Plan Your International Trip

Booking your first international trip can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Use this post to de-mystify the process and feel confident planning your vacation to save money and still have great value.

Quick tips:

  • It may be worth opening a travel credit card to pay for your trip. Many have generous sign-up bonuses and you’ll earn high points while traveling. Some also offer additional travel insurance to keep you covered in case of travel delays, lost baggage, rental car insurance, and more. Check Nerd Wallet for the latest recs.

I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gives 3 points per dollar for ALL travel and dining, including flights, ubers, trains, buses, etc., which are then worth 50% more when you use them to book future travel. You also get a large sign-up bonus, Priority Pass lounge access, Global Entry, and a host of other high-value benefits. Apply here (in full transparency, I benefit from referrals).


1. START: Start by getting a sense of the price range for flights.

Use Google Flights and check the date grid to see which dates are likely cheapest for departure/return (if your dates are flexible) and the price graph to see the trend for prices.

You can also set an alert to notify you by email if prices drop or increase. Toggle “on”.

2. BOOK: When you’re ready to book, check prices across a few different sites to find the best option across dates, price, total duration (stopovers).

These are my favorite flight booking sites:

Once you find the flight you want, see if you can book it:

  1. Directly with the airline (sometimes more customer support than booking through a 3rd party)
  2. Through your travel credit card portal (Chase gives extra rewards and boosts points used toward travel purchases in their internal portal)
  3. Otherwise, book through the 3rd party search engine you found it on.


  • AirHelp will reimburse you in case of delays
  • Sprout will check if prices drop and reimburse you the difference


By far the winner across the board is for best quality + prices. Create an account to unlock greater discounts.


I highly recommend having a travel rewards credit card. I personally use Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is consistently rated as a top travel card on Nerd Wallet.

Check your bank’s international ATM fees and foreign exchange fees. Charles Schwab is my personal favorite for their full-atm fee reimbursements and 0% foreign transaction fees on their free investor + checking account. More here.


Make sure your passport has 6 months of validity and at least one empty page for entry/exit stamps.

Check the visa requirements for the country you intend to visit.


See my travel list on Amazon.

  • Travel adaptors
  • Lifestraw
  • Power bank (Anker brand is generally the best for charging accessories)
  • Trtl neck pillow 
  • Eye mask, ear plugs, face mask
  • Hand lotion (airplanes are DRY!)
  • Journal
  • Compression socks (an absolute must for long hauls!)
  • iPhone – MacBook – iPad – AirPods (succumbed to the Apple universe)
  • Kindle paperwhite kids (kids version is cheaper + no ads!)
  • Hand sanitizer wipes for the seatbelt + tray
  • Fanny pack (SO helpful for long walking days tourist-ing about)

Apps to download

  • XE currency exchange app (download for offline use)
  • Google translate (download offline)
  • Google maps (download city map for offline use)
  • Google voice (in case you do not have a local sim and need to receive OTP / 2-step verification)
  • Uber
  • Splitwise (expense-sharing for group trips)
  • Insight timer (sleep meditations help me fall asleep in new places)

Before you go…

  • Stop or forward your mail
  • Unplug unnecessary electronics (things turned off but plugged in still drain energy)
  • Have a friend or neighbor on-call to check on your home in case of inclement weather or other emergencies


  • Have your first hotel name + address handy for your immigration form upon arrival
  • Look up how you will get from the airport to your hotel in case the airport doesn’t have wifi (easiest is often to connect to airport wifi and call an uber, if it’s available and not overly costly, but well worth checking public transportation options as this is increasingly convenient in major cities).
  • Check at the airport to purchase a SIM and pre-paid plan, as it’s often very affordable