international - travel tip

Heading Overseas? Here’s Your Timeline Checklist.

Just 6 more weeks and we are heading to ITALY! I’m seriously pumped.

I’ve been to several countries in Europe but Italy has always been on my list. My grandfather immigrated from Italy when he was very young and a huge part of my heritage is Italian. When I studied abroad I decided NOT to go to Italy because I knew I’d make it back someday. Now, someday is very very soon ūüôā PLUS, Matt has only been to Iceland – this will be his first trip to mainland Europe! I’m so excited to go somewhere new together.

Going overseas for 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months requires planning. And since these trips are always more expensive than domestic travel, you’re going to want to save money when you can.

Here’s a timeline of what planning should look like

12-18 months ahead: 

  • Start talking about where you want to go and what your budget is. Think realistically what you already have saved and what you can save monthly to contribute to the end goal.¬†
  • Some numbers to keep in mind:
    • $800-$1500 per international plane ticket, depending on your departure and arrival, and your time of travel.
    • $15-$200 per night in accommodation. Depending if you’re staying in a hostel, a guest house/Airbnb or hotel, this is a place you can definitely trim your budget.
    • $40-100 per day in food costs. Depending if you’re eating sit down meals or keeping it simple.
  • These are rough estimates and are not inclusive of all you’ll need. There’s also extras like museums & other activities, renting a car, and souvenirs. But these numbers should get your started.¬†
  • Budget your savings on the high end and trim where you can. For example, choose an Airbnb rental at $70/night as opposed to hotel at $150/night.
  • Check the exchange rate. I use

9-12 months ahead: 

  • Start your research! Read blogs & scour Pinterest to see what interests you in that city. I also suggest buying some travel guide books. These guide books are often sponsored & outdated, so I don’t rely on them for food/lodging, but they’re good for info on local attractions! Doing a little reading can help you decide what interests you and what you think you can skip or might want to look into more.¬†

*I buy my guidebooks used off Better World Books. At almost $30 a copy, they can be quite the investment. Many BWB copies are a few years older, but are less than $5. Another great resource is the library.

6-9 months ahead: 

  • Start checking flights. You won’t want to purchase for a few more months, but you’ll want to see what the average price is.
  • Check in on your budget – are you at least half way there? Remember, you’ve only got 6 months to go and you’ll be booking most of your flights &¬†accommodation (the bulk of your¬†expenses) very soon.
  • At this time, make sure your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan on taking your trip. Many countries will not let you enter if you don’t have at least 6 months left!¬†So, if you’re taking a trip in January 2018, your passport needs to be valid through at least July 2018.

4-6 months in advance: 

  • Time to get serious about booking your flight! According to research, the ideal time to book international flights is 151 days (that comes to 21.5 weeks) before your departure.¬†
  • Check different days of the week using a travel search¬†engine (like Expedia or Kayak) but make sure you book through the airline itself.¬†If you book through Expedia & plans change, you have almost no flexibility.¬†
  • When booking directly through the airline, you can usually pay a change fee & they will deal with you directly. The same goes for hotels.¬†

*If you find a cheaper rate on than you are on, call them and ask about it. Typically, they will price match. When you book through Expedia they are taking a cut of the price. So, Delta will always make more booking you directly so the price match shouldn’t be an issue.

2-4 months in advance: 

  • Finalize your¬†accommodation. Note: if you’re visiting in high season (learn about this during your research!), you’ll want to make sure you’re booking at LEAST 4 months in advance as prices will continue to¬†rise as space becomes limited.¬†

*Full Disclosure: I didn’t take my own advice on this one. I am just booking our last Airbnb apartment now & the choices are MUCH more limited, even though we are traveling in low season!¬†

1-2 months in advance: 

  • Check into any tours or activities you might want to book in advance to have ideal options.¬†
  • Start making a list of what your ‘must-see must-do’ things are and figure out how many you can fit in.¬†
  • Start searching for “specialty” items/gear you’ll need for your trip, giving yourself to find a good deal without leaving it to the last minute.
  • Check the exchange rate again & make sure your budget lines up.

2 weeks before: 

  • Start organizing all of your travel documents.¬†
  • Check local news to make sure there is nothing you need to know about (recent political unrest in China, Ebola in Liberia, natural disasters unfolding, etc).¬†
  • Double check your airline’s luggage policy (are carry on limitations dictated by size or weight?) and start thinking through outfits.¬†
  • Make a rough packing list.

1 week before: 

  • Check the weather and start packing (yes, you have time. But¬†this allows you to get a jump start while you’re not feeling stressed!)¬†
  • Call the credit card company and let them know where you’ll be traveling and when so they don’t shut off your cards.¬†
  • Forward your itinerary to a family member or friend who you’d trust in an emergency¬†situation.¬†
  • Communicate & reconfirm with any dog/cat/house sitters.¬†
  • Remind your boss you’ll be MIA in one week!

2 days before: 

  • Check the weather again & revise what you’ve packed so far – take out what you don’t need and start adding in the daily use items you couldn’t put in a week ago (like your favorite jeans or boots).¬†
  • Start loading books, movies & music onto tablets/phones.¬†
  • Make sure all electronics are charged up so you can throw your necessary chargers in your bag.

24 hours before: 

  • Swing by the bank & take out some cash so you can exchange immediately if necessary.¬†
  • Remind your boss/coworkers one more time & set your out of office before you leave!¬†

That night, before you go to sleep, make sure everything is organized and ready to go. Even if you have a later afternoon flight, being prepared the night before will allow you to sleep well & not worry about what you have to finish in the morning!

Traveling overseas is SO FUN and I’m excited to get on a long flight! It’s been a while! At 6 weeks out I’m making my must see/must do list and *already* thinking about what to pack. Can’t wait!

Other posts you might enjoy:

How to Pack Light & Always Carry On
Toiletry Swaps: Carry less liquid
How to Pick the Perfect Airbnb
How to Save Money on Flights
In Flight Essentials