Going on your first holiday abroad is always an exciting, yet nerve wrecking experience. Stepping out of your comfort zone, away from all the familiarities can easily get even the most calm of people quite a bit stressed out. With so many unknowns and a plethora of situations that are sure to be completely new to you, getting intimidated is expected, so stop worrying about things going wrong, and instead focus on planning out your first travel experience, well in advance!
With these simple tips for planning your first international trip, we've got you 100% covered. From some absolute must-dos, to things you have to keep in mind, to those you'd better avoid, we’ve got it all listed here for you! Once you’ve gone through these tips for planning a trip, you’re definitely going to be more confident to plan that trip you’ve been dreaming of taking since forever, and making it absolutely unforgettable!
This beginner's guide to planning your very first trip is going to prepare you to be such a savvy traveler, even you’ll surprise yourself!
Do you want to go somewhere cold, or warm? Or maybe somewhere by the ocean, or a mountain destination with winter sports? Do you intend to just relax, or do you want to be adventurous and partake in adrenaline-pumping activities?
While this may seem basic, and dare we say, obvious, picking a destination is actually a daunting task to most first time travelers. If it’s your first vacation abroad, then you’re definitely going to want to make it a memorable one, so narrow down your list to around 3 destinations that interest you at most, and then do some research. Pick a well-rounded destination. One that fits your criteria, that has multiple places of interest to you, along with being within your budget, one that is safe to visit and isn’t a long plane ride away, and a destination you feel will inspire you to keep traveling.
Once you’ve picked your destination, you’re going to have to decide on how long you plan on spending there. This will mostly depend on the number of days you will be able to take off work or school, how much you intend to spend, and all of the places you want to see, and things you want to do. Will you be able to take two weeks off, or is it looking like you’ll only have 4 to 5 days to spend?
If you’ve got the time and money, and the destination you pick has multiple points of interest to you, then why not take a leisurely 14 day vacay? Or if a budget holiday sounds more appealing to you, don’t get discouraged by being able to spend even just a couple of days in the destination you pick. Something is better than nothing, right?!
Budgeting your trip is key. When you decide on the kind of trip that you want to take, and its duration, research the destination and come up with a plan in terms of how much money you will be spending. Research the prices of air tickets, hotel rooms, meals, attraction costs, cost of transportation within the destination, and the other things you intend on doing, add them all up with a little extra spending money per day, just in case. Once you have a rough cost down for your entire trip, then you can decide on a daily budget.
Remember, this is just an approximation of how much your trip will cost. You could end up spending a little more, or even less, but setting a budget gives you a goal so you don’t end up overspending, or so you can start saving up beforehand if you don’t already have the money in hand.
If this is your first holiday abroad, then it’s more than likely that you either don’t already have a passport of your own, or if you do, it could be expired, or expiring within the next 6 months. So look into that well in advance, since without a passport number, you won’t be able to book your ticket. Apply for one, or get it renewed, and once that is taken care of, you can go ahead and apply for your visa if needed.
The internet has made things so easy that now, with just a few clicks, you can book a flight to somewhere across the world, and even browse through hundreds of hotel options. After getting the above sorted, your next step would be to book your flights and accommodation. If you’re on a tight budget, there are several budget airlines you could take. Some flights even cost less if they include a layover, so if time is not a factor for you, this could be a great option. There are numerous affordable choices for accommodation too, like Airbnb, budget hotels and even home-stays. So research, research, research!
Don’t forget to make copies of your bookings once they are made! Having a soft copy on your phone is a good idea, in addition to bringing a few printouts.
This is the fun part! Now you actually get to really plan out your trip. You picked the destination for a reason, so list out all the places you'd like to visit and things you'd like to do. Tailor-make your holiday to your specifications by doing a bit of research, and maybe even discussing it with friends you know who have already traveled to the destination. Since this is your first big holiday, you may have a tendency to go a bit overboard with all your bucket list spots, so don’t forget to stay within budget! Put together a fun day-to-day plan, give yourself a nice variety of things to do, and keep a few spots open so you can add in things as you go along.
We’ve all got busy lives, so a checklist is the perfect way to keep everything holiday-related in check. List out all the things you would like to take with you, from clothes and accessories to electronic gadgets, and even important documents. This will not only help you keep within your baggage allowance, but it also ensures you don’t take along unnecessary items, or leave something out at the last minute.
Also list out the things you need to get done before you head out, like getting your mail forwarded to a family member or friend, turning off the electrical outlets in your house, making sure your little furry friends are taken care of, and so on.
There are numerous apps to plan a vacation checklist, or you could just go old-school and list it all out by hand! Just before you leave for the airport, you can give the list a quick run through, and you’re good to go!
If you’re a first time traveler, you’re going to want to pack everything you can get your hands on, just so you feel prepared for anything, come what may. This is a HUGE mistake! Stick to your checklist and only take what is absolutely necessary. There are plenty of life hack videos you could check out on YouTube that will help you pack smarter, lighter and faster.
Remember to check the airline's luggage rules, too! Almost all airlines will not allow you to take liquids over a certain amount in your carry-on luggage. There are also restrictions on things you can carry with you, depending on the destination you’re visiting as well as the airlines.
And don’t forget that even if you do end up not packing something that you do require, you can always just buy it when you need it. So don’t freak out. It’s not the end of the world if you forget something at home!
If you intend on using your credit or debit card/s, remember to activate them for international use before you fly out. All you have to do is call up your bank and notify them of the destination you're traveling to, as well as your travel dates, and voilà, you’re all sorted out!
Even if you will be using your cards for most things, having some cash in hand is always a good idea, just in case. Head to your local bank, or the nearest currency exchange, and they''ll do whatever's needful.
Remember that if you’re visiting a developing country, you will more than likely not be able to use your card in most places. So be sure to exchange enough money to last you at least half of your trip. You can always get some money changed wherever you go, but the exchange rates may differ there, and you could end up losing out on a bit of money because of this.
You’ll obviously want to stay in touch with loved ones back home, and of course update your social media from time to time, so figure out if you’ll be buying a SIM wherever you go, or if you’ll be making adjustments to your mobile plan.
International roaming charges sometimes can actually break the bank, so contact your phone company, and make sure you're aware of exactly how much you will be paying if you choose this route.
You could also avoid any unnecessary expenses by using WiFi as much as possible!
There are several great apps like the HalalTrip Mobile App that are designed to help travelers experience a seamless holiday. The app will help you locate nearby Halal restaurants and mosques, as well as must-see attractions, and more. It also has features to help you locate the qibla, and find prayer times, so you don’t have to worry about compromising on your faith's duties while traveling.
Other apps that would be a great idea to have include a translation app, such as Google Translate, if you’re traveling to a destination where a foreign language is spoken, a transportation app like Uber will also definitely help if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, unable to find a taxi. The ride-sharing app is active in over 84 countries, so it is more than likely that the service will be available in the destination you've picked.
XE Currency is one of the best currency converter apps which provides you with the most recent currency rates. Having this on your phone will help you feel more confident if you’re exchanging money abroad.
No matter how much you’ve geared yourself up for and read up, actually being there in real life will just be something you can’t prepare for. This is going to be the best experience of your life! There’s absolutely nothing that beats the excitement and anticipation of your first big trip abroad, so relax, explore, be open to certain things being out of your control, and have the most incredible time ever! Bon voyage! ;)
Hishama is a Lankan born, ex-Dubai-an who enjoys all things travel. When she's not at her day job as an Online Marketing Specialist, you will find her hanging out with friends at one of the city's newest cafés, reading a Jodi Picoult novel, Netflix-ing pretty much anything, obsessing over broadway, or just dreaming of her next big adventure abroad that she wishes she could afford.