Travel Tips

Tips For First Time Travelers

May 27, 2014
Virgin Traveler. We’ve all been one before. Even for those who aren’t virgins, traveling can offer a mix of emotions. It’s exciting with all the new experiences and endless possibilities. At the same time, it can feel a bit daunting and uncomfortable because of all the unknowns. 

I often reflect on the first time I ever REALLY traveled. It was October 2006 and I was headed off to Spain. Boy was I a NOOB! I’ve gained some wisdom along the way on traveling practicalities as well as having a new perspective on life experiences. For the young, inexperienced, “noob” traveler that I once was, and for all of you who may be looking for some tips to make your journey a little easier, this post is dedicated to you!

The Practical Tips

1. Pack light.
Trust me when I say this: You won’t use half the clothes you think you might need. If you’re not sure if you need it, don’t pack it. You can buy most things overseas. Whether you’re traveling for two weeks or two months, pack the same amount. Laundromats are your friend! Check this out for some packing tips. You’ll be happier not lugging around a heavy suitcase! Speaking of which…

2. Invest in distinctive looking luggage.
Surprise! You’re not the only one with a black suitcase. Or a red one for that matter. Go with patterned luggage or personalize your bag with something unique like a bright yellow ribbon or iron-on patches. As a matter of fact, I’d actually recommend not even using a roller suitcase because…

3. Backpacks are easier to travel with.

Roller suitcases are nice at airports, but once you get to your destination where there are stairs galore and cobblestone or dirt roads, you’ll find that the wheels aren’t so friendly anymore.

4. Adapters and Converters are not the same.
An adapter simply changes the shape of the plug to match the outlet. Converters change the voltage used in a foreign country to the voltage required for a particular AC device. Your best bet is to buy an all-in-one adapter/converter.

5. Use a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. 
Check your policy. Even a number of American Express cards charge fees! If you’re looking for a good card, I recommend the Capital VentureOne: No foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, AND you get flexible reward points!

6. Bring your ATM card. 
Travelers checks are a thing of the past and some places may only take cash. ATMs are plentiful and tend to give you the best exchange rates. Just be sure to check with your bank on fees and notify them of your travel so your card does not get blocked.

7. Scan a copy of your passport.
Email the scanned image to your family and to yourself. If you lose your passport or need a copy of it, you’ll have it right at your fingertips!

8. Buy a simple, cheap travel watch. 
Don’t rely on your phone to tell time–the batteries may die or you may lose it. And you don’t want to attract unwanted attention with a Rolex. Just buy a watch with basic functionalities like… telling the time! An alarm would be useful too.

9. Turn your phone to airplane mode. 
If you don’t have a global plan, using your phone overseas for calls, texts, or data can get very expensive. Use WiFi instead. It does not count toward your data allowance and is readily available in many airports, hotels, and restaurants. To communicate over WiFi, use apps like WhatsApp. For iPhone users, iChat will also over WiFi.

10. Bring your “go-to” drugs. 
There’s always a chance you’ll get sick and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want Theraflu when you’re feeling ill. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to find Theraflu overseas. So pack it! And don’t forget to include some Imodium in your bag… just in case.
11. Sleep on your flight according to your destination time zone.
As soon as you board, set your simple, cheap travel watch to the time at your destination and sleep accordingly. This will help you immensely with fighting jet lag. At least it does for me!

12. Tipping rules vary by country. 
CCRA is a great resource to review before your trip.
13. Use your room key to activate the electricity. 
Who knew? I certainly didn’t! Apparently, in many foreign countries, you have to insert your room key into a wall slot to trigger the electricity in your hotel room. I learned this the hard way after notifying the front desk receptionist that there was no electricity in my room. Silly American!


And now… for some deeper advice

14. Don’t over plan. 
Have a general idea of what you want to see and do, but don’t plan every second of your trip. Allow yourself to take it slow, absorb the moments, and be flexible. You never know who you’ll end up meeting along the way or what happy accidents might come across your path that could change the course of your journey.

15. Accept that things will go wrong.
Your flight will be delayed. Your luggage will be lost. You might even get pick-pocketed. Things don’t always work out perfectly. Accept this before you start your trip and you’ll be able to enjoy your journey regardless of what happens. In the end, it’s usually these awry moments that lend to the best stories!

16. Don’t skip out on an experience.
It might be expensive. It might be out of your comfort zone. But when will you return to this place again? And how much time and money did it already cost you to get here? So just do it! You don’t want to return home having any regret.

17. Be open to the endless possibilities.
Traveling the world can offer you more than you could ever expect. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to immerse into the culture and connect with the people you meet during your travels. You’ll stand to gain so much more out of your experience.

18. It’s easier to travel than you think.
There are plenty of people out there traveling. It’s not as scary as you might think. You may feel uncomfortable right now, but being uncomfortable is how you grow. Even for people who have traveled plenty, the nervous jitters from all the newness never fully goes away. It’s an exciting feeling!

And finally, my last tip: Learn to toilet squat. You’ll need it at some point during your world travels!

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