Travelling overseas is an incredible way to expand your horizons, see other cultures in action, and perhaps even learn a little more about yourself. I love, and highly recommend international travel as a way to enrich your life. However, without proper planning, your unforgettable international adventure could be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. But help is at hand, here’s your ultimate guide to planning an (amazing) unforgettable international adventure.
I’m often asked how I go about planning a trip, so I’ve put all my pearls of wisdom (sic!) together in this comprehensive guide. I’ll take you through the key steps and considerations for planning your adventure, to ensure it’s the trip of a lifetime!
Selecting the perfect destination
First and foremost, do you already have a destination/s on your bucket list? If yes, this part might be easy for you. Or it could be that you don’t have a bucket list destination yet, but you do have an idea of the kind of thing you’d like to see and do while you travel.
Are you someone who’s wanting to get outdoors, hike, raft, fish, ski? Is culture your jam – so museums etc fill your bucket. Do you love old architecture, small towns, raging nightlife?? Are you going to travel independently, or are you happier with a planned tour group?
If you’re travelling with someone else, I’d recommend starting a notebook, where you write down your answers to all of these questions. See how they marry, and then you’ll have a rough idea of where to begin.
When you’re available to travel is another key consideration here. If you have defined dates you need to travel in, you’ll have to see how this compares with that wish list. Travelling in the right season for the activities you want to engage in, may also narrow down country choices.
Researching Visa Requirements and Travel Documents
Now you’ve got a destination in mind (or shortlist), it’s really important to research the visa and any other requirements for entry. Visit the official website of the embassy or consultant of the countries you plan to visit to check on this. I also recommend checking your own country’s travel advice for your planned destination. There may be recommended vaccinations, safety information etc that you need to be aware of. If visas and vaccinations are required, there’ll be additional costs for these, and time parameters.
Always check your own passport details also. A lot of countries require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months before you depart.
Set yourself a realistic budget
I think it’s important to set yourself a budget for your trip, and save for it over the planning time. That way you can enjoy it, without worrying about paying for it when you return. There’s a lot to budget for – flights, accommodation, meals, transport, activities, and travel insurance. Start researching some of these in your chosen country, to get an indication of how much things will cost. Don’t forget to factor in the currency exchange rate – which will fluctuate.
Create a basic itinerary
Outline all the different countries you want to visit, and where within each country. Plan out how many days in each city / area / country. I print out blank calendars that cover the weeks I’m travelling, and start filling in in pencil approximate days in each destination. It’s good to see an overview this way.
Top tip: If you're travelling to a large / busy city, try and avoid Friday and Saturday night stays (unless you want / need to). Often accommodation in high demand cities is considerably more expensive on weekends.
Book flights and accommodation
Once you’ve got your dates sorted, the first thing I recommend you book is your flights. Depending on your destination, this can be a big cost, and is usually cheaper the sooner it’s booked. Most airlines only allow you to book one year out, so if you’re planning this say 18 months out, set a reminder on your calendar to book it when it opens. Once my flights are booked, I then start looking at accommodation. Consider carefully factors such as location, amenities, reviews, and safety. If you’re going to have a vehicle, you can choose properties off transportation links, but if you’re using public transportation, it’s often cheaper and easier to pay a little bit more, but be able to access most things on foot. Personally, we also have a ‘2 night minimum’ rule for any property, so we’re not unpacking / packing every day, and we get to enjoy each place a little more.
Create a more detailed itinerary
Once the structure of your trip is set, you can then start filling in the days with your must see / do items. Research the must-see for each area you’re visiting, and unique cultural experiences. For any thing on your list that’s a ‘must do’ for you, consider booking these now. But make sure you leave room / time on your itinerary for rest, and spontaneous activities.
If you’re not known for packing light, or you want to have room in your luggage to bring a few souvenirs home, then it can be key to check out the luggage allowance for ALL of the flights you’re taking. International flights often have larger allowances and more room, which if you maximise, can be an issue if you’re on a smaller domestic flight in country. Each airline sets their own weight and size limits, so it’s worth investigating.
A packing checklist you create ahead of time can be invaluable for ensuring you have everything you need. Don’t forget to think about power adapters etc, as voltage and plugs differ country to country.
Here’s a great checklist for what to pack in your carry on bag.
Staying healthy and safe
As mentioned above, it’s important to research any medical requirements for your chosen destination. Travel insurance, although expensive, is a must for peace of mind, as it will cover you medically, and for any travel disruptions.
Also, be sure to share your itinerary with someone at home before you leave.
Learn basic local phrases
Learning a few basic words and phrases in the local language is a sign of respect, that is really appreciated by host nations.. It will foster connections with locals, and will probably enhance your experiences in each country. You could sign up for a local class, or use online learning via an app like Duo Lingo. (I’m over 200 days in learning French for an upcoming trip to Belgium. I love this style of learning, it’s very easy, and addictive.)
Planning and preparing for an international trip can seem overwhelming, but if you break it down, and follow the steps above, it’ll turn it into a manageable, and fun exercise. Once you’ve got it organised, you’ll be able to really enjoy looking forward to it. I love the anticipation. It’s a little like the countdown for Christmas Day that you used to do as a kid (or perhaps still do?! 🙂).
So – where in the world are you planning your unforgettable international adventure? Share below, I’d love to know.
Me – I’m heading to Europe – Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Portugal. Sooo excited! Make sure you’re following me on FB if you’d like to see a glimpse of our travels.