If you've checked out my last post then I'm sure you've seen I'm embarking for my first ever vacation, trip, or whatever you want to call it, as an adult. Not only is this a big, scary first for me, but it's also my first international trip. So you might be wondering why I'm making this blog post when I haven't exactly gone on this trip yet. The answer is simple, to get to a destination while avoiding as few issues as possible you have to be prepared. While I'm by no means an expert on travel, planning, or even being a regular human being I am an expert on my own anxious brain and fear of being under-prepared. So let's dive into how you can plan your first international trip, while I also plan my own.
1. Pick Your Destination
Okay, I know this one is probably a big duh for planning a trip. But do you know how hard it is to go from the decision to go on a trip to deciding where to actually go? There are so many factors to consider like the dates you're going, budget, language barriers, medical needs, political situations, and more. I know that for me, I decided on a country first followed by a region, then a few cities specifically. It was scary for me to make such a definite decision but I felt more confident once I knew the landscape (literally and figuratively) that I was dealing with. For some, like myself, picking a destination before a date range makes it a lot easier as well. This brings me to my next step...
2. Pick Your Dates (or Date Range)
I promise this is the last eye-roll-inducing tip. Knowing your ideal dates is crucial for purchasing tickets and saving money. For me, saving as much money as possible (while still be comfortable) is crucial because this trip is a privilege I have never had before and may not have again for a while. Many different factors may impact your date range choices such as school, work, anniversaries and birthdays, weather in your destination, or holidays both at home or at your destination. In a perfect world, you'll be able to have some flexibility so you can save when purchasing tickets and reserving hotels.
3. Apps, Apps, and More Apps
I have an entire blog post dedicated to this topic coming up in the next week. But for now let me just say, planning a trip has never been easier with apps. I downloaded close to 50 different apps for different purposes to make this process easier. I've got a top 10 (maybe 20?) list coming out soon so keep an eye out. But apps can help you plan early to save money and get a better idea of what you want to do on your trip. I used mine to save money on flights, reserve rooms/stays, and decide just how long I want to spend in each place during my trip.
4. Youtube Has Your Back
Once you've decided where you want to go and what you want to do, head over to Youtube. I watched loads of videos from travelers and locals on my chosen locations to try and find out what the climate is like, what types of activities there are, and tips from them on how to visit the area. It'll give you a better feel for where you want to go, it actually helped me cross a major area off my list and focus more on the things I knew I wanted out of my trip.
5. Cultural Respect
I honestly considered making this my number one tip but I guess you have to get to the place before you can seriously mess up your presence there so instead I'll round out the list with it. Have you ever had a party or gathering at your house and there's the one person? Maybe they're someone's partner of the minute, cousin, or friend but you don't really know them and they don't know you. They just kind of showed up and started complaining or taking things that aren't theirs, or they didn't take off their shoes in your shoes-off house, or maybe they were rude to your dog. The point is when you're in your home and someone rudely barges in and expects things to be just like their house, it kinda sucks right? That's what happens when you do 0 research on the new country you're visiting and just expect it to be like your home.
I'm not demanding that you become an expert on the culture of your destination overnight or even at all. But you should know if the culture is at all different than that at your home and, if it is, plan accordingly. Maybe you're going somewhere that you cannot wear shoes indoors, aren't allowed to tip, or cannot enter a bar below a certain age. These three are issues you are likely to face by visiting so you'll want to know how to behave appropriately. Even in a place where you might be certain it's the same as your home country, it's always good to check. Maybe it won't be a big deal but maybe you'll save yourself some frustration and save others from being disrespected when you visit their home.***
***I also advise learning at least some of the language for the country you are going to. It's just more polite to be able to say simple things like greetings, gratitude, or yes and no instead of crudely trying to express yourself in a moment of desperation.
Hopefully, with these few things in mind, you can begin to feel a little more confident in exploring the world for the first time. These five tips are simple but they might make a big difference in planning your first international trip. If you're still lost, unsure, or anxious don't worry! I am right there with you and, throughout the next three months, I'll be coming to you with what has helped me plan and prepare for my trip.
Comment below with your favorite travel planning tip or a topic you'd like me to cover in a future post!