You keep seeing pictures of Paris, London, and Tokyo pop up on your feed … you want to go, but you don’t know where to start. How will you communicate? How will you pay? Should you tip? How will you get around? What if you get sick? All these questions are important to answer but they shouldn’t hold you back. Planning an international trip is a lot easier than you may think and I hope this short guide helps you get going! It can be frightening to go on your first trip abroad, but I can assure you that it will be worth it. You’ll be surprised to realize how similar humans are in all the different pockets of the world – international travel undeniably changed my life, making me a more caring, compassionate and acceptant individual.

1. Passports

Whether you are applying for a new passport or renewing an existing one – don’t make the mistake of booking a trip prior to completing the latter steps! Applying for a new passport or renewing a passport is a simple process: you will need to fill out a form, provide documentation such as citizenship + identification, take a photo, pay the fees and submit the application. The typical turnaround time is 6-8 weeks and the expedited time is 2-3 weeks. There are also private third party services that can do it in as little as 24 hours. I once had an international trip booked without realizing that my passport was expiring – I can tell you the process of expediting a new one was NOT fun (and expensive).

2. Travel Requirements

Many destinations require US Citizen’s to obtain a visa for travel – luckily you are able to apply for and receive most country specific Visa’s online. The Department of State has a lot of useful information regarding tourist visa requirements, the number of pages you need in your passport for the visa, and more. Equally important is knowing whether you need any vaccinations. You can find all the information through the link simply by clicking on your destination country. 

3. Travel Credit Cards + Insurance

While there are dozens of services that offer trip protection – I am a huge proponent of travel credit cards that offer travel insurance, especially the Chase Sapphire ReserveThere a multitude of insurance benefits that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card such as protection for trip cancellation/interruption/delay, lost luggage, delayed luggage, rental car insurance, and more. Most travel credit cards like the Reserve card also don’t charge foreign transaction fees. This is so important because it virtually eliminates the need for you to have a lot of cash on you to exchange. Lastly, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card reimburses the fees you pay for Global Entry (a program which allows you to skip the line and breeze through customs – even if you are not a frequent traveler, having the ability to sign up for this for free is a no-brainer!) 

4. Budget

You can find just about 99.99% of the information you need online – prices, opening times, rules & regulations, fun facts … take advantage of it! After all, this will likely be a trip of a lifetime. For a long time I hated planning things and I winged many of my trips – I don’t regret it, but once I started doing just a little preliminary research I saved a ton of money and avoided some crucial mistakes. For example the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is not open on Friday mornings and I could’ve ruined my Friday plans and lost money on transportation by not knowing this key piece of information. Bottom line: find out as much information online as you can prior to your trip, it will help you save time and money once you arrive to your destination.

5. Google Maps + Google Translate

Google has a spectacular set of resources that aim to make you feel comfortable regardless of where you are in the world. My Maps allows you to “star” the locations you want to see. When you’re working through step 4, put a star on all the places you want to see and experience. You can then make this map available offline so even if you dont have service, you will still have full navigation through this map. Google Translate is another fantastic way to relieve some of your travel fears – essentially, you can download a language offline, type in a word or phrase that you want to say and google will not only translate it for you but it can also pronounce it for you. Google Translate saved my life so many times in the past when I was at a loss of words in a foreign country, no pun intended. 

6. Travel Inspiration

Instagram and Pinterest are my go-to’s when I am researching my destination. Simply type in the location you are going to visit and both portals will return MILLIONS of results. You can get more specific for example using the hashtag #HongKongFood to find places to eat in Hong Kong. You can literally find anything from dining, to unique activities and even “instagram-worthy” places by using Instagram and Pinterest.

7. Book Your Adventure!

Now that we got the difficult stuff out of the way – make sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Weekend Traveand book your first international adventure!