We offer 10 essential first time traveler tips. Get ready for your first big adventure without feeling confused or overwhelmed.

10 Tips To Help A First Time Traveler

We offer 10 essential first time traveler tips. Get ready for your first big adventure without feeling confused or overwhelmed.

10 First Time Traveler Tips

You’ve finally decided to take that dream trip. What now? What should you do next? Maybe you’re looking for an adventure experience that might give you a chance to completely immerse yourself in a new place and culture?

If you’re a first time traveler, it may seem like there is just too much to do to prepare for your trip. Don’t worry! In this post, we offer some tips to help you get ready.

1. Research

This is probably the most important tip we can offer. Research the area you are going to visit. What will the weather be like? What are the traditional meals of the area? What do the locals do for fun? What kind of excursions are offered in the area? Are there any tourist scams you should know about?

Although it is fun to be spontaneous, we don’t recommend going to a new place without knowing anything about it. This often leads to headaches and frustrations. We typically begin our research on TripAdvisor or the official tourism website of the city or country we are going to visit. We then research our favorite travel bloggers’ websites to see what tips and/or recommendations they’ve made about the area.

You’ll also want to research transportation options. That means transportation to and from your destination, but also transportation while you’re there. Will you need a bus or rental car for a day trip? Will you need to travel across a body of water on a ferry? These things are good to think about ahead of time and possibly even book ahead of time, depending on what time of year you’re visiting. Omio is a good option for booking all kinds of transportation, including trains, buses, flights, ferries, cars, and airport transfers.

2. Passport and/or Visa

The next most important thing! Make sure that you have a valid passport if you’re planning a trip out of the country. Be aware that passports also can’t be set to expire within six months of a person’s trip. If you’re a first time traveler, you probably won’t have to worry about this as you’ll have a new passport, but others in your group might not.

Many countries have what is called the Six Months Validity Rule, which is in place so that if a visitor needs to stay unexpectedly, they can stay for up to six months and their passport will still be valid to leave the country. Also, keep in mind that an application for a passport may take up to six weeks to process from the time of application turn-in.

Also, check to see if the country you are going to visit requires a visa for entry. Each country is different. Some have a very long and difficult visa process, while visas for other countries can be acquired upon arrival at the airport. To see if a certain country requires a visa, you can contact their embassy (click here for a list of the websites of Foreign Embassies in the US).

US Passport

3. Cell Phone Service

For shorter trips, you can usually just rely on WiFi to keep in touch or post updates to your status. However, if you need to be reachable at all times (due to kids, a job, etc.) we advise you to get in touch with your mobile carrier. Most have options for pretty economical travelers.

For example, Verizon has what is called the TravelPass. In over 100 countries, you can talk, text, and use your data like normal for just $10 a day ($2 in Canada and Mexico). And that’s only on the day you use it. So let’s say you’ve gone to Costa Rica for a week and halfway through you need to call home. For 24 hours, you can use your phone as much as you want. You’ll only see an extra charge of $10 on your next bill.

T-Mobile also has good options if you’re traveling out of the US. They have a few plans that give you unlimited 2G data and texting in more than 210 countries and destinations at no extra charge, while voice calls are $0.25/minute.

Tips To Help A First Time Traveler
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

4. Bank and Credit Cards

This one is important even if you’re not leaving the country. Let your credit card companies know that you will be traveling. Most banks and credit card companies will cancel a transaction if they think your card has been stolen.

Your cards may not work at all in another country if they suspect there is fraud, but it’s likely to happen if you travel across your own country as well. If you live in Florida and all of a sudden there are charges in Washington State, it may look a bit suspicious (especially if you’ve never traveled before).

View of Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington

5. Local Currency / Cash

As a first time traveler, make sure you look up conversion rates before your trip so that you feel comfortable doing the math. You may not be used to carrying around cash either, but it’s often necessary for smaller and more remote towns. Remember to keep the cash in a safe place (you don’t want your first trip to be ruined by a pickpocket).

Also, note that oftentimes it is better to get cash out of an ATM once in country than to have cash already and exchange it at a local exchange counter. ATM fees are usually a lot cheaper than fees at an exchange counter, plus some banks don’t even charge for a foreign ATM withdrawal (whether your bank charges or not is a good thing to find out when you call to notify them of your upcoming travel).

Money from around the world

6. Health And Well Being

While you’re on your trip, something you definitely don’t want to worry about is your health. We recommend getting travel insurance just in case you need to be seen for any medical reason. Depending on how long your trip will be, you can purchase either a short-term or long-term plan.

Unfortunately, you may also be traveling to a place that requires certain vaccines. Check to see if you are up to date on your shots and check the CDC’s website. There you can see what vaccines are recommended for each country and also get up to date travel health notices. Also, keep all documentation of any vaccines you receive (you know, for future trips πŸ˜‰ )

Certificate of vaccination
Inside are the vaccines I had to take before my trip to Bali

7. Toiletries / Liquids

If you have not flown on a plane before, you may not know about TSA’s Liquids Rule which states: You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint.

These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Here we’ll emphasize that anything larger (even the bottle of water you just bought) will indeed be taken away.

TSA liquid rules

8. Packing Light

Even seasoned travelers struggle with this one but try your hardest to pack light. Lay out everything you want to bring on the trip. Then put away half of it.

After you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, see if you can at least put a third away. Remember that there’s the possibility that you’ll buy things on your trip as well, so save extra room for that too. We tend to travel a lot with just our Osprey Laptop Backpack.

At the airport with Osprey Celeste backpack

Pro Tip: Click here to see our Carry-On Essentials.

9. Footwear

You may not be used to spending all day walking around a new city. Pack the proper shoes and possibly even some gel inserts (those things have saved my life a few times).

Whatever tours or excursions you go on may require certain footwear as well. Water shoes may not be something you think about initially, but they can be very useful when exploring caves, rivers, waterfalls, etc.

sitting by a waterfall in Jamaica
Chasing waterfalls in Jamaica

10. Power Converters / Adapters

If you’re a first time traveler, this may be the first time you’ve ever seen an adapter or converter. Most countries around the world use different outlets. Additionally, most of the world runs on 220/240V while North America runs on 110/125V. Most likely, however, you won’t have to deal with converting the voltage of your devices.

Check the labels of your phone, camera, laptop, etc. for voltage (it’s usually on the power cord). All you’ll probably need is an adapter for the outlets. If you’re in a touristy area they’ll sell them on every corner. Some hotels provide adapters as well. This website is very useful for checking what outlets and voltage each country of the world uses.

sony camera charger
This camera charger has a voltage range of 100V-240V, so it only requires an adapter.

Final Thoughts On First Time Traveler Tips

So there you have them! We hope that these 10 first time traveler tips will be helpful to you. We know what it’s like to be nervous and to wonder if we’ve checked all of the boxes on our list.

If after reading this you feel that we’ve missed any tips, please leave them in the comments below. We’re sure someone out there will find them useful. πŸ™‚

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We offer 10 essential first time traveler tips. Get ready for your first big adventure without feeling confused or overwhelmed.

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  1. Thanks for the tips. Good thing I came across your site. I’ll bear this in mind.

  2. This is a really good list of items. Every one of them is really important, especially items like Vaccinations, Adapters, Research.

    1. Yes! They’ve helped me from slipping and busting my butt a few times too lol!

  3. Very good trips! This is a good list for people who haven’t been travelling much. One thing that travellers should also carry with them is a photocopy (or a picture in your phone) of your passport’s information page. If you loose your passport for some reason, it will be a good help when getting a new one.

    1. Hi Paula! That’s a great tip, thank you for sharing it! πŸ™‚

  4. Great tips! I had a friend recently who wasn’t able to make a trip to another country for a wedding because their passport expired in three months. Definitely something everyone needs to be careful about, because it’s so easy to forget! And when traveling in other countries, using cash is typically so much easier, so I try to order it before I go.

    1. Oh no, that’s too bad! I think a lot of people don’t realize about the 6 month requirement. πŸ™

  5. Melody Pittman says:

    These tips are great! I especially like the vaccination tip. I bet most people do not even think of that when they travel. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. I hadn’t either until a friend mentioned it, that’s why I wanted to pass that info along. πŸ™‚

  6. All sensible and practical tips for any traveler. In fact, I could call them the commandments for travel. It is always better to be prepared than firefight later.

  7. I would also have added some tips on how to keep airline and accommodation costs lower for first time travellers. Nowadays, I try to sign up for different websites, like Secret Flying, where you can catch awesome flight deals that can be anywhere from 25 – 65% lower than the competition. I also compare AirBnB rates and hostel rates with the local hotel rates for a city to keep my costs lower. This is especially important for more expensive cities, like Paris or NYC.

    1. Those are great tips Ray! Thanks so much for sharing them! πŸ˜€

  8. I agree with all of them, well said. I would only add that it’s usually better deal to buy a local SIM as it’s often very cheap or tourist SIM available and you can you your phone with no worries of a roaming charges.

    1. That’s a good tip Greg, thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  9. This is such a thoughtful post. I remember my initial days of planning for international travel. A list like this would have helped me a lot then.

  10. Good tip on the passport. A few years back, my wife and her family went to Florence for Christmas. Her youngest sister, still in college, realized the day before that her passport was expired! She ended up flying to a consulate in Philadelphia to do an expedited, overnight passport renewal, just in time to catch the flight to Italy. Always make sure to remind my family to check their passports now before traveling!

    1. Omg, I’m so glad she was able to get it in time!

  11. great tips! I’ve been travelling since I was three – so I guess I am a bit of an old hand. But, simple things are worth pointing out for those who havent!

    1. That’s true. I feel like some of the simplest things can often be overlooked, however.

  12. I’d also add to photocopy your passport and credit cards both front and back, then email yourself a copy. If you ever lose your wallet or are robbed, you still have access to your information if needed.

    1. Oh wow, that’s a great tip! I’d never thought to make copies of my credit cards. Thanks for sharing!

  13. So useful! Thanks for putting this list together! And for the adapters – I never worry too much, the good hostels always have one to lend!

    1. That’s true, I think I’ve only had to buy a couple throughout my travels.

  14. Sounds like a good deal with Verizon! I know T-Mobile has an amazing one with unlimited international data?! I need to look into that more. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  15. The Verizon Travelpass sounds like a good deal, because you don’t need to pay every day, just for the days you use it. Your tip about the passport is good, too. As a long term traveller, I think I’m pretty savvy, but I’ve forgotten about the 6-month validity on the passport, too, and almost had to cancel a trip.

    1. I think even seasoned travelers can sometimes forget things or take things for granted, so it’s a good idea to get a refresher once in awhile.

  16. Probably a good idea to review your vaccination history no matter where you are going. Do you really want to worry about that scrape you got and if you tetanus immunity is up to date? Or, if another traveler to your destination develops the measles?
    And, I switched my coverage to TMobile, so that my phone is available (with really no charge) around the world.

    1. Hi Roy! You’re right, it’s so important to stay up to date with your vaccinations. And thanks for the phone tip! πŸ™‚

  17. The travel size liquid containers is a must for any traveler. Especially now after our first house sit in Mexico with several Naglene travel jars holding our probiotics, supplements, and vitamins. What is awesome is that our squeeze bottles that we filled with facial cream and lotion and used up is now available to hold fresh aloe grown locally in the yard.

    It’s way past my bedtime so I can’t remember where my train of thought is going but great post. We do have to update our vaccination as well.

  18. Cristine Naylor says:

    Excellent article Buddy! Covers all the bases and provides good context. Regarding packing light, YES! As full time travelers this is the thing we struggle with most after deciding itinerary.
    Keep up the great work!

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