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Our best advice for first-time travelers is that you are not going to get everything right on your first trip, or your second, or your third. The only way to get good at traveling is to do more of it.
But you can avoid making any huge mistake by following these 7 tips from seasoned voyagers.
1. Research and Planning Are The Best Ways To Have the Most Fun
Many first-time young travelers have an aversion to planning. You want to wing it. There is fun in that, but more often than not, it limits how much fun you have on your trip.
It might be boring, but it’s worthwhile to research where you are going. Which are the best places to see and visit? Which are the most popular restaurants? Which are the best nightlife spots? Then use this information to create an itinerary.
Researching and planning let you take full advantage of the time you’ll have on your trip. You know exactly where to go, where to eat out, where to stay and so on. You can avoid overrated attractions, find out how to easily get across the city and even find deals to save you money.
2. Plan But Be Flexible
Have your travel itinerary in hand when you travel, but don't write it in stone. One of the things you will discover about traveling is that trips rarely go as you fully planned them. There’s always something unexpected - good or bad. A flight may be delayed, a museum may be closed, the weather can change and so on.
So even as you plan, be flexible and ready to adapt. Often, you’ll come across a place or activity you hadn’t planned for but which seems fun. Or you might want to try the appetizing street food instead of eating out at a restaurant you had saved. It’s part of the fun and adventure of traveling.
3. Start Small But Don’t Be Afraid to Explore
It’s not a good idea to fly to an international destination for your first trip, or go on a week-long road trip, or set out on a backpacking trip through Asia.
We recommend starting small and local. If you are in the US, fly to another state or drive to another city near you. Start out with a 1-3 day trip so you can get the hang of packing and planning.
As you get better, don't be afraid to explore further destinations and longer trips. Slowly build up to your first international trip, where you’ll need to do even more research and planning than usual.
4. When Going International, Don’t Travel Solo
When it’s time to take your first international trip, don’t go alone. Traveling to another country can be a very different experience compared to local travel. You are going to a strange place, meeting new cultures, dealing with a different currency and even eating different foods.
If you are not traveling with friends or family, then join a tour group. There are plenty of tour companies that arrange international group trips.
Once you’ve done a couple or so international trips with other people, you can now try striking out on your own.
5. Learn How to Pack Like a Pro
How well you pack can make or break your vacation. Some of the common packing mistakes beginner travelers make include overpacking, underpacking, forgetting important items, poor organization and packing items that can get you in trouble at the airport.
That’s one of the reasons we recommend starting small. It’s easier to pack for a 2-day trip to a local destination. While mistakes will force you to get better with each trip, packing is also something you can learn.
6. Don’t Travel Without A Budget
As part of planning, make sure you create a budget for your trip. It’s one of those things that can be tedious to do but let you maximize your fun. It can also keep you from embarrassment when your funds run out in a new place.
Figure out how much money you can spend on the trip, then budget for 75% of it. Leave the rest for emergencies and unexpected changes in itinerary.
7. Stay Safe
Finally, stay safe no matter where you go. Safety is a big reason why we insist on research and planning. Don't find yourself in a city with ongoing riots or a country that is unsafe for tourists.
Look up travel advisories, check local news for any stories regarding insecurity or unrest and check other sources for safety information about your destination.
Make sure your family or friends know where you are going (share your itinerary with them), get travel insurance that includes health coverage and be on the lookout for pickpockets. Be especially careful with your travel documents, money and phone.