8 Tips for First-Time International Travelers
8 tips for first-time international travelers on packing light and successfully.
No matter how many times you’ve traveled abroad in your own country, there is something both thrilling and terrifying about taking that first international trip. Since 2004, I’ve been full-time globetrotting to over 60 countries. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things – such as top travel tips for first-time travellers – that can make planning your journey much smoother.
Traveling can be an exhilarating experience, but it also can be daunting and confusing. These simple strategies will help ensure a stress-free journey ahead.
First things first: Make sure your passport is ready before embarking on your international journey. For first-time international travelers, this step is especially important.
Important Tip for International Travelers: Applying for your passport before leaving home will save you stress and hassle. Do not book a flight or make arrangements that cannot be altered until you possess this document that opens doors around the world. When booking international flights, remember to enter your passport number; this number allows for seamless entry and exit.
For 2019, the application fee for U.S. passports was $145 for adults and $115 for children under 16. If you have already booked and paid for your trip, an expedited fee can be added on (called “expedited”) if needed quickly; normally, this expedited passport will arrive within two weeks after submitting it.
Once your passport arrives, make both paper and digital copies. Keep one for your parents and another in your wallet. Store a digital copy of the photo on Google Docs, or take a picture with your phone. Don’t forget to capture a picture of your visa stamp too – once it arrives!
Your passport may be more valuable than you think, not only during flights. Many hotels require a scan of your passport page identification page as part of the check-in process – this is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. In some cases, some may hold onto your passport to protect it from theft and pay the accommodation bill; though this isn’t as common a occurrence as before online bookings, it still occurs occasionally in remote countries.
Although many countries require foreigners to keep their passport with them at all times, this is not recommended. There are plenty of pickpockets around the world – that’s where having a paper copy comes in handy. If you run into foreign law enforcement officers while abroad, take a picture of your passport or visa and show it to them; then explain that the physical copy is at your hotel.
Keep your passport out of reach in your bag. Store it safely in a hotel room safe or locker at a hostel.
Choose the ideal destination for your first international trip by selecting the ideal location.
Have you been wanting to visit Thailand’s elephants or Egypt’s pyramids but unsure where exactly? Don’t fret if there are so many amazing destinations around the world to explore now that you possess a passport – these amazing places should not be missed on your first international journey!
Before embarking on your international journey, ask yourself these questions to help narrow down the possibilities.
Are you seeking to travel far or stay close to home? Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable to start from where you are and gradually venture further as your confidence as an international globetrotter grows.
Do you speak a foreign language? Can you travel to places where the language isn’t your native one? France was my first overseas destination where I didn’t speak either Spanish or English, and it proved overwhelming not being able to communicate with them effectively.
Are you looking to meet new people and form connections with the locals? Consider booking a guided trip. This is an ideal opportunity for you to form new friendships and form meaningful connections.
What are you most eagerly awaiting on your first international trip? Are you drawn by beautiful architecture and food, unusual or delectable dishes, relaxing on the beach, climbing mountains or partying? To make the most of this first journey abroad it might be beneficial to make a list of what appeals most to you.
Are you confident traveling to other countries? Do you feel at ease around people who are poor, polluted, or stuck in traffic jams? It’s okay if it takes some getting used to visiting new places.
These questions will help you narrow down your choices to one or two countries depending on how much time you have available for an international trip. If you are still uncertain, Western Europe and the United Kingdom are recommended as possible destinations. Even though English may not be their native tongue, most people can speak it fluently. There are numerous transportation options such as buses, trains and airplanes; plus you’ll discover unique cultures along the way. Australia and New Zealand can be just as accessible as the United States but require longer-haul flights and more planning due to their size and abundance of activities.
First-Time International Travelers can help determine if you require a visa.
Before booking your trip, double-check if a visa is necessary for the country you plan on visiting. A visa is a document issued by the host nation which permits entry for a specified number of days.
U.S. passport holders are generally permitted to travel to most European, U.K. and many other countries in Asia and Latin America without needing a visa; they can also receive one upon arrival. Unfortunately, without this document you won’t be allowed to board the plane – you will have to obtain one prior to embarking on your journey!
Make sure that you have access to your money overseas.
No longer do you need cash or travelers cheques in order to travel abroad. Thanks to the internet, it has never been simpler to access and manage money while on a global journey.
Make sure your bank is aware of your travel plans by consulting with them beforehand. Ask about international fees and if there are partner banks in your destination; this will allow you to save on expensive “foreign transaction” ATM fees. Alternatively, open a checking account at Charles Schwab or Ally for free; these two banks have no foreign transaction fees and even reimburse ATM fees while you’re away!
Although your debit card should work at all destinations, having a backup plan is important. When traveling internationally for the first time, bring at least $100 and both debit and credit cards – in case your wallet gets stolen (this has happened to me many times). Even if all else fails, you’ll still be able to access your money through another channel.
Compare Transportation and Accommodation Options to Save Money
International travel does not need to involve flying, as other transportation methods exist. Rio2Rome can help you identify all feasible routes between two points and determine which option is both cost-effective and fast.
Buses are often the most economical and environmentally friendly means of transport. Plus, they give you a chance to take in the scenery as well as chat with locals. BlaBlaCar – an app popular in Germany and Spain that allows users to book rides – may even be more direct than taking the bus route.
Before booking accommodation, take a look at your options. Hotels are always popular, but consider hostels, guesthouses and Airbnb options in the area you’re visiting for socializing with other travelers and locals alike. Boutique hostels have become increasingly popular over recent years and often offer better amenities than budget hotels do.
When Should You Begin Booking Your Vacation?
With Covid still in its final days, it can be difficult to say when is the best time to begin booking your trip. Recent studies have indicated that booking near your departure date may offer last-minute deals compared to earlier advice due to airlines struggling to fill planes. On average, survey results revealed the best time to buy cheap flights from Europe is 180 days prior to departure.
If you are under 26 years of age, you can receive flight discounts. To take advantage of these deals, use StudentUniverse or other flight search engines to secure the discount. When planning your first international trip, book as soon as you have enough funds and can depart on each leg – some airlines won’t let single-way passengers board an aircraft for such trips.
Though I have been traveling for many years, I still make sure to book my accommodation in advance. Arriving in a foreign land and not knowing where your bed will be can be an unnerving experience for some; but for others it may even be exciting! For customs forms it’s necessary to provide the name of where you will be staying; also keep a business card from the accommodation with you just in case your phone goes out; this way you can easily navigate back home should any mishaps arise during your journey.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust from Jet Lag
Allowing time for body and mind to adjust can help ensure that you achieve maximum efficiency when dealing with jet lag.
When planning your first international trip, you may feel the urge to pack as many cities as possible into one trip. But how many can you see in one day? I recommend slowing down for at least the first two days to avoid jet lag and maximize sightseeing time.
Recovering from long-haul flights can be a challenge in itself, but when you add in a time change, your body and brain must adjust too – sometimes taking up to one week! So if you fly from Los Angeles to London, expect to be awake for several days as your brain and body adjust to the new time zone.
Prior to your flight, get plenty of rest and adjust your schedule to combat jet lag. Also, ensure you drink plenty of water throughout and after the flight for optimal hydration.
When you arrive, try not to take naps even if your body requires one. Take a stroll around the area and then stop for coffee at a cafe – caffeine helps! No matter what situation you find yourself in, allow yourself a few extra days for adjustment; every time I fly from Asia to America and back again, I break all these rules!
Your first international trip may seem intimidating, but the fear of not knowing what to expect when abroad will be far greater. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while traveling abroad.
Petty theft and pickpocketing: To keep yourself secure from these crimes, it is essential that you keep your bag secure and belongings organized. The best way to deter pickpockets is with a crossbody bag or fannypack; never carry your backpack on one shoulder. Avoid placing cellphones or wallets in back pockets. Additionally, money belts that can be worn under clothes or theft-proof wallets may be beneficial.
Stay Connected: Sign up with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to give them access to you in case of emergency, such as a natural disaster or political unrest. Share these details with family back home if staying at a homestay or having a landlord, too.
Travel Insurance: Any experienced traveler knows the importance of having travel insurance. Make sure you have both property and health coverage, as traveling can make you more vulnerable to illness or injuries. Horror stories about travelers getting sick with staph infections and parasites are commonplace. Travel insurance also saves a lot of money if something unexpected occurs abroad – like reimbursement for lost luggage or emergency evacuations.
Common sense is the best policy when it comes to neighborhood or area avoidance. Ask locals which neighborhoods or areas to avoid. Travel with a friend at night for safety’s sake; don’t drink too much alcohol if your group is small or you don’t trust anyone. Make new friends in public places, keep dates public (even when using dating apps), and trust your gut instincts if something feels wrong about someone or situation.
No need to fret over what could go awry. But it is essential that you remain aware of your surroundings and take simple steps toward safety so that you can savor every moment of this new journey.