World Travel 101: Part 1 – Planning

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So you’re interested in taking your 1st big trip outside of the US!  I’ve got some tips to make your international vacation a success!  It starts with making a good plan.

World Travel 101: Part 1 Planning
Use This Guide to Avoid All the Mistakes Emily and I Made!

 World Travel 101 – Index

5 Questions to Help You Start Planning Your Trip

1.   What’s Your Budget?

It’s easy to overspend when you’re on vacation.  So it’s a good idea to set your budget beforehand.

World Travel 101: Part 1 Planning
How Much Can You Afford to Spend on This Trip?

And the fantastic thing about collecting miles & points, is your flight and hotel can be (almost) free!  That leaves extra room in your budget for fun activities, splurging at fancy restaurants, and shopping.

Use guidebooks and sites like Tripadvisor to help determine if a particular location fits your budget.  Countries like India and the Philippines are a lot cheaper than Switzerland, for example!

2.   When Can You Go?

Most folks have a limited number of vacation days to work with.  So use them wisely!  Some like to make the most of their vacation days by combining them with holidays.

Others like to take several extended weekend vacations to spread them throughout the year.

Keep in mind that it might be hard to find award tickets during peak times, like summer travel to Europe or Winter Break to the Caribbean without planning in advance.

You might also consider using Expert Flyer or an award booking service if you’re having trouble finding the seats you want!  Google your desired destination and “best time to visit” to learn the ideal time to visit a certain place.  For example, visiting Europe in August may not be the best time to visit because many locals go on a month long holiday.

World Travel 101: Part 1 Planning
How Will You Use Your Vacation Time?
Book Your Award Flights Early!

I usually recommend folks book ~1 year in advance, especially if you’re traveling in a group or during a peak tourist season, because award seats fill up quickly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t find last-minute award seats.  But you’ll usually have to be more flexible with your travel dates to make it work!

Emily:  I recently booked 2 one-way coach tickets to visit Croatia this summer using 60,000 American Airlines miles.

I booked the tickets ~4 months in advance of my trip, and I found many coach award seats available!  However, it was very difficult finding anything in Business or First Class.

If I had planned earlier, there would have been more available award seats in Business and First Class.

World Travel 101: Part 1 Planning
Book Early to Ensure You Get the Flight That Works for Your Schedule!

3.   Where Do You Want to Go?

If you don’t already have a destination in mind, here are some ways to narrow down your options:

  • Check out our Trip Reports for places that inspire you–we used miles and points for all of these trips to have Big Travel with Small Money!
  • Browse travel guides at your local library, book store, or Amazon
  • If there’s a certain time of year (honeymoon, birthday, graduation, etc.) you want to travel, do a search for the best places to visit during that time of year
World Travel 101: Part 1 Planning
Where in the World Will You Go?

4.   How Will You Get There?

If you plan on paying for your airline ticket, Google Flights and Kayak are a great sites for finding cheap fares.  Also, follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on mistake and sale fares like:

If you have plans to use airline miles, compare airline award charts and check out my award booking guides for tips and tricks.

5.   Where to Stay?

I use Tripadvisor and guidebooks to help choose where to stay.  I’ve used and to book hotels overseas.

If you want to stay at a hotel, you may be able to use hotel points to book it.  Hotel Hustle shows you hotels you can book using points and if award rooms are available.

And websites like Airbnb, Couchsurfing and Hostelworld can help you find alternative accommodations in the city you want to visit.  All of them are very different depending on the type of experience you’re looking for.

Bottom Line

Answering these 5 questions will put you well on your way to taking your 1st trip abroad!  What’s your budget?  Where will you go?  When will you go?  How will you get there?  Where will you stay?

And remember to book award seats well in advance, so you can get a flight that fits with your schedule!

Next, find out if you’ll need a passport or visa for your trip!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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