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Travel Newbies: Learn How to Travel Like Seasoned Pros
Have you been bitten by the travel bug? For many inexperienced travelers, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to planning and preparing for a trip. Take a look at these travel tips, and soon, you'll be traveling like a pro! And, always remember, if you forget something, you can usually get it once you reach your destination. Take a deep breath and remember that traveling is an adventure!
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Travel Tips for Beginners
Setting sail on your first big international trip or domestic venture can be overwhelming. There is so much to navigate, from transportation and accommodations to health and safety. Don't forget international travel restrictions, too.
Doing some research ahead of time and having some travel tips and tricks up your sleeve can help you feel prepared and confident as you depart for your trip. Below, you’ll discover some of our best travel tips for first-time travelers.
Jump ahead for travel tips:
- Travel Tips for Beginners
- Short Trip Travel Tips
- Domestic Travel Safety Tips
- Tips for International Travel
- COVID-19 Safe Travel Tips
- Travel Tips for Packing
- Travel Tips for Students
- Unique Travel Tips
10 Travel Tips for Beginners
Here are some of our top travel tips for novice travelers:
- Plan your first night down to the last detail. Even if you're headed out on a free-spirited adventure, be sure that you have every detail of your first night planned. Trust us on this! Not only will you be exhausted from your travel day, but it’s good to get the lay of the land before branching out.
- Photocopy your driver’s license, passport, visa, vaccination status (if required), and other important documents. Scan them in the cloud so they're accessible wherever you are.
- Buy all your adapters, SIM cards, and currency at home. It'll be less expensive and you won't have to worry about tracking down essentials on the first day of your trip.
- Alert your credit cards and financial institutions that you will be traveling and let them know your destination. This prevents any card cancellations by your bank after making an unexpected purchase far from home. Also, inquire about details on fees and charges made overseas if traveling abroad.
- Call your phone carrier to add international service to your plan if necessary. You may also want to consider purchasing a local SIM card for the country you will be visiting.
- Working while you are away? Grab a travel Wi-Fi hotspot before you go. Be sure to add an international data plan to your regular service, too!
- Pack a travel journal. Keep a log of the places you visit to help you hold on to the memories you make.
- Pack clothes that can do double duty. Darker colors are better because they can be worn both day and night. Be sure to have a change of clothes in your carry-on, along with any other items you may need if your luggage is lost or stolen, such as medication. See more packing tips here.
- Even if you are somewhat fluent in the language spoken in the country you're visiting, bring along a phrasebook for those times when you may get stumped. This will also be helpful if your translation app isn't accessible. Also review these tips for traveling without knowing the language.
- Smile! Your first trip is something to be very excited about!
Short Travel Tips
These short travel tips are ideal for anyone going away for a night or a weekend:
- Research your destination and create a list of things you want to do ahead of time so you won’t waste any time when you get there.
- Don't pack too much. Wear your shoes that would take up the most space and try to bring along clothes that can do double duty. Travel-size items can help you save room in your luggage too.
- Traveling by car? Bring some games for everyone that will make the journey just as much fun as the destination.
- Choose your accommodations wisely. Because you're only going for a short while, why not splurge on a dream-worthy hotel or inn?
- Since you're not traveling far, consider taking the scenic route or traveling by train.
Domestic Travel Safety Tips
And don't forget about domestic travel safety tips for your short jaunt:
- Don’t carry or wear any unnecessary valuables that might make you a target for pickpocketing. When you sit down, place your backpack or purse on your lap rather than at your side.
- Research your accommodations to make sure you’re staying in a safe part of town. Read reviews and seek advice from fellow travelers on websites like TripAdvisor.com or hotel concierges at your destination.
- Stay safe by letting someone back home know your itinerary, especially if you are traveling alone. Schedule daily check-ins and consider sharing your location with a couple of trusted friends or family members via your smart phone.
- Follow all COVID restrictions and requirements at your destination if applicable.
- Don't travel if you are feeling unwell or have recently been exposed to COVID.
International Travel Tips
Planning your first trip abroad? In addition to all the excitement you're feeling, it’s completely natural to feel a bit anxious. These international travel tips should help you feel prepared when it comes time to take your first long-haul flight:
- Arrive at the airport 3 hours early for an international flight. (Even if your first flight is domestic, the overall trip still counts as international.) This may seem like overkill, but 3 hours is often necessary due to a lengthier check-in process, immigration checks, and increased security for international travel. Plus, international flights typically take place on larger planes, which means more travelers and longer lines.
- Download e-books, movies, or shows prior to travel. Many international flights offer Wi-Fi, but it can be expensive. If you plan to read books or watch shows or movies on your smartphone or tablet during the flight, we recommend downloading them to your device ahead of time.
- Pack a portable charger. It’s not always easy to find an available outlet in a crowded airport, and some planes don’t have charging ports.
- Be sure you have a plan to get to your accommodations once you land. You don't want to try to wing transportation on your first night in a foreign country.
- If your trip involves any train travel, remember that you'll be responsible for getting your luggage onto and off the train. Don't overpack. Choose a suitcase that is easily maneuverable like a rolling suitcase or a backpack. Dragging a bunch of duffel bags around, especially when experiencing jet lag, can get annoying quickly.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. embassy nearest to your final destination through the STEP program. This can be a great resource for receiving alerts and allowing the embassy to contact you if you experience an emergency abroad.
- Purchase travel insurance. Consider trip cancellation insurance to protect your trip investment if you trip is canceled or disrupted. Consider travel medical insurance if you want coverage for unexpected medical and travel-related expenses but don't need trip cancellation coverage
- Try to conform to the local time as soon as possible. Getting some exercise and moving around outside once you land is a great way to start. Learn how to prevent and minimize jet lag.
- Review the entry requirements for your destination country up to the date of your departure. Even without COVID, these restrictions and requirements have been known to change from time to time.
Safe Travel Tips COVID-19
It's important to follow these safe travel tips regarding COVID-19 to minimize your chances of getting COVID or spreading it whenever possible:
- One of the most important international travel tips pertaining to COVID is to stay up to date on travel restrictions and current entry requirements for your destination. Utilize the international travel restrictions map from WorldTrips and our partners at Sherpa to check travel restrictions by country as well as entry requirements prior to travel. These can change frequently.
- If you are looking for travel restrictions by state, don't forget to also check-in at the county and local levels, as many jurisdictions have enacted their own requirements and restrictions. See COVID-related restrictions for every state here.
- Don't skip necessary precautions while traveling, whether your trip is foreign or domestic. This includes getting vaccinations and boosters prior to travel, maintaining a distance of 6 feet (or 2 meters) between you and others wherever possible, avoiding contact with anyone who is sick, quarantine if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or are feeling ill, limiting contact with frequently touched surfaces (or using hand sanitizer afterward), and wearing a mask in public spaces.
Travel Tips for Packing
One of the most stressful parts of travel preparations is deciding what to pack. These travel tips and packing hacks can help you see that simple travel tips are sometimes the most effective!
- Versatile clothes are a must. Neutral colored separates are a great way to keep your wardrobe fresh while minimizing packing requirements.
- Roll your clothes to maximize space in your suitcase.
- Obviously, you'll want to check the weather for your destination, but also look a bit deeper at the conditions. Is this the rainy season? Is the area known for windy weather? Will you need lots of sunscreen, bug spray, a sun hat, and loose clothing? The more you know about your destination, the better you can prepare.
- Don't forget comfortable shoes for exploring and clothes that work great in layers. Wear your bulkiest shoes to travel and remember to use the insides of any packed shoes for extra packing space.
- For non-clothing items, such as toiletries, jewelry, or medication, a separate travel case is your best bet. These items can also be packed in smaller or that help to maximize space and stay organized.
- Don't overstuff your suitcase – you may have to pay a fee if it exceeds the airline’s weight limit and it'll be a pain to lug around.
- If your trip is a long one, think about items such as toiletries that may be better to buy there rather than pack.
- If traveling by plane, remember to follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on luggage. This means you may pack 3.4 ounce (100 ml) or smaller containers in 1 quart-sized, clear, resealable bag. One carry-on bag and one personal item (i.e., purse, backpack, etc.) is permitted per passenger.
- If you need to bring along any bulky items such as instruments, sporting equipment, or the like, consider shipping those items ahead of time so you don't have to deal with transporting them yourself.
Traveling Tips for Students
Getting ready to leave for your semester abroad? Or are you spending your gap year on a backpacking trip? No matter the type of trip or destination, a few budget-friendly tips will never go amiss!
If you're wondering how to travel as a college student, take some time to research semesters abroad or even summer programs. Here are 15 of the best study abroad organizations to consider.
Interested in learning how to travel for free as a student? These 9 countries allow Americans to study abroad for free or at a fraction of the cost of other study abroad programs. You can also look into joining a summer program or other course study program that provides grants and scholarships.
If you're wondering how to save money for travel as a student, consider getting a part-time job tutoring on campus, or looking into paid summer internship opportunities abroad. You can even start a student travel blog to make a little money on the side.
Hostels are great places to stay when you're traveling as a student. Many also offer in-kind trades for help with maintenance, cooking, and cleaning during your stay. You may be surprised at just how many resources there are for student travelers.
Download our Ultimate Guide to Budget Travel for budget travel tips from expert travelers.
Unique Travel Tips to Help You Better Prepare
It's almost time for you to depart on your trip. Before you go, review these unique travel tips. Remember, it's the fun travel tips that can help you have a truly immersive and rewarding experience!
5 Travel Tips to Make Your Trip Truly Unique
- Start listening to podcasts that are relevant to your travels before you leave home.
- Tour guidebooks are great, but what about looking up some historical fiction or biographies of key figures in the country you're about to visit?
- Join a social media group that is centered around the country you're going to visit. You can learn firsthand what it's like to visit or live in the area.
- Schedule a walking tour or two. Learning about the city or village you're visiting from the sidewalk is a great way to appreciate your destination from a new perspective.
- Take a cooking class or other culturally immersive course. The most rewarding trips occur when you take the time to dig a little deeper into a foreign way of life.
Now that you know a bit more about how to prepare for your first foray into travel, it's time to get excited! Don't stress too much about packing all the right things, as you'll likely be able to pick up anything you forget once you arrive at your destination. Now, it's time to get ready to enjoy your adventure to the fullest!
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