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
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.
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
- Fill out the application
- Gather supporting documents
- Get your photos
- Pay the fees
- 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
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
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
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
The easiest place to check is iVisa.com where they will link you up with the correct embassy and
The State Department will also highlight any travel visa requirements
The next screen gives you a ton of important information.
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
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
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.
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
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
Cheapest Day To Fly
Hop on Skyscanner and put in your departure city and destination. Choose
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.
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
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 theHow 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!
Depending on where you’re traveling you may be entitled to cash under international law. Know your Canceled Flight Rights!
It all starts with efficient packing. How to pack light for international travel.
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.