This is something people always ask me, what are your top travel tips for a first time traveller?
I thought, why not ask the experts. So I asked some of my fellow travel friends on Instagram to help me give some advice to all you first time travellers, and here is what they said …
Emma, 30 something, West Yorkshire, England
Instagram is your friend! Before I visit anywhere I research places to visit using the geolocation and hashtag features on Instagram and you will find you can also come across like-minded people this way.
Always be prepared for “what-ifs”, I would love to have a more carefree attitude but I am so organised when it comes to travel. Make sure someone at home has a photocopy of your passport and other important documents. I also ensure I have more than one credit card on me and have extra money in the bank I don’t touch but I keep “just in case”.
It’s okay to have down-time. Usually when we travel for 2+ weeks, we will always have a couple of nights “off” where we just sit in our hotel room watching Netflix on the iPad. It’s important to recharge to stay healthy both physically and mentally.
(Me) Jemma, 27, England
Before you embark on your first trip you are bound to have lots of different emotions, excitement, anxious, scared, happy etc. These are all totally normal, we have all been there.
My top tips for you would be:
✩ Go into everything with an open mind and be spontaneous.
✩ Try new things, say yes and don’t be scared – remember no one there knows you, and that’s the beauty of it. Even if it means sitting in a cafe or restaurant on your own, it might seem like a strange thing to do, but you’ll see so many others doing the same thing, it’s actually more common than you think.
✩ Research the area you’re staying in, this might seem like a no brainer, but it’s important to do, so you feel more comfortable when you arrive. What I usually do when I first arrive somewhere is have a walk around the area, familiarise myself with it, also so I can remember where I am staying as my sense of direction isn’t always very good.
✩ Split how you carry your money, this is something I have learnt as I’ve travelled, have a bit of cash, a couple of cards with money – there are loads of debit cards where you can have different currencies on, these are always a good idea. Never carry all your money on you at once, if you don’t need it, keep it locked away in your backpack/suitcase in a locker.
✩ Pack light, unless you’re going somewhere ice cold, you don’t need to take much stuff, make sure you have a couple of each thing and take some travel wash, you can wash your clothes in the bath/shower. All travellers smell a little, so embrace it and enjoy the experience, after all you’re there to see the country.
Seb, 27, England
Top travel tips for any first-time traveller is never knock the tourist board and get yourself a map! Go on the bus trip around the city, take the boat trips to other islands and go on the walk around the city. That’s your starting point, once you’ve done that, get to grips with the locals. As a former butcher, we found a butcher is Rethymno, Crete, and even though his English was poor, and my Greek worse, he told us all of the niche locations, dotted them down onto the map, and gave us numbers for local taxi firms with his name. This gave us an unreal experience, as a guided tour around a place with a local is 10x better than one with a tourist guide, but start small, and go big!
Kara Knickerbocker, 30, from PA, USA.
I totally get it– your first time traveling somewhere new (especially solo) can be overwhelming and stressful. So first of all, breathe! You booked the trip, that’s the first step. Yes, it’s so important to do your research and plan accordingly when it comes to packing appropriately for the climate, learn basic phrases if the language is not your native tongue, and be aware and respectful of cultural differences. However, also remember that you simply cannot prepare for everything. Accept that things sometimes go wrong, and try to be flexible when it comes to those changes. And don’t be afraid to wander off the normal path. I’ve found that these situations sometimes make for the absolute best memories!
For those concerned about safety: Have at least an outline of an itinerary and travel insurance, copies of important documents, and make sure someone at home has them as well. Have the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the places you’re staying handy, so it’s easier to show. Split up how you carry your money. When I first started traveling, I didn’t drink, or go out late at night. Also, it’s okay to pre-book your transport so that you aren’t trying to navigate getting to/from the airport in the dark. Sometimes it means paying a little more and that’s totally okay to do until you get more comfortable with where you’re at. And always, always trust your intuition.
Alice, 23, England
Just do it. Whatever you’re worried about, take the plunge. Things have a habit of working out, even when you don’t have a plan.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. Things happen; lost luggage, cancelled planes, sickness and injury. And if the worst does happen, you’ll need money and lots of it. Travel insurance is cheaper than medical bills. Don’t take the risk.
Pack light, move fast. My mum taught me this saying and it’s stuck with me. The less you have to carry, the easier you can get around and the more enjoyable your trip will be. You’ll dodge luggage fees, save money on storage and appear less of a target to pick-pocketers. Downsize your bag if you’re travelling long term. You can pick up what you need on the way, donate things you no longer have a use for, and mail things home if you have to.
Always have enough money in the bank for a flight home. Emergencies happen and there are some cases when you’ll just want to be near your family. So always have enough tucked away for that last-minute flight back if you need it.
Maria / 27 / USA
There are 3 types of people in my small bubble–
1) People who don’t let life situations hold them back from traveling.
2) People who will wait to travel until they’re retired.
3) People who have no desire to travel.
I encourage you to be #1. The beauty of travel is it doesn’t matter what age you begin, but in my eyes the earlier the better as this just means more years to travel and more places you can squeeze in to go!
You’ll never have enough money.
You’ll never have enough time.
You’ll never have all the knowledge.
You’ll never be perfectly ready to take on the world.
THAT’S HOW YOU LEARN THE WORLD– by taking it on!
Since I’ve opened my mind to new cultures and created a greater appreciation for our planet and the living things that inhabit it. My experiences are much more diverse and have given me a more interesting life than those #2 and #3 type people above. I have amazing pictures and stories that I can share with my kids one day to help nurture the same passions, and hopefully be able to make their desire to see the world a reality sooner than what I had in life.
Charlotte, 27, England
Being organised is key from the off set. I always check in online before the day of my flight so when I’m at the airport that’s one less thing I need to worry about. I absolutely love my travel organiser. I keep everything together such as passports, boarding passes, country currency and any documents I need to have on hand for international flights. Having everything all together just makes it easier to find and less stressful.
Alana, 26, Canada
My first top travel tip for a first time traveller is to say yes to everything. Say yes to travelling solo, say yes to that once in a lifetime excursion, say yes to trying that new food, say yes when another fellow traveller asks if you want to join them for the day, etc. Obviously say yes within reason and when it’s safe, but the point here is to be open to any experiences that get thrown your way. Even if your travel style is to stick to the carefully planned, detailed schedule of your journey, opportunities will always arise and don’t be afraid to be open to them because you may just have the best experience of your life!
The second tip might seem like a no brainer but it’s to do your research. Not just any research though! Do research so that you can tailor your trip to you. What kind of traveller are you? Are you a foodie? Adventure traveller? Into history? Or do you just want to take nice pictures? Think about what you’d most like to see and do and create a general list of some spots or things that you don’t want to miss out on- because the worst is having regrets for something you didn’t get the chance to do!
The last tip is to immerse yourself in the country and culture and try and explore like a local. Touristy spots are fun and exciting, especially for a first time traveller, but I find you really get to know a place when you explore local areas and watch out for hidden gems!
Alexys, 27, USA
Having a travel debit/credit card because it’ll save you a lot of money over time.
Personal recommendations: The Charles Schwab debit card — You can use it on any ATM that accepts Visa, any fees incurred get automatically reimbursed, and there are no foreign transaction fees; which also means no need to worry about exchange rates at the bank or airport!
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card — It includes travel insurance whenever going abroad and access to many airport lounges, and I haven’t had to pay for any flights out of pocket the last couple years since I used the accumulated points instead.
Be consciousness with what you pack. Have you heard the joke about wearing the same pair of leggings for a few days in a row at home, but wondering if your suitcase has enough space for that third ball gown? Yeah, don’t fall into that common mistake. Be realistic with what you’ll be wearing while packing, and for longer trips, you can always do laundry if needed. Less items also means the possibility of using a carry-on instead of checking a bag (which saves $)
Have copies of important documents: Email yourself copies of your passport, ID, and bank cards in case you need to pull them up on your phone. It doesn’t hurt to also have printed copies.
Take notes in a journal as you go: If there’s a meal you liked, a few fun facts you learned on a walking tour, etc. I cannot tell you how often I wish I did that during my earlier trips.
Learning a few basic phrases in the visiting country’s local language.
Timing sleep on the jet to help with jet lag: For long flights, time your airplane sleep schedule depending on the time it’ll be when you land. Personally, this has helped with jet lag a lot.
Download Google Maps + Google Translate to use offline: This helps with navigation in case your internet cuts out or if you have a poor connection.
Be respectful and open minded.
Conal & Laura! A couple who met in New Zealand 2 1/2 years ago but we’re both from different parts of Ireland
For a first time travellers we’d highly recommend doing your research before you go anywhere! Research as much as you can so you know what you want to see, how to get the best deals on activities and also to find out where the locals go. We find that it really helps, especially when you want to find the best food! ☺️
Lauren, 24, England
My main travel tip for first time travellers is to try not to over plan! I still fall short of this sometimes but even just allowing one day per trip to explore the unknown can change everything! I used to find it comforting knowing everything there is to know about a place before I visited. However, after a while I’ve learned that a lot my most loved experiences were those that I didn’t plan! These spontaneous moments are the ones I remember most and are what travelling is all about for me. So next time an opportunity comes out of the blue or you get a recommendation from a local, take it! You never know where you might end up!
Thank you so much to all my expert travellers. I hope this advice has helped you all and fills you with confidence for your first traveller’s trip 🙂
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