Planning a great international vacation starts at home.  This comprehensive travel planning guide covers all aspects of trip planning including; Passports, visas, safety considerations, vaccinations, discount flights, packing, and so much more.

While there is a lot that goes into traveling overseas this guide will break everything down for you.  Make your time and money count by using thes easy tips and tricks.

How To Apply For A Passport

It all starts with a passport.  Getting a passport can take months so getting the process started early is essential.  I recommend at least 2 months ahead of time.

Passport Card

When you order a passport you have the option of getting a passport card along with your passport.  Last I checked it was a $20 extra charge.  I HIGHLY recommend getting one.  Here’s why.

The passport card is the size of a regular ID.  This makes it easy to carry in your wallet separate from your passport.  Not having all your eggs in one basket is a good idea if your wallet gets stolen or lost.  See my Travel Safety Tips for more passport security ideas including my “false wallet.”

While the passport card is not sufficient for most overseas travel it will make getting a replacement passport at the Embassy MUCH easier.

When To Renew A Passport

For those of you that do have passports, it’s good practice to not travel with a passport that expires within the year.  Even if you plan to be home before expiration, some countries may be hesitant to let you in with a passport that is soon to expire.  

Passport Application Steps

There are 5 steps to apply for a passport

travel planning
  1.  Fill out the application
  2.  Gather supporting documents
  3.  Get your photos
  4.  Pay the fees
  5.  Submit final application

Start your application here at the State Department

If you need to expedite your passport there are some options here

For Passport Renewal head here

Vacation Ideas

There are a lot of ways to go about picking a destination.  Perhaps you want to go somewhere a friend recommended.  Or maybe your looking for an inexpensive country where your money will go further.

A great way to gather ideas is on the various travel forums, 

If You’re Flexible With Your Destination

If you’re flexible with your destination a fun way to find great deals on flights is using Google Flights or  These both offer fun interactive maps that show prices.

travel planning

It allows you to scroll around the globe and check on flights.  If you don’t have a destination in mind this is a great way to find terrific flight deals.

If you haven’t heard of Airwander it’s an amazing booking site that lets you turn layovers into extended stays.  You can add destinations to your trip for FREE and sometimes even save money.  Stay as long as you want at your chosen layover city.  Check out How Stopover Flights can get you FREE travel to learn more.

Now that you have a destination picked out I recommend reading through my Travel Safety Tips.  It outlines how to find any potential safety concerns for the area you’ve chosen.  My take on safety is to not avoid less safe countries but approach them informed so you can travel them safely.  

Be sure to read our expert round up from 16 travel experts on their travel safety tips and close calls.

How To Get a Travel Visa

The first step is to see if a travel visa is required and if so how to obtain one.

The easiest place to check is where they will link you up with the correct embassy and get you headed in the right direction.

The State Department will also highlight any travel visa requirements.  In the upper left-hand corner you will see a box where you can enter your travel destination.

travel planning

The next screen gives you a ton of important information.

travel planning

The Quick Facts section above is where I start.  I then scroll down to specifics based on what I see here.

For this screenshot I used Vietnam, a great country if you haven’t gone yet. We can see that a Visa is required.  Scroll down and you will see additional fields, one of which is Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements.

Opening that section will give you all the information you need regarding Visas and other various entry and exit requirements.  This area will provide you with links if necessary to obtain your visa.

Travel Health, Immunizations, Prophylaxis

If vaccinations are required or advised the Health tab will give you further details regarding vaccinations and prophylaxis.

If you will be traveling at elevations higher than where you live be sure to read up on how to prevent Altitude Sickness.  Several over-the-counter and prescription drugs are available to help with altitude sickness.

Make note of the U.S. Embassy locations as well as phone numbers.  I like to include this information in my pre-planning section of my Travel Journal.

This is a good time to think about travel insurance.  I think you’ll find it’s more affordable than you think.  Covers you for flight cancellations, lost baggage, theft, medical emergencies, and so much more.  Here’s the best travel insurance options.

Planning For Permitted Treks

If you are planning any sort of permitted trek or other park entry be sure to check what will be needed for those permits as well.  For example, in Nepal just about every trek requires a permit and those permits require passport photos.  Getting those ahead of time will save a ton of time.

How To Find Cheap Flights

In order to find the cheapest flights we need to learn how to trick the cookie monster.

The Cookies Monster

Booking sites use cookies that interact with your computer and browser.  These cookies know where you are, who you are, and your recent searches.  If you search for a flight one day and then return to check on the prices the next day, the booking site knows this.

If a booking site knows that you are repeatedly looking for a flight they are going to raise the price a little each time you visit.  This tactic tricks us into thinking the prices are going up which will likely cause us to buy the ticket.  Sneaky isn’t it!

Private Browsing For Tickets

On most browsers you can simply go to the file menu and in the drop-down will be an option to open a new window/tab.  Look for the one labeled “private” or “incognito.”

In Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”.

For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”. 

Be sure to open up a new private window for EACH day you perform a search.  This assures a clean slate and honest prices. 

This mode will shield your information and cookies from being shared with the booking sites.  This will prevent the price hike trick they use.

Booking with Phone Apps

While these phone apps may be convenient, when it comes to making the final purchase I would use a desktop with a private browser window.

The Best Booking Sites

There is no perfect booking site.  They all have their good and bad days.  So unfortunately I can’t just point you towards one and if anyone does then they are lying to you.

Here are the sites I check.  If I had to only pick one I would recommend Skyscanner. Update….I haven’t been real happy with Skyscanner’s prices so be sure to check out several options.

Cheapest Day To Fly 

Hop on Skyscanner and put in your departure city and destination.  Choose on-way even if you’re flying round trip.  Under the date section click on the area and then select “month”.  Now hit search

travel planning

Up comes a months worth of flight details to help determine what are the best days to book for this particular trip.  This is also available on the mobile app.

travel planning

Book Your Own Connecting Flights

Let’s us Vietnam as an example.  A typical route to Vietnam from Seattle is to have a stop-over in Taiwan.  You can often book these two legs separate for a better price.

Book a flight from Seattle to Taiwan.  Stay a couple nights in Taiwan and then fly from Taiwan to Vietnam.  This offers you an added stay in another country for no additional cost.

Just make sure you stay a night or two because trying to link them all together for a continuous trip is risky.  If you miss a connection you are out of luck because they are two separate trips and the airline will not be responsible for the missed connection.

This is one of our favorite ways to fly.  Getting to stop over in another country at no extra cost is a real treat.

If this suits your style don’t forget to check Airwander as they offer extended layover stays as well.

The best way to get FREE travel is taking advantage of travel rewards programs and/or travel credit cards. Be sure to read this in the following order.

How To Navigate Airline Alliances To Maximize Your Travel Reward Points

Beginner’s Guide To Travel Hacking & The Best Travel Credit Card

How To Pack For International Travel

Checking bags is a pain and can cost a lot.  Not to mention the risk that the bags may get lost or mis-routed.  I had a checked bag not make it to Peru and it took 3 days before the bag arrived.  Thankfully I had travel insurance which paid us a little cash for the inconvenience. 

Learning how to pack light and keeping everything in your carry-on has been one of the most valuable skills we’ve learned traveling.  It just makes things so much easier.  You’ve always got everything with you and no more waiting at baggage claim.  Check out our How To Pack Light and ditch your checked bags.

As always….happy travels!

What if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Depending on where you’re traveling you may be entitled to cash under international law.  Know your Canceled Flight Rights!

How to avoid baggage fees?

It all starts with efficient packing.  How to pack light for international travel.

What can I do to make international travel safe?

Travel safety starts at home. Understanding the risks of your specific destination is crucial. There are many resources available to assess travel risk.  Travel Safety Tips has everything you need to plan a safe trip. 
Be sure to read The Best Travel Expert Safety Tips.  We discussed travel safety and close calls with 16 of the leading travel experts.

Download Our his & hers travel packing list

Print this packing list and throw it in your bag so you'll be good to go for your next trip.


This comprehensive travel planning guide covers all aspects of trip planning including; Passports, visas, safety considerations, vaccinations, discount flights, packing,  and so much more.#travel #visas #passport #overseas #international
| travel | booking | flights | overseas | international | passport | visa | how to |