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COVID-19 Travel Considerations

International and domestic mobility during the pandemic should put health and safety first. Travel will require careful planning and flexibility to adjust plans as conditions change. Independent travelers should review the resources and pre-travel checklist below before they travel. Faculty or staff that are planning short-term group travel or are working to re-start study abroad programs, should contact the Office of Global Safety and Security to obtain a list of additional requirements.

Some countries may not admit travelers without proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination. It is up to the traveler to determine whether or not they can access their planned destination. Countries permitting travel by unvaccinated travelers will likely require pre- and post- negative COVID tests, quarantine upon arrival, mask-wearing, social distancing and periodic testing while abroad. Unvaccinated travelers should plan carefully in order to adhere to these requirements and expectations.


In addition to adhering to Northwestern’s travel guidance / expectations, the following resources may be consulted when planning domestic or international travel:

General Travel Advice

Domestic Travel

International Travel

Pre-travel COVID Testing Resources (outbound int'l travel)

  • Northwestern University: Northwestern will provide a Rapid Antigent or PCR (molecular) test for NU students, faculty and staff for the purposes of personal or University-related travel; tests are offered at the Jacobs Center in Evanston or 345 E. Superior in Chicago. Open M-F, 9am-4pm. No appointment necessary.
  • Passport Health:  Pricing varies depending on insurance from $80 to $135; located in downtown Evanston at 1712 Sherman Ave. Suite 211 and open M-F,  9:30 am – 6:15 pm.  You must schedule an appointment on-line or by phone; results in 48-72 hours.
  • O'Hare Airport:  Current test price is $145; located at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport at the Shuttle Bus Center - Open 8 am to 8 pm / 7 days a week  – offers appointments & walk-ins.
  • COVID of Chicago:  Current test price is $375; located in the Chicago, on Halstead and Scott, just north of Division. Offers PCR / Fit to Fly Test (also a Rapid Test option). Results available in 48 - 72 hours and open 7 days a week, 8 am to 6 pm weekdays, 8 am to 5 pm weekends – appointments required.

Pre-Travel Checklist

  • COVID-19 Vaccinations: In alignment with university policy, all members of the Northwestern community (students, faculty and staff) are expected to follow University guidance on vaccinations, which are required for all community members with limited exceptions, prior to commencing any university-affiliated travel.
  • Access, Movement and Information: Is the destination open to non-resident / non-citizen travelers? Is proof of vaccine and/ or negative COVID-19 status required for travel or entry to destination(s)? What does the U.S. Department of State or the CDC report about your destination?
  • If you're interested in group travel during the pandemic, review the COVID-specific planning guide.  This guide is designed to help advisors and sponsors determine whether or not group travel is feasible in light of their planned activities, risk tolerance and finances. If the trip moves forward, the trip leader / organizer will be asked to complete the COVID group travel survey as part of registering their trip with the University.
  • Health Insurance (International): Have you enrolled in applicable GeoBlue coverage ? Once abroad, if the costs for COVID-testing is not covered by the event organizer, host government, institution, GeoBlue will cover medically prescribed testing and testing after exposure, even if asymptomatic. Pre- and post-travel testing to board aircraft, for example, is NOT covered by GeoBlue. Travelers should expect to pay for these tests if not made available on-site for free. (See COVID-19 Coverage flyer for more information.)  International students returning home are not required to purchase GeoBlue.
  • Have you signed up for alerts with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler program? 
  • Health Care: Do you need preventative immunizations? Did you get your flu shot? (It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to provide full protection, so make an appointment as soon as possible.) Do you understand how to access care through GeoBlue’s medical assistance and insurance plan? Has the health care system “returned to normal” in the destination? Identify in advance medical resource nearest your accommodations.
  • Change of Conditions: What preparations are necessary in case conditions change dramatically in the U.S. or abroad during the trip? What is the capacity of local, regional or federal government to manage an outbreak if “stuck”? Note Northwestern’s “evacuation” insurance coverage excludes outbreak of infectious disease.
  • Financial Matters: Are you prepared to financially manage any last-minute change-of-plans involving air or ground travel, accommodations, etc.? Note that reimbursement of personal expenditures may not be available for certain type of travel. Discuss reimbursement policies and procedures with an adviser, professor or supervisor to accommodate the need to self-quarantine for university-sponsored travel.
  • Travel Insurance / Trip interruption: Would trip / travel or flight cancellation (also called trip interruption) insurance be appropriate for your circumstances? What preparations are needed in case one has to quarantine / isolate due to an illness or exposure?
  • Travel Registry: If you are a student (graduate or undergraduate) are you enrolled in the International Travel Registry? Note this is automatic for undergraduate study abroad participants.
  • Vulnerable Traveler(s): Have you considered special risk factors associated with your destination, such as geo-political concerns impacting stability of government (unemployment, supply chain disruptions for essential goods/services, such as food, water, petrol, electricity, communications, etc.) or other destination-specific risk(s) that could compromise access to care (civil unrest, natural disaster, terror attack, etc.).

Additional Factors to Consider / Best Practices

Airline Travel / Aircraft Health, Accommodations, Food/Meals/Dining and Public Transit
  • Review and adhere to all COVID-19 protection protocols (face coverings, etc.) for carrier and airports or other transportation hubs, including train and subway stations and consider for all legs of a journey, including layovers and connections
  • Utilize no touch access or limited contact for assistance, check-in, ticketing and boarding
  • Establish preferences for a single room, outdoor dining and/or take-away meals and confirm social distancing available in accessible shared spaces
  • Inquire about the frequency of deep cleaning / professional cleaning / availability of supplies for self-cleaning
  • Ensure seating restrictions promote social distancing
  • Expect enforcement of face covering requirement if mandated by host entity or government