When it comes to planning, there are three types of people out there. There are people who hear the word “planning” and are filled with excitement, people who feel immediately overwhelmed, and people who just say “fuck it” and plan absolutely nothing (mostly looking at you, gentlemen). We fall into the first category, aka, total nerds for planning. We planned our entire 15 month trip over the course of two years, by choice. Ladies in the streets, absolute freaks on the spreadsheets. THAT into it.
But we get it, not everyone is into all that. So we’ve broken down some of what we would call “essentials” for planning a trip abroad. If you fall into the first or second category, we hope this is a great place to start! If you’re in that third category, carpe diem friends, you probably already have your plane ticket.
Picking A Place
Ahh, the best part of travel planning. The possibilities are endless! Whether you’re studying abroad, taking a family vacation, planning your honeymoon, or want to get out of dodge for spring break, there aren’t many places you can’t get to with a plane ticket.
Things to Consider
Budget - a small budget does not mean you can’t travel, but it does mean you’re going to have to prioritize what you spend the most money on (flight, accommodation, tours, food, etc.)
Time frame - a long weekend vs. two months of travel are, obviously, very different things
Who you’re traveling with - alone? with your family? spouse? your dog? Who you’re traveling with, if anyone, will change what place makes the most sense to visit!
Time of year - wintertime in the states is summertime in Australia.
Climate - summer in Australia is at the same time as summer in Chile, but they have radically different daily temperatures.
Regions of the World
Choosing where you travel is obviously going to depend on where you’re coming from. It’s much easier to get to South America or Europe from the states than SE Asia. It’s much easier to get to China and Japan from Singapore than from South Africa. If you’re going on a study abroad program or traveling with young kids, that probably influences your top choices as well.
To learn more about the different regions of the world, check out our destinations tab!
Types of Travel
There are so many ways to travel! Alone, with your significant other, with friends, with family, as a student, to volunteer, the list goes on and on. Who, if anyone, you’re traveling with completely influences how you travel, so that can be a big factor in picking a place to go.
Not only that, but the kind of travel you’re looking for can also switch things up. Luxury travel, volunteer work, adventure travel, and backpacking are all incredibly different and will influence how you experience each country you visit.
Check out “Types of Travel” for our top picks!
Off-Season or Peak-Season
Here you’ve really got to do your research. There are major pros and cons to traveling during peak and off-peak season and they completely vary from country to country. We visited Sri Lanka during off-season and had an amazing time exploring Central Sri Lanka, but monsoon season meant we couldn’t get near the beach. We were dying to visit Nepal, but during off-season the famous trekking paths are completely shrouded in mist and visibility is zilch.
If you want to experience something very specific, it’s best to go as close to peak season as possible in order to avoid weather complications (monsoon season is NEVER fun). If you’re just going to enjoy a place and get to know it as well as possible, and inclement weather isn’t a thing in that part of the world, go off-season. Europe is a great example of a place that’s great off-season, when the crowds are less and the worst you’re likely to contend with is a few cold days. Southeast Asia, not so much.
Here are a few pros and cons to consider:
On-Season Travel Cons
Everything is the most expensive
Crowds for all attractions and sometimes just when you’re trying to walk down the street
Lower availability for everything including travel, accommodation, tours, etc.
On-Season Travel Pros
Best weather hands down
Seasonal activities at their peak
Lots of opportunities to meet people
Everything is open
Off-Season Travel Cons
Bad weather (this is a much bigger deal in certain parts of the world, make sure you do your research)
No availability of seasonal tours and attractions (ie: Bagan hot air balloons, skiing in Switzerland)
Missing seasonal highlights
Less crowds also means less opportunity to meet new people
Off-Season Travel Pros
Cheaper prices, basically everywhere (transport, souvenirs, accommodation, etc.)
Less crowds, meaning it’s easier to book things on the fly
More availability for attractions and tours
Budgeting for Your Trip
Saving for the Trip
People love to say that money doesn’t have to determine whether or not you get to travel, and to some extent this is true. There are very affordable ways to travel, especially if you know where to look. That being said, it always is easier planning a trip when you know roughly how much money you’re going to need.
If you’re opting for a luxury trip, this probably isn’t a section you need to look at (thank u, next). If you’re rocking with shoestring travel, there are plenty of resources out there to help you budget your trip. Here is great one from My Funky Travel that gives an estimated weekly shoestring budget for the different parts of the world.
Saving your trip can come in many forms.
We worked through school and the summers in-between for the two years leading up to our trip. Sometimes that means saying no to going out, cooking instead of eating out, or not buying that new shirt you want - but it all adds up! You can also go the old fashioned route and stuff cash into a mason jar so you’re not tempted to touch it while you’re saving up.
Another way to save up some money is to forgo gifts (birthdays, Christmas, graduation, etc.) and ask your friends and family to contribute to your trip! We used GoFundMe to create campaigns for big things we wanted to do (diving the GBR, volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, Running with the Bulls). Thanks to generous friends and family members, we managed to save up a good amount of money that way.
Planning to leave for a long time? Full nomadic life? “Fuck it I’m never coming back” style? Sell your stuff! You can make a lot of money selling and reselling clothes, furniture, even your car, through the internet. Using sites like eBay and craigslist or even doing an old fashioned garage sale will rake in a lot of cash to put towards your trip. A famous example of this is The Bucket List Family, but we have friends and family that we know we did very successfully.
Cushion Room and Why You Need It
It’s surprisingly (or maybe not) very easy to burn through all your money on the road. Try not to be that person. It’s always good to spare yourself a bit of cushion room incase you run into an emergency, whether it’s medical or personal, that forces you to cut your trip early and head home.
The way we look at it, it’s good to have enough saved for an immediate plane ride home from wherever you’re traveling to.
Working on the Road
If you’re low on money, this is the ultimate way to travel! There are hostels all over the world that will allow you to work for room and board, tour companies that will hire you for just enough money to live on, or bars and restaurants that need someone in a pinch. We encountered so many people staying for weeks, or even months, at hostels working reception or behind the bar. If you fall in love with a particular city or country, this is the ultimate way to stay and explore without burning through your money. Teaching English is another wonderful way to live and work in another country.
IF YOU DO THIS, PLEASE BE CAREFUL. This kind of work is not always legal and can get you in serious trouble in certain countries. Make sure that, no matter what, you do not overstay your visa while in this kind of working situation. We’ve heard of backpackers getting into sticky situations where they overstayed while working in a hostel and the hostel owners were threatening to turn them in to the authorities if they didn’t continue to work for free.
Another way to work on the road is to work from your computer. I did this throughout our entire trip and we used the extra money as a “party fund” for when we wanted to do things we hadn’t exactly budgeted for (looking at you, Paris absinthe bars). It’s worth saying that I was already working this way in the states before we left, which made it easier to travel with. I work as a writer and account manager, which are just two examples of jobs you can do remotely from your computer. If you have solid skills you want to leverage from your computer, consider making an account on UpWork before you leave and looking for digital work this way.
Examples of good remote skills:
Writing and editing
Coding and development
Any expert knowledge that’s unique (ie: if you’re an expert in U.S. tax law, someone might hire you for two hours just to explain it to them)