Travelling for the first time can be really scary. Everything is new and different, literally taking you out of your comfort zone!  It’s a great opportunity to embrace new experiences and develop life skills but it can also be very daunting. However this can also present certain hazards and safety issues that you need to be aware of. So before heading off it is a good idea to follow this guide to being prepared for your first trip.

A person looking at a guide book

  1. Research, Research, Research

This is probably the most important step, as you will be much more knowledgeable and confident if you have done some research before you have even left your home. You should find out as much as you can about your destination – where to go, how to get around, where to stay and how much everything costs.

Depending on what kind of activities you want to do on your trip you can plan an itinerary, usually scheduling your time based on when the activities are open and grouping together activities that are close by each other. You may also want to find some places to eat nearby and what transport options there are.

Have a good search for accommodation – there are hostels, AirBnB, cheap hotels and couchsurfing options for budget travellers and plenty of mid-high end hotels and apartments or villas to rent if you can splash some cash. There are budget airlines too, plus taking the train or bus can save you money and give you a great view of the country in between destinations. Make sure you read the reviews for transport providers and accommodation options – this can help you narrow down the options. It is a good idea to avoid national and religious holidays and weekends if you want to find the best deals.

Once you have an idea of where you are staying, what you are doing, how you are getting there, how you are getting around and how much food costs then you can get an idea of a daily budget.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

A person looking at a map

2. Get Orientated

It’s a good idea to get some experience of map reading so that you can quickly work out where you are and where you want to go! It’s also useful to be able to orientate yourself in unfamiliar places without looking like a lost tourist. Remember you cannot rely on your phone when you are abroad as you might run out of data, battery or find you don’t have access to a local network. Getting outside with a real map is a great way to become used to reading them.

You should take a look at some topographic maps of where you are travelling to, road maps to see the transport links, and tourist maps to see what points of interest there are. You can try using these in your hometown first before heading somewhere unfamiliar.

3. Learn a Language

There are so many ways to be able to learn some useful phrases in the local language of where you might be heading to. There are apps, online courses, local classes, Meetup groups… speaking a new language can be fun as well as a great way to meet new people and know more about the culture of where you are travelling to.

A person with a camera

4. Develop Your Photography Skills

It’s a rookie mistake to think that a fancy ‘all singing all dancing’ camera is going to take brilliant photos. The most important element of photography is the skills of the human using the equipment. If you want to take amazing shots of your trip it’s worth investing more in your own ability than relying on the tool to do it for you. Take a look at some local classes and online courses (there are free ones available at Alison, Udemy, Coursera and Futurelearn) and also try and practice in your hometown before you leave.

You also need to be aware that in some cultures taking photographs of people without permission is inappropriate and taking photos of certain buildings can be illegal. Check before you leave and be considerate when you are away. Also be aware that taking photos can be dangerous – be careful around bodies of water, bridges, trains, cliffs, and wild animals! It’s not worth dying for the perfect picture.

5. Be Safe

Hopefully you will never be in a situation where your safety is compromised and you are required to defend yourself. However it is always good to know how to keep yourself safe. You can follow this handy guide to staying safe whilst travelling and additionally take self-defense classes prior to departure.

A bag and some items for going away

6. Get Your Packing Right

Use a packing checklist (there is an awesome one available here if you sign up for the newsletter!) but you should also take note of some cultural considerations. In some countries you need to dress appropriately (for women this usually means covering shoulders and wearing clothing that falls to the knees or lower, loose fitting clothes and not exposing cleavage, for men this can mean not going shirtless). If you like to sunbathe topless then check if it is legal to do so. It’s a good idea to pack a big scarf to cover up if necessary – whether this is for visiting religious sites or to prevent sunburn.

If you can get away with only taking hand luggage it is so much easier. When flying you don’t have to wait for your luggage at the airport and there is less chance it will get lost, stolen, left behind or damaged. You have to adhere to the rules on taking liquids and pastes on board as hand luggage, plus the size and weight allowance for your bag, which varies depending on airline and route, so you must check according to what your ticket states.

If you do end up taking checked luggage then do not put any valuables inside, put something on the bag to make it easily identifiable as yours, such as a ribbon or sticker and take a toothbrush, toothpaste plus some underwear in your carry on. Don’t forget a pillow and a warm jumper in case your journey is delayed or becomes a bit chilly.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

7. Be Financially Savvy

You need to make sure that you have considered how you will manage your money whilst travelling. Luckily this ultimate guide gives you some great advice.

8. Before Leaving

To make sure you have all the travel essentials you should then go through this planning guide and this list. You should now be ready to leave!

Don’t forget travel insurance – if you take out adequate cover then any serious problems with your trip can be sorted out, including crimes, illnesses and accidents.

Departures board

9. At the Airport and Onboard

Make sure you get to the airport in advance, two to three hours is a safe time to ensure that any travel delays do not mean that you miss your flight. (I’d also recommend building in some extra time if you need to catch any bus or train too, just in case).

If you can ‘check-in’ online in advance then this can save you time and you just need to drop your bag off at the designated desk if you are taking checked baggage. Otherwise you need to check-in on arrival at the airport and show your ID and your reservation. You may be prevented from boarding if you don’t have the required visas or do not have a return flight booked then this may cause you a problem, make sure you have these arranged beforehand.

Once checked in it’s a good idea to head through security as soon as possible, as the lines can be quite long. Be prepared to take off your shoes, jacket, belt and jewellery and to put your laptop in a separate tray. You need to have any liquids in a clear resealable plastic bag and to take any electronics out of your bag. Depending on the security system you will be scanned in some way, whether that is by passing through a doorway, going through a revolving door style machine where you put your hands in the air or being manually scanned with a wand and a security person’s hands. The main tip is to be quick, courteous and helpful, do what is asked of you and answer any questions truthfully.

Once past security then you should keep an eye on the screens for when you need to head to your departure gate, as some airports do not make announcements. Head to the gate and when boarding commences follow the instructions given, as you might only be allowed on board in waves to ease congestion in the aisles.

On board make sure you are not causing any problems for other passengers, relax and be nice to the cabin crew.

When you have arrived you will go through immigration where they check your validity to enter the country. Again be super nice and answer the questions honestly. They will usually ask you where you will be staying, for how long, why you are visiting etc. Next up is customs, which are checking to make sure you are not bringing anything illegal into the country. Check before about any restrictions, especially for medications and foods. Then you can exit the airport!

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

japanese train at a platform

10. Getting To Your Accommodation

You already know this from your research but make sure that you are not distracted by anyone hanging outside the airport or bus station waiting for someone who hasn’t done their homework. Always check for someone’s credentials and go with official, registered taxis or use the public transport system. If you have a print out of where you are going, with directions, this can help enormously.

11. Get the Inside Knowledge

The best things to do when you first arrive are to hit the tourist office and ask local people for advice. You might be given some really great information about hidden gems that regular tourists don’t go to and the best places to hang out. Be aware that some local people do not have any suggestions but keep trying – it’s a fabulous way to practice your newly acquired language abilities.

12. Try New Things

There are so many new experiences to be had – foods, festivals, sports, activities… embrace as many as you can! Travel is very much about finding out who you are, including what you like and what you don’t, plus what your strengths and weaknesses are. It doesn’t matter if you are not feeling very brave, even just a taste of one dish could open up your world.

Chinese dragon

13. Don’t Get Ripped Off

 

In some countries  you may see the price on the item and then have to pay extra as a tax at the till. Make sure that you double check some prices as you may be paying more than local people. In some cultures there are no fixed prices for goods. Don’t be afraid to ask how much and then reply with a really low proposal. After a few offers back and forth as part of the negotiations you can mutually agree on a price. It is quite good fun! If you are not happy with the price then walk away, sometimes this really works in your favour. If the vendor doesn’t accept your offer then you know it is too low.

14. Taking local transport

Try and use local transport to get around (if it is safe to do so). This is a great way to see the country and get to interact with the local people. It’s another good test of your map reading skills and is usually super cheap and cheerful. Do take some spare cash with you in case you get lost and you need to find a way back.

a person canoeing off into the sunset

15. Practice Before You Go

You could try out some of these activities in a city that you are unfamiliar with in your own country first so that you develop some skills in advance of your travels. It’s a good idea to have a dummy run in a location where you can communicate with people and also know how to contact emergency services if needed. So get researching, packing, reading maps, taking photos, asking people for advice and trying new foods!

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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