How to Plan International Trip
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How to Plan an International Trip on Google Docs

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The best way to build your custom travel itinerary is to do research! It’s how I do all my international trip planning. I’ve used this tactic specifically for Europe and Asia, but it can be modified for anywhere. This blog post on how to plan an international trip can even be used to build your round-the-world trip itinerary!

Before I went to Europe for the first time, I read books, travel magazines, and websites and watched all those movies that I had said, ” Oh, I want to see that someday!” In the olden days, I went to my local library to get books on travel to learn how to plan an international trip. I know who goes to a library anymore, but hey, it’s free! Or you can, of course, browse the internet and this blog! Once you’ve done that, begin your international trip planning by compiling a list of the bucket list places you want to go.

How to Plan International Trip

How to Plan an International Trip

Depending on how much time you have and how far destinations are from each other will dictate how much you can accomplish. I Googled every place I wanted to visit and created a Google Drive Document to keep track of it all. I’m a visual person, so seeing this laid out with photos especially helps me to remember what’s what, especially if you’re planning something as extensive as a 4 week European itinerary.

Below is an example of what I did for each site. It was first separated by country and city (with a guesstimate on the number of days), followed by picture, name, opening hours, notes, admission cost, and duration. Duration, I think, is one that a lot of people forget about when international trip planning. Knowing whether it’ll take half a day or an hour helps to plan out how much you can accomplish.

This became the start of my custom travel itinerary, which I absolutely live by. Not to say plans don’t change, but it really helps me make the most of my trips, so it’s one of my top travel tips when learning how to plan an international trip!

How to Plan International Trip

Consider a Sightseeing Pass While International Trip Planning

A lot of cities will have sightseeing passes. If I plan on getting one, like the Paris Museum Pass or the Omnia Card, then I mark on my custom travel itinerary which locations that pass covers by highlighting the destination’s name. It helps to remind me where not to buy a ticket and instead show my pass or if there’s anything else, like front-of-the-line access on offer, that can save some time. I love sightseeing passes because you can get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s one of the number one things I recommend when international trip planning.

Travel tip: Sign up for the newsletter of whatever pass you’re considering getting as they sometimes will email discounts. Usually it’s only 10-15%, but savings are savings!

custom travel itinerary google my maps

Building a Custom Travel Itinerary Map on Google

Next, I pinned all the sites I wanted to see to a custom travel itinerary on Google My Maps. You can name the map, save it, print it, and bring it on your trip. If you are going to print it, I’d advise creating a map for each city so that when printed, it isn’t tiny and unreadable. If I plan to print my map, I mark up my map with numbers corresponding to my Google Doc so that I know which location is which.

You can also access these maps via the Google Maps app if you log in to your Google account, tap Saved, then scroll down to Maps. From there, you should be able to access any of the Google My Maps you have built.

Google My Maps Example

The Google My Maps I created for London is above as an example. This will help you plan your days and determine how long it will take to get from place to place. You can also see how far apart everything is. Many times, there’s been a place I’ve added to my list only to see it’s very far out of the city and would take a while to get to. If that happens, I usually weigh how much I actually want to see that place. If it’s a must for me, I make it work. However, I’ll toss it off the list entirely if I’m iffy about it.

For example, Hampton Court Palace is relatively close to London, so it was an easy day trip from there. Warwick Castle, however, was a lot farther. When I looked up how much it would cost to take a train there, I decided it wasn’t worth adding to my custom travel itinerary. Doing this will save you time and money. And this way, you won’t go to buy a ticket and be shocked at how much it’s costing you. Especially when you can be doing something else instead of wasting time.

While you’re on your trip, this map can help you if you get done early at one location. You can quickly figure out if another site is nearby. It’s also good to go over this custom travel itinerary map before your trip and each morning so you can get the lay of the land.

Travel tip: Downloading the Maps.me app is also a good idea. Just make sure to download whatever location you’ll be at in advance so that you can look up places on the go and get directions without Wi-Fi.

eiffel tower international trip planning

Public Transportation vs. Car Rentals

I have only rented a car on a trip twice in my traveling life. Once in Rhodes, Greece, and again in Rovaniemi, Finland. Both times I did it because the sites I wanted to see in each of those locations were so spread out that getting public transport seemed like a nightmare.

If you do decide to rent a car, make sure you can. When I rented the car in Greece, I had to get an international driver’s permit, which was easy enough to get at AAA for $20. I also made sure to get the insurance at the car rental place. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, so make sure to either use your insurance (check with your provider on this option) or get it at the rental place.

I’m thankful I got it at the rental place because upon returning the car, they seemed to think I had somehow damaged the car and were giving me a hard time until one employee pointed out I had their insurance, and suddenly it was a non-issue. When I was in Finland, however, no permit was needed, and no issues arose upon returning the vehicle so just keep all this in mind if you do rent a car. You’ll also need to consider parking as sometimes that alone can be costly.

I will note that depending on where you are going, it’s usually cheaper to take public transportation and more convenient. For most places in Europe, it made more sense to go by train or bus in my experience. However, occasionally, it is cheaper to rent a car so do your research while international trip planning.

solo trip planner

Using Google Sheets for International Trip Planning

Now, you don’t have to use this as a female solo traveler planner; you can use it with anyone! But, as I got this awesome Google Sheet idea from a fellow solo female traveler, I wanted to point it out as a great option for those of us lone travelers! On Google Sheets, she’s laid out the city, type (e.g., flight, excursion, hotel), date, time, excursion or event, confirmation number, and notes.

If you’re doing this with another, you can also list out the total and per-person costs so that you can easily tally up what each other owes. You’ll notice it’s also color-coded: yellow for flights, green for transportation, orange for hotels or hostels, and blue for excursions. What I’m showing there is just a snippet of what our adventure to Finland looked like, but you get the idea. And I loved this approach when international trip planning!

We were also able to access this easily through the Google Sheets app. Make sure to mark your Google Sheet for your trip as “Make available offline” so that you can assess it even without wifi.

Looking for European Destinations to Add to Your Custom Travel Itinerary?

Check out these awesome travel guides…

…for London?: Check out The Ultimate 2 Day London Itinerary for Budget Travelers

…for Dublin?: Check out How to Spend 2 Days in Dublin Ireland Cheaply

…for Paris?: Check out How to Build an Itinerary for 3 Days in Paris

…for Venice?: Check out Your Budget Wise One Day In Venice Itinerary

…for Rome?: Check out How to Build a 3 Day Itinerary for Rome Italy

…for Vienna?: Check out How Many Days in Vienna? A Simple Guide for First-timers

…for Salzburg?: Check out One Day in Salzburg: The Sound of Music and More!

I hope this answers the question of how to plan an international trip. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. I’ll continue to update this with my top tips on how to plan an international trip, so check back as often as you need.

Want to remember this? Pin this How to Plan an Internation Trip with Google Docs article to your favorite Pinterest board!

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