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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Paxson

Tips for traveling abroad 2021: Before you go

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Hello hello! I was able to save up a month's worth of PTO and took September off to travel to Europe for a month. First off, I was SO nervous to be abroad for that long during a damn pandemic. I have high functioning anxiety, so of course I overthought everything! This blog post will consist of how to prep for travel abroad, but you can apply it to national travel too :)

Picking where you want to travel.

My partner and I originally booked tickets to Japan for $300 (Scott's Cheap Flights), thinking that if they can have the Olympics they will be able to have tourists. Then there was an outbreak among the athletes and I knew there was no hope. So we looked at how other countries were handling COVID and the prices to travel. We settled on flying into Italy and flying back from Greece, with some other countries in between. Both countries are hot tourist destinations, so we figured we would be able to navigate them more easily than others.


I am a big fan of Google documents, sheets, and drive! I made a master list of what each country we originally planned to visit (Italy, Croatia, Greece) required in terms of travel and covid. You will need:

  • Passport

  • Proof of vaccination and/or a negative test within 24-72 hours of travel - this depends on the country, some require one or the other or both.

  • Digital locator form - each country has their own version of this form for contact tracing and not all countries require it. I filled it out online and downloaded the PDF to my Google Drive and printed a copy just in case.

For transit and housing I made sure to screenshot all my email confirmations and download my tickets to my drive so I always had proof of booking/purchase. All my stays required my passport and some required our vaccination cards. Planes and accelerated trains required passport and proof of vax. More regional or local transit did not.

With worry of losing my flimsy CDC card and my passport etc, I scanned all my and my partner's important cards to put into one sheet to print out at my office (I love using office supplies I don't have at home) for my partner and I to have on our person AND downloaded in one doc on the Google Drive. Here's how I assembled it:

  • Documents to capture

    • ID

    • Passport

    • Health insurance card

    • CDC card

  • Capturing your documents

    • Tiny Scanner App

    • OR take a picture and edit it to grayscale (Canva, PicsArt, or another editing app) You just make sure you can easily read the info on your card

  • Canva - I used this to arrange my documents. This app is super user friendly and has templates with standard letter dimensions, 8.5” x 11." You will need to upload your docs as jpgs or pngs, not PDF. Once you've arranged the docs you can export the file as a PDF.

  • Save the file to your phone and print it out to carry with you while you travel!


So I lived out of a backpack (Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack) for a month! Which meant I had to wear clothes that were more versatile than stylish and I gave up all electronics besides my phone and airpods. I used packing cubes (REI) and ziplock bags to keep everything organized. I also packed then repacked to make sure I had everything I wanted.


I bought a set of packing cubes for my clothing to help me keep track of everything.

  • 5-6 tops

  • 4-5 bottoms

    • What I packed: jean shorts, high waisted shorts, pants, 1 pair of dress overalls, compression shorts

  • 1 athletic dress (Girlfriend Collective, but I bought mine secondhand on Poshmark) - not a must, but I packed it for the versatility

  • Sleepwear

    • What I packed: t-shirt and athletic skort (something that I could also wear as a normal outfit)

  • Undergarments

    • What I packed: 2 bralettes, 1 sports bra, 7 undies

  • 3-4 pairs of socks

  • What I packed: 2 ankle, 1 hiking (Smartwool), 1 mid-calf

  • 1 bathing suit

  • 1 lightweight rain jacket (Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite)

  • 1 pair of sneakers (Trail-Running, my exact shoes, & partner's shoes)

  • 1 pair of sandals (Teva or Chaco)

  • Hairties

  • Belt


I kept all of my toiletries in a gallon ziploc bag so I could easily see everything.

  • 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner

  • Dr. Bronner's soap - for bathing and handwashing clothes

  • Travel-sized deodorant

  • Concentrated toothpaste

  • Toothbrush

  • Microfiber towel (Rainleaf on Amazon)

  • Feminine hygiene products (enough to last a normal period)

  • Face lotion with SPF

  • Body lotion

  • Chapstick

  • Jewelry (optional) - kept in a small pouch

  • Makeup (optional)

    • What I packed: dollar store eyeshadow kit and wet n wild eyeliner

  • Reusable makeup cloth (Campanelli on QVC)

  • Hand sanitizer

  • First aid kit (In it's own ziplock bag inside the big ziplock bag)

    • Bandaids

    • Advil

    • Benadryl

    • 1 Emergen-c pack

    • Antacids

    • Neosporin

    • Alcohol wipe


  • Electronics

    • Travel adapter (Amazon)

    • Portable charger

    • 1 phone charger

    • 1 micro usb charger

    • Phone

    • Earbuds

    • Headlamp

  • Extra masks - 2 fabric, 2 disposable (Amazon), 2 KN95 (Bonafide Masks)

  • Sleeping mask - much needed for sleeping on the plane or bus!

  • Folder and documents - I also like to keep ticket stubs and would stick everything in here

  • Notebook and pen

  • Travel bag/purse (Topo Designs)

  • Reusable bag that folds into itself - came in handy for laundry and beach days (TiMoMo on Amazon or Baggu)

  • Foldable water bottle (2 L Platypus)

  • Bag of trailmix

Prepping with your phone

Since I am not made of money as a nonprofit worker, I had to rely on free WiFi when I left the states. Before leaving I downloaded everything I needed for traveling and double checked I made it "available offline." Here's what I needed document wise:

  • Confirmation email for plane tickets

  • Locator form

  • Proof of vaccination

  • Negative test

  • Document with ID, health insurance, vaccine card, and passport

  • Hotel confirmation

  • Screenshots of how to get to the hotel from the airport

Google Maps is your best friend! Before travel I bookmarked where my hotel and important places were located. Your phone will download the map when connected to WiFi so you can use it when you are on airplane mode. Your location services will still work!

Don't forget to download entertainment if you are only traveling with a phone. Playlists, podcasts, audiobooks (highly recommend Libby), Netflix movies, and games. Whatever you pick you need to at least download 1 sleep meditation podcast episode, this helped me pass out for my overnight flight.

I also kept my apps in a travel folder for easy access:

  • Google Maps

  • Google Drive

  • Google Chrome - this browser will translate websites for you!

  • Airbnb


  • FlixBus

  • Omio - for finding bus, train, and plane schedules

  • My airline's app

  • Normally when I travel I have the rideshare apps in there too, BUT in Europe there isn't Uber or Lyft!


Set boundaries and let people know where you are! We shared our itineraries with our families and I kept in touch with a few friends. I did not reply to any work emails unless absolutely necessary, I checked out for the most part. I originally planned to totally unplug, but then I started having fun making my travel videos and only went on Instagram to post that and look at my friend's cute baby :)

I knew this time was for me and my partner to unwind and just enjoy the sites and each other. I was able to relax once we got into the country and let myself live a little after a year of doing nothing! I will try to keep up with weekly posts reflecting this trip so that you can be prepared or more informed when you are able to travel.

Safe travels <3

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