World Travel 101: Part 1 – Planning

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

World Travel 101: Part 1 – Planning

Million Mile SecretsWorld Travel 101: Part 1 – PlanningMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

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 Hotels.com and Booking.com 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!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

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! :)

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

7comments

by Newest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

What hotel credit card covers free nights in Taj Lake Palace ?

@Emily: Lake Palace Udaipur is gorgeous!

@SRT- It’s the Taj Lake Palace, and one of my favorite hotels. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g297672-d302377-Reviews-Taj_Lake_Palace_Udaipur-Udaipur_Rajasthan.html

@Dan @ PointsWithACrew- I suffer from the same thing! So many options, so many miles, and so little time. 🙂

@MAC- I booked two one-way flights to Croatia. I booked a one way because I wasn’t sure how long I was staying. I recently booked the return on United. I’m so excited!! 🙂

Thanks for the tips! One question though. You mention Emily recently booked 2 one-way coach tickets to visit Croatia this summer using 60,000 American Airlines miles. At one point do you book the return tickets? Do you wait until you are already in Croatia or do you book it before you depart? Why not book round-trip tickets?

I find the problem I run into is some “analysis paralysis” where there are just so many options that I have a hard time booking anything?!!!?

Load more