were flying on United, as were we. Both the Safe Travels Hawaii program and United could not be clearer about the requirements that the tests must come from a trusted vendor listed on the website. United sends multiple emails in the weeks leading up to the flight reminding passengers of the requirements with links to their website outlining all of the approved options, We were also coming from the east coast – unlike their area, there is one approved vendor in our area with rapid tests, but it would have been otherwise very clear to me that we would have had to do either the mail-in tests, a test at the departure airport, or schedule a layover long enough to do rapid tests (SFO has this as well). To miss this and take matters into your own hands is willful ignorance. This was a “disaster” easily avoided – the rules are SUPER transparent.

  3. Stories like this are absolutely baffling to me. I’ve been to Hawaii 3 times now since the state reopened in November and living on the east coast I’ve used the Vault mail in option without issue each time. I asked some of the United agents back in January how it was going and they said that the state was turning around something like 50 people a day (they call them boomerangs) because if in correct tests. All you have to do is a little bit of homework, read the information on the State website and it explains it all. But you’re absolutely right, you can never assume.

  4. Luckily I live on the West Coast, but still drove 2 hours to Sacramento to one of the Hawaiin drive through test sites and it took 42 hours to get the test back. I wasn’t about the chance the mail in version.

  5. The fault here is with Hawaii’s requirements. There wasn’t anything wrong about the labs tests, hawaii is just too stupid to not accept it

    Hawaii should stop assuming that their list is sufficient or the authority on all labs on mainland

    • I completely agree with this comment that “there wasn’t anything wrong about the lab test.” Where I differ is the AUTHENICITY of the test result. I remember back in the days when I applied for my first job and the employers asked for my collage transcript. Yes, I can easily get it from my school’s admission office and fax a copy to them; but how would the employer know that this is not some else’s transcript and I just photoshop it with my name and other specifics to make it look real like my mine own. Of course, I would never do that, but it once again goes back the word authenticity. By having my university and in this case the authorized testing provider transmit the document directly (or a way for the Hawaiian authority to validate the result) it eliminates the fraudulent aspect of the process. You would be surprise how many people would fake this either just because they can or they want to under mind the system. Case in point, there are already fake vaccination cards for sale on eBay.

      • Kelly Loeffler Reply

        Why did they not just get one of the internet for a couple bucks?

  6. And this is why I have chosen to get the J&J vaccine, even though I had covid in October and still have antibodies. I am hoping that we can do something like Israel did, where they get a government issued vaccination form and then we can add the number to our trusted travel information. Link it to precheck, passport, or global entry data.

  7. Don in ATL Reply

    We are in Hawaii now. I read the Hawaii rules 10 times to make sure I was doing everything correctly. We used Walgreens in Atlanta. Their IDNOW test (Abbott) is a test Hawaii accepts, and Walgreens is one of their accepted testing partners. The turnaround time for that test is less than 24 hours and is done IN THE PHARMACY, so there are no weather related delays. We were originally scheduled for the PCR test which has a 2-3 day turnaround time and is sent by courier to a central lab site out of state. Because of the storms sweeping the country in the days before our scheduled departure, we switched to the 24 hour ID NOW test done in house. Everything worked out and we are in Hawaii. The arrival routine in HNL was very efficient and thorough. Bravo Hawaii!

  8. I agree with Greg. Hawaii is the problem ! It acts like it’s a foreign country bs an island !

  9. The word “assume” is derived from the three words “a**” “u” and “me” Whenever you assume anything you make an a** of both you and me which is exactly what this traveler did.

  10. Why the hell would anyone want to go thru that much trouble to visit Hawaii. It is one of the most overrated destination I’ve been to.

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