It’s easy to feel lost the first time you start planning a foreign trip. Where do you start? Should you first book the flight or get the visa done? What about hotel bookings? What mode of transport should you use within the country? Phew, lots of questions!
You can now stop getting worked up because, here, I am putting together sequentially the A to Z of how to plan a foreign trip.
Decide on a country
First things first. Do you love the sea? Maldives? Is that too much sea? How about Switzerland? Nice mountains there, but no sea. Bit of both? How about France? Too costly? Sri Lanka? Or is there a country you’ve always dreamt of going to? Choose your dream country. The world is waiting. Why are you at home?
Understand the geography
Once you’ve chosen the country (or countries), get hold of a map (or just check google maps) and understand the geography of the country. This is important because it helps you chalk out your itinerary better. Once you know the country’s geography, you understand if going the A-C-B route is better than the A-B-C route.
Figure out dates
How many days will you need to understand this new country? In most cases, it’s probably how many will you be able to travel at this time! Fix the tentative dates.
I mentioned “tentative dates” in the last point because one of the best ways to get cheap tickets is to keep your travel days flexible. You can get more tips on how to find cheap flights here.
Bought your tickets? Great! It’s time to celebrate with a bottle of wine. I truly feel the trip is on only after I have booked my tickets!
Now that the tickets are done, it’s time to sort out the places where you are going to sleep during the trip. Will you couchsurf? Will you stay at hostels and B&Bs? Or have you got a friend at whose house you could stay? If I have a good friend in the country I am visiting, I request them to send me a formal invitation which strengthens my visa application. This also allows me not to have to book my accommodation beforehand and I can make my decisions on the go (which I prefer). Check out the resources section of the site for more info on this.
This is the single most important part of your planning process. All your planning and efforts will go down the drains if you do not get this right. Get all sorts of documents in order and give them exactly what they want. They usually don’t want more documents than mentioned in their list and certainly, not less. Most countries usually want either an invitation from someone currently staying in the country you are visiting or hotel booking vouchers. If you have friends, consider getting them to invite you.
Many people do not like to spend on travel insurance. But a good insurance is your best friend during an emergency. Some countries require you to have travel insurance when you apply for a visa. But even if it is not compulsory, get one,
Make a list
You do not want to wake up at a Couchsurfing host’s place in a foreign country and realise you have forgotten to bring your towel as you’re heading to the shower. Make a list. It is very important. I start making my things-to-take list long before my trip and keep adding stuff whenever I remember something that I had missed jotting down earlier.
Pack on time
Never leave packing for the last moment. This significantly increases your chances of forgetting something.
You’re all set. Now get on that plane!