The joy, nerves, and excitement of being a first-time traveler are unmatched! It is your first big adventure internationally, or maybe even domestically. So naturally, you want to make the most of it and do it right. I know because, at one point, I was you.
I do not remember my first time traveling on a plane. However, I do remember traveling abroad for the first time. Everything was new and fresh as a 20-something going to study abroad in Spain. First, I was in awe of the meal served on the plane. Then, I felt relief as I fell asleep, getting a little comfortable in the middle seat.
But after 15 countries, three stints living abroad, and many common travel mistakes and successes, I have some first-time traveler tips for you. There is so much new traveler advice out there. From traveling abroad via study to solo traveling, you learn so much as you explore the world. However, as a seasoned traveler, these are things I wish I knew.
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Tips on traveling abroad for the first time
Traveling abroad for the first time is such a rollercoaster of emotions. On the one hand, it is your first time traveling overseas alone, or maybe with a group where you know no one. On the other hand, there are so many common travel mistakes you make. Let’s outline some key points to know before, during, and after your first time traveling abroad.
First time traveler tips for before you go
Arrive during the daytime
The sun is on your side – at least most of the time. Arriving during the daytime is ideal for a first-time traveler because it is easier to navigate. Cheap flights can be early morning or late at night, so if you can, pick the former. Arriving at night can make it harder to understand your bearings in a new destination. This tip is also great for solo travelers!
Do not try to cram everything into one trip
Those epic backpacking trips across Western Europe or Southeast Asia are indeed adventurous. But believe me, country-hopping sounds enticing until it’s not. Slow travel is the way to go! Instead of doing multiple countries in one trip, try to do a few cities in one country.
It may not be as fruitful for your country counting plans to put that number in your social media bio. However, as a first-time traveler, it allows you to ease into traveling. When you spend more time at a destination, you can learn more deeply. Slow travel also has sustainability benefits too.
Less is truly more when it comes to traveling. And packing light is a skill set that can take a lot of practice. Even the most seasoned travelers can have trouble doing it! Nevertheless, packing light is a creative skill to get early on.
When you plan your trip using only a carry-on, you save time and money—checking bag costs extra. Traveling with only a suitcase is also helpful when you arrive. Unless you have a driver or someone to help you to the airport, you have to carry your stuff.
In addition to packing light, get packing tubes too! They are an underrated travel necessity that took years for me to purchase finally. Packing cubes are also a great way to plan your packing. So be better and get them now. You will not regret them.
Pack snacks and a reusable water bottle
First-time traveler tips and budget-friendly travel tips all in one! First, to save some coins on airport food, pack snacks. Go to a gas station or grocery store to get your favorite treats. However, as a heads up, packing snacks does make you more prone to get your bag checked by the TSA. Unopened packaged snacks are the way to go to avoid any extra check-in time.
Though you cannot pack a full water bottle in your bag, you can bring a reusable one. A lot of first-time travelers may not be aware of this fact, but it is true! Save money and the environment as this is also a responsible tourist tip. And if you have not heard, responsible tourism is the future of travel. Therefore we can stay both hydrated and eco-friendly.
Invest in travel insurance
Honestly, travel insurance is not something I originally invested in early in my travels. However, traveling more frequently and for more extended periods changed my perspective. You can purchase proper travel insurance through World Nomads, which is popular amongst avid travelers.
However, there are other ways to protect your trip! When booking flights or trains, there are insurance options you can purchase. Most that I have seen are between $15 and $30. But that can vary. At the same time, it may seem useless and a waste of money when booking, you never know. Better to be safe than sorry.
Make yourself a motivational playlist
I don’t know about you, but nothing gets me more excited than a playlist of my favorite songs. So as you are packing and prepping, make that playlist. What makes you feel like the main character in your favorite movie? Which artists lift you up? What songs make you want to dance? Whoever they may be is who you add to the playlist.
While not the most conventional advice on a list of tips on traveling abroad for the first time, do it! There may be moments as a first-time traveler where you need to get out of your head. A good playlist never hurt anyone. I promise you it will come in handy.
New traveler advice while you’re in-transit traveling
It’s okay to be nervous
Remember that playlist I had you make? When you get nervous, it is time to whip it out. Every first-time traveler has a moment of panic at some point. Mine was at the airport about 30 minutes before I was going to board. I freaked out when I realized no one would be waiting for me when I landed.
Take a few deep breaths, then put on this playlist. Or even give yourself a pep talk! Maybe you downloaded your go-to podcast or meditation app to relax. Do whatever you need to do to get your mind. Just know that being nervous happens to the best of us. In the end, you got this!
Bring a journal to reflect
Chances are you will have a layover or downtime on a plane to chill. So, in addition to listening to your favorite podcasts and playlists, bring a journal—document how you are feeling. Take note of the people and what is going on. You will never get that nostalgia of traveling for the first time again. So instead, lean into the newness of it and give yourself time to reflect.
Stay up for take-off
For those traveling via plane, do not miss out on the action! If you are lucky to get a window seat, be sure to take full advantage of it. It is the most coveted seat to see what is going on outside. So keep those eyes open, at least for a little while.
And if you do not stay up for take-off, consider staying up for the landing. Call me a nerd, but I think it is exciting. Both are two of the most exciting aspects of airplane travel. For a first-time traveler, I would highly recommend it to you.
Tips for first-time travelers once you arrive
Notify your loved ones you made it safely
Just because you are out here now on your first trip, do not forget to check in. Make contact with a loved one upon arrival. Let your loved ones know you made it safe. I am sure someone will be looking for you regardless! You notifying someone first relieves them of any anxiety too. Doing so also makes it feel more real than you are in your destination.
Also, send someone you trust or love your itinerary. If anything were to happen, someone needs to know your whereabouts. It is a safety precaution that I have not used in my travels. But stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.
Walk around a bit before starting that itinerary
If you are able, walk around in explore! Get acquainted and familiar with your immediate surroundings. People watch on a bench or park nearby. It is one of the best ways for newbie travelers to get comfortable with their new surroundings.
Whether you have a tour planned upon arrival or walk around the neighborhood yourself, do something. Getting familiar can also ease any nerves or uneasiness too. So even though traveling is about exploring outside your comfort zone, sometimes, a little in the beginning is good.
Go with the flow
There is no harm in changing your mind! If you decide you do not want to go on that tour or take that hike, no problem. Traveling is about being open-minded and a willingness to be flexible. As a new traveler, you are trying out travel. It is kind of like dating and testing the waters to figure out what kind of traveler you are.
Relax and take it all in
You may get bit by the travel bug after your first trip. However, you will never get this first-time experience back! Take it all in. Embrace the butterflies in your stomach from taking off until landing. You made this adventure possible, and you should be proud of that. So sit back, relax, and enjoy these first-time traveler tips to guide you!