How to plan an international trip in 10 easy steps

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So, you like to know how to plan an international trip? No worries, we’ve got you covered.

Planning a trip can be overwhelming. It feels like there is so much to do so you don’t know where to begin or where to end.

Just follow this guide step by step. 

It all starts with inspiration. Where do you want to go?

Start with writing those places you always dreamed about visiting someday. Create a list with 5 to 10 holiday goals.

While you go over the next steps in this list, some of these destinations might get scratched off the list. They might be too expensive or the timing might be off.

Tip: If you don’t have any clue for a cool vacation destination, check out Pinterest. Type in ideas like “winter city trip Europe” or “backpacking Colombia” or “most beautiful spots in Europe”, anything that pops up in your head will do.

Step 2: timing - When will you go and for how long?

Timing

When will you go on your trip?  This often depends on when you can get time off from work.

If you’re lucky, your decision doesn’t depend on somebody else and you can choose when you leave and for how long you will be traveling. 

How much time do you have?

It’s possible you have to scratch some ideas of your initial list here. Some places are just too far away if you only have 2 weeks.

Define your travel time for example: 3 weeks

Timing

Research when is the best time to take your trip. Maybe there is a festival you want to check out? Or maybe prime season is too expensive and busy?

Tip 1: Be sure to check the weather predictions and what is the best recommended travel period for your destination. You don’t want to arrive at your tropical destination in the middle of hurricane season, or something like that.

Tip 2: Shoulder season often is a good period for travel. These are the months right before and after prime season. (In Europe, these are the months May and September) These months are less crowded, less expensive and less hot. Thus, you can do more activities for a lower price and with fewer people.

So, now you have decided on some destinations and on your travel date and duration. On to step 3.

Step 3: Set your travel budget

Regardless of the size of your budget, it’s a magnificent idea to estimate how you will spend your money.

You can choose to not to go into too much detail and to set up a global budget for your complete international trip. For example: I have €2500 to spend.

Or:

You set up a budget per day. This is much harder and requires some extra research.

Anyway, you better take in to account the following costs:

  • Airplane tickets
  • Rental Car or Train tickets
  • Accommodation
  • Food and drinks
  • Tours and activities
  • Travel insurance
  • Cost for passport and visa
  • Vaccinations

This is already a rather lengthy list. But don’t worry, we will discuss every item later on. To make a rough estimate you can already google “plane tickets your destination” and estimate what you spend on 3 meals a day, extra tours,… Put a budget behind all the above categories.

The total budget

Now you’ve made an estimate of your travel budget. Add 10% to this budget.

There are always extra costs you didn’t think of. Above all, you are on a holiday so, if you want to splurge a bit and spend some extra budget on an activity or eating out in a fancy restaurant, you should just do so.

How to plan an international trip

Step 4: Research your chosen destination and make a first draft of your travel itinerary

After completing steps 1 to 3, you have a good idea of where you want to go, for how long and how much it will cost you.

Now it’s time for the fun part and do more research on your chosen destination(s). Find out what the top spots are, which tours you can do there, what the local dishes and drinks are,…

The best place to look is Pinterest and google. There are tons of nice travel blogs that are happy to share their experiences with you. Check out those who appeal to you and find out what you like to know to give more shape to your travel plans. Don’t forget to inspect our blog 🙂 just click destinations to see more.

Now you know what to do and where to go to. Check out Google Maps and put all your places on the map. Also include some tour destinations if you already found some.

Time to choose a spot to start your trip. Look for the nearest international airport on your map.

Step 5: Book your flight and other means of transportation

It is time to select your final dates.

Book your tickets for your international trip

Book your tickets. The easiest platform to use is Skyscanner. This site compares the best prices/dates and airlines for you and offers you the most advantageous one. You can also choose different options, which look more interesting.

In this step, you can still adjust your dates to the most suitable price.

Book your tickets for a train trip

Maybe you fly to your first destination and start exploring the country by train from there.  For European train adventurers, Interrail is the best platform to use.

Read the following articles about train travel in Europe:

Step 6: Book your accommodation

Now you know when you arrive at your destination you can book your first night(s) of accommodation.

Book the first night of your trip (or the entire trip at once, if you like)

Even if you do a road trip we recommend booking the first night(s). You will have a jet lag. It’s best to assure some nights of enjoyable sleep, so your holiday is off to an excellent start.

Look at our accommodation guides or use these trustworthy platforms:

Tip: Are you looking for cheaper accommodation? Maybe you don’t like to stay in a hotel, and you are looking for alternatives? These platforms might be what you are looking for:

How to plan an international trip

Step 7: Complete your travel itinerary with activities and tours

So you have decided on your destinations, dates, and booked your first date or more. Now you can complete your definite travel itinerary.

We can do this in an old-school document, in an excel file or even with pen and paper.

There are some very handy route planners available for desktop or as an app on your phone. These are some of the best and most used trip planners:

Book tours and activities you want to do on your international trip. Some excursions you can do perfectly on your own and for some others it’s preferred to take a guide with you. It might be an outstanding idea to book your tickets for popular excursions in advance, especially when you are limited on travel time. The best places to book tours are:

Tip: For some destinations it can be a wonderful idea to go on an organised tour for a few days. The following companies offer the best tours and the best services:

Step 8: Take care of your travel insurance

Travel insurance is something we didn’t think we needed in the past. Turns out we did!

You might think you don’t need a travel insurance as long as you don’t do crazy activities or whatever. In reality, there is a lot that can go wrong, and that can mess up your entire holiday.

  • Your baggage can get lost
  • You can break an arm
  • You can fall ill and need medical care
  • Your trip could get cancelled

To get travel insurance, look at:

How to plan an international trip

Step 9: Checklist: don’t forget to take care of these things

Okay, this is the less interesting part. But if you are planning an international trip, you need to take care of these important things. So just get it over with!

A. Do you have a valid passport?

If you don’t have one, make sure you get one in time.

Check if your passport is valid until at least 6 months after your return home.

B. Do you need a visa for your travel destination?

Many countries require you to have a visa before you can enter the country. Visa requirements vary from country to country.

Check if your destination requires a visa, and what the conditions are to get approved. What you need to do to get one.

Get your visa in time! It might be quite a hassle, so start your application soon.

C. Do you need to get vaccinations before you leave?

For some destinations, they encourage it to get certain vaccinations and for other countries certain vaccinations are compulsory.

This website has an overview of all countries and the vaccinations you need.

D. Will your debit/credit card work while abroad?

Check your banking app or dashboard to see if your debit and credit card work abroad. Check how much commission you have to pay for transactions and ATM withdrawals abroad.

We noticed our bank wanted a big extra for each ATM withdrawal and store transaction abroad, so we got some travel cards, which ended up to save us a lot of money! Plus, it is always good to have an option B if option A fails. (Which happened to us multiple times)

E. Will there be extra costs for your using your smartphone?

You need to check how expensive calls become if you use your phone abroad. Don’t forget to check the price of your data.

We used to turn roaming off to avoid extra costs.

When staying in a country for a lengthy period you might consider getting a local sim card. So if your phone is a dual sim, this is probably the best option.

Most accommodations offer free wifi so you can use Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype or something else to keep in touch with home base.

F. Contact the right people and agencies of your international trip

Do you have any pets? Ensure that someone takes care of them.

Apart from family and friends, there may still be a few agencies that should know your departure, certainly if you leave for a longer period. For example, think of your bank, your insurance, your healthcare, etc.

Step 10: Take your bags and start your trip

What do you need to pack for your trip? Make sure you take the right stuff and clothes with you so you can fully enjoy your trip. Take into account the climate and the activities you will be doing. 

We created a full backpacking checklist for world travel. You can also use it if you travel with a suitcase 🙂 Use this list as a guideline for your packing. It even has a printable checklist.

The time has finally come: the day of your departure has arrived!

Make a list of things you should definitely check before you close the door behind you. This can be, for example: turn of heating, turn of electricity,…

Everything is arranged! You can now safely go on a well-deserved holiday! Safe journey!

How to plan an international trip

Extra: Are you traveling for a long period of time?

What to do with your house or apartment?

We rented a house when we left for a year. For us, the best solution was to give up the house. We even sold most of our stuff like furniture, gadgets and clothing. This way we didn’t have to worry about paying rent while traveling and we had some extra cash to spend on our trip.

The rest of our stuff we left at the attic of our parents. If this isn’t an option, you can rent a storage unit.

If you own a house, you can rent it for the time you are traveling. This way you have some extra cash or you can pay your loan with that money.

Conclusion: How to plan an international trip

This is our guide with 10 steps to plan an international trip. We hope you liked it and that it helped you plan your vacation. If you have questions, ask!

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How to plan an international trip
How to plan an international trip
How to plan an international trip

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This is a nice list for anyone that hasn’t planned an international. I am sure they will appreciate it.

This is an amazing post! Yes, planning an international trip can be tad overwhelming; however, it will be a great experience once you have certain tips hammered in your head. Destination, duration, budget and research are some of the key tips to keep in mind while planning tours. So, what are you waiting for fellow travelers, let’s utilize all this extra time we have in planning for the future once the fog around the COVID—19 virus has been lifted and it is safe to pursue our wanderlust!

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