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We all remember what it was like to be new so we’ve created this guide full of tips for first time travellers. If you’re reading this article then it is safe to assume that you’re getting prepared for a trip or you’re at the very least thinking about it! First of all, congratulations for taking that plunge and going on your first travel adventure! Travelling is an amazing hobby to have and you’ll be surprised at how friendly and helpful the travel community is too.
It can seem a little overwhelming booking your first trip away. There are so many things to consider when planning a trip. However, once you’ve got the basics, it honestly isn’t as scary as it seems!
If this is your first trip alone, first time travelling overseas or you just want to get some more tips then keep reading on… We’ve created some tips below that we wish we had known when we booked our first trip.
Table of Contents
For some, this is going to seem like an obvious suggestion but for others it may not have even crossed your mind that you’d need travel insurance. We were all new once right?! Even though it seems like it’s an additional cost that you might not need, the key is in the phrase that you might not. You don’t know if you’re going to need travel insurance so it’s better to have it than to have nothing at all. What about if your luggage goes missing? What are you going to do if your flight is cancelled or you have a medical emergency? 9 times out of 10, none of these things will happen but it is best to be prepared for the possibility that they could happen. Just be safe and get some travel insurance so that you’ve covered yourself.
Research the destination
No matter whether you have never travelled before or you’ve been to every country in the world, always research where you’re going to. Have a look at where the central area is so that when you’re booking your accommodation that you’re not too far away. If you’re booking accommodation a bit further out then how are you going to get into the central areas?
Check out any areas that you should avoid as well. For example, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, whilst it is a great area to go, you need to be very vigilant of pickpockets. We’ve created a guide for how to avoid pickpockets here to help you. Don’t just look at all the things you need to know to keep you safe. Make sure you have a look at things you want to do whilst you’re there and revel in the excitement of it all! There is nothing worse than travelling to a destination, coming home and seeing something that you wish you had known about before you went!
Keep Your Family Informed
Before you head off on your trip, make sure that you’re letting your loved ones know where you’re going to be. For us, we like to give both our parents a rough itinerary, our bank details (in case we have trouble transferring any money to our travel cards) and photocopies of our passport. It might not seem necessary but if you do find yourself in a bit of a tight spot, you will thank us later for this one!
Check your passport
Before you book any trip, make sure that you check that your passport is in date and has a minimum of 6 months on it during your travel dates. Make sure that you do this before booking any flights! You will need to enter your passport number and if you need to get a new passport, it will be chargeable to get your details changed. Most countries will not let you enter if you have less than 6 months left on your passport. Don’t even risk it! Replace your passport so that you have one less thing to stress about.
Take more than 1 travel card
Travel cards are great but they can’t always be relied on. Amy has learn this single-handedly when she went to Mexico and found out her card had stopped covering Mexico. Thankfully she was able to use a secondary card that she had! There are plenty of different travel cards that you can use but we would recommend Revolut and The Post Office Travel Card (if you’re from the UK). They’ve both been really good when we’re abroad and of course prevents us having to pay higher rates on withdrawing money.
Find the free Wi-Fi
It is always worth looking at where you will be able to get internet access. Nowadays we are less reliant on physical maps and prefer using Google maps. Finding a spot with free Wi-Fi will really help you. You can download any maps you may need, keep in touch with friends and of course update your social media to tell everyone what an amazing time you’re having!
You don’t need to take enough clothes for a fashion show. If you’re travelling long term then you can easily take your clothes to a laundrette. Depending on the destination you’ll be surprised at how cheap it is! We are able to do a week abroad with just hand luggage. There is nothing wrong with re-wearing clothes. Don’t get us wrong if you’re going on a 1 week vacation and have 20-26 kilos of luggage allowance then fill your boots. To help you with packing, you can check out our packing list guide. However, bear in mind that if you can’t carry your case or backpack up a flight of stairs then it’s too heavy and you need to unload.
Take Cash With You
If I’ve got 2 travel cards, why do I need to take cash? Not everywhere will accept cards. Also, if you pay by card in some restaurants and shops, you will be charged a fee for the service. It is always good to take some cash even to just start you off. Don’t be frightened to shop around for better exchange rates too. Money Supermarket will search your location and find the best exchange rates for the amount of money you’re trying to exchange.
Take Some First Aid Supplies
When you’re travelling for the first time, you will be one of either two personalities. 1. The person who overpacks and crams every single first aid item they can find. 2. The person who shrugs it off and thinks they don’t need it. Please don’t be either of these people. You will need some first aid items but you don’t need a whole pharmacy worth. Just pack some plasters, paracetamol, ibuprofen and some antiseptic cream.
If you’re going to a bit more of a high risk destination then you will need more than this but this is the minimum that you should be packing. As a final note, take some Immodium. You will thank us later for this! Changing up what you’re eating can really play with your stomach at times so have it on you at all times just to be safe. You never know when you might need it.
Wear Your Bulky Clothes To The Airport
If you’re travelling long term then it is safe to say that you might not have a lot of space in your backpack. Wear your bulky clothes to the airport to save yourself on some space. You will usually find us looking like we’re homeless at the airport to be honest! It’s the travel chic and no one will batter an eyelid. Both of us tend to wear tracksuit bottoms, a thick jumper, a t-shirt and our hiking boots to the airport.
Amy always stores some fluffy socks in her hand luggage and when the flight takes off, the boots come off and the fluffy socks go on. Airplanes are cold too so don’t dress for the destination you’re arriving in. Wear layers that you can remove instead. You may get onto a flight and be sweating but after a few hours of the air-con circling through, it will start to get a bit chilly. We can remember coming back from Kos and so many people on the flight were dressed in shorts and t-shirts. By the end of the flight they were shivering and grabbing anything they could to wrap around them to keep warm. The more you travel, the more hacks you’ll pick up for navigating the airport!
Take A Spare Pack Of Tissues
Following on from needing to take Immodium with you, also make sure you take a pack or two of tissues. Sometimes when you’re away, you may find that there isn’t toilet roll or you might need to rough it a little. The toilets in Asia are always very interesting. More often than not, you won’t need them but take some tissues out with you just in case you’re caught short!
Once you’ve booked your flights and accommodation, it can be so easy to forget that you haven’t actually arranged how to get from the airport to your accommodation. We’ve done it before so we’re not perfect! When we went to Faro in Portugal. We decided to walk to the accommodation as our maps was showing us it was a 45 minute walk and we were only with light luggage. After doing a full lap around the airport before we realised our maps wasn’t working properly and ordered an Uber! We felt so stupid it’s unbelievable but it’s a funny story now. Don’t be like Amy & Liam, arrange how you’re getting from point A to B in advance whether that be by organised transfers, bus, train, taxi, Uber or walking.
Get Your Travel Jabs!
Before you book your flights, when you’re researching where you want to travel, check which travel vaccinations you will need. Some vaccinations you will need to get a few months before travelling. It is so important to ensure that you’re being organised with this. Visit your local GP (if they offer a travel clinic as a service) or travel centre and discuss with them your travel plans and they will be able to advise you of which vaccinations you require.
Don’t Exchange Your Money At The Airport
One of the common mistakes we see new travellers make is that they exchange their currency at the airport. If you book a last minute trip then sometimes this is necessary. However, the majority lies that you won’t get the best exchange rate. If you do your research before travelling and exchange your currency in your local town or via delivery service then you will get much more currency for your money than if you were to do this at the airport.
Check Your Government’s Website
Wherever you’re planning to travel to, always check your government’s travel advice for the country. Things are changing all the time so it is worth keeping up to date. On the UK Government website, you can also sign yourself up for alerts for if there are any changes at all.
Do You Need A Visa?
This is so important because if your visa gets rejected you can’t enter the country. Once you know you’re travelling to a country, check whether you need a visa and apply for this as soon as possible. Some countries such as the USA will need to know where you’re planning to stay when you apply for an ESTA so this you will need to book in advance but where possible try to get the visa sorted first.
Consider Getting A Local Sim Card
If you’re travelling for a long time then it may be worth considering getting a local sim card. This will enable you to avoid excessive roaming charges whilst you’re away. With this, you will be able to make calls over Wi-Fi to family and friends back home and access Google Maps. Alternatively, instead of getting a sim card once you arrive, companies like Airalo provide digital e-sim cards. This means that you would be able to purchase a plan with them and you won’t need to worry about keeping a physical sim card and losing it.
Give hostels a try
Being new to travelling, we don’t doubt that you’ve heard mixed reviews about hostels. In our opinion, they are a great way to travel especially when you’re on a budget. You will be able to meet new people who will help you step out of your comfort zone. Also, if you’re travelling long term, you might get a little bit homesick. Surrounding yourself with other people that are in a similar position to you will really help. You’ll end up finding a sense of community that will be able to offer so much support and advice. If you’re introverted and struggle making friends you will still find so many people that will want to socialise so you don’t need to be an extrovert to make friends..
Don’t Be Afraid To Go Off The Beaten Track
Of course you need to make sure that you’re being safe but one of the best things about travelling is the freedom. You are free to do as you please without any limitations. Don’t be frightened to explore more and not just sticking to the tourist attractions. You will find that some of the best experiences you have travelling will be with locals in smaller destinations.
This is the most important tip of all! It can be really nerve-wracking heading out on your first trip. We promise you that once you’re there it’s not as scary as it first seems. Once you’re out there, you will love it and not want to go back! Travelling is such a beautiful experience and you will learn so much and experience things you never expected. Embrace every opportunity and step out of your comfort zone.
If you’re planning a solo trip then check out our tips on how to stay safe as a solo traveller. If you’re reading this and you’ve already travelled a few times before, comment below a tip that you would have wanted to know as a first time traveller.