The world is opening back up to travel, and it’s time to start travel planning! One of my favorite parts of travel is building anticipation before a trip even happens. I love travel planning because the world becomes your oyster, and if you can dream it, you can plan it. Since I’m starting to do some travel planning for my next trip(s) anyways, I thought I’d write down my travel planning process to share it with my readers.
Here’s the process that I follow when planning my overseas travel, from start to finish. This planning process is written with a one-week international trip in mind, but much of it can be used for two-week, three-week, even multi-month trips. Let’s put travel back on the cards this year, people!
Travel Resources for Planning your Next One-Week Trip
I’ve accumulated a number of my favorite travel planning resources on my Travel Resources page. The page includes my favorite accommodation site (Booking.com), my packing list must-haves, go-to travel insurance company (World Nomads), and travel visa website (iVisa).
Initial inspiration for one-week international trips
- Google Search – search far and wide for travel inspiration, whether it’s from travel blogs, Google image searches, clicking around on Maps apps, or from Instagram. Pick a few countries that you’re interested in visiting and narrow it down to the top two or three.
- Check visa and entry requirements – Before settling on one country, check the visa requirements as well as any vaccination and quarantine requirements. Have one week off work but need to spend five days in hotel quarantine? Next. Need to wait 3 months for a visa to process? Next. Check visa requirements online at iVisa.
- Choose THE ONE – the perfect country for your next one-week international trip will come to you naturally. You’ll know its the right one in your heart after following steps 1 and 2, I promise. I list my top three country recommendations (plus some) on my home page.
Cast a wide net for places to visit
4. Star key locations on Google Maps – Google Maps is one of my most-used travel tools because I can star, heart, and flag the locations that I want to visit. They even have a little luggage tag these days to save travel locations. Star key cities, towns, national parks, world heritage sites, museums, and other key points of interest that you feel like you must see while in this country.
5. Read other itineraries – If I don’t know much about a country, I look up other travel blogs to see what other people like me really enjoyed about the country. Search for “one week itinerary in xyz country” or “the ultimate guide to xyz country” to get some more ideas of unmissable attractions and experiences to star on your map.
Tip: If you’re visiting a conglomerate of countries (like the Balkans or Central America), check if there are towns or cities you’re interested in visiting just across the border.
6. Narrow down your options to 2-3 places – With only one week to travel, it’s best to pick just 2-3 locations to spend time in. Zoom out of the map you created and choose 2-3 locations based on what you starred in steps 4 and 5. These destinations will be the focus of your one-week international itinerary.
Check out some of my favorite itinerary posts my clicking on the images below:
Planning the logistics of your international trip
7. Transit – Consider the amount of time it will take to transit between the 2-3 locations you’ve selected. Can you take a rental car and drive? Take overnight transit to save time? Do you have to fly? If they’re all too far away or too expensive to reach, circle back to step 6 and try and find more practical (but still interesting) locations to travel between.
8. Pick your start and end locations – This step is largely dependent on the location of airports or other large transit hubs. Think about how you will reach this new country, and whether you need to circle back to the same airport when you exit it. Research whether there is a second airport that is more practical to exit the country from.
Booking the important stuff
9. Book key activities – Yes, book key activities before you book your flights! Reservations for entry to Machu Picchu in Peru, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or other just as sensational destinations may sell out weeks or months in advance. You don’t want to book your flights and then realize the star event is sold out! My travel planning tip is to plan around these key activities.
10. Book flights – Lock in your flight dates once your key activities are booked. Be sure to check any flight cancellation policies. I like to use Google Flights to research the cheapest flight options.
11. Book insurance – Be sure to book travel insurance for your destination country, especially insurance that covers quarantine or hospital requirements if you test positive for COVID. If you’re partaking in activities deemed “dangerous” by insurance companies, you may need to pay a little more for cover. Check out World Nomads for their options for international travel and COVID coverage.
13. Book in-country transportation – It’s important to book, or at least research your in-country transit options before traveling. Transport options might induce getting a rental car, booking bus or train tickets, or puddle jumper planes. If you’re going to rely on taxis or rideshares, those can be booked on the ground.
Some countries like Thailand and Cambodia where there are established backpacker trails, there’s no need to book transit in advance. You’ll find countless tour companies operate vans that you can book the day before you travel.
This step in my travel planning guide is also when you should research whether it’s worth investing in a transit pass (think Japan’s JR Pass or Europe’s Eurorail). Add up the cost of each leg of transit, and compare it to the cost of getting one of these transit passes.
12. Book accommodation – Based on the top 2-3 locations that you’re planning to visit during your one week international trip, research the best accommodation options for you and book them. Be sure to check cancellation policies when you book accommodation as well. I use Booking.com for all of my accommodation bookings.
Remember that traveling in the time of COVID may mean you need to book government-approved accommodation to quarantine for a few days. You should know whether your destination requires this from Step 2, so book accommodation accordingly.
Star the sh*t out of everything!
This is the fun part of planning, where you can go wild. Star the shit out of everything in your Google Maps! Below is an idea of things to star, and again these can be researched on travel blogs, Instagram, GetYourGuide tours, and other travel guides.
- Restaurants, especially ones near your accommodation
- Viewpoints or scenic areas
- Tour offices, or meeting points for any tours you booked
- Instagrammable locations
- Any and all other points of interest
Travel Planning - Finished!
These were all my tips for how to plan your next one-week international trip. The only thing left to do is to get on your flight and enjoy your travelventures!
Coming soon are posts about how to master your packing skills – in the meantime check out these packing list posts: