Travel Tips for First Timers

See also: Intercultural Awareness

Your first trip out of the country is always a memorable one. The bustle of airport crowds, the exhilaration of takeoff, the quiet relief of a safe landing and the distinctly unique sensation of stepping out onto the streets of a foreign place where things are different.

The scents and sights and sounds are different. The people are different. Even the air seems different, in its own unique way.

As Helen Keller once said, "Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all." And she was right. But during your daring adventure, there are a few critical pieces of advice to keep in mind to help you avoid the pitfalls that other tourists have fallen into.

Take note of the following info as you begin to pack. These eight tips are just as important as a change of clothes.

1. Leave Some Flexibility in Your Itinerary

If you have every second of your trip planned down to the smallest detail, there's no room for spontaneity. Spontaneity is one of the best parts of traveling outside of your home country. While you're trying new foods and seeing new places, you should stay open to the idea of an occasional detour.

That's not to say you should abandon your plan entirely. A schedule is vital when you're determining budget allocation, but allowing for leeway between activities will give you more freedom to pursue an unexpected point of interest.

2. Keep More Paper Money on You Than Necessary

Some businesses may not accept credit cards, depending on your choice of destination. It's a good idea to carry an excess of money on your person to account for situations like this. The last thing you need is to have no alternative to pay for a bill when a restaurant declines your American Express card.

The paper money you carry should occupy multiple pockets. Do not keep it all in the same place. If you do, you run a higher risk of pick-pocketers — who are common in many countries — swiping everything you have instead of a minor portion of your funds.

3. Write Down Important Phone Numbers and Addresses

Many of us depend on our mobile device to catalog information like the phone number or address of a friend or relative. In a foreign place, an overreliance on smartphones can spell disaster if it breaks or the battery depletes. A language barrier only worsens the problem when attempting to explain the issue.

If you lose access to your phone, carrying a list of numbers written on a piece of paper can save you an enormous amount of time and energy. Unless you have a perfect memory, jot down contact info to ensure an open line of communication.

4. Take Care of Your Body on the Road

Prolonged periods of inactivity can take a toll on your body. If you're traveling long distances in a car, bus or train, take steps to give your health the attention it deserves. Truckers have developed healthy habits of self-maintenance that are universally applicable.

Stock up on foods that don't require refrigeration. Peppers, celery, nuts and carrots are all nutritious ways to snack on the road — a far better alternative to gas station fare. You should also find time during your trip to stand up and stretch to encourage circulation and protect against blood clots.

5. Bring a Padlock to Secure Your Belongings

You might find yourself in the cabin of a train with a compartment in which to store your valuables — the only problem is the absence of a lock. Prepare for this by carrying your own, so you're not forced to keep one eye open all night long to protect against hypothetical intruders.

Make sure you choose the right padlock brand. A thinner bar is susceptible to a pair of bolt cutters, so investing a bit more cash in the quality of your lock is money well spent. It will save you a lot of anxiety — and potentially your wallet.

6. Research Festivals and Events in the Area

There are a variety of travelers. Some like to wander from place to place aimlessly, unsure where they're going or what they're searching for. Others like to research and plan their visit, making it a point to stop at nearby festivals or check out local events.

If you're the latter, do some digging before you set out for the day. To engage in the culture of a foreign people is a learning experience applicable to other areas of your life. It can be a beautiful learning experience with a lasting influence on your perspective.

7. Avoid Drawing Attention to Yourself

Tourists are an easily recognizable group, if not by their physical appearance then by their choice of dress. While you're likely to fall into this same trap and shouldn't go out of your way to purchase an entirely new wardrobe, there are ways to minimize your presence.

When deciding a victim, pickpockets often cite a tourist's interest in tall buildings. They surmise that their target isn't from the area if they're walking down the street with their attention focused upward. Maintain situational awareness and stay diligent when passing through public spaces.

8. Socialize With the People You Meet

You didn't leave your room so you could coop yourself up in another one. An element of travel that makes it so appealing is the sheer breadth of people you'll meet and speak to. They have lessons to teach that you wouldn't learn elsewhere, so strike up a conversation whenever possible.

A tried-and-true ice breaking technique is to carry a deck of cards. Playing cards are universally known and accessible to people of almost any age, easing the transition from stranger to friend. Just make the first move and introduce yourself, and the rest will follow.

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Happy Traveling!

Traveling for the first time might seem scary at first. But once you spend a day in Italy, Brazil, Mexico or England, you'll soon understand why so many people attribute their happiness and wellbeing to travel. Whether it's for fun or profit, a trip can only help.

The world is ready! Are you?

About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can read more work from Kayla on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, TinyBuddha and