Discovering a new place and diving into its way of life is a feeling like no other. For someone taking their first trip to another country – a first-time international traveler – get ready for an exciting experience! It’s like starting a new adventure filled with unfamiliar sights and activities. But before you begin, there are some important things to remember to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable journey. This quick guide is here to help you understand those things, so you’re all set for a journey that’s about exploring, learning, and making wonderful memories as a first time international traveler!
1. Check/Get Your Passport Early
The most crucial advice for first-time international travelers is to apply for a passport well in advance to avoid added stress. Do not make any final flight or travel arrangements until you have received your passport. Keep in mind that some international flights require passport information during booking or check-in. Once you receive your passport, make copies of the identification page and keep them in a safe place. Additionally, take a photo of your passport and visa stamp and store them in a digital format such as Google Docs.
If you already have a passport, check to make sure your are not nearing the expiration date. Many countries require your passport to be valid for 6-months after entering the country. A few countries have a 3-month requirement. Ensure you know the guidelines of the country you plan to visit.
2. Research the Culture
When planning a trip, it’s always beneficial to familiarize yourself with the culture of your destination. Learn about the social customs, traditional clothing, cuisine, government, and religious practices. Understanding a country’s history, culture, and politics will make your stay more meaningful. While English is widely spoken around the world, it’s always helpful to try to learn some basic phrases of the local language. You can find useful language resources at your local library, in travel guides, and online.
3. Pack Smart
Another important travel tip is to pack light. This will allow you to move around more easily and freely. This doesn’t mean leaving behind essentials, but rather, only bringing what you truly need, such as toiletries, medicine, money, a camera, and enough changes of clothing. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched with other items in your luggage. For example, black pants or trousers can be worn with many different tops. Additionally, make sure to secure all your travel documents, such as your passport and travel insurance. Invest in a secure document bag and wear it under your clothes, or keep valuable documents in the hotel safe. Keep in mind that while being a tourist in a new place can be exciting, it can also make you a target for theft.
4. Prepare for Jet Lag
Recovering from a long-haul flight can be challenging, especially when you factor in jet lag caused by a time change. It can take up to a week to adjust for every eight time zones crossed, so if you’re flying from Los Angeles to London, you can expect several days of adjustment. To combat jet lag, get plenty of rest before your trip and gradually adjust your schedule and meal times. Drink lots of water before, during, and after the flight. Once you arrive, try to avoid naps and instead take a walk or relax in a café. Consider adding extra time in your travel schedule to adjust. Remember, even experienced travelers may struggle with jet lag, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself breaking some of these rules.
5. Always be Aware
Avoiding theft while traveling is an important aspect of staying safe. One way to decrease the chances of being targeted is to dress simply and conservatively. The less jewelry, electronics, or expensive accessories you wear, the less likely you are to attract attention from thieves. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of cash you carry, opting instead for traveler’s checks or credit cards. While it may be tempting to put your name on your luggage, this can also make it easier for thieves to identify you. Instead, consider using covered luggage tags on the inside and outside of your bags. If you’re planning to travel internationally, it’s a good idea to find the local US consulate’s office and keep their contact information handy. They can provide assistance to American travelers who find themselves in trouble.
Embarking on the journey of exploring a new destination and fully immersing oneself in its vibrant culture is an experience unlike any other. The allure of international travel holds a special place in our hearts, offering the chance to broaden horizons and create indelible memories. For those contemplating their inaugural voyage across borders, the aforementioned tips serve as invaluable guidelines for ensuring both the safety and enjoyment of the adventure. As you step onto unfamiliar shores, may your travels be filled with wonder, connection, and a profound appreciation for the diverse tapestry of our world.