Traveling abroad for the first time can be scary. All the unknowns can be daunting even if you do a ton of research. I did so much research before our first trip to Italy. I thought I had it all figured out. News flash, I didn’t. Here are 11 things I wish I knew before traveling abroad for the first time.
It will cost more than you think, even if you budget for your trip. There can be unexpected expenses (like when you take the wrong bus and have to catch another bus back, or when it rains the whole time you’re on the coast so you extend your hotel stay by a night in order to go scuba diving the next day). All trips are expensive but when it’s your first trip it can be much more than you realize.
Learning the Language
If you’re going somewhere that has a different primary language make sure you know at least a few words to be respectful. That being said don’t stress yourself out too much trying to learn the whole language. Before traveling to Italy I spent a few weeks stressed out trying to learn Italian. It’s great for some things but in most cases, people do speak at least some English. Also, remember that Google Translate is your friend. Make sure to download the language you need before your trip so you can use it offline as well.
Honestly, I still get stressed out going through airport security, especially after our trip to Germany. But that’s a story for later. Try not to get too worried about going through. For the most part, the employees are there to help you. If they have to check your bag again don’t worry. Just cooperate with them and you will be on your way in no time.
Tip: When packing your carry-on bags pack so that the thing you need to take out and place into the bins are easily accessible. After you get through security you can always rearrange your things.
It’s nice to take trains or buses while traveling through a different country but I’ll be honest, I really wish we rented a car. We wasted so much time waiting around for buses and trains when we could have been enjoying other things. Especially now that we do content creation while traveling a car is something we need to have. We get up super early to drive to locations to get the best shots before it gets crowded. If you do rent a car keep gas prices in mind, the price may vary greatly from where you are from.
Don’t overpack. This is a huge thing for me. I am a huge over-packer. Our first trip abroad was 3 weeks long. I looked all through Pinterest for packing lists. We ended up with 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks, and I had a purse. We also walked from the bus stations to our hotels. They were not short walks either. Oh, and the best part… Our big suitcase wheels broke the first day. I think it goes without saying that Kyle was not happy. I also didn’t wear half of the stuff I brought with us. Try to pack basics that you can wear multiple times.
Bring a Photography Worthy Camera
Cell phones these days take amazing photos. You don’t need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a new camera. Just make sure whatever you bring takes good photos. We have so many unusable photos from our trip because our phone cameras were not high quality. I also was just aimlessly pointing and shooting. I had no real plan for pictures because I had no clue I wanted a travel blog at that time. If you need ideas of camera gear check out this post on our favorite travel gear.
Don’t Over Plan
I swear I don’t know how Kyle didn’t kill me on that trip. I had so much stuff planned that we were basically rushing the entire trip. Over planning, overpacking, I mean I’m just an overachiever I guess.
Don’t Only Visit Tourist Spots
Tourist spots can be great. Of course, everyone wants to see the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but make sure you also explore lesser-known spots. One of our favorite parts of our trip was a random hike to an abandoned fisherman village. You can read all about that hike here.
Buy Tickets in Advance
So I already said don’t over plan. Well, you still need to do a little bit of planning for certain things. Like if you plan on visiting the Colosseum, buy the tickets in advance. We decided to wait to buy them the day of. Bad decision. The line was over 2 hours long to get in.
Google Maps isn’t Always Right
Google Maps was honestly the biggest pain on this trip. We walked everywhere and we got lost everywhere. We would start walking one way then all of a sudden it is recalculating in the other direction. The day we went hiking Crapolla Cove we walked forever and ended up walking, well actually climbing, through someone’s backyard. We couldn’t figure out where we were and then we end up at a gate. We were on somebody’s property! We had to try to squeeze through their gate before anyone saw. Looking back now we laugh about it but at the moment I was terrified that someone was going to call the cops on us.
How Addicting it Would Be
Traveling was always something I wanted to do. I had no idea how much I would love it. I was so depressed when we got back from Italy. That trip was my turning point. It’s the whole reason I started my blog. I want to show people how to travel and explore the world even with a fulltime job. Traveling is so freeing and eye-opening. I’m so happy that I get to do it.