Traveling for the first time can be a daunting experience. There is so much that needs to be considered, a lot of things to book and so many choices when it comes to accomodation! Even the most experienced travelers have some doubts and worries when it gets closer to that anticipated departure day. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there to help people embarking on their very first adventure! That’s where I come in, with 36 tips for first time travelers!
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Here are 36 Tips for First Time Travelers!
Booking & Planning Your Trip
Booking and planning a trip can be stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here are some awesome booking and planning tips for first time travelers!
- Shop around when booking accomodation – Rates tend to be cheaper at the beginning of the week, so try to book on a Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s important to shop around, and utilise comparison websites for the best deals!
- Read the reviews when booking accomodation – No matter what your style of accomodation is, 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 common issues to be aware of.
- Don’t forget insurance – This is one of the most important tips for first time travelers (and experienced travelers!). No matter where you’re heading in the world, travel insurance is an absolute must. I would not recommend anybody get on a plane without having reliable insurance. If you’re Australian or have an Australian 457 Visa, FastCover has some great rates and options to suit all types of travelers (solo, couple, student, friends, group or family).
- Figure out how you’re getting to your accomodation from the airport – Are there any bus services available? Is the train system world class like in Japan or New York City? Do some research to find a reliable, convenient and easy way to get from the airport to your accomodation!
- Make sure your passport is valid and has at least 6 months left – Checking your passport is another important step to take when booking your trip. If you are traveling internationally, you will need to have enough time left on your passport, to be able to travel comfortably.
- Check whether you need vaccinations – If you’re traveling to some places around the world (Southeast Asia and Africa are good examples) you may need vaccinations. Book an appointment with your doctor to make sure!
- Look into currency conversion/travel money cards – There are lots of options when it comes to taking money overseas: cash, travel money card, your everyday credit or debit card etc. Do some research to decide which is best for you!
- International sim card, portable wifi device, or local wifi – These are the most popular options when it comes to using the internet while traveling. Some countries do not allow certain websites or social media platforms, so make sure you look into that before traveling. However, if you are visiting a country where the internet is allowed, find the option that’s right for you! Personally, we use portable wifi devices! They’re super convenient and work really well.
Packing For Your Trip
- Although I’m not good at this, it’s best to pack light – Especially if you’re planning a year long backpacking trip around the world. You won’t want to be stuck with a zillion kilos worth of personal belongings on your back. Only pack what is necessary. One of everything. Two of some things. Remember that you can (almost) always buy whatever you’ve forgotten when you arrive!
- Most hotels provide complimentary shampoo and conditioner – If you’re unsure, you can always call ahead or check online. But these days, most hotels will have shampoo and conditioner available to use in your room. That means you won’t need to pack any!
- Your carry on should be an emergency survival kit – What happens if your checked luggage goes missing? You’re stuck with what you’ve taken onto the plane with you. Some things that I like to take in my carry on are: an extra pair of underwear, toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, my laptop/camera/phone and chargers, medication/pain killers etc. Plus, being able to clean your teeth after traveling for a day is an amazing feeling.
- Check the season/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 summer, you probably will need a jacket. Google is your best friend when it comes to determining what the seasons are, in the country you’re heading to!
- 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 can be a great idea if you’re heading to countries with cobblestone streets, for example. Again, research is the best way to go! There are pros and cons to all types of luggage, it’s a personal choice and one you’ll probably make through trial and error!
- Find out which adapter you will need – Different countries use different plugs and adapters. Here’s a great guide from Skyscanner to help!
- 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, incase you misplace them! Compile a folder with all of your original documents and tickets, so they’re easily accessible when you need them.
- Don’t pack 20 pairs of pants. Trust me, you’ll only need one or two – When my partner and I visited Japan in March, I packed 3 pairs of leggings. I wear leggings every day, so I thought I would mix things up and wear a different pair each day. Well, I was wrong. I wore my favourite pair every single day until they needed to be washed. You’ll always think you need more than you actually do!
Ahh, departure day! These are probably the most important tips for first time travelers. What do you need to tick off your checklist, on that exciting day of departure? Read on to find out!
- If your airline allows it, check in online – If you’re flying domestically, or with certain airlines, you may be able to check in online. Virgin Australia allow online check-in for most of their flights, which saves a lot of time when arriving at the airport!
- Speaking of which, always arrive early – Regardless of whether you have an international or domestic flight, it’s best to arrive at least 2 hours early (longer for international). This will give you enough time to check in, go through security and customs, buy some snacks, use the toilet once or thirty times and prepare for 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 6 hours. Always be prepared!
- Bring an EMPTY bottle of water – Airplane water is gross. Bring along an empty bottle of water, to fill up once you’re through security. There are tons 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’re not one to listen to music on planes, having good quality headphones is always a good idea. You could be seated next to a screaming baby or have a loud group of teenagers nearby. If so, you’ll be thankful you have your headphones! Tip: Splurge and purchase noice cancelling headphones. You can thank me later.
- Set at LEAST 5 alarms if you have an early departure time – 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 2 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 feature 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 like a ribbon, patch or stickers etc. This could also come in handy if your luggage ever goes missing. Trying to explain “my hot pink suitcase with the bright yellow ribbons” is a lot easier than “my black suitcase that looks like everyone else’s” – be creative!
- A travel pillow is always a good idea – Even if you don’t use them for their intended purpose, having a travel pillow handy will prove to be a great idea. Trust me!
- Be kind to airport staff – I can’t say this from personal experience, but I would imagine working in an airport is a stressful job. You’re faced with all sorts of potential dangerous situations every day, and the last thing these people need is dealing with difficult travelers. Be kind. Smile and say hello to staff when you’re purchasing your airplane 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 that complains because the plane doesn’t have any Coke left. 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. Put your seat back up for meals and take-off/landing. Basically, just don’t be a d***.
- Always take a jumper/sweater/hoodie on the plane – Even if you’re heading to the hottest country in the world, you’ll be thankful you have a jacket on the plane. Planes get cold. The higher up you fly, the colder they will get. I always take a super warm jumper or jacket on the plane with me, and to this day, I’ve always been glad I did!
Arriving At Your Destination
Here are some important tips for first time travelers, that you should know once you finally land at your destination!
- If you’re traveling internationally, customs is a fact of life. Be patient – Don’t complain because you’ve just landed from an 8 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. It will be difficult at first, communicating with people and finding your way around. Don’t expect people to speak English, if you aren’t in an English speaking country. You’re a visitor, so it’s up to you to learn some key words and phrases to make life 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, 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.
- Always make sure you know where your passport is – Your passport is the #1 most important item 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, locakable every-day backpacks. Regardless of whether you have a backpack with a lock or not, have some common sense and keep your bags on 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 at all times and make sure you know where your personal belongings are!
- 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 can 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 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 – Make sure you turn off data roaming on your phone once you land. Otherwise, your home carrier will be thrilled as they can now charge you a million dollars per second while you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. Well, 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 in 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/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, 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 what you’ll discover.
So there you have it, 36 tips for first time travelers. It’s been a long time since I hopped on a plane for the very first time. However, I do still remember how nerve-wracking and exciting it can be. It’s easy to forget some important steps in the planning process, so this article should help with that!
Are you a first time traveler? 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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