International Travel Tips!

International Travel Tips 2021

While in Vienna, I received a slew of messages asking me about how international travel was and if I had any advice to share. I am by no means an expert here but I have now been to Mexico and Vienna so I thought I’d write down everything I could think of in hopes that this is helpful to anyone planning a trip.

Overall, Europe felt comparable to New York. People are very careful, you have to wear a mask anytime you are inside. And you should prepare to show your vaccine card a lot. The airport was really organized and I felt safe the whole time – I would definitely go back again. To be honest, now that I am back I really wish that I had extended my stay to go visit friends in Belfast and/or Paris. It was my first big trip across the pond and I was so nervous!

International Travel Tips

Vaccine Cards

Be prepared to use your vaccine card everywhere. This is common in New York too. I originally recommended laminating it but as a few commenters pointed out, this is a bad idea. Get a little case for it! You will need it for the airports but also to gain admittance to most things (we had to show ours at the opera, both museums, etc.


Just like in the US you will need to be masked up everywhere you go – museums, ubers, indoor dining, etc. One difference in Austria is that they mandate you wear a KN95 mask. You can read more about how some European countries are doing this in this article.

Your fabric masks will be useless for anything official (like a museum or the airplane). I did not know this ahead of my trip to Vienna, waited in line wearing my fabric mask, and was dismayed when I went to board and they told me I had to run across to the store to buy the proper mask. Don’t be like me… be prepared and buy the mask ahead of time!

COVID Testing

This is common knowledge but you will need a negative COVID test to get home. What might be less common knowledge is that rapid tests overseas are less rapid than they are in the US. Whenever I’d had a rapid test in New York or Charleston, I’d get my results within an hour – max. Both international rapid tests I’ve taken have gotten me results in around 8 hours. So, basically, don’t be breezy and say, “oh I’ll get it at the airport or in the morning before my flight.” You likely won’t get your test results in time. Also a fun/weird thing: in Vienna the test was a a swish/gargle test – no nose swabbing.

I strongly recommend having your hotel (or the testing site if that’s an option) print out your results so that you have everything handy!

Allow Extra Time at the Airport

I have found that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Policies are constantly changing and I feel like we are all a little confused! Even leaving Charleston (the quaintest, coziest, easiest airport) there was some confusion… Austria recently changed their policies so that if you are vaccinated you don’t have to complete the pre-travel questionnaire but the gate attendants here didn’t know that which led to a lot of confusion (and me having to attempt the form again and show her the screenshot).

Getting home from the Cancun airport was a hot mess. Europe was actually MUCH easier – smooth sailing. The Vienna airport was really organized and they had systems in place to review everyone’s documents quickly But you need to prepare to have your documents ready and printed – both at check-in and then again when you get to the gate. (By documents I mean boarding pass, any pre-travel forms or letters of attestation (this varies depending on the country you visit), and your COVID-19 test results.) Just print EVERYTHING and keep it in an easy to access place and you will be fine!

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. libby:

    hi! nice tips, but as a healthcare professional I would recommend not laminating your covid vaccination card. When you will get your booster shot (inevitable at this point) we will need to be able to write that next dose on there. Instead, use a baseball card protector around it.

    10.13.21 Reply
  2. Krista:

    Thank you for the tips! So interesting to hear of different protocols across countries. One quick suggestion about the vaccination card that I learned from my pharmacist – don’t laminate your vaccine card, as this will be used to document future “boosters”. (If already laminated, you’re likely to end up having to carry a second card). Instead, purchase a vaccine card holder….so many options on Amazon, some are even combo with a passport holder as well!

    10.13.21 Reply
  3. Nicole H.:

    In Italy, you get your Covid test results in less than two hours. It varies by country so I recommend researching that and going earlier rather than later.

    10.13.21 Reply
  4. Valerie:

    thanks for all this helpful info! Did you have to have the hard copy of your vaccine card? I’ve usually shown a photo of my vaccine card here in LA, so I don’t carry the hard copy.

    10.13.21 Reply
    • Yes, I did! I’d recommend having a hard copy or at least a photocopy of it. Makes it much easier getting in and out of places (especially the opera and the museum where the lines can be long).

      10.13.21 Reply
  5. CG:

    I can understand why you would be getting so many questions about this. We all have a little fear, a little anxiety, about the unknown. We knew what to expect at airports in 2019, but now it’s still a bit of mystery! Lol

    10.13.21 Reply
  6. Julie:

    I’ve lived in England for the last 3 months and traveled frequently around Europe and back to the US. England is very relaxed with Covid and relatively maskless (indoors and outdoors) since the mandates lifted in June. I’ve never had to show my vaccine card. Rapid tests can take as little as 10 min but cost much more than the US (reimbursable with insurance). Heathrow has a very quick Covid testing site for arrivals and departures.

    10.13.21 Reply
  7. Dana B:

    Hi Grace! Thanks for sharing your trip with us – it looked amazing. I am traveling to Mexico in February, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the Covid testing required. Did you think at all about what quarantine would look like if you tested positive or have a plan for that? Is there any sort of insurance to cover that? Curious what people actually do if that happens! And probably just making myself nervous 🙂

    10.13.21 Reply
    • Honestly, I just put it out of my head or I would be way too stressed and not enjoy the trip. I would just make sure it (the trip) feels worth it to you (and that IF that did happen, you could afford to quarantine somewhere). it’s definitely made me think more before booking other trips… it really needs to be worth it! I don’t know if there is any insurance but I’m sure if you google around you can find out the answer to that.

      10.13.21 Reply
  8. Shana:

    Definitely recommend a clear sealable pouch for your vaccination card! You can get them on amazon depending on the size of your card/cards. We lived overseas for years and needed to carry our cards all around Africa and the pouches are great as you need to add more vaccinations, boosters, etc. and you aren’t able to laminate cards. Think water proof iphone case but for your card 🙂

    10.13.21 Reply
  9. Jessica Camerata:

    How amazing that they mandate a QUALITY face mask. How I wish America would get it together! I’m coming to NYC next month and can’t WAIT to use my vaccine card everywhere. I wish this was more standard. Your trip made me want to visit Vienna, so pretty!

    xo Jessica
    an indigo day

    10.13.21 Reply
  10. Katherine:

    I used these remotely monitored tests to return to the US from a recent international trip. Testing took about 20 minutes all in and I was able to complete it from my hotel room.

    I brought 2 with me in case the first was inconclusive. You’ll get both emailed and app available test results within seconds of completion! The biggest thing to be aware of is that you have to buy the pricier, monitored tests.

    10.13.21 Reply
    • Oh wow, super helpful thanks!

      10.13.21 Reply
    • Medha:

      I did this too, for a recent trip to Canada. HIGHLY recommend. It was super fast, very convenient as you can do it from anywhere with a stable Internet connection, and much less expensive than trying to pay for a private test in the remote area we were in.

      10.14.21 Reply
  11. Rebekah Cohen Israel:

    I, of course, love ALL the things you mentioned, but what I really want to know are the details of that carryon!! It’s GORG!

    10.13.21 Reply
    • It’s AWAY, but very old. The style is the Everywhere bag, they still make it in other colors.

      10.13.21 Reply
  12. mary:

    Thanks for posting this. Traveling already makes me nervous and the added pressure of having the right tests, masks, documents just makes me want to pull the blankets over my head and go back to sleep. I have my first domestic cross-country flight booked and I have so much anxiety about it, but I’m hoping it won’t be as complicated. Ugh. The things we have to do for a change of scenery! I need to get out of my little corner of America after two years. It’s time.

    I am glad your trip went well. It looked amazing!

    10.13.21 Reply
    • It is a LOT. For what it’s worth, I’ve been traveling domestically since the spring and it’s not so bad. It’s not nearly as complicated!!!!!

      10.13.21 Reply
  13. Helen:

    I cannot wait to travel again – the international borders are still closed where I am.

    10.13.21 Reply
  14. Valerie:

    My best advice is to get an at home Covid test & bring it with you! The Abbott binaxnow test is fda approved for re-entry into the US. You FaceTime and they watch you do it, takes about 15 minutes and then they load it into an app! It was super easy and much faster than trying to figure out where to test when I was in Iceland a few months ago

    10.14.21 Reply
  15. Katie:

    Revisiting this post as I get ready for my next international trip…any tips on toiletry bags that are smaller/clear for getting through Heathrow? I LOVE the toiltery bag you recommend from amazon, I bought it and its amazing. However last time I went through Heathrow they made me throw stuff away because of their dumb clear 8x8inch bag rule. What do you usually use for toiletries on this trip if you are not checking a bag?

    7.28.22 Reply
    • Honestly, toiletries + Europe are so stressful that I usually just check. If not, I use a stasher bag.

      7.28.22 Reply