A First-Time International Traveler's Hacks to a Great Adventure
Are you thinking about going out of the country and exploring lands you've never been to before? Here are some great first-time international traveler's hacks for a more than great adventure! I can’t think of a time I haven’t been planning or saving for a trip! At age 14, I saved every penny I earned from my first job to buy a plane ticket to Germany. I spent a month in a tiny boating town with a friend--experiences like this are worth every penny. In 2013, I moved to London for a year as a live in nanny (saving me a fortune in London rent).
I’m a wanderer at heart, but traveling isn’t exactly cheap or accessible to everybody. I’ve spent countless hours researching, price comparing, and when it comes time to pack for the adventure, it's far too easy to overpack with things you don’t need.
Pick a location! This is the easy part. But really be mindful of the time of year and what kind of weather you want.
Try Expedia or other “bundle” websites that airlines, hotels and cruise lines use to fill spaces. Sometimes you can score good savings by booking things together.
TripAdvisor is your new best friend--read ALL of the reviews you can find! I’ve avoided a few nightmares that way, but don’t forget that people are more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones. I found myself in a hostel in Paris with no lights in the hall, hair on the bed, and no Wi-Fi because I booked without reading reviews first. Oops!
Hostels are a great way to save money and despite a few weird experiences, I still prefer them when traveling. They can have a great atmosphere, you can meet other travelers and they help find cool stuff to do.
Booking in advance is preferred, but sometimes booking last minute and off season can help you save.
Don’t overpack. Don’t. Sin number one and something I somehow always do. Make a list of what you’re doing or anything you might specifically need, how many days and nights and what the weather will be.
Don’t be afraid to re-pack and re-arrange.
Space bags, packing cubes, or XL Ziplocs will save your life.
Plan where you’re going to put everything in your carry on. Have a safe place for your passport, wallet, tickets and even while you're on your trip, try to keep these in a save place or on you at all times. Don’t be that person on the trip that loses everything!
Decorate your bags with tape, ribbons, or stickers for easy spotting.
IF YOU CHECK A BAG, SAVE THE LITTLE STICKER THEY GIVE YOU. If they lose your bag, they need this to find it! It also helps to snap some pictures of your bag pre trip if you can.
Lastly, on travel day wear plain clothes with no embellishments, minimal to no jewelry if you can and easy slip on shoes... trust me.
Something I've seen other people do and I've yet to try myself is keeping an expenses journal. Figure out what you want to spend each day on food, entertainment and souvenirs. Keep a tally each time you make a purchase. If you're traveling on a budget, this will keep you from having a breakdown when you check your bank account!
Already have an idea of what you would like to see/do while you're there. Spontaneous adventuring is also fun, but you might regret it later if you missed something important.
When choosing the area you're staying in, Google Maps will be your best friend. Check the distance between your living quarters and the things you wanted to do (preferably beforehand). If you're international, most cafes, hostels and hotels have free WiFi.
Use public transportation!!! You'll save a lot of money, be able to get around like a local and see much more. Most big cities have mobile apps, but you can also purchase subway and bus maps.
Ask a local! Don't be scared of being "that tourist". More often than not, people will be enthusiastic about giving you advice.
PRODUCTS I LOVE:
These packing cubes are something I got as a gift, and I can fit just about a week in one small cube.
This website is a treasure trove for travelers. They specialize in beautiful leather organizers that cover cords, tablets and even your passport.
Don’t get pickpocketed! This wearable waistband is great if you’re going places where you know you’ll be in large distracted crowds (museums, concerts, busy streets). This is not your mom’s fanny pack, and can be worn under or over clothing without looking bulky!
If you’re going somewhere where English is not the native tongue, try a translator app! I’ve used iTranslate from the iTunes store and it works well for me.