Planning an international travel trip can be hard and stressful. Even people who travel a lot can worried if they forget an important step in the planning process. But going abroad doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.
So don’t worry about the pain you’ll feel when you realize you haven’t printed copies of your travel papers or bought travel health insurance. This detailed, step-by-step guide to foreign travel is all you need to make sure you’ve done everything before leaving.
There are tips for international travelling on a budget, sites to help you decide where to go, apps to help you stay organized, and a lot more to help you plan a trip on your own or with the help of our travel planner.
Step 1: Do you need a travel agent if you are planning an international trip?
Before you start making plans for your international travel trip, think about whether you would benefit from getting help from a travel planner. Travel planners aren’t necessary for every trip, but they can be helpful for trips that are hard to plan or for people who don’t have time to do it themselves.
Here are three important things you should think about before you hire a travel agent
Does the price matter?
Most travel planners charge a fee for their services, but they can help you save money by finding the best deals and negotiating prices.
The American Society of Travel Agents says that travel agencies charge between $20 and $50 for booking flights and trips. The total cost of a full schedule could be between $100 and $200. On the other hand, a travel planner can help you save money by finding the best deals and negotiating prices. US News says that if you use the right ticket agent, you can save $500 on airfare.
Most of the time, the cost of the booking is the same whether you do it yourself or use a travel service. (including fees). Think about how you like to travel and how you like to plan to decide if you need a travel agent.
How hard is your international trip going to be?
A trip with a lot of moving parts, like various places to go or a big group of people, can be hard to plan. This is where experienced people who plan trips can help.
For example, a travel agent can make sure you don’t forget to book a flight for yourself after you book one for your parents and three brothers. They can also make sure that everyone gets tickets to that new show that won an award before they all sell out.
Not every trip is difficult enough to need a travel agent, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be a sign that you could use some extra help.
Have You Got Time to Get Ready?
If you don’t have enough time to plan an international trip, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. One study about foreign travel found that people spend about 30 hours planning a trip. The Travel Attribution Study by Expedia Media Solutions found that people look at 38 different websites when planning a trip. If you let a professional take charge of your trip, you can enjoy it without having to spend months planning.
But if you like the thrill of planning your own trip and doing your own study, you can skip the travel agency fees and plan your international trip by following the steps below.
Step 2: How do you start making plans for an international trip?
Pick a place to go
You might already have one or two places in the mind and a group of people to go with you, but you might also be open to going somewhere new and exciting. Now is the time to learn more about the places and countries you’ve always wanted to visit.
Check out the world’s most well-known places to visit if you want to be inspired by tourist spots. If you like to take the road less taken, you might want to look into the most underrated places to visit.
Do you like to do things like ski or surf? Find the best places to do these things and go there. People who are interested in history can visit the sites of important battles or the castles of kings and queens. Get out of your city and go to famous mountain ranges, tropical forests, or beaches with clear, blue water.
Keep a list of your favorite places and the events and activities you’d like to do there. Then, start to narrow down your choices by deciding how far you’re willing to travel, how much money you’re willing to spend, how safe each place is, what the weather is like, and what things you have to do.
Look at the Travel Warnings
Check the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories before choosing where to go. These are rankings of how safe every country in the world is, which are updated often. The four levels of warnings are based on the types of safety and security risks that are present, such as crime, terrorism, social unrest, health problems, and natural disasters.
In travel advisories, you can find important information about entering and leaving a country, local rules and customs, health conditions, transportation, and more.
If a place has a level 3 “reconsider travel” warning, the U.S. Department of State says you should think twice about going there. Do not go anywhere where a “do not travel” warning of level 4 has been issued.
IMPORTANT! There are not just national travel warnings. A country may have level 2 travel advice as a whole, but some high-risk areas may have a higher advisory level. Because of this, you should read the whole travel advice before choosing a place to go.
Step 3: Create a Budget
Crossing international lines can be more expensive than taking a day trip within your own country. This is especially true if you need to book a flight or rent a car. Think about how much money you have to spend before you start making plans.
Putting together a budget for your trip will help you decide: You should go wherever you can. How much money should you put away?
If you just got a bonus at work or a big tax refund that you want to spend on a vacation, or if a vacation is already in your annual budget, you might want to make a budget for your trip. If you don’t have the money right now, check out these ways to save for your international trip and make extra cash.
How to budget for your own international trip
Any good budget travel guide will tell you that you need to do a little extra study on a place’s average prices to make a realistic budget.
In your trip money, you should plan for the following:
- Initial expenses (such as travel papers and identification)
A vacation cost calculator can give you estimates of how much each of these things will cost per person, per day, based on where you are and how your journey. Google can also help you find prices for things like the sites you want to see.
TIP: If you overestimate your costs, you’ll have money to fall back on if you need it.
Remember that there are many things you can do along the way to make your trip cheaper, like going to less expensive places, taking public transportation or walking, and looking for free or cheap things to do at your stops.
Step 4: Set (provisional) dates
Setting times as early as possible gives you plenty of time to get ready and lets you plan ahead for time off work. Think about the best time for you to go. (i.e., when the kids are out of school, when work slows down, etc.).
During peak season, places tend to be more crowded with tourists and cost more, but the weather is often best then. During this time, there may also be more things to do and places to go.
If you are on a tight budget, you may save money by not travelling during busy times. Just make sure that the museums, tours, and things you want to do are still open during the off-season. You should also remember that the weather may not be great during the off-season.
Step 5: Consolidate Travel Documents
Start early on the papers you need for your trip. One way to do this is to get a passport, a visa, or an International Driver’s License.
If you want to move outside of the country, you must have a valid passport. Getting a passport can take a lot of time, so it’s important to get all of your paperwork in order as soon as possible. The US Department of State says that you should apply for a new visa a few months before you need it.
The time it takes to get a passport depends on where you live and what time of year it is. In the US, for example, it takes 6–8 weeks to finish. For an extra $60, you can speed up the process and get your visa in two to three weeks or less. Some countries need visas to be good for at least three to six months after the date of entry. Check where you’re going and, if necessary, get your visa renewed.
Before going to certain countries, some visitors may need visas. A visa is an official document that a country gives to people who want to go there officially.
Visas are sometimes needed for trips that last longer than 30–180 days, but each country has its own rules. For example, all foreign visitors to China need a visa, but people who stay in France for more than 90 days only need a visa. Check the rules of the country you want to visit to see if you need a visa before you start planning your trip.
License to drive internationally (IDP)
An International Driver’s Permit, or IDP, may be needed by travellers who want to drive in another country. With this card, you can drive in more than 175 countries around the world. To get an IDP, you have to be 18 or older and have had a legal license from your home country for at least six months.
In the United States, IDPs can only be given by the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. (other outlets are considered illegal). Most of the time, the process of applying takes a few weeks. IDPs are only good for a year, so make sure your application fits with how long your trip will take.
To get an IDP, you don’t have to take another written or driving test, but you should look up the driving rules of the place you’re going to and make sure you follow them. Also, you should always have your legal driver’s license with you because your IDP won’t work without it.
Step 6: Check to see if you need any shots or vaccinations
Different countries may have different vaccine standards to get in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you should get vaccinated at least a month before your trip. This will give you time to get all of the needed doses, give your body time to build up immunity, and account for any delays that might come up.
Don’t keep putting it off. Check the CDC’s “Travelers’ Health” page for your destination to see what shots you need. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible, especially if you need a shot that your doctor’s office doesn’t normally have.
Step 7: Think about where you will stay
Now is a great time to decide where you want to stay when you go on vacation. Resorts, hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels are some of the most common places to stay around the world. Let’s start by breaking each one down.
Hotel or resort
This is the choice for a traveller who wants a place to stay that includes everything. If a traveller is ready to pay a little more, they can enjoy a variety of amenities and be sure of their privacy and safety.
Hotels and resorts are usually more expensive and don’t always give you the most authentic experience in a new city, but they often make sure you’re comfy and at home in a strange place. Use sites like Trivago or Kayak to quickly check prices from different sites before you book.
Vacation home rental
Between hotels and hostels, vacation rentals are a good choice. They might be the best choice if you are traveling with a big group or if you plan to stay in one place for a long time.
Timeshares and Airbnbs give you your own space and let you cook your own food to save money. A rental is a great way to get a lot of people together under one roof to spend time with family or friends.
Hostels are by far the cheapest way to stay and a great way for tourists to meet other people. Even though there aren’t as many amenities and private options, hostels can be a good option for budget travelers and social butterflies who don’t mind dorm-style bedrooms and shared bathrooms. They can also be a good choice for people who plan to spend less time in their rooms and more time traveling.
Book through a trustworthy site like HostelWorld.com to make sure the hostel is real.
Step 8: Choose a way to get there
Plan your transportation to and from your place so that it takes as little time as possible. A CheapAir.com study of more than one million international trips found that, based on where you live, the best day to buy airline tickets for the lowest price is between 70 and 207 days before departure.
Follow these tips to save money when you book your flight:
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are good days to travel.
- Look for cheap tickets during the week instead of the weekend.
- At least 21 days before your trip, buy your ticket.
- Think about other ways to get to your destination, like planes, cars, trains, and boats. Flying may be the easiest way to get from one country to another, but driving or taking the train may be less expensive.
Transportation in the area
Think about how you are going to get around once you get there. Book a rental car or look into the public transportation choices in your area. (A basic Google search of your destination followed by “public transportation” will almost certainly yield useful resources.) If the places you want to visit are close to each other, walking may be the best way to get there.
Step 9: Learn as much as you can about your location
Make a “to-do” list
The most fun part of planning a trip is learning about the places you want to go. Now is the time to make as many memories as you can while you’re there.
Look up travel guides for your specific location and make a list of things you want to do there. Ask people you know who have been to your area for advice on what to see.
You can also use the “Travel Board” on Trip Advisor to get answers from locals and other tourists who have been to the place you want to go.
Pay Attention to the Culture
It’s important to learn about the culture of the place you’re going to so you can be ready for culture shock and avoid doing things that aren’t acceptable. Tipping, welcoming, and even what to wear can be very different from one culture to the next, so it’s best to do some research before you go to find out what’s expected of you and what to wear.
You can learn about local cultures by looking at culture guides on websites like Commisceo-Global.com or by downloading apps.
Check out the Language
Knowing the language can help you get around in a new place, but you shouldn’t let not being fluent stop you from getting where you want to go. Take the time to learn some simple phrases, like how to say hello and how to ask for directions, so that you can get where you want to go.
Install apps like Google Translate to help you read menus and signs and quickly translate words or phrases when you’re in a hurry.
Step 10: Take care of the last-minute details first
There are a few things you need to do right before you leave on your trip. Make sure you have your credit cards and cell phone service in order before you leave.
Be careful about cell phone fees for international roaming
Check your cell phone plan to see if there are any fees for using your phone abroad. Use Wi-Fi most of the time to save money on these high costs. You can avoid using your service to find maps to places if you download them ahead of time.
If you don’t want to pay those extra fees, you can buy a cheap phone when you get there. You can only pay for the service you use on your trip. When you get home, you can switch back to your original phone.
Contact your present provider to find out how much it will cost to use your phone abroad so you can make the best decision for yourself before you leave.
Tell your bank
Before you leave for your trip, call your bank. If you don’t tell your bank about new transactions from abroad, your bank might think they are suspicious and freeze your account.
Also, find out if your bank charges any fees for foreign transfers. If you plan to spend a lot of time abroad, you might want to get a credit card with low fees and extra perks for foreign travel.
If not, watch out for the extra fees that come with ATM withdrawals and currency exchanges. Airports often have the biggest prices, so go a little further into the city to get a better deal.
Get health insurance for your international trip
If you cross a foreign border without enough insurance, you may have to pay a lot of money out of your own pocket. Don’t assume that your health insurance covers medical costs in another country just because you already have it.
Find out if you need travel medical insurance to help cover the costs of an accident, illness, or other emergencies that you didn’t plan for. A plan like Atlas Travel insurance can help pay for unexpected costs, like when the eggnog you got at a Christmas market in Vienna gives you severe food poisoning and you have to stay in the hospital.
You are walking along the beaches of a white-sand island in Indonesia when you trip and fall. You are taken to the nearest emergency medical center, but they can’t give you the care you need to save your life. You have to be flown to the nearest hospital that can help you.
You just got to Japan when you heard the sad news that your mother had died. To get home as soon as possible, you need to book a new trip. Because of bad weather, your evening flight is delayed until the next morning, even though you got to the airport on time. You now have to pay for food and a place to stay that you didn’t plan for.
Find out more about how visadone can help with these problems.
Step 11: Begin Packing
Now that you have all of your plans and reservations set, you can start packing your bags. Make a list of everything
Don’t miss the chance to learn about different places and ways of life. What is stopping you? Start making plans now so that you can visit all of the places on your bucket list.