Traveling internationally is more complicated than doing so domestically. Some countries require visas, immunization shots, invitations, etc. for entry. Your trip would be way smoother if you plan ahead, not to mention it saves you money for buying plane tickets at least 3 months ahead of departure. In addition, first thing you should research is your destination’s travel restriction during COVID-19. Some countries require a 72-hour negative COVID test ahead of the departure date and some countries are only allowing entrance for its own citizens.
My post here is an example of how I typically plan an international trip from Milwaukee. This example is how I would plan a 5-day trip from Milwaukee to Berlin. The Gantt chart provides you an overview of the trip schedule, including the main and subtasks for it.
1. Travel precautions during COVID
- Currently, the USA is still on the restricted list for entering Germany. My travel arrangement is only an example. Germany is only allowing EU residents and a few other countries to enter its border at this point.
- Most commercial flights require US residents to have negative COVID tests before entering. Airline carriers also require travelers to wear face masks when on the plane.
- Some countries require foreigners to quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival. Germany is not one of them, however, the US residents are not allowed to enter Germany as of now.
2. Getting to the airport
- Does your city have a big international airport? If not, taking a coach bus to the international airport can save you some money.
- Milwaukee does have international flights, however, O’Hare in Chicago has way more international flights and doing so saves my airfare from Milwaukee to Chicago.
- Therefore, I am taking the $59 round trip coach bus from Milwaukee downtown intermodal station to O’Hare airport.
3. Booking international flights
- Buying airplane tickets at least 3 months ahead of your departure saves you a lot of money. Plane tickets tends to spike the closer it is to the departure time.
- I would suggest clearing your browser history and use a VPN before doing airfare comparison. Try to put your VPN location in different cities and see if you can find a lower price than without a VPN.
- I also use both Google flights and different flight booking sites to do comparison.
- For my example, I chose the cheapest roundtrip flight with United and Lufthansa for 10/28/20 – 11/1/20. ($1,322)
4. Choosing the hotel at the destination
- Google to find a hotel at your destination with a high review. Make sure to read both the high the low reviews on the sites. You should keep in mind the purpose of your travel and find a lodging option that is both convenient and fits your budget.
- For my example, I chose the Holiday Inn Express Berlin City Centre for $56 per night. It has 4.1/5 stars, and it is at a very convenient location with a lot of restaurants and transportation options.
5. Restaurants near the hotel
- Dining options is another key consideration when choosing your hotel. You may be able to eat at the hotel, however, you can likely find cheaper and better food at local restaurants.
- My hotel has many restaurants nearby, including sushi, German restaurant, pizza shop, Indian restaurant and they are around $15 – $20 per meal. If I have about $50 a day for meal budget, the entire food budget for my trip would be around $250.
- Another key consideration to keep in mind is what are the transportation options. Not all cities have well-developed traffic, and you might need to rent a car when you are there.
- According to research, the best way for transportation in Berlin is its underground train. Single trips are around 2 euros and it is a well-knitted traffic network throughout different cities in Germany. If I take 2-3 trips a day, my 5-day trip in Berlin would probably consist of me using the train for around 10 times, therefore, 20 euros in total.
- Can also use uber if I am in a rush. It cost more than the underground train, but I will need to use it if I am in a time constraint.
7. Payments and Currency
- You can do currency exchange at the airport when you land or before you leave the U.S. You need to research what is the most common payment option in your destination, whether it be cash, card, or contact-less payment.
- The most common payment option in Berlin is cash, mobile payments are also welcome at newer businesses. Be sure to contact your bank for international payments before you leave the U.S. if you plan on using your credit card overseas. 1 euro equals to 1.18 US Dollars.
8. Clothes to bring
- This is another variable that would depend on the timing, purpose of your travel and your preference. You would need to google search the weather at the destination and bring the according clothing.
The key takeaway is do enough research ahead of your trip to make the experience as smooth as possible. Getting visas, proper documents, and buying plane tickets are some of the most important reasons to plan ahead.