Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

As a travel blogger, I’ve been on quite a few international flights. I know first hand how horrible 15 hour plane trips are. I despise those tiny seats with horridly little leg room. And plane food makes me wish I had packed a bag full of treats every single time. But that could also be partly because I’m a super picky eater!

Planning your first international trip can be stressful. If you’ve decided to do it yourself instead of going through a travel agent, I’m here to help! I’ve taken everything I know when it comes to planning an international trip and organised it in an easy to read, check-list style article!

Here are the steps you should take when booking and planning your first international trip!

1. Choose your destination

This is the most exciting step! If you’re looking to plan a holiday, you probably have a general idea of where you’d like to visit, right? If not, it’s time to do a little bit of research!

  • Would you prefer a hot or cold climate?
  • What time of year are you wanting to visit?
  • How much are you setting aside for your budget? (more on setting a budget in the next step!

Compile a list of all your preferences, then choose your destination from there! There are so many different choices when it comes to international travel. Unless you’ve had your heart set on a specific destination for many years, it can be quite overwhelming making a decision.


Tip: Given that you’re planning your first international trip, I suggest choosing a destination that is similar to where you are from. For example, if you are Australian, consider visiting the USA, New Zealand, Canada or the UK. Basically, Western countries which won’t give you too much of a culture shock! This is a great way to introduce yourself to international travel, learn what works for you and get a hang of the basics!

Tip #2: If you’re nervous about embarking on your first international trip going solo, consider booking your trip with a company like Contiki! They have a ton of amazing tours available, to places all over the world! I did the Best of USA Contiki tour back in 2015 and it was an amazing experience. You can read more about that, here!

2. Set a budget

Once you’ve chosen your destination, the next step should be to set yourself a budget. Your budget will depend on whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with a group of people. If you’re embarking on solo travel, your costs will obviously be higher, as you’ll be paying for everything yourself. If you’re travelling as a couple, splitting the costs is the easiest and cheapest way to do it. Group travel will obviously cut back your costs even more!

Your budget will also depend on where you’re traveling to. If you’re visiting Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam etc), the cost of everything is much cheaper than most Western countries. Staying in a 5 star beachside resort in Thailand is super affordable. Plus, clothing, souvenirs and food are also very budget friendly.

If you’re visiting countries like Australia, New Zealand, the USA or Canada, you’ll most likely need to save more to be able to travel comfortably.

Your budget should include the following:

  • Flights – both domestic (if you need to fly to a major airport from your home town) and international.
  • Accomodation – more on this later in the post!
  • Travel Insurance – super important! More on this further in the post!
  • Food – depending on your style of travel, this will vary. If you’re someone who likes to eat out a lot while traveling, budget more for food. If you prefer to eat on the cheap, you won’t need to budget as much!
  • Souvenirs – even if you’re not big on souvenirs, it’s always good to put a little bit of money aside. You’ll more than likely find something small that you want to purchase, so you’ll be glad you budgeted extra! Not to mention gifts for family and friends you promised to buy!
  • Transport – most major cities around the world will generally have fairly reliable and decent public transport. But it’s best to budget a little bit extra incase you need to catch a taxi or an alternate form of transportation.
  • Miscellaneous – you’ll need to be prepared for extra costs such as tipping and taxes, especially in the United States.


3. Choose your travel dates

Now that you have a budget, it’s time to decide what time of year you’d like to travel! This will depend on the destination you’ve settled on (hot or cold climate).

  • If you’ve decided you’d like to spend the summer relaxing on the beaches of Australia, you’ll need to choose dates between December and February.
  • If you would prefer to sped the summer visiting all of California’s theme parks, you’ll need to plan your holiday in June, July or August!

Do some research about your chosen destination. Learn what their seasons are, the peak times to travel, and what is open and closed during specific times in the year. This is the easiest way to settle on your travel dates!

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4. Narrow down your destination plans

By now you should have picked a destination. But have you narrowed down which city you’d like to start your trip in? For example, if you’ve decided to spend a couple of weeks in Australia, where do you want to start?

  • If you love theme parks, you may want to begin your holiday in Queensland.
  • South Australia is perfect for wine lovers.
  • Sydney has the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as some pretty amazing beaches!
  • The Northern Territory is great for outdoor lovers, and Uluru is one of Australia’s most popular attractions!


5. Book flights

The next step in planning your first international trip is booking your flights! Now that you’ve narrowed down the time of year and cities you want to start and end your trip in, this next part will be super easy, don’t worry!

  • Settle on the exact dates of your trip, the city you’re departing from and the city that you would like to land in.
  • Select how many people are going to be traveling (adults and children will be priced differently)
  • Generally, flights at the beginning of the week will be cheaper.
  • Direct flights will also be cheaper than flights with layovers in multiple cities.
  • Select a departure and return flight that you’re happy with and proceed to purchase!

Tip: Generally you’ll be given the option to purchase travel insurance when booking flights. You can opt to do this whilst booking your flights, otherwise keep reading – I’m going to be giving more tips about insurance later in the article!

Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

6. Search for and book accomodation

This is where things get a bit confusing – finding the perfect accomodation to suit your preferences.
There are a few different types of accomodation:

a) HOTELS

Hotels are always going to be easy to find, regardless of your budget. Depending on the city you’re staying in, you’ll almost always be able to find something that suits you, is in your budget and in a good location. It all comes down to whether you’re willing to sacrifice luxury and comfort!

b) AIRBNB

This is a good option for families or groups of people traveling together. Airbnb’s are independently owned houses or apartments, that are essentially ‘rented’ for someone during their visit to the area. Airbnb’s are similar to hotels, but generally a cheaper and more home-like option.

c) HOSTELS

If you’re looking for super budget friendly accommodation, research hostels in the area you’re planning on staying. In most hostels, you have a choice between private rooms, female only dorms and mixed dorms. The larger the mixed dorm is (the more beds the room can fit), the cheaper your nightly fee will be.

d) CAMPER VANS

Some countries around the world are perfect for road tripping. Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Europe are some examples. So depending on where you’re headed, hitting the road may be the perfect choice! There are lots of different types of camper vans. From super small (not much bigger than a regular sized car), to the huge, can-fit-an-entire-family style RV.

Camper vans are generally priced by the day, so the longer you plan on renting one, the more expensive it will be. But in the end, choosing a camper van can save a lot of money on accomodation. Given that you’re literally driving your accomodation with you, there are a ton of cheap or even free places to set up camp for the night!

Choose the style of accomodation that is suited to you, and begin your search! The closer you are to the CBD, the more costly hotels will generally be. But you can also score some pretty amazing deals from shopping around. Do some research and read reviews about popular hotels, hostels or Airbnbs in the area.


7. Purchase travel insurance

This is probably the most imporant step in planning your first international trip. Or any holiday for that matter! You should never travel anywhere without insurance, because there are so many things that could go wrong while traveling. From small but very frustrating issues such as lost luggage, to a bad physical injury that requires medical attention. It’s always best to include travel insurance into your budget.

There are a lot of different travel insurance companies around, and this will depend on the country you live in. But generally, if the option is available, fully comprehensive travel insurance is the best way to go.

Tip: Compare travel insurance companies in your home country to find one that suits your requirements and needs. Most travel insurance companies are fairly similar when it comes to coverage, it will mainly be the price that varies.

Travel insurance is a must when traveling. Click to read more first-time international travel… Click To Tweet

8. Start writing your must-see list

I’m sure you already have an idea about what you absolutely cannot miss. After all, those places or attractions are probably the reason you chose your destination to begin with! But once you dig a little deeper into a city or country, you’ll find that there are an endless amount of things to see and do. What you consider a must-see, varies greatly on your interests. So do some research, talk to your travel buddy (or buddies!) and start compiling your bucket list! 

Tip: If you’re traveling with family or a group of people, compromises will need to be made when it comes to visiting attractions. But there’s a positive outcome to this situation: you’ll have the chance to experience amazing places or things that you never would have considered otherwise!

Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

Disneyland is always on my must-see list!

9. Write a packing list to make your life easier!

Packing lists are essential for me when I travel. I’m a severe over-packer, and have still to this day, not learnt my lesson. Maybe one day I’ll learn. But if I didn’t have a packing list, I would probably pack even more than I already do. Having the items you need to take with you on an international holiday, makes for a much easier and faster packing experience.

Tip: Make sure you include important documents and your passport on your packing list. It’s all well and good that you’ve packed 12 pairs of underwear, but that won’t mean anything if you’ve left your passport at home! Lucky I’ve never done this, but I know there are a LOT of people who have. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared!


10. Save, save, save!

If you’re planning long-term travel, it’s best to save as much as you can before heading off on your adventure.

For short term travel, how much money you’ll need to save depends on the location you’ve chosen and your budget! As a general rule, however, always save and bring more money than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have extra money when you arrive home, than be struggling to pay for food and general everyday items half way through your trip!


From this point on, it’s all pretty much excitement and as little or as much planning as you’d like to do! Some people like to plan their trip down to the last second, others like to totally wing it. The choice is yours, and ultimately whatever you decide, you can always change things up! That’s the beauty about planning your own holiday: everything is up to you!

Planning your first international trip will most likely be a combination of uncertainty, a small amount of stress and maybe a bit of nerves and anxiety. But both the planning stage and actually embarking on your overseas adventure, will be one of the best experiences of your life, no matter where you decide to go! There’s something so exciting and life-changing about embarking on your first international holiday, so enjoy every single second of it!

First time international traveler? Here are 10 awesome tips to get started! Click To Tweet

Where are you planning your first international trip for? Tell me in the comments below! If there is anything you would like to know, that isn’t included in this post, I’m happy to answer any questions!

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Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

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60 Comments on "Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!"

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Leigh
Guest

#11 check visa requirements! Having traveled to Europe and Mexico, finding out I might need a visa ahead of time was a bit of a surprise!

Marie Eloise
Guest

I remembered the first time I had my International solo trip. It was a business trip so I did not do most of the planning though. This post is really helpful since I plan to travel (solo again) in December but this time, I’ll be doing all of the planning. Good read! 🙂

Aimee
Guest

Nice post! I remember my first trip I had no clue what I was doing, luckily I had a super helpful lady at STA Travel giving advice and guidance. Hard to believe that was 5 years ago now 😳 Great guide for first-timers 👍🏼

Magaly
Guest

Great and comprehensive guide for a trip abroad! Following these steps I have no doubt any international adventure will be a success:) great job.

tasha amy
Guest

You’ve covered some super helpful points in this post! I feel like I am always forgetting something when planning my next adventure. I love how you’ve broken down the budget as well, I am always under budgeting and leaving out something important! Will have to save for later

Laura-Celine
Guest

Good points. I always think about writing a packing list but then never get around to it and instead turn into a hot mess, throwing things into a suitcase half an hour before I’m due to leave for the airport. And good mention on writing a list about things you may want to do so you can research them ahead of time, book accordingly and not end up missing out. In conclusions – lists are very helpful!

lloyd
Guest

Nailed it! Travel insurance is an absolute must, if you cant afford insurance you shouldn’t be travelling. You can also leave with no money and work in that country to earn some pennies 🙂

Penny
Guest

I can still remember the first time I headed out for an international trip. I had no idea what to do luckily my husband had a little bit more experience than me. Irrespective we goofed up but we learned from that. The irony is that we expected to be perfect on the next trip after learning from our mistakes. I’ve lost count of the number of international trips my hubby has done. Mine ranks at around 10… I think. We still make mistakes and we definitely are not perfect! Lol!

karen
Guest

I’d also add making an excel to double check if you’ve booked a hotel for every night that you’ll be there. I use one to help me get organized in terms of giving myself enough time in between locations!

Stacey
Guest

Yes this is exactly the way to do it! I make a list of things I want to see where before I book my tickets! And I’m at the point now when Jason and I travel where we will explore anywhere, language barrier or not!

Hayley Russell
Guest

Great post! I’d also recommend considering if you know anyone you can stay with. I have family in Canada so staying with them instead of paying for accommodation saved me so much!

Maria Angelova
Guest

About the souvenirs budget, I’ve recently started bringing two distinctive types of souvenirs – 1. recipes from the country (I eat something delicious and find a way to ask a local to show me how to cook it, then invite friends back at home and cook this meal for them) and 2. magnets created from photos I shot (because this way these fridge magnets have a story behind, plus I don’t have to bring the magnets, I print them back at home).

Marcus & Mel
Guest

Useful post for new travellers. As we now travel frequently we forget how daunting it first was.

Yasmina Zimmer
Guest

I ALWAYS write a packing list before I leave somewhere! If I don’t I will forget something no doubt.

Anne Slater-Brooks
Guest

I also recommend signing up to the airline and hotel rewards and make every purchase count. You may feel that there is little point as you will not travel enough but there are so many ways to collect them that you would be missing a trick without them. I echo Leigh’s comments re visas which made me think of something else too – money for departure tax. We almost got stranded in Grenada as the ATM was not working and they would not let us leave without paying. What ensued was a mad rush into town, queue jumping at the bank and heightened blood pressure.

Nuraini
Guest

I’m a veteran international traveller, but my upcoming trip is the first one I’m doing solo, month-long, in backpacking style. So, I’ve finally put in writing a real packing list – standard and trip-dependent. 😀 Just, you know, really audit what I usually bring and thinking about why… it’s gonna be good.

Jenna
Guest

Great tips! I always like to make a make a list of “must sees” too–so helpful to figure out the things you really want to do, and then you can fill in other activities around those. Like the budget section as well–always important to remember all the different aspects you need to budget for!

Anekha
Guest

Helpful post! Basically exactly what I follow too 🙂

April | Minivan Adventures
Guest

What a helpful guide! We haven’t done any international travel yet but we would like to sometime.

Marisa Market
Guest

These are such good tips! Having planned a few myself….had to learn these the hard way!
http://www.thefashionablephysician.com

Candiss
Guest

Great tips! I always like to make sure I have downloaded the local language on google translate as well as have very specific details for how I am getting from the airport to my first accommodation. There is nothing worse than being bleary eyed from flying and then having to figure that out! 🙂

Valerie - Trusted Travel Girl
Guest
Valerie - Trusted Travel Girl

What a great guide for first time travelers. I love that you remind everyone to purchase travel insurance! Thats a necessity

Kathleen
Guest

Great list! I think everyone is a little nervous the first time they travel far from home. A totally agree on the airplane snacks. I usually over pack them because most airlines do not have great food. Some are really good though.

Natalie Anastasia
Guest

This is such a fantastic guide for anyone planning an international trip for the first time! It can be stressful and hard to know where to start, so I think this serves as an amazing resource!

Madi | Restless Worker
Guest

Definitely the hardest part for me every time I plan a trip is deciding where to go! There are just way too many options. Great round up though!

Amy
Guest

Love this post, some really great tips.

Indrani
Guest

For me it starts with save, save and save more! Very well enumerated points. And regarding the souvenirs, I always keep a bigger budget for them 😛 🙂

Megan Jerrard
Guest

Really great guide, thanks for sharing your tips 🙂 It’s nice to have everything laid out in an easy to follow checklist, especially as when planning your first trip the information can be so overwhelming.

Kasia
Guest

I remember my first trip abroad 🙂 I went to Taiwan to teach kids and it was an amazing time. I had no idea what to see and where to go in Taiwan so it was all spontaneous. I was lucky enough to meet the right people who took me every where 🙂 So I would add to your list – “Pray to meet the right people during your trips” 🙂 hahaha

Best,
Kasia

Cat
Guest

A very thorough guide for planning an international trip! I am glad you brought up travel insurance! It is so important to have one and so many people have overlooked!

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