How to plan your 1st INTERNATIONAL TRIP

No matter where you plan on taking your first international trip; this is an exciting experience. New cultures, food, music, and customs are just a small few thing that help enlighten us. It can be nerve wrecking though. After all, this is a huge experience. Taking a trip overseas takes a little bit more planning. Here are some steps to think of when planning such a big trip. 

1)  Make sure to check your passport’s expiration date!  

photo by Porapak Apichodilok

This is huuuuge… like can not fly huge. You won’t be able to board your plane (more on this for another blog). Your return ticket cannot be within 6 months of your passport’s expiration date. I have been turned away at the gate for this! Make sure you check this yourself because the ticket agency will not mention anything.

2) Know how much time you have to spend. 

When you’re getting time off from work some aspects of the trip can go overlooked. Look at time changes because if you are going east, you will lose an entire day. Also the jet lag. This will differ from person to person but can throw off any plans when you land. What are the places you want to visit? Are there any non-negotiable things you want to see or do? These will be your “markers” and you can plan the trip around these points. 

3) Buy your plane ticket. 

If you plan on travelling around, book a multi city ticket. That way you can fly out of an airport that is close to the last city you plan on visiting. A lot of people don’t seem to know about this option. There should be a drop down when selecting the type of ticket you want (one-way, roundtrip, multicity). The main flight should be to and from your local airport. If you plan on taking a flight in the middle of your trip there are some hacks to get a cheaper ticket. 1) check out they have a lot of smaller flights. 2) See what airline has a lot of flights out of that airport and go to their website. For example, Luftansa’s home airport is Munich. So, if you fly in or out of Munich, check their prices. 3) you can change your VPN. The computer tells the server that you are in a local country and could get a cheaper ticket than if you are “buying in America” for example.  

** It gets real once you buy your ticket. ** 

Up until this point, the trip was just a fantasy. Something that you drift off and imagine or sit back with your significant other and play the game “Where would you want to go if money was no object.” 

4) Book your transportation.  

Train tickets or busses can sell out. So, the sooner you can book these the better (and cheaper). Don’t underestimate renting a car.  

5) Determine your route. 

Driving around, even in a county where you don’t understand is easier than you may think. I rented a car in Iceland and the car had a mobile wi/fi so I could use google maps on my phone to get around. This will help streamline your trip and give you flexibility for side trips or just staying longer in a spot if you choose.  You are going to want to have some “buffer time.” Don’t plan too much in one day. You might get advice to check out a local event that is not advertised.  

6) Book your lodging. 

Really 4 options here: Hotel, AirBnb, Camping and Hostels. Here are some pros and Cons 

Lodging  Pro Con 
Hotel Can be luxurious Amenities Service 24 hours a day Options Expensive May not give a good sense of culture of the city 
AirBnB Authentic  Feel like a local Can buy groceries and cook meals at home (saving money) Cleaning fees can be ridiculous Better for longer stays Bad hosts can ruin a trip 
Camping  Be out in nature Cheapest option Relaxing  Amenities  You’ll need a lot of your own equipment 
Hostels  Cheap  Get a chance to be with like-minded travelers They have private rooms Organized tours or events Sharing a room with 10-18 other people  Some can be run down (read reviews before booking) 

Don’t be afraid to switch up lodging spots in a city. When I went to Berlin, I stayed in a Hostel for 2 nights in one part of town, then a boutique hotel in another for a night. It allowed me to really check out these different sections of Berlin without having to worry on getting the correct train home.  

7) Print all your bookings. 

You never know when you might lose your phone. Or if the internet is not working so you can bring up your reservation.  

8) Pack light. 

Make sure you check the weather (Rainy season? Cold? Hot?) before you leave. Pack as little as you can. Remember you can do laundry anywhere in the world, plus it is probably cheaper to buy a couple things when you’re on vacation. Make sure to have no more than one pair of dress shoes/heels. If there is a particular outfit you want to wear for a night, start with that and work backwards. Bring neutral clothes that you can mix and match together. Make sure to have comfortable shoes. I can’t stress this enough!  

9) Take a picture of your passport or ID. 

This is so you don’t have to take it out with you everywhere. Some places will want to see something, but they know taking your passport out while drinking on the town is not smart. Plus, if you get questioned by the local police for anything, you can show them some form of ID. 

10) Learn some of the local language. 

Everyone will know you are a tourist, but you don’t have to act like one. You will get much better service you can say a few key phrases in the native language. Please, thank you, goodbye, where is the ____, are a few to start. You can also download google translate on your phone and it will work without the internet.  

11) Don’t plan too much and have fun!  

Some of the best experiences are the one’s not planned. Always ask the locals for suggestions. 

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