Traveling for your first time can be an exciting and nerve-racking experience.
What should you expect?
How do you know what to bring?
How do you avoid making tourist mistakes?
While the more you travel the less questions you’ll have, having an idea of what to expect can relieve a lot of those first time jitters.
I’ve compiled of list of helpful tips for first time travelers that should ease a lot of the uncertainty of first-time, long term travel.
Getting yourself familiar with these eleven tips will put you at a good starting point for your first big trip.
1. Don't bring anything that you cannot lose.
If you’re traveling for a good bit of time, you will lose things.
Try not to pack any items that’ll leave you heartbroken if they don’t come home with you.
There’s a good chance your favorite shirt, those expensive sunglasses, jewelry, and many pairs of shoes will get lost.
You are constantly doing laundry, unpacking and re-packing, and picking up and moving around. It’s very easy to misplace things and leave items behind.
Losing shoes is extremely common in Southeast Asia where you take your shoes off everywhere. Be extra careful, because they’ll go missing quick!
You’ll probably acquire some new things too.
Hostels frequently give out shirts, you’ll shop for souvenirs, and travelers that came before you will forget things that you’ll claim as treasures.
The contents of your bag will look much different at the end of your trip.
So just be prepared!
2. You will get sick.
Traveling overseas for extended periods of time will get you sick. It just will.
If you frequently get colds, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, or anything that requires medication, I recommend bringing those medications along with you.
They don’t take up that much space in your bag and they will save your life when you find yourself needing them in a foreign country.
There’s nothing worse than trying to find a doctor for tourists overseas. Add that to trying to describe your symptoms to someone who doesn’t speak English. The process is a real pain in the ass.
If you can bring along medicine, do it!
3. Your body will get out of whack.
Don’t be surprised if your body doesn’t seem quite right.
You’ve traveled far from home, are in a different time zone, eating foods your body isn’t used to, and you’re probably being more active.
It’s common for your digestive system to be acting funky, your sleep patterns to be all over the place, and women can have delayed/missed periods.
Unfortunately, these symptoms are common. But they are normal.
Give your body some time and it’ll even itself out again.
4. Say yes to everything.
You need to become the real-life version of “Yes Man.”
People all around you will extend invites to join in on sightseeing, meals, and nights out.
If you want to make the most of your holiday, I highly recommend saying yes to everything.
You never know what kind of memories you will make.
5. Have music and movies already downloaded to your phone.
Make sure your phone and laptop are loaded up with movies and music before you start your journey.
A lot of apps require Wi-Fi for you to consume your media, but you won’t have Wi-Fi everywhere.
When you’re on layovers, waiting for transit, or chilling on the train, you’re going to want something to entertain you.
You’ll find Wi-Fi to be spotty while traveling, so download your movies and music beforehand.
You don’t want to find yourself in an airport for five hours with nothing to do.
6. Do some research on the customs of the country you are visiting.
While you’re bored in the airport before you leave for your vacation, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes researching the culture of the place you’re flying to.
The last thing you want to do is disrespect a group of people because you are ignorant of local customs.
7. Make sure you have a good bank.
In other words, don’t bank with SunTrust.
You want your bank to be easy to contact in case of emergencies.
You’ll want your bank to text you if there is suspicious activity on your account.
And you do not want your card to be turned off without your knowledge – even if you’ve notified them of where and when you are traveling.
This has happened to me every time I travel.
Each time I notify SunTrust of where I’m going, and every time they still shut my card off without me knowing.
One time I didn’t find out that my card was turned off until I was at customs trying to pay for a Visa into a new country.
I couldn’t get a hold of customer service and I was stuck in this holding area for hours.
I can’t recommend enough that you have a good bank that you trust.
Having a shitty bank can be a real pain in the ass while traveling.
8. Bring a spare cell phone if you have one.
I’ve witnessed many people break or lose their phones overseas.
It’ll save you the money of having to buy a new phone if you have an extra on hand.
Also, make sure to buy international sim cards whenever you get to new countries.
They’re sold everywhere, and it will help you stay connected.
9. Don't skip out on travel insurance.
I learned this the hard way – you really should get travel insurance.
Especially if you’re traveling for a long time.
If you get sick overseas and need to see a doctor (I needed antibiotics and a shot) this will help you.
If you get the bends after scuba diving, this will save you.
If a plane loses your luggage…
If you injure yourself…
I can’t say this enough: It matters.
I’ve traveled way too many times thinking nothing bad would happen to me.
But the last time I was overseas I saw a doctor twice and then tore my ACL. It sucked. And travel insurance would have really helped me.
Spend the extra money and safeguard yourself from disaster.
10. Don't stress too much about packing.
Packing for women is always a pain in the ass but trust me when I say don’t stress it.
Pack minimally, because you’re going to want to shop when you get overseas anyway.
There are plenty of places to buy cute clothes everywhere you go.
You can also get electronics and toiletries easily as well.
11. Cook your own meals whenever you can.
If your accommodation offers free breakfast or a place to cook your own meals, I highly suggest you take advantage!
Eating out every day adds up and gets expensive in some places.
Even if your hostel just offers toast in the morning, eat up!
You’ll be full until later in the day and that still saves you some cash.
Cooking meals at the hostel can also help you make friends with other money saving travelers.
Eating in saves a lot of money in the end and can be a great way to meet people!
12. Have an idea of what things are going to cost.
People will always try to take advantage of tourists no matter what country you’re in.
Make sure to do some research online before traveling so that you know how much you should and shouldn’t pay for common things.
Feel free to ask people working at your hostel or hotel what common prices are for taxis, food, and excursions so that you don’t get taken advantage of.
That way you can feel confident when haggling at markets or for transportation.