10 Easy Steps to Planning Your First International Trip

Planning your first international trip can be hard and super overwhelming. We’ve been on tons of international flights, so we know first hand how horrible long-haul flights are. Those tiny seats with hardly any leg room are awful, and plane food makes us wish we packed a three course meal instead of a couple muesli bars.

That being said, before this not-so-exciting experience can happen, you’ll need to plan and organise your trip. For someone who is traveling for the first time, the thought of doing this is probably making you a little queasy.

Are you nodding your head in agreement? Don’t worry – we’ve got your back.

Keep reading, because we’re about to share everything you need to know from choosing your destination to deciding what to take on the plane, and everything in between. Planning your first international trip doesn’t need to be stressful. In fact, it can actually be pretty fun! Here’s how.

10 Easy Steps to Planning Your First International Trip

1. Choose your destination

Choosing your destination needs to be the first step, because, well, otherwise you won’t be able to plan anything else!

If you’ve come this far and are ready to learn how to plan your first international trip, you probably already have a general idea as to where you’d like to go. If not, it’s time to do some research!

Before starting your Google search, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Would you prefer a hot or cold climate?
  2. What time of year are you hoping to travel?
  3. How much money are you allowing for your budget?

Once you’ve made your list of preferences from the three questions above, you’re now ready to start researching the perfect destination.

If you’ve decided you would like to spend December exploring a warm climate, search for summer destinations in December. This is a great place to start, and you’ll generally come across some countries you probably didn’t even know existed!

There are so many options when it comes to international travel. Unless you have your heart set on a certain location, it can be quite overwhelming trying to make a decision. Narrowing down your options to a specific season or time of the year can make things a lot easier.

Since this is your first international trip, we suggest choosing a location that’s similar to where you’re from and what you’re used to.

For example: If you’re Australian, consider traveling to a place like the USA, New Zealand, Canada or the UK. Basically, a Western country that won’t give you too much of a culture shock. This is a great way to introduce yourself to international travel, learn what works for you and get the hang of the basics.

Solo travel tip: If you’re booking your first international trip as a solo traveler, the thought of heading overseas alone might be a bit nerve-wracking. If you want to travel but can’t find someone to travel with, consider booking your trip with a company like Contiki. They have a ton of amazing tours available, to countries all over the world. I did the Best of USA Contiki tour back in June 2015 and it was an incredible experience!

2. Set a realistic budget

Once you’ve chosen your destination, the next step is generally setting yourself a realistic budget. Your budget will depend on whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with a group of people. If you’re embarking on solo travel, your costs will obviously be higher, as you’ll be paying for everything yourself. If you’re traveling as a couple, splitting the cost is the easiest and cheapest way to go about it. Group travel will cut back your costs even more, as everything will be split depending on the amount of people in your group.

Your budget will also depend on where you’re traveling to. If you’re visiting Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand or Vietnam, the cost of almost everything is much cheaper than most Western countries. Staying in a five star beachside resort in Thailand, is actually really affordable. Not to mention clothing, souvenirs and food are also very budget friendly across Southeast Asia.

If you have decided to visit a Western country such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States or Canada, you’ll need to save more to be able to travel comfortably. Most things are quite expensive in these countries, and it can be quite a shock if you’re visiting from a place where the cost of living is much lower.

Your budget should include the following:

Flights – Both domestic and international, if you need to fly to a major airport within your country, from your home town. 

Accomodation – If you prefer to live in style, you will obviously need to budget more for accomodation. But don’t worry, we’ll talk more about accomodation later on in the post.

Travel Insurance – This is probably the most important step, and we will tell you why soon!

Food – Your food budget will vary, depending on your style of travel. If you are someone who likes to eat out a lot while traveling, you’ll need to budget more for food. If you are happy to eat on the cheap and mainly live off street food, you won’t need to budget as much. 

Souvenirs – Even if you’re not big on souvenirs, it’s always a good idea to put a little bit of money aside. You’ll more than likely find something small that you want to purchase, so you’ll be glad you budgeted extra. Not to mention those gifts for family and friends you promised you would buy!

Transport – Most major cities around the world generally have fairly reliable and decent public transport. That being said, it’s good to budget a little bit extra just incase you need to catch a Taxi or Uber as an alternate form of transportation. 

Miscellaneous – It’s a good idea to be prepared for any extra costs such as tipping and taxes, especially in the United States. Tipping is customary in the United States, so having a bit of extra money already budgeted will help a lot. Withdraw some cash when you first arrive, so you’re prepared for a situation like this one to arise.

3. Choose your travel dates

Now that you’ve set yourself a budget, it’s time to decide exactly what time of year you’d like to travel. Remember back in step one, where you decided on the time of you you want to travel, to help you settle on a destination? Well now is the time we get a bit more specific.

Let’s say for example, you have chosen to spend the summer in my beautiful home country of Australia. Summer in Australia is from December until February, although it can still be quite warm a month or two on either side of this time frame. Naturally, December is going to be a peak and very busy time of year, being Christmas and the New Year. If you didn’t already know, we have some pretty spectacular beaches in Australia, and everyone wants to spend the Holiday season relaxing on one of them.

Unless you specifically want to spend Christmas in Australia, I suggest traveling towards the end of January to early February. There will be far fewer crowds, but you will still be able to enjoy a warm Australian summer!

Before settling on your specific travel dates, do some research about your chosen destination. Learn what their climate and seasons are, the best and worst times to travel and what is open and closed during the time of year you want to travel. This is the easiest way to settle on your travel dates, and make sure you’re not missing out on anything.

[bctt tweet=”Here are 10 steps to planning your first international trip! ” username=”rhiannontravels”]

4. Narrow down your destination plans

By now you’ve probably chosen your destination and locked in your travel dates. But have you narrowed down the city in which you would like to start and end your trip? For example, if you have decided to spend a few weeks traveling around Australia, which city would you like to start?

If you love theme parks, you may want to begin your holiday in Queensland. South Australia is perfect for wine lovers, as there are over five incredibly popular and beautiful wineries in the Adelaide Hills. Sydney is home to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as some famous beaches. The Northern Territory is great for outdoor lovers, and Uluru is one of Australia’s most popular attractions.

Again, Google will be mighty handy when deciding on the start and finish locations for your first international trip. We tend to base this decision on which city is cheapest to fly into, but more on that next!

5. Book flights

The next step in planning your first international trip, is booking your flights. Now that you’ve narrowed down the time of year you would like to visit, this part will be super easy. In step four I had you decide on the cities that you would like to start and end your trip in. Do some research and find out which city is the cheapest, when it comes to flights.

For example, we are currently planning our next international trip, which will be a combination of both Japan and China. Before booking flights, we research whether or not it is cheaper to fly into China or Japan first. You can do the same thing with individual cities in the country you’ve chosen to visit.

If you aren’t sure what the best flight booking website is, just do a quick Google search for book flights in _____. This should make it easy to find the most popular and commonly used websites in your country. You can also head to each airline’s individual website and search for flights that way.

When you’re ready to start searching for flights, have this information ready to go:

  • The exact dates of your departure and return
  • Time of day you would prefer to fly – if you aren’t too fussed about this, you can generally score some good deals for flying early in the morning or late at night
  • How many people are going to be traveling – adults and children will be priced differently
  • Whether or not you’re bringing checked baggage – This option costs extra, and essentially means a suitcase or bag that will be stored underneath the plane, instead of taking it on the plane with you.
  • Whether you would prefer a direct flight, or a flight that has stopovers in one or more cities on the way to your final destination

Tip: Generally you’ll be given the option to purchase travel insurance when booking flights. You can opt to do this whilst booking your flights, otherwise keep reading – I’m going to be sharing more tips about insurance later in the article!

6. Search for & book accomodation

This is where things can get a bit confusing. Finding the perfect accomodation to suit your preferences can be hard, especially if you are new to traveling. There are a few different types of accomodation available:


Hotels are always going to be easy to find, regardless of your budget. Depending on the city you’re staying in, you’ll almost always be able to find something that suits you, is in your budget and in a good location. It basically all comes down to whether you’re willing to sacrifice luxury and comfort. We always stay in hotels. It’s something that we’re willing to spend a bit extra on, for that extra comfort and security.


This is a good option for families or groups of people traveling together. Airbnb’s are independently owned houses or apartments, that are essentially ‘rented’ to someone during their stay in the area. Airbnb’s are similar to hotels, but generally cheaper and a more home-like option. Most of the time they will have a kitchen, which is great if you want to save money on food and cook your own meals. 


If you’re looking for super budget friendly accommodation, research hostels in the area you’re planning to stay. In most hostels, you will have a choice between private rooms, female only dorms and mixed dorms. The larger the mixed dorm is (the more beds the room can fit), the cheaper your nightly fee will be.

Camper Vans and RV’s

Some countries around the world are perfect for road tripping. Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Europe are some great examples. So depending on the location you’ve chosen, hitting the road may be the perfect option! There are lots of different types of camper vans. From super small (not much bigger than a regular sized car), to the huge, can-fit-an-entire-family style RV.

Camper vans are generally priced by the day, so the longer you plan on renting one, the more expensive it will be. That being said, choosing a camper van could save you a lot of money on accomodation. Given that you’re literally driving your accomodation with you, and there are a ton of cheap or even free places to set up camp for the night. 

Choose the style of accomodation that suits you best, and begin your search! The closer you are to the CBD, the more costly hotels will generally be. You can also score some pretty amazing deals just by shopping around. Do some research and read reviews about popular hotels, hostels or Airbnbs in the area.

7. Purchase travel insurance

Purchasing travel insurance is the most important step in planning your first international trip, or any holiday for that matter! You should never leave the country without having valid travel insurance, because unfortunately, there are a lot of things that could go wrong while traveling.

From the small but very frustrating issues such as lost luggage, to a bad physical injury that requires medical attention. It’s always important to include travel insurance into your budget. There are a lot of different travel insurance companies around, and this will depend on the country you live in. But generally if the option is available, fully comprehensive travel insurance is the best way to go.

Tip: Compare travel insurance companies in your home country to find one that suits your requirements and needs. Most travel insurance companies are fairly similar when it comes to coverage, it will mainly be the price that varies.

[bctt tweet=”Travel insurance is a must when traveling. Click to read more first-time international travel tips!” username=”rhiannontravels”]

8. Start writing your must-see list

I’m sure you already have an idea about what you absolutely cannot miss. After all, those places or attractions are probably the reason you chose your destination to begin with. But once you dig a little deeper into a city or country, you’ll find that there are an endless amount of things to see and do. What you consider a must-see will obviously vary depending on your interests. So do some research, talk to your travel buddy (or buddies!) and start compiling your bucket list! 

Tip: If you’re traveling with family or a group of people, compromises will need to be made when it comes to visiting attractions. But there’s a positive outcome to this situation: you will have the chance to experience some amazing places, that you never would have considered otherwise.

Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!
Disneyland – and theme parks in general – is always on my must-see list!

9. Write a packing list

Packing lists are essentially when planning your first international trip. I used to be a severe over-packer, though I have gotten better at it over the years. Learn from my mistakes, and only pack what’s necessary. I’ve even created a packing list guide just for you, so if you’re unsure as to what are essentials and what you can live without, check out that post.

Tip: Be sure to include important documents and your passport on your packing list. It’s all well and good that you’ve remembered to pack twelve pairs of underwear, but that won’t mean anything if you’ve left your passport at home. Lucky I’ve never done this, but I know there are a lot of people who have. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared!

10. Start saving

If you’re planning long-term travel, it’s best to save as much as you can before heading off on your adventure. For short term travel, how much money you’ll need to save depends on the location you’ve chosen and your budget. As a general rule though, always save and bring more money than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have extra money when you arrive home, than be struggling to pay for food and general everyday items half way through your trip!

From this point on, it’s all pretty much excitement and as little or as much planning as you’d like to do! Some people like to plan their trip down to the last second, others like to totally wing it. The choice is yours, and ultimately whatever you decide, you can always change things up! That’s the beauty about planning your own holiday: everything is up to you!

Planning your first international trip will most likely be a combination of uncertainty, a small amount of stress and maybe a bit of nerves and anxiety. But both the planning stage and actually embarking on your overseas adventure, will be one of the best experiences of your life, no matter where you decide to go! There’s something so exciting and life-changing about setting off on your first international holiday, so enjoy every single second of it!

Where are you planning your first international trip for? Tell me in the comments below! If there is anything you would like to know, that isn’t included in this post, I’m happy to answer any questions!

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Planning Your First International Trip: A Useful 10 Step Guide!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. That means, if you click in certain links in this post and make a purchase, I  receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will always only share my 100% honest opinion, and will never endorse a company or product that I wouldn’t use myself!



  1. July 22, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    #11 check visa requirements! Having traveled to Europe and Mexico, finding out I might need a visa ahead of time was a bit of a surprise!

    • July 22, 2017 / 1:22 pm

      Yes! Great suggestion! An important thing to remember, that I have forgotten to include! Thanks, Leigh 🙂

  2. July 22, 2017 / 1:18 pm

    I remembered the first time I had my International solo trip. It was a business trip so I did not do most of the planning though. This post is really helpful since I plan to travel (solo again) in December but this time, I’ll be doing all of the planning. Good read! 🙂

    • July 22, 2017 / 1:29 pm

      Where are you traveling to? That’s so exciting! Thanks for reading, Marie 🙂

  3. July 22, 2017 / 1:22 pm

    Nice post! I remember my first trip I had no clue what I was doing, luckily I had a super helpful lady at STA Travel giving advice and guidance. Hard to believe that was 5 years ago now 😳 Great guide for first-timers 👍🏼

    • July 22, 2017 / 2:59 pm

      It can be hard on your first international trip! It’s good to have people who can help make the experience easier 🙂 Thanks for reading, Aimee!

  4. July 22, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Great and comprehensive guide for a trip abroad! Following these steps I have no doubt any international adventure will be a success:) great job.

  5. July 22, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    You’ve covered some super helpful points in this post! I feel like I am always forgetting something when planning my next adventure. I love how you’ve broken down the budget as well, I am always under budgeting and leaving out something important! Will have to save for later

    • July 22, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      It’s so easy to forget things, especially on an international trip! Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

  6. July 22, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    Good points. I always think about writing a packing list but then never get around to it and instead turn into a hot mess, throwing things into a suitcase half an hour before I’m due to leave for the airport. And good mention on writing a list about things you may want to do so you can research them ahead of time, book accordingly and not end up missing out. In conclusions – lists are very helpful!

    • July 22, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      Packing lists are super helpful, but it’s true, most of us forget to write them! Planning attractions can be useful! I remember in Japan, we didn’t plan very well in one of the cities we visited, and everything we wanted to see and do was closed on that day! Lists are very helpful 🙂 Thanks for reading, 🙂

  7. July 22, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    Nailed it! Travel insurance is an absolute must, if you cant afford insurance you shouldn’t be travelling. You can also leave with no money and work in that country to earn some pennies 🙂

    • July 22, 2017 / 3:32 pm

      Travel insurance definitely is a must! That’s a great post, too! Working in the country you’re visiting to earn some extra cash 🙂 thanks for reading!

  8. July 22, 2017 / 3:38 pm

    I can still remember the first time I headed out for an international trip. I had no idea what to do luckily my husband had a little bit more experience than me. Irrespective we goofed up but we learned from that. The irony is that we expected to be perfect on the next trip after learning from our mistakes. I’ve lost count of the number of international trips my hubby has done. Mine ranks at around 10… I think. We still make mistakes and we definitely are not perfect! Lol!

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:10 pm

      It can be quite funny making little mistakes on your first international trip! But it’s great that we’re able to learn from those mistakes 🙂 Makes for great stories to tell! Thanks for reading, Penny 🙂

  9. karen
    July 22, 2017 / 4:41 pm

    I’d also add making an excel to double check if you’ve booked a hotel for every night that you’ll be there. I use one to help me get organized in terms of giving myself enough time in between locations!

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      This is a great tip! Being extra organised is always a good idea, especially for international travel! Thanks for reading, Karen 🙂

  10. July 22, 2017 / 8:16 pm

    Yes this is exactly the way to do it! I make a list of things I want to see where before I book my tickets! And I’m at the point now when Jason and I travel where we will explore anywhere, language barrier or not!

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      That’s awesome! The more international trips you go on, the more comfortable you become! It’s all about the learning curve at the beginning! Thanks for reading, Stacey 🙂

  11. July 22, 2017 / 11:05 pm

    Great post! I’d also recommend considering if you know anyone you can stay with. I have family in Canada so staying with them instead of paying for accommodation saved me so much!

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:13 pm

      That’s an awesome point, and I’m surprised I forgot to include it! I also have family in California, and I’ve stayed with them lots of times! Thanks for the suggestion, Hayley 🙂

  12. July 22, 2017 / 11:45 pm

    About the souvenirs budget, I’ve recently started bringing two distinctive types of souvenirs – 1. recipes from the country (I eat something delicious and find a way to ask a local to show me how to cook it, then invite friends back at home and cook this meal for them) and 2. magnets created from photos I shot (because this way these fridge magnets have a story behind, plus I don’t have to bring the magnets, I print them back at home).

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:14 pm

      First of all, your recipe idea is amazing! I love that you get to know the locals and have them show you how to cool local cuisine. Such an amazing way to really get a feel for the country! Your creativity is amazing! I love the magnets idea too, I’ve never thought to do that! Thanks for reading, Maria 🙂

  13. July 23, 2017 / 4:00 am

    Useful post for new travellers. As we now travel frequently we forget how daunting it first was.

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:15 pm

      It can be daunting at first! Hopefully the post helps new travelers. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  14. July 23, 2017 / 5:54 am

    I ALWAYS write a packing list before I leave somewhere! If I don’t I will forget something no doubt.

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:15 pm

      Packing lists are essential! That’s true, they’re the best way to make sure you don’t forget anything! Thanks for reading, Yasmina 🙂

  15. July 23, 2017 / 10:51 am

    I also recommend signing up to the airline and hotel rewards and make every purchase count. You may feel that there is little point as you will not travel enough but there are so many ways to collect them that you would be missing a trick without them. I echo Leigh’s comments re visas which made me think of something else too – money for departure tax. We almost got stranded in Grenada as the ATM was not working and they would not let us leave without paying. What ensued was a mad rush into town, queue jumping at the bank and heightened blood pressure.

    • July 23, 2017 / 12:17 pm

      Those are all amazing suggestions! I’m signed up to a couple of airline rewards, and I think they are worth it! You’re right, you can get points in so many different ways! That would have been quite scary almost being stranded somewhere! Thanks for the suggestions, Anne 🙂

  16. July 23, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    I’m a veteran international traveller, but my upcoming trip is the first one I’m doing solo, month-long, in backpacking style. So, I’ve finally put in writing a real packing list – standard and trip-dependent. 😀 Just, you know, really audit what I usually bring and thinking about why… it’s gonna be good.

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:11 am

      Good luck on your first solo international trip! Where are you headed? I’m sure you’ll have tons of fun 🙂 Packing lists are great, aren’t they! Thanks for reading 🙂

  17. July 23, 2017 / 3:30 pm

    Great tips! I always like to make a make a list of “must sees” too–so helpful to figure out the things you really want to do, and then you can fill in other activities around those. Like the budget section as well–always important to remember all the different aspects you need to budget for!

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:10 am

      Writing a list of must sees is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything, and to budget! Most of those must-see places or things cost money, so it all works well together 🙂 Thanks for reading, Jenna! 🙂

  18. July 23, 2017 / 9:39 pm

    Helpful post! Basically exactly what I follow too 🙂

  19. July 23, 2017 / 9:51 pm

    What a helpful guide! We haven’t done any international travel yet but we would like to sometime.

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:08 am

      I hope you get to travel internationally soon! Where is the first place you’d like to travel overseas? 🙂 Thanks for reading, April! 🙂

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:07 am

      It can be frustrating learning things the hard way, but at least you know from experience for next time! Thanks for reading 🙂

  20. Candiss
    July 24, 2017 / 3:42 am

    Great tips! I always like to make sure I have downloaded the local language on google translate as well as have very specific details for how I am getting from the airport to my first accommodation. There is nothing worse than being bleary eyed from flying and then having to figure that out! 🙂

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:06 am

      That’s a great suggestion! Making sure to have a mode of transport figured out when you arrive at the airport is essential! Thanks for the tip, and thanks for reading, Candiss! 🙂

  21. Valerie - Trusted Travel Girl
    July 24, 2017 / 8:01 am

    What a great guide for first time travelers. I love that you remind everyone to purchase travel insurance! Thats a necessity

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:05 am

      Travel insurance is definitely a necessity! You should always have insurance when traveling 🙂 Thanks for reading, Valerie! 🙂

  22. July 24, 2017 / 9:10 am

    Great list! I think everyone is a little nervous the first time they travel far from home. A totally agree on the airplane snacks. I usually over pack them because most airlines do not have great food. Some are really good though.

    • July 24, 2017 / 10:03 am

      The airplane snacks are terrible most of the time! The only good thing (in my opinion) is the ice cream, haha! Thanks for reading, Kathleen 🙂

  23. July 24, 2017 / 11:08 am

    This is such a fantastic guide for anyone planning an international trip for the first time! It can be stressful and hard to know where to start, so I think this serves as an amazing resource!

    • July 24, 2017 / 11:15 am

      Thanks so much, Natalie! You’re right, traveling internationally for the first time can be very stressful! Hopefully posts like this can help people along the way 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

  24. July 24, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Definitely the hardest part for me every time I plan a trip is deciding where to go! There are just way too many options. Great round up though!

    • July 24, 2017 / 2:03 pm

      That’s a great point! It can be so difficult to decide, especially if you’ve got more than one place you really want to visit! Thanks for reading, Madi 🙂

  25. Amy
    July 25, 2017 / 2:06 am

    Love this post, some really great tips.

  26. Indrani
    July 25, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    For me it starts with save, save and save more! Very well enumerated points. And regarding the souvenirs, I always keep a bigger budget for them 😛 🙂

    • July 26, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      Saving is very important! The more you save, the more you can see and do! And the more souvenirs you can buy! Haha. I’m pretty bad with souvenirs too lol! Thanks for reading 🙂

  27. Megan Jerrard
    July 25, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    Really great guide, thanks for sharing your tips 🙂 It’s nice to have everything laid out in an easy to follow checklist, especially as when planning your first trip the information can be so overwhelming.

    • July 26, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Thanks so much for reading Megan! I love reading checklists especially when it comes to planning a trip. It’s the easiest way to do it! 🙂

  28. July 26, 2017 / 4:24 am

    I remember my first trip abroad 🙂 I went to Taiwan to teach kids and it was an amazing time. I had no idea what to see and where to go in Taiwan so it was all spontaneous. I was lucky enough to meet the right people who took me every where 🙂 So I would add to your list – “Pray to meet the right people during your trips” 🙂 hahaha


    • July 26, 2017 / 12:05 pm

      Don’t you love meeting awesome people who know the best places to go?! Haha that’s great! Awesome suggestion lol! Thanks for reading, Kasia 🙂

  29. July 26, 2017 / 9:57 am

    A very thorough guide for planning an international trip! I am glad you brought up travel insurance! It is so important to have one and so many people have overlooked!

    • July 26, 2017 / 11:59 am

      Thanks so much! Travel insurance is very important! Hopefully new international travelers make sure to purchase it! Thanks for reading 🙂

  30. July 28, 2017 / 1:08 am

    Great post Rhiannon!

  31. August 1, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    These are some of the wonderful tips and for sure they can make the planning of international trip much easier and less stressful. I too save more too travel more. Thanks for the awesome post.

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