Travelling for your first time can be scary and exciting, but I’ve come up with a list of 5 things you can do to prepare yourself and travel with confidence.
1. Use a Travel Agent – You might think Travel Agents are a thing of the past, but I can guarantee you the value is there. Agents have access to contracts with airlines that online travel sites may not be able to offer. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of websites out there, all of the options, an agent can help you weed through them to find the option that works for you and with your budget. If you’re traveling solo, they can help recommend tours, hotels, and other activities. Agencies can offer you travel insurance for your trip, which should be a no-brainer. You’ll want to be protected in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Travel agents are there to answer all of your questions so that you can travel with peace of mind.
2. Know your destination – Obviously, you can’t know everything about a destination, but if you’re traveling somewhere that you’re not familiar with the culture, customs, language – do your research. Visit websites like Lonely Planet or www.travel.gc.ca to find out more information about safety, vaccinations, customs, passport and visa requirements, etc. Talk to friends who may have traveled to the region before and get their feedback, as they may have some great insider ideas to make the most of your trip. If you know a few phrases, that’s really helpful. Duolingo is a great app to help you practice the basics, and websites like Conversation Exchange can help you brush up on those skills and make some friends!
3. Know your budget – There’s nothing worse than coming down to your last few bucks several days away from your return date or having to turn down great experiences in order to stretch your dollars. It’s important to understand the currency you’ll use when you’re traveling and how that relates to your bank account. A lot of travel information sites can help you understand what a realistic daily budget would look like (Lonely Planet). Also, have a look at the tourism websites for your country of destination to see what kinds of adventures you can get your hands on and what to expect for costs. Always plan to have a few extra hundred on hand in case of unforeseen circumstances that you may not have planned on before your left home (ie. departure taxes, baggage fees, hotel resort fees, etc). If you’re tight on budget and hotels are a bit pricey, join sites like AirBnB or Couchsurfing . Make sure to read the reviews about the hosts and give it a shot near home before you go so that you have reviews as a guest as well. Many hosts are just as cautious about who they’re letting into their home, so a good review means a lot!
4. Know your electronics – Some countries use different voltages, outlet plugs. Personally, I don’t love carrying around items I can’t use when I’m traveling, so check that your electronics will be able to be used with an appropriate adapter.
If you’re going on a short trip, check out any international roaming packages your cell phone carrier may offer so that you don’t come home to a crazy big bill. If you’re going for more than a couple of weeks, spend the $40 to get your phone unlocked and get a local SIM card when you arrive.
5. Pack your bags – By researching your destination and understanding typical weather patterns, you’ll be able to more effectively pack your bag. Most airlines allow you just one checked bag for free (traveling outside of North America), and often people bring back a bags worth of souvenirs from their first trip. Try to pack your bag only 2/3rd so you have some extra space. Vacuum-sealed bags really help to maximize space, but you’ll want to make sure you have access to a vacuum for your return. Pack a couple large zip lock bags for bottles that may leak or wet clothing. Make copies of your passport/visas/travel itinerary. Leave a copy with a close friend or relative, and bring a copy with you. Pack it in a place separate of where you keep your original documents. If you’re taking a tour or joining a volunteer program, you can often contact the supplier for a packing list. Don’t leave it to the last minute and be practical.
Being prepared can make a huge difference in your experience. It’s also super important to stay open-minded and keep a go-with-the-flow attitude. Many countries operate on a different wavelength than that which you are accustomed. Things will likely go wrong, flights may get canceled, accommodations may not work out. Try to be calm and be ready to problem solve.
Keeping a travel journal is a great way to remember little details which you may forget later. Talking to other travelers or locals is a great way to make new connections and friends. Take pictures, and most importantly, have fun!