We’re sharing a step-by-step guide on how to plane an international vacation. This episode will help ease the minds of newbie to international travelers with tips to make the planning process easier, how to navigate a new country, and tips for safety, saving money, and booking. If you have not yet traveled out of the county, but you’ve really been wanting to, this is the episode for you!
Here are some resources we recommend to help you plan an international trip:
- Thrifty Traveler Premium to find great deals on flights from your preferred airports. Use code TS10 for $10 off your first year subscription of the emailed flight deals.
- Downloadable Trip Itinerary Planner so you can map out your trip all in one place
- Passport Book Cover so you can keep the book and your precious stamp in pristine condition. It also helps keep checked luggage tags and airline tickets safe in one spot.
How to Plan an International Trip – Episode Transcript
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast. Today we are diving into the deep end and addressing something that all international travelers have experienced and that is how to plan your first international vacation.
We get a lot of questions about trip planning and where to start, and some people planning their first international vacation can feel like it’s a bit overwhelming.
So we’ve broken down the process into 10 easy steps to make this process as effortless as possible.
Thinking back to some of my first international trips, I always say my first one was driving from San Diego to Rosarito, if you can really count that right.
There was no plan.
There was handwritten directions, no Google Maps, no phone service, and a car full of girls who had never been to Mexico so might not be very qualified to do this one.
But after many international trips, I think that I am.
Well, that trip to Mexico, Kim, for you was an impromptu trip because your first international trip was supposed to be our first squad trip, which was Inca Trail Machu Picchu, and that’s what you had booked.
We had a more extensive planning process on that that was impromptu.
And to this day, I’m glad you had fun on it.
But I’m still a little bit bitter because I was really excited like, Oh yeah, we’re gonna pop Kim’s cherry on this one.
And then you just did a girls trip down to Rosarito, which, yes, it’s Mexico, it’s a new country, It counts, but doesn’t really count, ’cause you’re California native and it’s just like right there.
So you know you have some St. cred to give recommendations out on here, Kim.
And then we did plan a lot for that Peru trip and it was such a good trip, my third international trip.
After that we went to Cuba.
We planned, but we also were flying from the seat of our pants.
And I guess that’s just a good tip overall to start you off with.
There’s going to be a little bit of that you can plan.
We’re going to go through all the planning steps, but just plan to also fly by the seat of your pants.
And when we say like how to plan, this is just really kind of like steps to put in place thought process.
I mean, this isn’t like a tried and true like, oh, you absolutely need to do this.
This is really to help you, if you haven’t traveled internationally to just really help you get over those big fears and hurdles to think like it’s a big daunting task.
And it can be, but it also is relatively simple if you just really follow these basics that we’re about to outline for you guys.
Before you go into step #1, how you and I both outline our trips is in a Google Doc.
Shared Google Doc with whoever is taking that trip with us, and then we start taking this process within that document.
Very important to get it all written down.
I think that’s very important.
We were going through an itinerary of Kim’s grease trip, right?
And Kim has all of her outfits that she’s writing down, so she’s taking it to the next level.
But this is just going to be like general, basic everything you need to know, especially if you’re nervous about your first time.
So I’m going to dive into tip #1, and everyone’s going to have to do this.
It’s to get a passport.
You’re going to need to take your passport photos in advance and fill out the application.
You can fill it out online, or you can go to the post office and fill out an application there.
Right now, processing times are at a minimum of two to three months.
I would give yourself way more time.
And I would say, I was going to say give yourself a good buffer because we know even renewing can take longer than that right now.
And a lot of international flights require your passport number to book it, so you need passport in hand before you can.
Book that flight.
That’s why I was like this is tip #1, you got to get that passport in hand.
So also while you’re filling out the forms to get a passport, there is an option to get a larger passport book with more pages rather than just the standard.
And I would recommend this, especially if you’re planning on traveling a lot in the next few years.
So I mean, if this is your first international vacation, you know you’re going to want to start traveling.
Are you really going to need all those pages for the extra like stamps pages that they have in the book?
Not necessarily, but it’s still good to have because what I don’t think they charge you for that, do they?
I don’t think they do.
They don’t charge you to put in a few extra pages, so you might as well do it and choose that option.
And if we’re talking about choosing options, this is something that you have to pay for, but I would highly recommend doing, and that’s getting your passport card along with it.
So on the application, it will ask passport support book and passport card or passport or passport book, only get the card.
The card you cannot take on international flights, right.
The card is only good for land crossing.
So here in the US, of course, yeah.
So that’s going to be to either Canada or Mexico.
And you touched upon that, and that’s exactly what I was going to say.
If you’re going to take a cruise, you can use your passport card on a cruise, but if you’re going to get into an airport and on a plane and other sorts of things, you definitely need that book.
But the passport card is always nice to have all also, and I think it’s a very nominal fee to have that extra, so be sure to get that.
But point being, you need your passport first before you can do a lot of things.
The one thing I don’t like, and might disappoint new international travelers, is that there are some countries that won’t stamp your book.
Canada is one of.
And you’re like so excited to get your first stamp in your book.
And then a lot of countries don’t even do it.
Or the stamp sucks.
Get true You pay attention to the quality of the stamp well.
You can’t even see it or it’s.
Like, oh, it’s like faded out.
Is that what you.
That’s what you mean?
Not in that design.
Yeah, that sucks.
But you know, like we said, that’s why if you’re going to be going to Canada, get the passport card.
That way you won’t be disappointed.
They don’t stamp it anyway.
Take your card.
You’re not going to lose your book and you don’t have to carry the book.
The card could fit easily in your wallet or purse, whereas the book, you got to be a little bit more mindful of it, not to bend it, etcetera.
But yeah, that is a buzzkill, especially if you’re really looking forward to a stamp.
By the way, we have some really cute passport book covers on our Etsy shop, so we’ll link that in the show notes.
You definitely want a book cover to protect it, because if they can’t scan the barcode on it, your book is trash and you need a new one.
So take care of it.
Yeah, and those covers also have like RFID like reflectors so that people can’t hack them.
That’s a big thing.
People don’t realize your passport books have electronic chips in them, so just look in general for them.
So step #2, and it’s probably one of my favorite steps, is to pick a destination so important you got to know where you’re going.
If you’re traveling for the first time.
Of course, you might want to go with an easy option with countries that speak English.
Canada and the UK are obvious, but there are a lot of other countries like the Philippines, Thailand or even Greece where almost everyone speaks English and it’s very easy to get around.
I can attest to that.
Going to Thailand and Greece, you don’t need to know the language at all to have a good time there and get around just fine.
It’s good to know if you’re going to another country, just pick up a key phrases in the local language.
But you’re right, English is the international language, so lots of places will actually know it.
But of course, if you’re really first time going for ease, a country that specifically speaks English, or you know that this country has high proficiency and most people do, is always a good option.
So everyone has a travel bucket list, so you have to think about where do you really want to go or are you going to let a sale dictate where you’re going for your first trip?
We do that a lot and we have gone to some really, really cool places like Ecuador or China because the trips were cheaper.
And we’ve recently signed up for the Thrifty Traveler Premium, and this service allows you to find amazing, cheap flights, cash deals, points and miles deals.
They’ll send you e-mail notifications to let you know that there are some good deals coming out of your home airport that you’ve selected.
They search over 200 US and Canadian departure airports and you can find some really good deals if you’re looking for a cool trip.
What I really like about Thrifty Traveler too is a lot of the fares are well in advance.
They’re not like other companies where they give you last minute fares.
You can book these well in advance.
Plan your trip so it’s not last minute.
Some of the more recent examples of good fares that they have are flights to Italy, business class, 58,000 points each way, nonstop flights to Fiji for $695.
Usually there are about 1200 round trips, so you can get really good deals and plan well in advance.
I love that you can set your home airport so you only see flights coming out of where you are actually wanting to fly out of, and then you can really let that flight sale determine where you go and you can get even more of a deal.
When you go to Thrifty traveler.com/premium.
Make sure to use our promo code TS10 to get $10 off your first year subscription to Thrifty Traveler Premium.
You mentioned this a little bit before, Kim, when you said like China and Ecuador by the sales.
But what other places have we gone where they just really haven’t been on our radar, but there’s been a good sale or deal and we’ve gone?
I would say Costa Rica probably.
It wasn’t necessarily a sale, but the price of the trip was so much less with the package deal that we got.
But then it would have been booking everything separately and it was almost like girl math.
They’re paying us to go.
Our trip to Rome also we got a deal like in our inbox it was $850 a person for the six days, which included our flights and our hotels.
Ibis buffet, yes, I purely booked because of the sale actually.
But I feel like we’ve also done some US space trips where it was like let’s go to Boise.
If we see a good flight to Boise, we want to go and to hit off some of the 50 states.
Like I know last year we went for Labor Day weekend, I saw pretty good deals to Kansas City.
So we head off Kansas and Missouri at the same time, you know?
Yeah, so don’t be afraid to let the sale guide you.
But of course, most importantly is choose a travel destination.
That is step #2.
Step #3 could kind of go along with #2, and that is determine who you’re going to travel with.
Someone might be taking a trip that you could latch onto, and then you don’t have to do as much planning.
That’s actually how I ended up going to Cuba.
It was already kind of a trip that was in motion, and I just said, you have room for one more.
And then there we went, right?
You could do this with friends, family, your partner.
Maybe you’ve been talking about going somewhere together.
Or get crazy and do a solo trip.
I was even an ad.
You can do a guided trip as your first trip as well, because then you get out of country.
But you’re not alone, right?
Everything’s super easy laid out for you, so you have a lot of different options.
And if you go with that last option that Britney said, you only need to follow steps one and two, get your passport and choose a destination.
Let the travel company do the rest.
Your flights, your tours, your everything on that.
So I mean, that’s the really simplistic way and actually a really good way too.
We love guided tours.
We’ve said it before, we’ve had episodes on it.
We Rep gate one.
We love gate one, but but for somebody who’s going to be a little bit more adventurous on the first one, planning it, you’re choosing a specific destination, going to go out it alone.
Then for sure step #3, just figure out who you are traveling with.
Another good option, one tier down from doing a guided trip, is to buy an itinerary like the ones that we have, and base your whole trip off of that itinerary.
So all the planning has essentially been done for you.
You’re being told where to go, how long you should plan to be there, the things to do while you’re there, places to eat, eat while you’re there.
And all of this is already in a essentially guided trip.
But you can take this trip with whoever you want to go on with it.
And it’s great to know that we already have several international trip itineraries.
We have Japan, Bamp, Spain, we’re working on our Grease one, so we have other options coming out.
So if you’re looking to take an international trip we’ve already done that you’ve heard about on this podcast, reach out to us and ask us if we have some of the details available.
Each of these itineraries are 20 to 30 page PDF guides that are instant down.
They’re going to tell you exactly where to go, fly into the exact route to take, where to stay or recommendations on where to stay, where to eat attractions, distance between them and so much more.
We’re definitely going to link in our show notes to our website, travelsquadpodcast.com where you can get these itineraries.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.
We even have free itineraries on there for you too.
So if you’re looking for just even like a little weekend getaway, yeah, maybe that’s not international.
But we have free ones on there too, so be sure to go on and check them out.
Step number 4, You want to determine how long you actually want to take this trip.
A little bit of this is determined by the things you actually want to do in that destination.
But you could flip flop it the other way and say, hey, I only have a week of PTO, that’s how long my trip is going to be.
Or I can only be away from my pets for five days, so I’m going to take this trip.
You can also Google how long do you need to spend in whatever destination you’re looking at to get a rough estimate.
Usually I feel like those are a little inflated on how much time needs to be spent there and you could probably shave a day or two off so but but it helps to get just like a rough estimate.
Yeah, and also a really good thing to do is research things that you want to do in the destination or Google what to do here, and then you can get a list of the more common things or popular things, see what really peaks your interest.
From there, kind of really start planning like, all right, how will I get from here to there, et cetera, to really determine how long you actually need?
Brittany mentioned a really good point and I want to reiterate it again.
A lot of things when we even Google it ourselves, like how long do you need in this place, We find them to be like overinflated, right.
So really more so just figure out like what there actually is to do that you want to do and then really kind of start making your itinerary from there and that will really help you determine the length of your trip.
Step #5 is to pick your travel dates.
You got to do your research on when’s a good time to visit your destination.
Kim had mentioned to us that, for example, in Greece there is a window to go because if you go outside of that window, the shops are going to be closed, possibly.
And so we would hate for you to get to book a trip to, like Thailand and to be monsoon season or go to Greece and all of the restaurants are shut down or go to the Maldives and just have like an awful experience because because the weather’s off, you know?
Or go on your first safari and then it happens to be a hot month and that’s where the animals are really elusive and not really doing anything because it’s hot, right?
So wherever you are going, it’s also really good to kind of pick your dates accordingly based off of weather or what country you’re specifically going for.
If it’s a tropical place, make sure that they don’t have that monsoon season or anything crazy, right?
So picking your travel dates is going to be the the next step.
The other thing about destinations is it might be like February to April is a good time to go, right?
So if you’re able to stay flexible within February to April, you’re able to actually save a lot of money.
Use Google Flights when looking up at least the flight prices and then you can kind of flex, OK, I want to go seven days sometime in these three months.
And then you can see how the prices change based on which departure and arrival date that you select.
You could save hundreds of dollars just by being flexible within that timeframe you want to.
Go and I think that’s a really great tip, right?
Because if you’ve already hammered down how long I’m going to be there, do you really need to go through a Sunday through a Sunday, or are you able to leave like midweek and sometimes those flights, so you mentioned Google Flights.
Skyscanner is also a really good one.
So kind of be flexible in that point because you can really save a lot of money like you just said.
I was also going to say in the Thrifty Traveler emails, they actually say what month the promo or good price is valid for or the deals valid for.
So if you’re having a little flexibility, all of these stacked together, you’re going to get a great price.
I think too for anyone planning an international trip for the first time, it it can be overwhelming, which is why we’re breaking it down in the steps.
But there’s so many steps too.
But just know, like determining the best time to go is a quick Google search and then you write it on your Google Doc and you move on to the next step.
So it’s not as daunting as it seems.
It’s not as daunting, but sometimes the best time to go is the most expensive time to go too, because it is the best time to go.
So you really need to take that into consideration also, but really good tip.
We love shoulder season.
I was just going to say that.
It’s the perfect time to go, say, February to April is what they say.
If you go the first week of May, you’re still probably going to get the good weather, good tree blooms, flower blooms, whatever it is.
That is the draw, but you’re not going to have the crowds and the prices are going to drop.
Or like going in September, it’s that tail end of summer fall.
But most people have already gone in July and August or maybe even June, right?
So shoulder season, we love it all the time.
Prices tend to be lower, less crowds.
Really good option if you can make it happen within your travel dates.
So before we dive into step number six, we’re going to take a quick little detour to talk about one of our favorite travel products, Liquid IV.
Liquid IV keeps us hydrated while flying and traveling.
It’s full of electrolytes and hydrates you two times faster than water alone.
We use them while flying, feeling jet lagged after our long hikes or even a night out in a new city.
They’re super easy to carry and keep stocked in your suitcase, carry on day pack or purse.
If you’re taking your first international trip, you’re going to love the regular and sugar free flavors.
If you haven’t tried liquid IV before, some of the ones that we love the most are the tangerine with immune support, which is really great when you’re traveling to an international destination eating new foods.
Your stomach might want that immune support and there’s also sugar free Peach, sugar free lemon, lime that we both love.
And for all of you new international travelers, you can get 20% off your Liquid IV order.
Just go to liquid-iv.com, use our promo code TRAVEL SQUAD PODCAST at checkout.
So step number six is going to be to plan a rough draft of your daily itinerary.
You should be able to do this by now if you’ve picked the dates, kind of googled what to do, what to see in that area, and you should have an idea of what you want to get done on the days that would make sense for you to do them on, but don’t have to stick too strict to it, right?
This is only a rough draft, but this is when you start really piercing it together of this is what I want to do and really kind of figure out logically how to put it together.
Yeah, I like to make a list of all of the things that I want to do, and then I start to group them together by area and just start to plan my day.
Because, you know, if you’re going to things on two different sides of a city, you’re going to waste time with transport.
But if you can group things together that everything’s kind of in this area on this day, and then you’re going to go to another part of the city on another day, that can be really helpful when saving time and planning your rough drafts so you’re spending less time in transport.
That’s a really good tip, and step 6 is I think my favorite because like you said, Jamal, it starts to come together.
Your daily itinerary is starting to be built out, and you can also think about So say in the morning you’re doing an elephant sanctuary and it’s going to be a six hour thing in the back half of that day.
You probably don’t want to plan another big excursion.
Maybe you plan something a little lighter, a dinner, dumpling tasting dinner or something like that, like we’ve done in China, and you can balance your day that way.
And honestly, if you don’t know where to start because it’s overwhelming sometimes, I have gone to other travel itinerary sites and I’ve looked at their popular destinations.
Say, look, we’re going to Japan, for example.
I’ve looked at Gate One’s trip to Japan and I’ve pulled all of the highlights because they usually go to all of the highlights.
So I pull out all the highlights and make sure I’m incorporating that into my trip as well.
Not only that, if you go to guided tour companies, if you’re not going to go with one, but really trying to plan a trip yourself minus the highlights of where to go.
They’ll show you hotels and you can get ideas on hotels, what class you want to be in of hotels ideally, where they are located to kind of see like well is this in proximity to mass transportation, other things like that.
So that is a really good tip going to travel itineraries from travel companies and figuring it out from there.
Also, just know you don’t have to plan every portion of your day for every day of the trip.
You don’t need to plan where you’re going to eat every single day.
You don’t need to book up every hour of your day.
In fact, you should probably leave some wiggle room in there to explore, get lost and get recommendations from locals, things like that.
And while you’re planning this trip, we actually have made amazing trip planners for you.
We have 5 printable trip planners that you can fill out.
Keep your trip planning process very organized and we’ll definitely link it in the show notes.
Step #7 when it comes to booking lodging.
So we like to do a little research on potential hotels, but don’t actually book anything yet until you know a little bit more about what you’re going to be doing and what you’re prioritizing for your trip, because it is important to try to book your lodging nearby the things you’re doing.
Nearby the things that you’re going to be doing, or if you’re trying to save money, you don’t don’t necessarily need to have it nearby, but where you want your lodging to be is nearby a mass transit that will get you there relatively quickly.
As a good example, you know, when we were in London as well as Barcelona, we didn’t stay in city center.
Of course we were in London, we were in Barcelona, but not in the main proximity.
But their mass transit is so good that we only had to catch one line and it’s 1015 minutes to get to where you need to be.
So you can save a lot of money that way.
But also if that’s not really your thing, you’re not necessarily looking to try to save a lot.
You want to be central, you want the vibe of the neighborhood.
As a good example, Barcelona again, gothic quarter, everything like that, you’re in the center of everything.
It’s going to be a little bit more pricey, but those are the things that you should really figure out when you’re trying to pick your lodging.
Is it I’m going for a vibe of a neighborhood?
Is everything close to me or am I OK Not having it close, but it’s very easy for me to get there later on?
There’s three things you could have.
Cheap, fast, good.
But you can only have two of them.
So when you’re picking your lodging or anything really, do you want to be close?
It might be more expensive.
Do you want it to be fast?
To get to where you’re going?
So that’s always the balance I keep in my mind with traveling with really anything.
One thing I’ve done recently and I did it for our Banff trip too, I was kind of undecided with some of the hotels we did.
So I booked multiple hotels for the same days in different areas.
And then as we got closer, we kind of narrowed it down and then picked which one would actually work better for us as we got more of those details in place.
That’s some advance like level 2 business right there.
She’s just throwing that in there.
But that’s still really a good tip.
But yeah, makes it a little bit more complicated, especially if it’s going to be your first time.
But one thing to also think about too, about booking your lodging is, are you going to do Airbnb versus hotel?
And a lot of times when we figure this out, like which one are we going to do?
I feel like choosing an Airbnb or hotel is really conducive on the area in which we’re at.
Yeah, I feel like when we went to the US Virgin Islands, for example, we were going to do a lot of beaches and so we could cook breakfast, make lunches to go pack a cooler for later on the beach what not.
But when we were in Barcelona, things are a little bit, I wouldn’t say faster pace, but we’re out exploring the city more.
The city is known for its food.
You want to try the food in the area, so we didn’t need an Airbnb because we weren’t planning on cooking and saving any money.
We were going to go out and eat.
I would say to Airbnb internationally, I sometimes stray away from because of the more complicated check in process.
You have to maybe meet the host there or I just always think back to this time in Florence, Italy when we’re bringing our luggage down the road.
Trying to find the Airbnb in a residential neighborhood can be harder, especially internationally, and then not really being able to communicate with the host.
He said he would meet us there at a certain time.
We got there earlier.
We just kind of had to wait outside.
You wouldn’t have that problem with the hotel, so if it’s your first international trip, I would probably learn more towards hotels most of the time.
It’s a good angle, Kim.
I didn’t really think about that, but that makes a lot of sense.
But if you’re going with a group and you’re going to be staying longer like you did in USVI, I know it’s not international, but kind of sort of that’s a perfect example of where you’d want to stay in Airbnb.
And they have British Virgin Islands, so you could pop over and make it international if you wanted to.
But step #8 is all about the transportation aspect of your trip.
You got to find out, do you need a rental car for where you’re going?
Are you possibly taking trains, Buses.
How are you going to get around?
And what can you book in advance?
What you can book in advance and most importantly too is research public transit and if you plan to use it.
And as a good example, you know, I’ve kind of touched upon before London when we were there and using their mass transportation.
A lot of these big cities, London, Tokyo, Munich, Barcelona, they have discount cards that are specific for tourists when you’re there that give you either discounted rates or unlimited use for so many days at a time.
And a lot of times it will include bus, overland, rail, the metro itself.
So those are really good options and you should start looking into do they have those discount cards for you?
How do you get them?
Do you get them at location?
Can you buy them in advance, figuring out your routes because you already kind of had that itinerary in place of where you’re going to go.
Now start figuring out like, well, what’s the closest bus stop, closest metro.
And if you’re in an area where that’s not possible, you have a rental car, then just already kind of have that map laid out of like, well, this is how I drive from here to there, etcetera.
First international trip.
I would recommend giving yourself extra time to get from point A to point B as well.
You’re going to take a wrong turn, or you’re going to get lost, or you’re going to need to stop for directions or whatever it is, just give yourself more time too.
And then the other thing I’ve noticed about international trips is we always walk way more than we do here in the.
US, of course.
So walking is a great form of transportation.
Give yourself time.
You also get to see the city while you’re walking around, and when you do, plan those attractions nearby each other.
Like Brittany said earlier, it makes walking more ideal.
Walking sometimes is half the fun and an international location because the streets are made for walking.
It’s not like here in the US where, oh, there’s just streets and a sidewalk, but it’s not really geared towards walking.
You come across a lot of things internationally when you do that, so sometimes that’s half the fun.
But also in regards to transportation, look up and see, is Uber or Lyft a thing in those areas?
Of course, they’re in internationally in other countries, but you may be in one country and it’s in one city and not the other, right?
So if you’re going to multiple cities or one spot, just if those are options if you want to use them, sometimes they’re cheaper than you know, taxis, sometimes not they’re equivalent or if they’re there.
I think you even mentioned this, Kim, like when you were recently in Greece, Uber was available but not at airport.
So you have to take taxis, but when you’re in city center you can.
So if you’re planning on using that, just kind of like figure it out a little bit if and how you’ll be able to use them.
I really, really like Uber for international Lyft.
I don’t feel like is as present internationally.
Yeah, Uber is the big one international.
And I really like it.
Specifically because wherever you are in the city, if it is available, it will come to pick you up there.
You know exactly which car to get into, You know exactly what the price is going to be.
You don’t have to fuss with transportation publicly, You don’t have to hail down a taxi sometimes.
It’s just a lot more simple.
And when you’re already in your first trip and there’s so many other things to figure out, Uber just simplifies things.
I had one experience recently where we were in London.
London has a great public transportation system, right?
But it’s kind of hectic as well, like everyone uses it, so it’s very, very busy.
We stayed in a hotel specifically because it had a train station right next to it, but to get to Heathrow would have taken three different trains.
Two transfers in between do you get and it was going to be in the very early morning to catch the flight back home.
With your luggage.
We said fuck that, we’re just going to take an Uber.
It probably was more expensive, like 100 bucks versus would have been a lot cheaper in train, but a lot more peaceful, less stressful.
It’s funny that you mentioned that and about London too, because when we were in London, the hotel that we were staying at was on the main tube line that comes out of Heathrow.
So we didn’t have to do a transfer with our luggage.
But when we left London, we weren’t flying out of Heathrow, we were flying out of London City because we were going on to Amsterdam.
And that route in the morning would have caused has to have multiple transfers like that.
And then we ended up taking a Lyft and Uber that time too, probably with Uber, not even a Lyft, right?
So we did that.
So that’s something strongly to take into consideration too right?
It may be easy, but if it’s multiple transfers then maybe it’s not the best route for you to do.
So at this point in your planning process, you’ve done a lot.
Your trip is really coming together.
You know, you’ve got your passport, you have like a rough outline of your daily itinerary.
You’re looking at transfer options.
So step #9 is all about researching the nitty gritty details.
For example, do you need a visa?
Or what tours, activities and museums are you going to do?
And maybe here you can start to look at the culture and currency types of things.
Yeah, so lots of places do require you to have a visa.
Some of them, if you start doing that research, we’ll find out it’s pay upon arrival, they’re just going to issue it for you, but you got to pay.
Some of them you have to request in advance.
And then if you find out like, yes, I need this, find the forum that talks about how to go about getting that so you have it before your trip.
Something to take into consideration that most Americans have taken for granted, but they’re not going to be able to take for granted much longer is that if you go to Europe, more specifically European Union countries, Americans did not need a visa.
It was supposed to launch here in 2024.
It’s technically not a visa because they don’t want to use that, but you have to do an application online and then wait for a response back.
And if you land in the European Union without having that they were going to kick you out, Well, they’ve postponed it now from 2024 here to 2025.
There’s talks that it may be pushed back again, but do keep that in mind.
You know, something that we took for granted for a long time of just being able to travel with ease for a lot of places, more particularly Europe, is not going to be the case for much longer.
Well, I think they’re coming for us with that one.
That is not fair.
It’s not fair.
As a matter of fact, the US is talking about making the Europeans do the same thing and paying like a little bit of a fee if they want to come here so.
Do you know if the European application we’d have to fill out has a fee?
Yeah, it does for like €10 or something like that.
So it’s not anything crazy and really you’re not going to be denied.
They just want a a register of people to come in.
But the talk is it’s just really a money generating revenue source, so.
And do you know how long it will last?
Just that trip.
I don’t know so many things about it have actually changed.
For just talked about the push back date.
I think it was even supposed to be implemented before that to so I think it’s supposed to be good for 12 or 24 months, but don’t quote me on that, I’m not too sure.
When we went to China, our visa was good for 10 years, but we had to, it had to be taken to the embassy.
And if you don’t live near an embassy, you have to partner with an agency who will take it there for you, fees involved with that one.
With Cuba, you buy your visa right there in the airport before you get on the plane.
So it’s very different.
Yeah, so definitely do your research on visas also.
You can start looking at what activities are you going to do?
Can you purchase them in advance?
Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy online.
And you’re also going to save wait time when you’re actually at the destination because it’s not going to sell out and you’re not going to waste that time.
Just stunning from line to line.
That’s a big time saver and money saver.
Money saver, because we say this all the time.
Yes, there may be a discount for buying it in advance, but this is psychological travel math now here guys, right?
If you’re booking things in advance, your vacations maybe not for 6-8 months down the line and you start buying like museums activities, well in advance, you’re paying for that upfront.
So when you’re actually on the trip, you’re not spending as much money, right?
So I view that as actually saving money, because by the time I’m on that trip, that money is well and gone and I’m not even thinking about it.
So it’s technically free at that point, right?
Yeah, When I booked our Greece vacation, we started booking things like a year in advance.
So by the time we went, hotels were paid for, excursions were paid for, flights were paid for.
The only thing we had to buy was whatever, food and drinks.
Which is a good point to say you can start to make a general list of maybe some places you want to try.
Could be a list of foods you want to try, or could be a list of restaurants you want to try, or in Kim’s case, rooftop bars she wants to visit.
Thai food places.
Speaking on the topic of food, tours and activities, this is a really good time to mention Viator and get your guide.
If you haven’t heard of get your guide or Viator.
Basically their travel.
I don’t want to call them themselves travel companies, but it’s basically a website where you can find specific tours that are unique to the region, right?
So you just put in what country or city and you’ll get a whole list of them and sometimes that takes the hassle out of it for you, right.
You’re buying it in advance here for you.
Sometimes if it will include your transportation.
So you don’t even have to worry about us, just meet at this one spot, they’re going to take you here, they’re going to take you there.
A lot of those also depending on if you’re in a really culinary scene type city or place include you know, food hopping places, street food, restaurants, etcetera, as well as the activity.
So be sure to go to Viator and get your guide and they’re really good for you and the planning process also to take away a day for you and let them just do it for you.
We’ve done some really cool ones.
I just did one in Greece that was a luxury yacht.
They pick you up from your hotel, drop you off back at your hotel, All your foods included, all your drinks are included, obviously your boat rides included and that’s like a 7 hour portion of one day.
Same thing when we went out to Baalbek in Lebanon.
Yeah, we did that one through Viator when we were also in Dubai that included the Sunrise Camel Trek.
It included the breakfast, include the transportation out to the desert.
So they picked us up from whatever hotel we were staying at.
So a lot of times these are really good things because they’re either like half a day or full day things and you don’t really have to worry about the logistics.
It’s just let me buy this tour and let them come to me to take me where I need to go.
Another piece of nitty gritty information you need to know is currency.
What is their local currency?
Is it better to get, I don’t know, Euros in advance before you go?
Or should you trade upon getting there?
Should you pull out of the ATM?
Are they a cash based community or do they not really use a lot of cash?
And can you get away with pretty much using your credit card the whole time?
Quick Google searches can help you figure this out.
And I will say a lot of people ask us should I exchange money with my home bank before I leave?
And I don’t think you need to.
I don’t think you need to, and I don’t think you should, as a matter of fact, because they give you a lot worse exchange rates.
One of our favorite things to do is actually pull from an ATM in the country that you’re at.
And basically, when you pull from an ATM, you get an even exchange rate.
Yes, you’ll have an actual fee because you’re using it in another country and everything like that.
So that ATM will charge you a fee as well as your local bank, but that fee is a lot less than when you actually change physical currency.
When you change physical currency, they don’t give you an even exchange rate.
They have fees and commissions on top of it.
So sometimes it’s more advantage just to do that.
More often than not it is.
But if you happen to be in a country and I hate to say this, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it where the dollar is more precious than their actual local currency, it may be better to actually change it because they’ll give you a better exchange rate because they want dollars specifically versus theirs, right.
So you know just kind of do your research on that and really figure it out.
But I always say this, if you can use credit card and your credit card has a no foreign transaction fee and they’re going to take card, why would you not use your and?
Especially if it’s a travel credit card and you’re getting points on those purchases.
I do want to kind of go back to food though, so if there are certain restaurants, like an epic rooftop bar or London, I was trying to book the Ritz Afternoon tea.
You need to book those things well in advance.
Make those reservations, because unfortunately for me, even a month out of that London trip, the Ritz was booked up for afternoon tea.
Oh yeah, I could definitely see that.
Yeah, so if they are really special book as far in advance as you can, you can always cancel.
Also, look into the culture of the destination you’re going to.
For example, when we were in Japan, we learned that you can’t walk while you’re eating.
It’s very disrespectful.
I mean, you can, but people don’t and you shouldn’t, right?
Also the tipping culture, do they expect a tip in that country or not?
And how to dress like in Dubai, we had to dress a little bit more conservative.
I think that’s a really good tip.
Just look at the culture of where you’re going and kind of really figure that out sometimes even to this day, like, you know, ’cause we travel so much and I’m doing a lot of other things leading up to the trip, I’ll sometimes forget like, oh man, I I, I didn’t Google do tip in this country.
And if you do, like, what’s the appropriate percentage?
And if you tip, like, what industries are you supposed to tip in?
Cause a lot of times here in the US, like everything’s becoming like tip, tip, tip, you know?
But that’s not necessarily the case in other countries.
So just be sure to Google that.
I feel like that’s kind of one of the the biggest things, but also some of those cultural taboos.
It’s good to know what is and isn’t a taboo before you arrive.
And then lastly, things that you need to buy to prepare for your trip.
My mind goes straight to outfits and we started building on our Amazon storefront clothes for travel clothes and makeup.
Actually, I’m a huge fan of this tinted moisturizer from Bare Minerals.
It is the best thing for travel and just everyday and then different like travel dresses.
And so my thing is, once you, you have your itinerary pretty well built out.
You know the things you’re going to do.
Say you’re doing that sunset yacht cruise in Santorini.
Well, now what outfit do you need for that experience?
Then you can start planning those things.
If you don’t already have an outfit for that experience, you may have a local home outfit that would go perfect with.
That of course, of course, Yeah.
Shop your own closet first, but also useful things like a outlet converter.
If you’re going to Europe, you can’t use your American outlets, so you’ll want to look that up and make sure you have the right one to connect.
And then also just know if you forget something, they have it there.
If you forget a converter, you can buy it there.
Except for in Africa.
Except for in Africa.
Or if you’re like me and you forget a toothbrush, you can buy it there.
Mosquito repellent is a big one.
Bring that one with you, though.
We have it in our Amazon storefront.
Bring it everywhere.
I mean, we say this all the time.
I really feel fortunate living in California.
I feel like I don’t really get mosquito bites.
But the moment I leave California, it’s mosquitoes galore.
Internationally, even domestically.
I mean, my goodness, they are everywhere and we are privileged.
You know all about it.
Now, Kim, in Texas.
Because even when we were out there visiting you, I was just like, oh man, the mosquitoes are out and about out here, aren’t they?
The Sawyer mosquito repellent.
We have it linked Amazon storefront.
It is the best out there on the market.
I absolutely love it.
So step #10, it’s our final step is to save for the trip.
We like to note the cost of things as we’re doing the research.
So if you’re going to a museum, kind of know if that cost, if you’re doing the luxury boat experience, if you haven’t bought in, bought in it in advance, know that cost so that you can start to estimate a ballpark of what you’re expecting to spend.
And if you were trips is months away, you can start slowly purchasing these things.
And of course, we’ve mentioned the travel math of having a trip pretty much already paid off before you even get there.
Well, also how much you’re going to spend outside of all those bookings, right?
Food and drinks.
So look up how much is a cocktail in Amsterdam, how much should you budget for food for a day in Barcelona?
And then you can kind of set your own daily budget for the cash spending.
I love it when a hotel offers a really good breakfast buffet.
Oh hell yeah.
You fill up on the breakfast buffet and I don’t like going out for every meal, so sometimes I’ll get like a snack for lunch rather than like a full sit down lunch experience.
Or a late lunch and skip dinner.
Yes, either I love liners.
I love breakfast buffets.
So and that’s a way to cut money too.
If you’re not spending money for three meals and you get a free breakfast buffet, or you do a liner and you skip a meal, great money saving hack.
Money saving hack.
And if you can’t get the breakfast buffet, you’re going to be in a place that has like markets or stores.
So get like fruit snacks, things like that.
That’s easy for breakfast in the morning to kind of get you going.
That’s one of our really favorite things to do to save money.
I guess that’s on the trip, not necessarily for the trip, but in terms of saving money for the trip.
You know, lots of things that you can do is getting referrals to open bank accounts, Lots of them nowadays sometimes will give you, you know, 500 to $1000 if you’re willing to do it.
You kind of need to do that in advance because you need to open the account, have it be open for so many months, etcetera.
But that’s something that you can do, just get a little bit extra cash referrals.
If you have a credit card, if you refer a friend to open that, then you get a certain amount of points.
You could use those points to pay for your hotels, things of that nature.
So I mean, credit cards are always going to be a dicey subject to people because they can be abused and taken advantage of and cause a lot of issues for people.
But if you’re going to be really good with that, that’s kind of some of the best ways that you can do it.
And even if you purchase a credit card now, you can put your trip on that.
A lot of them have no interest for so long.
And I’m not saying wait to the very last minute, pay it off slowly, But then on top of that, they’ll have promotions of so many like points.
And then at least your next vacation will be free because you could use that big bonus of like 60 to 100,000 points and get your next vacation for free, right?
Some credit cards, even if it’s not a travel credit card, has cash back.
So you buy your trip with your credit card, and then you get some of that money back to pay off your trip.
And travel credit cards are great for no foreign transaction fees.
Or also on that no online banks like Schwab.
No foreign transaction fees.
Sofi is also one of them.
So there’s really, really good options out there, but most importantly is really saving for that trip and finding those little bit ways to make those dollars go a little bit further for your first international vacation.
Moving into questions of the week, we have a question from Amanda out of California.
Amanda is asking how do you plan maneuvering around Europe and locations?
So if you’re planning on going to multiple locations and it’s your first international trip, I would probably only move to two, maybe three cities Max, and I would space them out by at least three days at a minimum.
Three to four days is great in each spot.
I would not spend less than one night, or I guess less than two nights in a destination.
I’ve done it before.
It’s super hectic to check in at 3, check out by 11 and be on the road.
Try not to do that if you can.
And I would also say really you try to pick cities if you’re going to be going and maneuvering around that have great public transportation or trains to other destinations, right?
Like within the city.
Again, Europe has great mass transportation.
If you get to more rural areas, maybe not necessarily so much, but it is very easy and sometimes a lot more convenient to take a train from one region to the next or even 1 country to the next in Europe versus taking a plane.
So that’s something to take into consideration just as well.
There was a trip that I took with friends to Thailand and we were going from Kopi to Cosa Moy and we had to take a ferry, then a bus all the way across.
It was probably the longest travel day of my life, and I think we were probably hungover too, so that’s a good tip.
When you’re moving destinations, don’t plan long travel in between.
You’re kind of wasting your trip in transit.
If I could do that trip differently, that’s what I would do.
And don’t over pack, if you’re talking about going to Europe and going to different locations in Europe, there’s a lot of stairs.
They don’t necessarily have a lot of elevators.
So you’re going to be walking upstairs, going downstairs?
Elevators or escalators, You know you’re in that train station and you have a heavy luggage.
You are carrying that up.
Even the elevators are tiny when they do have.
Very tiny, yeah.
I remember Jamal and I, we went on our honeymoon and we were gone for like 1614 or 16 days.
It was a long trip, so we each brought a large luggage in a small luggage and I was like, I will never do this again.
I learned my lesson.
On Yeah, it was kind of, it was kind of tough because we also went to Europe during winter and it was cold.
So you need bulky items, right?
And so yes, maybe we could have fit it all into one check size suitcase, but that was a hassle because now you got to drag 2 luggages through transit stations, the small little elevators up the stairs.
So it makes it very cumbersome.
So that’s something to take into consideration.
And depending on where you’re at in Europe, you know, they don’t really have sidewalks that you may be walking on a cobblestone street.
So do you really want to roll that luggage over every little bump and rock that’s on that cobblestone street?
So it makes it cumbersome.
So keep those pieces of information into consideration.
But if you are planning a international trip to Europe, some pairings that are good, or like London and Amsterdam, Paris and Chamonix or Rome and Venice, those are some like really good.
You’re going to Europe, you’re going to bounce around to some destinations.
But keeping it to two or three locations would be perfect.
And a good duration of time, maybe after that first initial international vacation, maybe add a few other stops on it, or maybe make it a little bit longer.
But your first time you should really keep it to the two to three city pairing and and no more than you know two to three days in each location.
The final thing I’ll say about taking your first international trip, besides just trying to encourage you to do it and go through the planning process and get on that trip, is, you know, even when you’re on the trip, something might go wrong.
It might not go to plan, you might have a freak out, you might miss your train.
It’s going to be fine.
You’re going to have the time of your life despite all of that.
And that’s kind of comes along with international travel.
So don’t I expect it to be perfect and just have fun and go along for the ride?
I think that’s a really good final note to go off of.
Kim, you really have to go with the flow.
We know I’m notorious for the freak outs and you know I have them on him, but in hindsight, when I reflect on it, I still have a really good time despite the hiccup.
So take that in stride.
Be better than Jamal, embrace the moment.
Just accept it and carry on from there and enjoy your time, right?
It’s meant to be fun, just as in everyday life, things don’t go as you planned, so just just go with the flow.
And with that squaddy, thank you so much for tuning into our episode this week.
Hope we inspired you to plan your first international vacation.
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