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: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

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!

The 10 steps you should take when booking and planning your first international trip!

Choose Your Destination

This is the most exciting step when planning your first international trip! If you’ve come this far and ready to learn how to plan your first international trip, you probably already have a general idea already about where you’d like to visit. Right? If not, it’s time to do a little bit of research! 

There are some questions you need to answer, before beginning your Google search:

  • Would you prefer a hot or cold climate?
  • What time of year are you wanting to visit? Are you hoping to spend the Christmas and New Years season in a different country? Dreaming of a snowy holiday?
  • How much are you setting aside for your budget? (we’ll talk more about setting a budget later in the post!)

Compile a list of all your preferences from the above dot points, then begin your search. If you’re wanting to spend December in a warm climate, Google ‘summer destinations in December’. This is a great place to start, and you’ll generally come across places you didn’t even knew existed! 

There are so many different options when it comes to international travel. Unless you’ve got your heart set on a specific location, it can be quite overwhelming trying to make a decision. Narrowing down your options to a specific season or time of year, can make things a lot easier!


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 that 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! Of course, this is only a suggestion.

Tip: If you’re booking your first international trip as a solo traveler, the idea of heading overseas alone can be a bit nerve-wracking. 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!

Set A Realistic Budget

Once you’ve chosen your destination, the next step will generally 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 a solo adventure, 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 almost everything is much cheaper than most Western countries. Staying in a 5 star beachside resort in Thailand is super affordable. Not to mention clothing, souvenirs and food are also very budget friendly in Southeast Asia. 

If you’re visiting countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the USA or Canada, you’ll 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 – This is super important! More on travel insurance further in the post.
  • Food – Dpending 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 those 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.


Choose Your Travel Dates

Now that you’ve set yourself a budget, it’s time to decide exactly what time of year you’d like to travel! Remember back in step one, where I had you decide which time of year you wanted to travel, to help you settle on a destination? Well now is the time we get a bit more specific! 

Let’s say for example, you have chosen to spend the summer in my lovely country of Australia. By this I mean you would be in Australia during our summer, which is the months of December, January and February. Naturally, December is going to be a peak time of year. It’s Christmas and New Years season, which draws crowds no matter where you are in the world. But with Australia’s gorgeous beaches, you’re in for quite a busy holiday. Unless you specifically want to spend Christmas in Australia, I suggest traveling towards the end of January, early February. There will be much less crowds, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a warm Australian summer!

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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Narrow Down Your Destination Plans

By now you’ve chosen your destination, and locked in your travel dates. 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. There are over 5 incredibly popular vineyards and wineries in the Adelaide Hills. Plenty to choose from, especially during the summer months!
  • 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!


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! We like to use a website such as Webjet to book our flights. It compares prices across all the major airlines, and allows us to choose a specific time that works for us. 

If you’re not sure whether there’s a flight comparison website available in your country, simply do a quick Google search for ‘flight comparison websites in ______’. This should make it easy to find the most popular and commonly used! You can also head to each airline’s website individually, and search for flights that way.

When you’re ready to start searching for flights, have this information ready to go:

  • The exact dates of departure and return
  • Time of day you would prefer to fly (if you’re not too fussed about this, you can generally score some good deals early in the morning or late at night)
  • How many people are going to be traveling (adults and children will be priced differently)
  • Whether or not you’re bringing checked baggage (this means a suitcase or bag that will be put underneath the plane, instead of taking it on with you. This option costs extra)
  • Whether you would prefer a direct flight, or a flight that has stopovers in one or more cities on the way to your final destination

You’ll need this information to choose a flight that’s best for you!

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 sharing more tips about insurance later in the article!

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

Search For & 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:

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! We personally always stay in hotels. It’s something that we’re willing to spend a bit extra on, for comfort and security.

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’ to someone during their stay in the area. Airbnb’s are similar to hotels, but generally cheaper and a more home-like option.

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.

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.


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.

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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!

Write A Packing List

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!


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!

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

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  • #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!

    • Yes! Great suggestion! An important thing to remember, that I have forgotten to include! Thanks, Leigh 🙂

  • 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! 🙂

    • Where are you traveling to? That’s so exciting! Thanks for reading, Marie 🙂

  • 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 👍🏼

    • It can be hard on your first international trip! It’s good to have people who can help make the experience easier 🙂 Thanks for reading, Aimee!

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

  • 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

    • It’s so easy to forget things, especially on an international trip! Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

  • 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!

    • Packing lists are super helpful, but it’s true, most of us forget to write them! Planning attractions can be useful! I remember in Japan, we didn’t plan very well in one of the cities we visited, and everything we wanted to see and do was closed on that day! Lists are very helpful 🙂 Thanks for reading, 🙂

  • 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 🙂

    • Travel insurance definitely is a must! That’s a great post, too! Working in the country you’re visiting to earn some extra cash 🙂 thanks for reading!

  • 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!

    • It can be quite funny making little mistakes on your first international trip! But it’s great that we’re able to learn from those mistakes 🙂 Makes for great stories to tell! Thanks for reading, Penny 🙂

  • karen

    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!

    • This is a great tip! Being extra organised is always a good idea, especially for international travel! Thanks for reading, Karen 🙂

  • 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!

    • That’s awesome! The more international trips you go on, the more comfortable you become! It’s all about the learning curve at the beginning! Thanks for reading, Stacey 🙂

  • 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!

    • That’s an awesome point, and I’m surprised I forgot to include it! I also have family in California, and I’ve stayed with them lots of times! Thanks for the suggestion, Hayley 🙂

  • 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).

    • First of all, your recipe idea is amazing! I love that you get to know the locals and have them show you how to cool local cuisine. Such an amazing way to really get a feel for the country! Your creativity is amazing! I love the magnets idea too, I’ve never thought to do that! Thanks for reading, Maria 🙂

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

    • It can be daunting at first! Hopefully the post helps new travelers. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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

    • Packing lists are essential! That’s true, they’re the best way to make sure you don’t forget anything! Thanks for reading, Yasmina 🙂

  • 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.

    • Those are all amazing suggestions! I’m signed up to a couple of airline rewards, and I think they are worth it! You’re right, you can get points in so many different ways! That would have been quite scary almost being stranded somewhere! Thanks for the suggestions, Anne 🙂

  • 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.

    • Good luck on your first solo international trip! Where are you headed? I’m sure you’ll have tons of fun 🙂 Packing lists are great, aren’t they! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • 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!

    • Writing a list of must sees is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything, and to budget! Most of those must-see places or things cost money, so it all works well together 🙂 Thanks for reading, Jenna! 🙂

  • Helpful post! Basically exactly what I follow too 🙂

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

    • I hope you get to travel internationally soon! Where is the first place you’d like to travel overseas? 🙂 Thanks for reading, April! 🙂

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

    • It can be frustrating learning things the hard way, but at least you know from experience for next time! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Candiss

    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! 🙂

    • That’s a great suggestion! Making sure to have a mode of transport figured out when you arrive at the airport is essential! Thanks for the tip, and thanks for reading, Candiss! 🙂

  • 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

    • Travel insurance is definitely a necessity! You should always have insurance when traveling 🙂 Thanks for reading, Valerie! 🙂

  • 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.

    • The airplane snacks are terrible most of the time! The only good thing (in my opinion) is the ice cream, haha! Thanks for reading, Kathleen 🙂

  • 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!

    • Thanks so much, Natalie! You’re right, traveling internationally for the first time can be very stressful! Hopefully posts like this can help people along the way 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

  • 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!

    • That’s a great point! It can be so difficult to decide, especially if you’ve got more than one place you really want to visit! Thanks for reading, Madi 🙂

  • Amy

    Love this post, some really great tips.

  • Indrani

    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 😛 🙂

    • Saving is very important! The more you save, the more you can see and do! And the more souvenirs you can buy! Haha. I’m pretty bad with souvenirs too lol! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Megan Jerrard

    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.

    • Thanks so much for reading Megan! I love reading checklists especially when it comes to planning a trip. It’s the easiest way to do it! 🙂

  • 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

    • Don’t you love meeting awesome people who know the best places to go?! Haha that’s great! Awesome suggestion lol! Thanks for reading, Kasia 🙂

  • Cat

    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!

    • Thanks so much! Travel insurance is very important! Hopefully new international travelers make sure to purchase it! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Great post Rhiannon!

  • These are some of the wonderful tips and for sure they can make the planning of international trip much easier and less stressful. I too save more too travel more. Thanks for the awesome post.