Traveling for the first time can be a daunting experience. There is so much that needs to be planned and organise, and so many options when it comes to flights and accomodation. Even the most experienced travelers have some doubts and worries when it gets closer to that anticipated departure day. Luckily for you, there are a ton of resources and tips for first time travelers, to help you along the way.

36 Tips for First Time Travelers | Rhiannon Travels

Keep reading for tips when it comes to every aspect of international travel. We’ve compiled this list of tips for first time travelers, to help your first international adventure be as smooth sailing and stress free as possible. From booking and planning, to what to pack and the things you need to do on departure day.

Tips for First Time Travelers: The Ultimate Guide

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for continuing to support Rhiannon Travels, and keeping it a free travel guide and resource for everyone to use!

Booking & Planning Your Trip

The booking and planning stages of your first international trip can be the most stressful. There’s a lot to research, book and organise, and that’s before you even step foot on your first plane. Here are some important things to remember and tips for first time travelers, when it comes to booking and planning for your trip:

Shop Around when Booking Accomodation and Flights – Accomodation rates and flights tend to be cheaper at the beginning of the week, so check on a Tuesday or Wednesday first, to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Shopping around is the best way to be sure you’re getting a good rate, and aren’t being unnecessarily charged extra.

Read Accomodation Reviews – Regardless of the type of accomodation you choose, it’s important to read reviews left by fellow travelers. This is the best way to get an idea about what you’re in for, and if there are any issues to be aware of. Stay away from hotels, hostels or any other type of accomodation that mention bed bugs. This is a common occurrence in cheap hostels, so have a good read of the reviews across multiple websites before booking.

Don’t Forget Insurance – Purchasing travel insurance should be at the very top of your list of things to do, whether you’re a first time traveler or experienced. No matter where you’re heading in the world, travel insurance is an absolute must – especially if you are traveling internationally. We recommend purchasing full comprehensive travel insurance, and double check the travel dates you are inputting when purchasing.

Transport from Airport to Hotel (and vice versa) – If you’re traveling to a particular country for the first time, you’ll more than likely need to do some research as to the best transport option from the airport to your hotel. This can be done easily with a quick Google search. Find out whether there are any bus or train services available. Countries such as Japan and China have impeccable train and Subway services, which are generally the best option when it comes to transport.

Related: Japan Rail Pass & Shinkansen – Transport and Navigation in Japan

Make sure your Passport is Valid and has at least six month remaining – Ensuring your passport is valid and has enough time left on it before expiry, is another important step when booking your international trip. Most countries require you to have a certain amount of time left on your passport before allowing you entry, so double and triple check this when you decide on your location.

Check whether you need Vaccinations – If you’re traveling to some countries around the world (Southeast Asia and Africa are good examples) you may need vaccinations. Book an appointment with your doctor to make sure, before leaving for your trip. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Look into Currency Conversion and Travel Money Cards – There are a lot of options when it comes to taking money overseas. From cash to a travel money card, your everyday credit card or debit card. Depending on the country, I either use my own debit card or a travel money card. It’s a good idea to take some cash, too, even if you plan to withdraw some once you arrive. Having a little bit of cash for your first couple of hours in an unfamiliar country, is always a good idea for things like public transport, catching a Taxi or Uber and even just for some snacks upon arriving.

Local Sim Card or Portable Wifi Device – If you plan to use the internet quite frequently while traveling, I recommend purchasing a portable wifi device. We purchased one for our month long trip to Japan, but there are a ton of options available for purchase online. The device that is best will vary depending on the country you’re visiting, so do some research beforehand to be sure.

Packing For Your Trip

There are a few things that you can do when it comes to packing for your trip, to make the whole experience a lot less overwhelming. Here are some of my favourite tips for first time travelers, when it comes to that dreaded packing:

Try to Pack Light – I’m not very good at this, but packing light is the best way to go, regardless of where you’re traveling. Whether you’re bringing along a suitcase or you’re traveling with just one backpack, you don’t want to be stuck with a million kilos worth of unnecessary items. Check out our packing list for first time female travelers heading overseas, for some ideas! Remember that you can (almost) always purchase anything you’ve forgotten when you arrive at your destination!

Related: A Packing List for First Time International Female Travelers

Most Hotels provide complimentary Shampoo and Conditioner – If you can’t find it listed anywhere on the hotel’s website, give them a call to double check. Most hotels do provide free shampoo and conditioner these days, which means you won’t need to pack any!

Pack your Important Items and a Spare Outfit in your Carry On Bag – Unfortunately, checked luggage goes missing quite frequently. If this happens to you (touch wood that it doesn’t), it’s best to be prepared. I like to pack the following items in my carry on: an extra pair of underwear, a spare outfit, toothpaste and a toothbrush, deodorant, laptop, camera, phone and chargers, medication and pain killers. That way, if my checked luggage does go missing, at least I have the most important items with me. Everything else can be replaced.

Check the Season and Weather before Packing – If you’re visiting the United States during their summer, you’re not going to need a big fluffy jacket. If you’re visiting England during their winter, it will more than likely be snowing, so you’ll definitely need a jacket. Google will be your best friend when it comes to determining what the climate is in the country you’re heading.

Choose the right type of Luggage for your Destination – I’m a suitcase girl. Always have been, and probably always will be. But there are some people who swear by carrying their belongings on their back. This is a great option if you’re heading to countries with a lot of cobblestone streets, or you’re setting off on a backpacking trip around the world. Again, research is great for determining which luggage is best. There are pros and cons to all types, and it’s definitely a personal choice.

Pack an Adapter – Different countries around the world use different plugs and adapters. I recommend purchasing a worldwide adapter that can be used anywhere, which generally include a couple of USB ports for ultimate convenience.

Make Photocopies of your Important Documents – It’s a good idea to have a photocopy of all important documents (flight information, accomodation bookings, any tickets you’ve booked, travel insurance etc). Keep these seperate from your originals, just incase you misplace them. I use a travel wallet to store my passport, tickets and cash, and keep photocopies in my suitcase.

Departure Day

The day has finally come. You’re about to set off on your first international adventure, but there are still a few things left to do to make the whole experience as smooth sailing as possible. Here are some tips for first time travelers, and your departure day checklist:

Check in Online (if your airline allows this) – Depending on the airline you have chosen to fly with, you may be able to check in online. Double check around 24 hours before your flight leaves, to see whether you qualify for early online check in. If you’ve got a domestic layover, your chances of being able to do this are much better.

Always arrive at the Airport Early – It’s best to arrive at the airport at least two hours early, and even longer for international flights. This will give you enough time to check in, go through security and customs, purchase some snacks and use the toilet once or twice before boarding your flight. There’s nothing worse than being late, having to rush through security, run to your gate then be stuck on a plane for six hours. Always be prepared!

Bring an empty drink bottle – The water served on planes is pretty gross, and we suggest avoiding it at all cost. Bring along an empty drink bottle that you can fill up once through security. Most airports will have a ton of water fountains on the other side of security, where you can fill up for the plane trip.

Don’t Forget Headphones – Even if you don’t plan on listening to music on your flight, it’s always a good idea packing a pair of good quality noise cancelling headphones. You could be seated next to a screaming baby or have a loud group of teenagers nearby. If this is the case, you will be thankful you packed some headphones.

Set Multiple Alarms for an Early Departure – If you have an early flight, no matter how excited you are, you’ll more than likely sleep in if you don’t set an alarm. I like to set at least two alarms on a regular work day. So if an international flight is in question, you can bet I’m setting many more. It’s better to arrive early, than arrive late. Duh.

Attach Distinctive Features to your Luggage – If you’re checking your luggage (meaning it will go underneath the plane instead of in the overhead bins), it’s a good idea to attach a little distinguishing feature, to make it easier to spot on the conveyor belt. Something simple like a ribbon, a patch or some stickers work great. Attaching something distinctive to your luggage could also come in handy if it goes missing. Trying to explain my hot pink suitcase with the bright yellow ribbons is a lot easier than my black suitcase that look’s like everyone else’s. Be creative!

Pack a Travel Pillow – Even if you don’t use them for their intended purpose, having a travel pillow close by will prove to be a great idea. Trust me!

Be Kind to Airport Staff – Although I can’t say this from personal experience, I would imagine working in an airport is a stressful job. You’re faced with all sorts of potentially dangerous situations every day, and the last thing these people need is having to deal with difficult travelers. Be kind, smile and say hello to staff when purchasing your plane snacks. Don’t kick up a fuss if you’re asked for a random security check. Remember, these people are just doing their jobs and trying to ensure your safety.

That also goes for Flight Attendants – Don’t be that person who complains because your flight has run out of your favourite beverage. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t have a cup of coffee. Listen to the flight attendants. If the seatbelt sign is on, do not get up. Keep your seatbelt on and be patient. Turn your phone to airplane mode when told to do so. Put your seat up for meals, take-off and landing. Basically, don’t be a d***.

Take a Jumper or Hoodie on the Plane – Even if you’re heading to the desert, you’ll be thankful you have a jacket on the plane. They get cold, and the higher up you fly, the colder they get. I always take a hoodie on the plane with me, and to this day, I’ve always been glad I did.

Arriving At Your Destination

So you’ve survived your first international flight, and are ready to get out and explore your destination – finally! Here are some tips for first time travelers, to get you through your first couple of days in a new country:

Customs is a fact of life. Be patient – If you’re traveling internationally, customs is a fact of life. Don’t complain because you’ve just landed from an eight hour flight, and still have to make your way through customs. It’s part of the traveling experience. Don’t kick up a fuss, because you’ll just make yourself look suspicious. Stand quietly, wait for your turn and you’ll be out exploring in no time!

Remember, not every Country speaks English – If you’re a westerner traveling to an Asian country, for example, culture shock is a very real thing. Communicating with people and finding your way around may be difficult at first. Don’t expect people to speak English, if you aren’t in an English speaking country. You’re the visitor, so it’s up to you to learn some key words and phrases, to make your adventure easier!

Don’t look too much like a Tourist – This is mainly for safety purposes. If you’re walking around with a giant map in your face, pointing in different directions and looking as though you’ve just landed on Mars, you’ll stand out. There are bad people everywhere in the world, and they are more likely to target people who are vulnerable. So do yourself a favour, and act like you know what you’re doing! By all means check your map and find your bearings, but do it discreetly and away from large groups of people.

Keep your Passport safe at all times – Your passport is the number one most important possession you will have while traveling. Always make sure you know exactly where it is, and if you are required to take it with you while exploring each day, keep it in a very safe place.

On that note, keep your Belongings safe at all times – These days, it’s easy to find secure, lockable backpacks for traveling. Whether or not you choose a backpack that has a security feature, have some common sense and keep your bag with you at all times. Don’t leave your phone and wallet on the bathroom bench while drying your hands. Don’t put your bag down to take a photo. Stay alert and make sure you know where your personal belongings are at all times.

Keep your Family Updated – Especially if you’re traveling solo, your parents and family members are going to be worried about you. Take some time everyday to update them and let them know you’re safe. Agree on a (rough) time each day, when you will send through a quick I’m safe, having fun and will talk to you later! message. You’ll be surprised at how much they appreciate this gesture, as small as it may seem to you and me.

If you’re staying in a Hostel, be Courteous – I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but it’s a general rule that being courteous is the way to go. Don’t roll in at 3am being super loud and pissing off your dorm mates. Have some respect, and remember that you’re sharing a space with people you don’t necessarily know.

Turn off Data Roaming – Be sure to turn off data roaming on your phone once you land at your destination, or even once you are on the plane. Otherwise your home mobile carrier will be thrilled, as they can now charge you a million dollars per second while you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic but I’m sure you get my point. Don’t be left with a thousand dollar phone bill when you arrive home!

Try New Things – You’ve finally made it! You’ve landed at your dream holiday location, and you’re ready to head out and explore. A good rule of thumb is to say yes to anything – unless it’s illegal or puts you or someone else in danger. If your travel buddy wants to head out one night and experience the nightlife, why not tag along? Even if partying isn’t usually your thing. You’re almost guaranteed to have an amazing time, and leave with some kick-ass memories, so go for it!

Keep an Open Mind – Things are going to be different, regardless of where you’re traveling to. This is especially true if you’re a westerner heading to a non-western country, so be prepared. Don’t shy away from something that seems strange, and don’t judge or criticise what you don’t understand. Talk to the locals and embrace their food and culture. Remember that there’s a lot more to see around the world, than what you read about online. So if you’re keen to have what us travelers call an off the beaten path experience, immerse yourself in the local way of life! You’ll be surprised at what you can discover.

I hope these tips for first time travelers has helped you to prepare for your first international adventure! It’s been a long time since I hopped on a plane for the first very time. However I do still remember how nerve-wracking and exciting it can be. It’s easy to forget the most important steps in the planning process, so hopefully these tips for first time travelers, makes your experience a lot less stressful.

Do you agree with this list of tips for first time travelers? Are you a first time traveler yourself? Are you currently booking your very first domestic or international trip? If you’re an experienced traveler, have I missed anything important? Tell me in the comments below!

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36 Tips For First Time Travelers: The Ultimate Guide | Rhiannon Travels 36 Tips For First Time Travelers: The Ultimate Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for continuing to support Rhiannon Travels, and keeping it a free travel guide and resource for everyone to use!


Rhiannon is a travel blogger from Adelaide, Australia. Together with her partner, they have been traveling the world for around two years, and hope to not only visit every country in the world one day, but also live in Japan. Rhiannon started this blog back in September 2016, and has been helping people just like you, travel the world with ease!