5 Tips For First Time Travelers

As first time travelers, it can be daunting to pack and travel, so here are five tips on how you should pack, things you should bring and traveling itself.

Traveling can be daunting especially if it’s your first long or long-distance trip and I know what it’s like to sit there with your suitcase open and all of your stuff around you thinking what the heck do I put in here, and then leaving the house just praying to God you haven’t left something behind. My extended family and I are meeting up in Ireland in a couple of months for my mom’s birthday and I know for a lot of them it’s their first time traveling or traveling abroad, so hopefully this post helps all of you who are first time travelers, regardless of where or how far that might be.

If you haven’t already, check out my post on how to pack for a week in a carry on, that way we can focus on other things than just packing in this post!

Get Your Documents In Order

As a first time traveler, it’s important months in advance to make sure you have everything in order that you’ll need. Passport, flights, itinerary, everything. When I first started traveling a lot I printed out absolutely everything I thought I might need, from flight itinerary to hotel details and phone numbers I thought might come in handy. Then I put them all in a handy folder to reference later and this gave me the security and comfort of knowing I at least had all my important information on hand, without the need to find Internet or a computer. Some good details to make sure you have are:

  • Flight information: down to the ticket number, booking reference, flight numbers, times, etc. If there are any problems you’ll have no problem solving them with all this information at your finger tips.
  • Hotel details: Which hotel, its address, phone number, and reservation number. Should anything go wrong you’ll have everything you need. In addition, a lot of countries have landing cards you have to fill out which typically ask for the address you’ll be residing at during your stay, so having this on hand is super helpful.
    And don’t make the mistake I’ve made way too many times which is not writing down the address of the hotel, arriving at your destination with no Internet and finding out you have no clue where you’re going. Yes, this did in fact happen. When we were in Dubai we got on the metro only to find out we had no clue where we needed to get off and proceeded to get off at every stop to look out the window to see if we saw our hotel– don’t make the same mistake we did! You’ll look dumb and you’ll also feel very dumb, so learn from my mistake(s)!
  • Any car rental details: If you’ve rented a car, it’s good to have these details on you as well.
  • Perhaps a map of the location. Personally, I don’t carry this, but you may feel more secure and happier if you have one with you, just in case.
  • Anything you might find relevant or want, whether it’s phone numbers you want to make sure you have or names of restaurants or museums that you thought you might like to see. Whatever you like!

Make A Packing List

Making a packing list can be so helpful because it reminds you of everything you want to take, then as you put it in the bag, cross it off the list. I love packing lists because there’s a lot of stuff I usually need to pack the day of because I’ll need it to get ready in the morning like a hair brush or toothbrush and chargers, as examples.

Anything you will need, put it on the list. It doesn’t matter how mundane it is and if you are certain you won’t forget it, there’s no harm.

My lists usually look something like this.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 1.19.57 PM

When Packing

It depends on where you’re going and how much you’re taking, but if you’re checking a bag there are a few things you should make sure you keep on you in either a purse, backpack or carry on.

  • Any valuables: You should never put something like an iPad, computer, or expensive jewelry in a checked bag because you just never know what’s going to happen. It could get stolen or the bag could be lost– both of which are relatively rare, but still it’s a good rule of thumb.
  • Any medication: If you have medication of any sort you should definitely keep it on you for the same reasons as above.
  • All of the details mentioned in the first point: For the same reasons as above (seeing a pattern here?).
  • One change of clothes: On the off chance the bag is lost for a day because it missed the flight and has to go on the next one, having a change of clothes is so important because then you can shower and feel like a real human until it arrives. Usually, I pack something really light that doesn’t take up much space because I’ll probably only need it for a day.
  • Anything you’ll want on the flight: This might sound like a given, but it’s not always. Sometimes if I’m checking a bag (which is rare) I’ll put my main liquids in the checked bag, but I still want my glasses, contacts and lens solution because the pressure of the cabin usually makes my liquid within the contact lens case leak out. So if at any point I want to take my contacts out, if I didn’t have the liquid then I wouldn’t have anything to put them in.

While Traveling

Once you’ve got everything in order for leaving, do one last check before you leave the house. I typically do my check of most important things: glasses and contacts, chargers, phone, iPad, wallet, and passport. If I’ve got all of that, I know I’m fine, because I can buy anything else I’ll need if worse comes to worst.

Now, when traveling I know it can be hard to always be aware if you’re jet lagged or tired or sick of traveling, but there are a few tips that I always try to do when on a flight to ensure nothing goes wrong.

  • Don’t unpack all kinds of stuff. You’ll almost certainly leave something behind. I usually only take out the stuff I need when I need it, and when I’m done it goes directly back into the bag. I rarely keep things in the backseat pockets because I know it only increases my chance of leaving stuff behind.
  • Do one last check around your seat before you get off. Check under the seat in front of you, under your seat and the pocket, under the blanket or pillow and you’ll probably catch everything.
  • Try and keep your boarding pass and passport handy at all times. It just makes things like boarding and immigration and filling out a boarding card much easier if you don’t need to rile through stuff to find it.

Other Notable Tips

I of course haven’t covered everything possible, but here are a couple of random tidbits that might be helpful.

  • Bring a spare of important things. I always bring one extra pair of contacts just in case.
  • Do you need sunscreen? Maybe plan ahead and bring a bit.
  • Sunglasses are something that are so easily forgotten, if you’re going somewhere sunny try and remember them!

Most importantly, just try and relax. It seems daunting and like there’s a million things to do and not forget, but most of it is just common sense. If you just relax and try to have fun and think of all the great experiences you’ll have at your destination you’ll be totally fine. Remember, the traveling aspect can be fun too if you make it. For all you first time travelers out there, happy travels!

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  • Sarah Louise Zerbe

    These are some great tips. Getting all of your papers together is a key in smooth travels. No one wants to be frantically searching for a boarding pass in the middle of the airport.

    • Thanks, Sarah! You’re totally right, it’s just much better to have everything in a designated spot! Frantically searching will only make you feel more frantic in the long run!

  • Pack Your Baguios

    Good ideas. Having all your important papers in one place is probably the most helpful!

    • Yes, so true! It just makes life so much easier when you know where everything is.

  • Shantel Turner-Collins

    Very helpful tips for a first time traveler!

  • Jessica Hughes

    Awesome tips! Especially about getting your documents in order, that can be so stressful!

    • It really can, Jessica! But it seriously feels so much better to know that you’ve got them all rather than just winging it (which I’ve done– it doesn’t pay off haha).

  • Great tips. My number one priority is always documents. My theory is If I have my money and the right documents, I can sort anything else out once I get where I’m going if I’ve forgotten something.

    • That’s exactly what I think, Wendy! One should never underestimate the power of having stuff written down and available to show! Especially in foreign countries where many people may not speak great English. I once had a printed confirmation from a hotel in their language that they sent me and it totally saved SO much trouble because they didn’t really speak any English so without it I think we’d have been standing there a very very long time.

  • Luna Christina

    These tips are great!! Really helpful!

    • Thanks, Luna! I hope they help you in the future 🙂

  • Totally YES, especially on all the documents/printed information. Yes…you could just keep everything on a phone, but I like to have paper copies, especially of addresses, important numbers, etc, just because I don’t want to be reliant on a phone and then be faced with a dead battery or no internet connection. We’re leaving on our first ever trip to Japan this weekend and I’m definitely trying to make sure we have everything prepared in advance. I’ll print off all of our boarding passes tonight.

    • I totally agree, Rachel. It’s just so much better to have hard copies of everything! That sounds so fun!! Have a great trip! 🙂

  • Rachel Ritlop

    Great tips!! Thank you!

  • These are great tips! There’s so much that goes into travel. Packing lists are key for me!

    • They’re the best, Rachel! I’d probably forget half of my stuff without them haha.

  • Sarah Hartland

    Great tips! I’m excited to take my first international trip soon

  • These are great! I have never flown before or been out of the country. These are awesome tips I’ll need when I do though!