Traveling abroad for the first time can be very overwhelming and can surface tons of questions regarding how to plan, when to plan, or even where you want to go. When I was planning my first solo trip, I felt like I had to go to multiple sites to find the information I needed, so I am here to give you the ultimate guide for how to plan your first solo trip abroad. I have compiled a checklist of things that I always do before my own trips that I think will come in handy to you while you plan. I hope these tips help you travel with ease and leave you stoked for your trip before your plane leaves! Be sure to let me know in the comments below what tips you have that have helped you and how this guide has helped you!
One of the biggest questions people start out with is simple, “Where do I start?” First things first, you’ll want to save money for your adventure, and be familiar with the ways to save money while traveling so you stay on track! With new experiences come new things to learn and practice until we get into the swing of things. Whether this is your first trip or not, the tips below will help you choose your next adventure and get insight on where in the world suits your next dream.
If You Don’t Know Your Location – We have a whole planet to roam and explore, so it only makes sense that making a decision on a place can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re like me and you’re crazy indecisive and want to see everything! These tips below will help you come to a consensus and get straight to planning!
- Write Down What You’re Looking For – Every country offers something different for each traveler and that’s why it’s important to compile a list of all the things you’re looking for in your destination. Grab your pencil and paper, or just open a word document and write down your preferences in these categories: weather, time of year you’re traveling, experiences, reasons to travel, (i.e. history, adventure, heritage, culture, food), region, time, and budget.
- Narrow Your Search – Now that you have everything mapped out, we can find your dream spot! I like to do simple Google searches such as, “the best country for *said activity*”, “top countries to travel to in *said months*”, “best budget travel locations“, and “best countries to travel to in 2018.” Using this method is going to give you a list of 3+ countries, depending on your search, and from there all you need to do is get a visual.
- Get A Visual – If you still need help narrowing your list down, this tip helps me so much when deciding. Log onto Pinterest, or make an account if you haven’t already, and search “*country* travel inspiration.” This is going to give you some of the most beautiful photos of the countries on your list and it’ll help you get a feel for what the country will have to offer.
- Pin The Map – Congratulations! If you made it to this point, you’ve made your decision! Let’s check up on a couple more things before we begin to prepare.
When/If You Do Know Your Location – The hardest part is over! All you need to do is double check travel advisories and seasons and you’re onto preparation.
- Check Travel Advisories – By checking advisories I don’t mean go to your closest family member and have them talk you out of your trip because it’s “unsafe”. Check your countries list on an official government website. If you’re from the United States, you can find the list here. You can search the country you chose and it will give you their embassy information, visa requirements, local laws, and other helpful tips for your travels. No matter where you are in the world, always be aware of your surroundings and practice safety precautions.
- Research The Seasons – What a buzzkill it would be to get to a destination only to have it rain every single day that you’re there! Each country has it’s own seasons whether it be spring, summer, fall, winter, rainy, or dry. It’s important to know the seasons so that you don’t luck out on your trip. Also, check up on high, low, and shoulder seasons of your destination because that can drastically affect prices, seat availability, accommodation, and tourist numbers. High season = lots of tourists, generally the best weather. Low season = fewer tourists, weather may vary. Shoulder season = sweet spot for weather and tourism.
- Apply For A Passport // Visas – You’re not going to be able to travel very far if you don’t have a passport! Generally, passports can take from 6-8 weeks to process, mine took around 2-3 for the United States, but it’s important that you give yourself enough time so that you’re prepared ahead of time. Also, make sure you research your visas! Depending on where you come from and where you’re going, you may or may not need a visa, so it’s important to double check in advance. You can find visa requirements for United States citizens in the link for travel advisories.
- Research Vaccines (If Necessary) – Some countries recommend or actually require vaccinations in certain areas if you choose to travel to them, so make sure that you’re covered for your destination. On the CDC website, you can put in your information and find out what is recommended for you.
- Purchase Travel Insurance – You never know whenever an accident is going to happen. I recommend World Nomads for purchasing insurance because they cover everything from lost or delayed luggage, flight cancellations, overseas dental, travel accidents, and a wide array of activities for a good value. You can use their website to put in your destination, age, and length of stay to get a free quote and a list of everything that is covered for you. Check out World Nomads and see if it is right for you.
- Make A List Of Must-Sees – Anywhere you go, there is always going to be a list of things that you MUST see whenever you’re there. I find certain spots and locations from travel photographers on Instagram, photos on Pinterest, or word of mouth from other travelers. Knowing what you want to see will help you plan accordingly.
- Set Up Flight Alerts // Score A Cheap Flight – If your trip is in as far of advance as 6 months +, I recommend setting up travel alerts so that you are getting daily updates of price changes. After years of travel, I have perfected the art of finding cheap flights. I wrote a blog post on Eight Hacks For Scoring Cheap Flights that will give you the top tips for saving you a ton of money on your next flight.
- Book The Perfect Accommodation – There are few things sweeter than finding the perfect place to stay that doesn’t break the bank either. Airbnb is where I reach first in terms of booking accommodation and it has never led me astray. They have places to stay for all sorts of budgets and include hostels in their search results as well so that you get a bit of everything right on one site.
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- Create Area Based Itineraries – Using your list of must-see sights and activities, create a loose itinerary for certain cities in your location. Let’s say you’re going to Bali, Indonesia for a week. You may want to see things in Canggu, Kuta, and Munduk, so you can divide up your days based on locations (3 days in Canggu, 2 in Munduk, etc.)
- Get Familiar With The Map – Unfortunately, chances are none of the must-sees are going to be right next to each other. So to make sure you’re not going to be going willy-nilly all over a country, which usually costs more money, use your list of must-sees and research the closest cities to them so that you can plan accordingly. Just remember that sometimes you won’t be able to see EVERYTHING, and that’s okay.
- Know Your Transportation Options – It’s important to know how you’re going to get to and from the airport, between cities, and locations. I like to schedule an airport pick up with my accommodation whenever I first arrive in a new area because that is how I feel the safest, but if that doesn’t interest you, make sure you know the local transportations and what the average costs of them are going to be. I recommend Rome 2 Rio for getting all your options for getting from point A to B. They give you all the transportation options and cost estimates so you can find what works best for you.
- Get Familiar With The Local Currency – This is especially important so that you don’t get scammed. I like to know a rough cost of daily essentials and transportation so that I can be firm and confident in my spending and so that I am not paying too much for things that should be very cheap.
- Search For Restaurants, Views, Drives, Sunset Spots, Etc.. – With all of the other research finished, now is the fun part. Before I leave, I like to research the best spots to eat, places to watch the sunset, necessary routes, anything that will add a little extra something to my trip, AND who doesn’t love to salivate over all the delicious restaurant options? You can search these on google or use other travel blogs like my own.
- Purchase Necessary Equipment – This one is pretty self-explanatory. With your location, activities, and weather in mind, make sure you have the proper equipment for your trip. This could be a tent, hiking boots, packing cubes, water filters, warm clothing, etc..
- Make Copies Of Your Documents – This is important just for traveling with ease. You never know when something will get lost or stolen, so I recommend always having a backup. If you don’t enjoy carrying around papers, you can also make a folder of screenshots on your phone so you’re not hopping between apps to get what you need.
- Notify Your Bank – The last thing you want is to have your bank shut off your cards because they flag it for fraud. Make sure you call your bank and notify them of your travels!
- Tell Someone Where You’re Going // Stay In Touch – This is important so that your friends and family back home know that you’re safe. Make sure you leave copies of where you’re going and staying with a family member or friend so that they know where you’ll plan on being over the course of your trip. I like to share my location with my dad so he always knows where I am.
- Pack Your Bags – Now that we have all the nitty gritty complete, it’s time to pack our bags! For literally ANY travel packing list you may need, check out Her Packing List for any region and any season around the world. It’s important that you don’t pack too much or too little, but make sure you’re bringing what you’re comfortable with.
For more helpful websites, apps, and equipment for planning your upcoming travels, refer to my Travel Resources page for my top recommendations.
Until next time,