10 Countries Every Nurse Should Visit (Even if You Don’t Have PTO)

10 Countries Every Nurse Should Visit (Even if You Don’t Have PTO)
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As a nurse, burnout is real and it’s imperative to get away from the hospital and nourish your soul so that you can function at your highest level.  I know the importance of taking time away from work to prevent burnout from past experiences.  Having only been a nurse for one year, I already experienced crippling anxiety from working extra shifts to make ends meet, picking up overtime, and getting stressed when I got canceled and had to use my paid time off (PTO) to get paid.  I quickly learned that I wouldn’t last at the bedside if I didn’t make a huge life change and I decided from that point forward I would prioritize traveling and taking time away from the hospital so that I could be the best nurse that I could be.

Fast forward to having been a nurse for 8+ years.  I’ve now visited 35+ countries, taken multiple vacations across the globe, and feel better at the bedside than ever before.  By prioritizing myself I, in turn, have been a better advocate for my patients, been more helpful to my co-workers, and don’t dread going to work.  So how did I do it?  Easy!  Even if you don’t have PTO available, as nurses, there is ample time for vacations despite what’s in your PTO bank.  (If you’re cautious about your PTO, check out this post).  Because we have the option to take eight days off of work without using PTO there’s no excuse not to prioritize travel.  The countries listed below are the perfect places to travel to when your PTO bank has run dry – based on ease of traveling from the US, proximity to the US, and high availability of non-stop flights from the US.

As a nurse who gets eight days off of work without needing any PTO… I encourage you to take advantage of your time off by traveling to one of the countries listed below.


Pst… I have an entire section on my blog dedicated to “8-Day Vacays”.  Check them out here!


10 Countries to Visit (Even if You Don’t Have PTO!)


When traveling abroad, I always prefer to purchase travel insurance to give me peace of mind in case anything were to go wrong.  I use and recommend SafetyWing.


1.  Belgium

colorful houses in Bruges


Because Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is the headquarters of the EU, flights in and out of the country are relatively cheap and plentiful!  You can find many non-stop flights to Brussels from Chicago or airports on the east coast.  And from west coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle you can find affordable flights with only one stop.

Aside from the ease of visiting Belgium, the reason you should visit is that the country is an underrated gem hidden amongst much bigger, touristy countries.  Not only could you see a big chunk of the country in eight days, but you can also explore the charming towns of Brugge and Ghent or just as easily take a train to Amsterdam or Paris to visit other countries outside of Belgium.


Read more about Belgium:

A Complete Guide to Bruges, Belgium

How to Spend One Day in Dinant, Belgium

48 Hours in Brussels

24 Hours in Ghent

Things to Do in Antwerp; a 24-Hour Itinerary

The 8 Day Vacay – Belgium


2.  Canada

With the close proximity of Canada to the US, of course, this country made the list!  If you live on the east coast, you can easily travel up to Toronto, and if you live on the west coast you can easily travel up to Vancouver.  Canada is a huge country and has tons to offer in terms of outdoor adventures, big cities, small towns, and more.


Read more about Canada:

The Nitty Gritty Details of Visiting the Most Popular Banff Lakes – Louise, Moraine, Peyto

Canadian Rockies Itinerary – How to Make the Most of 3 Days in Banff and Jasper

How to Spend the Day Solo in Victoria, BC

The 8 Day Vacay – Alberta + British Columbia; A Canadian Vacation


3.  England

Visiting England is quick and easy if you’re coming from the states.  There are tons of non-stop options into London from various major cities across the US, and once you land in London there are so many cities and towns nearby to explore.  When searching for flights, make sure to search flights into all three major London airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, and Luton.

Aside from its proximity to the US, visiting England has its perks as an American traveler.  The main language is English so communication will be easy, but you’ll still feel as though you’ve crossed the pond.  With heavy accents, rich history, and lively culture, there’s so much that lies beyond London that I urge you to see.  I highly recommend visiting Bath, York, and the Cotswolds while you’re in England; and if you want to venture to another country Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam are popular choices and easy to get to by train.


Read more about England:

A Complete Guide to Visiting London

10 Things to Do in Bath, England

Staying in the Cotswolds As a Solo Female Traveler

Your Guide to York – What to Do in York, England in 48 Hours

Visiting England in 8 Days


4.  France

beauty and the beast like village


A popular destination to visit, arriving in France via Paris is easy from America!  Many large cities (LA, NYC, Chicago) have non-stop flights to Paris, but those cities that don’t have affordable flights that only make one-stop.  The best thing about visiting France is not only being able to explore the incredible city of Paris, but you can really customize your itinerary to anything that you like.  If you like to drink wine, head to the Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne, or other wine regions.  If you want to learn about history head to Brittany or Normandy.  And if you want to relax on the beach visit the French Riviera.  Or if you only want to see Paris and jet off to a different country, there are many easy and affordable trains to London and Amsterdam.


Read more about France:

Three Days in Colmar + the Alsace Wine Region

The Ultimate Paris Travel Guide

How to Spend 4 Days in Paris


5.  Ireland

irish flags


Flying from the US to Dublin makes Ireland an ideal getaway if you’ve burned through all of your PTO.  With non-stop and one-stop flights across the US, I encourage you to head to Ireland to experience the pub culture, traditional Irish food, live music, and cheery locals.

One of my first trips abroad was to Ireland.  My friend and I rented a car in Dublin and drove down south, followed the coastline west, and crossed the country back to Dublin.  Some of our most memorable stays were in small coastal towns like Dingle and the college town of Galway.

Tip:  When searching for flights, make sure to check out Ireland’s budget airline – AerLingus.


Read more about Ireland:

A Complete Guide to Visiting Dublin


6.  Italy

seaside town


Another great country to visit if you’re limited on time off is Italy.  Like other countries previously mentioned, there are tons of non-stop flights from the US to Rome.  And the great thing about Italy is that there are so many different types of experiences you can have.  Head to Tuscany for a wine tour, Venice to see boats act like cars as they navigate through narrow canals, rent a boat on the coast, or stay in Rome to learn about Roman history and tour ancient sites.


Read more about Italy:

A Complete Guide to Visiting Rome

My Pizza Journey in Naples – Dining at Pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi

A Complete Guide to Visiting Florence

Where to Find the Best Venetian Tapas in Venice

The 8 Day Vacay – Rome + Florence + Verona


7.  Mexico

With the close proximity of Mexico to the US, of course, this country made the list!  If you live on the east coast, you can easily travel to Cabo to spend some time in the sun relaxing and partying the night away.  If you live on the west coast you can visit the ever-popular Tulum.  Or go out of your way to visit popular spots like Mexico City, Jalisco, and Oaxaca.  Mexico is such an easy escape from the US so even with no vacation time, there’s no excuse not to take a trip.


Read more about Mexico:

How to Spend a Weekend in Cabo

10 of the Best Things to Do in Cabo

Staying at the Nobu Hotel in Cabo


8.  Scotland

girl swinging around lamp post


Another easy country to get to from the US is Scotland.  Non-stop flights are harder to come by on the west coast, but you have more options with choices of flying into Edinburgh or Glasgow.  And with Scotland and England being so close you could always fly non-stop into London, rent a car, and drive to Scotland!

If you visit Scotland, I highly recommend renting a car.  While roads are narrow (especially the further north you go), and the Scots drive on the opposite side of the road, the best way to experience Scotland and get a taste of Scottish culture is by visiting the tiny towns and villages scattered throughout the country.  Head west to visit the seaside town of Oban and take the ferry to the Hebrides, or go north to chase the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.


Read more about Scotland:

The Best Things to Do in Oban in 48-Hours

Complete Guide to Edinburgh


9.  Spain


Spain is another great country to visit if you’re short on time.  Being able to fly into either Madrid or Barcelona you have tons of options when choosing non-stop or one-stop flights.  And like most of the other countries listed, the great thing about visiting Spain is being able to customize your experience to your liking.  Visit Barcelona to experience the colorful Spanish culture, Madrid for art and food, the Basque country, or Southern Spain for fun, dancing, and warm weather.


Read more about Spain:

The Ultimate Guide to Barcelona, Spain

Things to Do in Seville – 5 Experiences to Have

How to Spend One Day in Malaga, Spain

How to Make the Most of One Day in Granada

The 8 Day Vacay – Barcelona + Madrid + Southern Spain Itinerary


10.  USA

Being from the US, you might be thinking, “Well what kind of vacation would it be if I didn’t leave the US?”  I’m here to tell you that traveling doesn’t mean you have to go far.  Traveling can be exploring your own backyard, a different state, or a different city.  Because the USA is so big there are many opportunities to see new things and experience new places.  Head to Arizona or New Mexico to see the desert.  Go to Oregon or Washington for beautiful mountains and hiking.  Visit Boston to learn about American history.  There are 50 states here… 50 opportunities to see something new and learn something new.


Read more about my USA travels to get trip ideas!


Tips For Finding Flights

picture of airplane wing with beautiful sunrise

Finding quality flights is easy if you’re from a big city with an international airport like Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, etc.  However, if you’re from a smaller town you might have more difficulty finding flights.  Being from Omaha, Nebraska, I’ve learned the best ways to search for flights throughout the years.  I recommend combining all of these tips, and while it might take a long time to sift through information, you’re bound to find a flight route that works best for you.


TIP #1:  Search through many different booking websites for the best deal (my favorites are below)


TIP #2:  Sign up for tools that will save you money

  • Going (there is a free option, however, I recommend paying for the premium option as you get loads more flight deals and the price of the premium membership ends up paying for itself in the amount of money you’ll save on flights)
  • Credit cards where you can redeem points for travel perks (my favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve)


TIP #3:  Fly out of a different airport than your home airport

This tip has saved me so much time and money throughout the years.  Being from Nebraska, flights are either expensive, have many different connections, or are just generally hard to find.  Instead, I search for flights through Chicago or Denver – both big, international airports near Omaha.  I choose these airports because flights from Omaha are quick, and non-stop.  I then use my credit card points to book a flight from Omaha to either Chicago or Denver, before flying out of that airport to my final destination.


As a nurse who is passionate about traveling, my only hope that is this list inspires you to take a vacation regardless of your PTO status.  Did I miss any “easy to reach” countries?  Let me know in the comments below!


Interested in traveling but also money conscious?  Read:  10 Affordable Countries Every Nurse Should Visit


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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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