Planning an International Trip: Where to Begin

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

The hardest part of planning an international trip is figuring out how to go from, "I want to travel to (insert country of choice)," to actually stepping onto that plane.

Taking the Plunge

This may sound backwards to some, but the first thing my partner and I do when planning a trip is to buy the plane tickets. Just buy them. Just do it!


I find that it's easier to plan a trip if I'm working between a set date range, rather than trying to plan an arbitrary schedule and making it fit after the fact. I always book my flights through Google Flights because it allows me to choose the airport and destination then scroll through the months and airlines to find which are the cheapest. Or if you have a more limited schedule, it allows you to choose a set date range and track the prices.

Of course, there are a lot of other sites that do this as well, like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, etc. but I personally prefer Google Flights because it's the most clean and user-friendly.


I also like to give myself plenty of time for this step, as prices can fluctuate quite a lot. For example, I was already tracking ticket prices for my May 2018 trip in the summer of 2017 and I watched them for a good two or three months before I decided they were affordable.

Then once you've found dates and prices that work for you...buy those tickets!


I've Bought the Tickets......Now what?


I'm warning you now...this step can be the most intimidating one.

Now that you know which country you're traveling to and on what dates, how do you decide where to go? Countries are, well, big. There are so many places to go and so many things to see, so how can you possibly narrow your trip down to just a handful of locations?


Personally, I try to stay away from tourist traps when I travel. To be fair, there are usually some major sights that I just have to see, but for the most part I like to stray away from the beaten path. This is because major tourist destinations are going to be:

1. Expensive! For example, It can cost you about 20 USD per person to take the elevator to the top of Tokyo Tower when you could get the same view from other tall buildings in the area for free. And the best part, you can actually see the tower from the other buildings, which you can't do if you're in it.

2. Crowded! To stick to my Tokyo Tower example, the line to get into the tower can be over an hour long, maybe even two. Think of all the things you could've experienced in that amount of time! You're only on vacation for a limited amount of time, don't waste it standing in lines!

3. Overrated! Now, I'm not saying all popular tourist sights are overrated, but a lot of them are. Let's keep this example going: You could take the train to Tokyo Tower, wait in line for an hour or two to pay a lot of money to get to the top, get your picture, then wait in line again to go back down... OR you could spend that afternoon exploring the streets, immersing yourself in another culture, and trying amazing food along the way! I often find that the latter experience is much more rewarding and memorable.


So how do you find these more obscure locations? I prefer to plan my trips based off YouTube videos and independent travel blogs rather than out of tourist guides. This is because there are so many channels and pages dedicated to sharing 'off the beaten path' locations that you just can't find in a bookstore guide. Take some time to scroll through some pages and watch some travel vlogs with a pencil and notepad in hand. Write down some locations that interest you so you'll have some ideas when it comes to planning.


I also advise against booking your trip through a travel agency or tour-guided trip. Not only are those services going to cost you a lot more money, but they really limit your experiences. They often book a strict itinerary for you to follow that leaves little to no time for individual exploration.

If the point of your trip is to immerse yourself in another culture, experience the daily life of the locals, try local cuisine, and open your mind to a different way of life, then the best way to do it is to get lost.

As long as you have your phone with a GPS to guide you back to your hotel, then there's no such thing as getting lost. Because if you think of it this way: you're in a foreign country where you most likely can't speak the language anyway - so anywhere you go is somewhere new!









Don't Rush Yourself!


The last bit of advice I'm going to give for this post is to allow plenty of leisure time in your schedule. Generally, I create a very vague itinerary rather than a strict schedule. They usually look something like this:



Day 1: Arrive at location

Plane lands at 8:15pm

Check in to Hotel Name ($ per stay)

Day 2: Take metro to (place of interest)

- Some vague ideas of things to do at that location

- Estimated (USD) you will spend that day


As you can see, rather than creating a "schedule," I am making lists of general ideas and places I would like to see. However, this list is flexible and doesn't need to be followed strictly - or at all. I usually use this list to keep track of hotel names and prices and to give myself a very loose idea of things I want to do so I'm not wandering the streets aimlessly.


**I plan to make a separate post on how to choose and book hotels, so look out for that in the near future!


Just keep in mind that you should take all my advice with a grain of salt. Everybody has different travel styles, budgets and goals and I'm just sharing my own with you. I hope it helps you warm up those cold feet, because sometimes you just need to take the plunge!



 

If you got to the end of this post, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my page!<3


If any of this information helped you, or if you have advice of your own, feel free to give this post a like, comment, or share!


See you soon!

~Hannah

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