Planning an international trip can feel overwhelming and even a bit daunting, but taking the time to plan ahead will not only make your trip way less stressful, but it will also help you feel less overwhelmed so you can actually enjoy yourself once you get to your destination! That’s why it’s important to make sure you know what you want to do, where you’re going to stay, and how you’re going to get around while you’re traveling. We’ve planned for so many different international trips, and after a lot of trial and error, we’ve found that these are the things we always make sure we’ve thought about and planned before we leave, so we’re not hit with too many surprises once we land. Here’s the best way to plan for a trip abroad:
- Pick where you want to go and create a budget: Decide where you want to go and create a budget. Traveling abroad can get expensive quickly if you’re not careful, which is why we always suggest creating a budget first. Knowing how much money you have to spend will help you choose the best place to go and which activities you can afford to do during your trip.
- Find a great flight deal: Sign up for email notifications for flight deals. We use Google Flights. When you’re choosing departure dates, if you select the month view and are flexible with your dates, you can see which dates are the cheapest to fly. Even though it’s not always possible, you can save a lot of money if you’re flexible with which days you fly.
- Create a spreadsheet: We love creating spreadsheets to organize our plans. That way everything we want to do, where we want to eat, and where we plan to stay can all be written out in one place. Start by adding in your travel dates and then create a rough itinerary by listing out the activities you want to do on each day.
- Research: Read travel blogs, go on Pinterest, or search on Instagram to find inspiration for what you want to do during your trip. Pinterest is a great way to find good travel blogs and find inspiration for places to go and things to see. We always suggest reading blogs written by people who are similar to you, because then you’ll know you can trust their style, the type of food they eat, and the way they travel. And that way you’ll know that their suggestions are likely things you’ll be interested in doing as well.
- Fill in your itinerary: Once you have an idea of the activities that you want to do, go to Google Maps to start organizing and filling in your itinerary. Within Google Maps, you can pick the places that are a priority for you on your trip and star them. To create a star, click on “save” on the left hand side and select “star place.” Then you can start to see which activities are in the same area. By starring things on Google Maps, you can easily see which activities are in which area. Once you have an idea of the activities you want to do, start filling in your itinerary. If two or three things are in the same area, then you’ll know that you should do those things on the same day. And if there’s something else nearby that looks fun/worth checking out, you can add that to your itinerary for that day too! To make sure everything is done as “timely” as possible, stick to one area of town each day. That way you won’t be crossing back and forth across town going to different places, and you’ll also save money by not paying for taxis or other transportation.
- 6. Book your accommodations: Now that you know what activities you’ll be doing each day and where you’ll be spending most of your time, it’s much easier to decide where you want to stay. Book your accommodations close to the things you want to do, so you won’t waste time or money getting back and forth to your hotel every day. We always use Hotels.com to book our hotels, because not only do they always have great deals, but they also have a reward system where your 11th night is “free.”
- What they do is take the average amount that you’ve spent on the previous 10 nights you’ve booked through Hotels.com and then you get that many dollars toward your 11th night. So say you’ve spent $100 on 10 nights at hotels, then on your 11th night, you’ll get $100 off. It’s essentially 10% off, which is a pretty good deal if you ask us, so that’s why we always book through Hotels.com. You can also search for hotels based on neighborhood or attractions in the city, which makes it easier to find the best place to stay.
- 7. Book transportation: If you have everything booked ahead of time, then you won’t have to worry about anything once you show up. There’s nothing more stressful than showing up to a foreign city and not knowing how to get around or where you’re going to sleep, which is why we always suggest booking everything ahead of time.
- 8. Buy tickets to your “must do” activities ahead of time: If you book tickets ahead of time, you’ll save yourself time by avoiding lines and you might even be able to get a better deal. If there’s a museum you know you want to go to, or if there are certain activities like skydiving or snorkeling, you can generally buy those tickets online ahead of time. Then you’ll also be able to fill out your itinerary better, and it’ll save you so much time when you’re at your destination. You’ll also avoid showing up somewhere to buy a ticket and finding out it’s completely booked for the day or that you have to wait a few hours before you can go in.
- 9. Complete your itinerary: Fill in the rest of your spreadsheet and make sure all of your activities, places you want to eat, transportation, and accommodations are booked. We also always suggest leaving a few hours open every day for “free” time. That way your days won’t feel too rushed and you’ll have time to do things that you stumble upon as you’re out wandering and exploring the city. We also try to leave one or two days on our itinerary completely empty. We might add one place to eat or one thing to do on that day, but other than that, we leave the rest of the day open, so we can relax on a beach, go back to a place we enjoyed earlier on our trip, wander aimlessly, or even just relax and take a nap.
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