Planning an International Trip: The logistics and more!
Planning an international trip can be somewhat stressful and frustrating at times. However, it is definitely not impossible and can be easy with the right process once you choose your destination. If you are new to international travel, but are interested in starting, here are a few steps to follow to make planning more simple:
- Set your budget
- Find affordable flights
- Plan your itinerary
- Book your accommodations
- Secure your transportation
- Create a packing list and buy the necessities
- Pack- including double checking documentation!
1. Set your Budget
Planning an international trip requires setting a budget or at least knowing how much you can get by with spending. Your budget is YOUR budget, whatever that may be and will effect where you can go. However, trips can be planned on a wide variety of budgets; it just takes a little more strategy to plan a lower-budget trip! So, decide how much you can or are willing to pay to have a trip of a lifetime!
2. Book your Flight
Your flight will be the biggest expense of your international trip (usually). Therefore, I recommend finding cheap flights and booking a trip around that. It will not be a good feeling to plan out a whole itinerary and book accommodations and then go to book flights to see that they are thousands of dollars 🙅🏼♀️
Keep an eye out on prices. There is usually a sweet spot on getting cheaper flight prices. Don’t book way too early and don’t book way too late (recently got a bad price on flight prices due to waiting too long to book). I’ve had the best experience booking 2-3 months out. Use the Hopper app (have to download) to get a good idea of when you should book. Put in your departure and arrival airports and it will notify you when you should book!
Click here for more tips on getting cheaper flights.
3. Plan Your Itinerary
Planning the itinerary is where the excitement starts. However, it is also the most time-consuming and daunting portion of planning an international trip. So, after you’ve booked your flights and are SET on your destination, begin planning the itinerary.
Do your research and see what there is to do where you are going. Find out where you want to stop, where you want to stay, what you want to do, how many days you need to see/do everything you want and lock in the itinerary. I use Pinterest to do a lot of this portion of the planning. Wherever you are going or whatever you are doing, someone has already been there and likely written about it. Take advantage! Click here for ALL the tips on creating a great itinerary!
If you itinerary includes something with limited tickets, BUY THEM. We have missed out on a few activities due to not buying tickets ahead of time!
4. Book your Accommodations
I do NOT recommend booking accommodations until your itinerary is LOCKED in. Make sure you have the right amount of days in the right places before you book. We have made the mistake of having to change a route on an itinerary when accommodations were already booked and it isn’t fun to cancel and backtrack.
Some people choose not to have accommodations booked prior to traveling- more freedom and flexibility if you choose to change your route. amount of days in a place, etc. This can be a fun option, however, it can also be an expensive option if things are heavily booked and often times not the best option for a new international traveler. But, to each their own!
When it comes to actually booking accommodations, there are tons of options. The best way to get the best price is to shop around! One form of accommodation (VRBO vs hotel) may be the cheapest in one destination but not in another. For more tips on getting the best deals on accommodations, click here!
5. Secure your transportation
Once the itinerary set and housing is booked, figure out the best way to navigate your itinerary and book your transportation.
Our very first backpacking trip through Europe was navigated using several buses, one train and two domestic flights. It worked well for us and was honestly very affordable (we were traveling on new grad budgets)! However, when we went to Banff National Park in Canada we rented a car. We fell in love with the freedom of our schedule and getting to take off for the day at anytime we wanted. Since then we have used this form of transportation on multiple trips! (click here for tips on renting a car internationally).
However, renting a car is not always the best option. More info on other ways to get around Europe, click here!
- Not ALL transportation has to be pre-booked
- Metro tickets do not need to be booked ahead of time
- Bus tickets and intracity train tickets can also be booked later (however, prices can go up closer to departure time)
- Book any flights you may need prior to your trip
- If you are renting a car, have it booked prior to your trip
- I DO suggest researching the best way to get from one point to the other on your route (bus vs train, etc) so you don’t have to spend all the time ON your trip doing the research
6. Get your packing list and buy what you need
Yes, obviously you need clothes. But really, this step is about researching other items that will be essential for international travel, especially as a beginner! Make sure you know what outlet is used in your destination and have a convertor. If you are staying in a hostel, make sure you have the appropriate luggage/bag that can be locked up along with a lock or if you are going to Iceland in the fall make sure you have the appropriate outerwear, etc.
Pinterest is my go-to to see what people have recommended bringing to the destination I am going.
- Click here for a variety of packing guides we have used throughout our travels!
Good news is, once you have purchased a few of the items you will need to take on nearly every international trip, you won’t have to purchase them again. I also have a collection of “warm weather” necessities that follow me around along with another “freezing cold climate” stash of items I take on the more northerly or higher altitude trips :).
Click here for a guide on packing for international travel!
7. Pack and Prepare for a great trip!
Now it’s time to cram all of your crap into your bag and prepare for your trip! Double check your packing list, but don’t panic over packing prior to your trip. There are only a few things that are irreplaceable or can’t be purchased on your trip if you forget something.
The most important part of this step is making sure you have ALL appropriate documentation!
- For the love, make sure you have your passport before you leave the house. Doesn’t hurt to have a copy of your passport as well.
- I recommend taking a screenshot of all of your booking confirmations and anything else that you may need internet to access prior to leaving. You won’t always be connected (which really isn’t a bad thing sometimes!)
- If you are curious how to stay connected while traveling, click here.
- Luckily, documentation requirements have diminished a lot since the “C-word era,” but make sure the country you are visiting doesn’t require other documentation prior to entering. Just Google “travel requirements to __” for the most up-to-date requirements!
Planning an International Trip: Last thoughts
This is the process that WE typically use while planning international travel. Some people prefer to simply go where the wind takes them once they reach their destination and some people plan each day to the last minute. And that is okay too. Do what floats your boat!