11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling Abroad for the First Time

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.

 

  1. Expense

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.

Passports and Money

  1. 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.

 

  1. Airport Security

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.

 

  1. Transportation

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.

 

  1. Packing

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.

 

  1. 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.

Travel-Gear-Backpack

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

Eibsee Lake

 

11 Things Pinterest Graphic Pinterest Pin

Pinterest pin

22 Comments

  1. December 11, 2019 / 12:55 pm

    These are great tips for people just starting out on their overseas adventures! I’ve made a few of these same mistakes myself but thankfully I’ve learned from them, and travelling is getting easier 🙂

    • hharris11
      Author
      December 15, 2019 / 7:59 pm

      Thanks Michelle!
      So many mistakes were made on our first trip but were getting better!

  2. Robin
    January 1, 2020 / 3:29 pm

    Thanks for this post! You are so right! Travelling abroad is very addicting!!!

    • hharris11
      Author
      January 19, 2020 / 3:12 pm

      It is so addicting. Im always trying to plan more trips.

  3. January 1, 2020 / 3:49 pm

    Hey Hailey, your tips are great! We plan to travel in the hopefully not too distant future😁 will keep this in mind! Thanks for sharing!

    • hharris11
      Author
      January 19, 2020 / 3:11 pm

      Thank you Joanna! I appreciate that. Have fun traveling. Let me know how it goes.

  4. January 2, 2020 / 10:55 am

    Aww I love this! Traveling abroad is always such an exhilarating experience. Completely agree with you that you end up spending WAYYYY more than you thought you would. Keep on writing!

    • hharris11
      Author
      January 19, 2020 / 3:10 pm

      Thanks so much for reading Lily!

  5. January 23, 2020 / 1:54 am

    I love your point on not over planning the trip. When I first started traveling, we loved to pack our agenda full of activities and we were constantly running between attractions. This can be so tempting because you want to see & do everything, but you miss out on the culture and all the experiences when you plan too much. Great tips! 🙂

    • hharris11
      Author
      January 24, 2020 / 12:04 am

      Yes exactly! It’s hard to find the balance between seeing as much as you can and running around like a crazy person.

  6. January 30, 2020 / 6:04 pm

    Every your tip is said very, very good and true! Luckily, we are learning from our mistakes and with every next travel, we are making them less and more enjoying everything that’s around! 🙂

    • hharris11
      Author
      March 26, 2020 / 6:48 pm

      Thanks so much! That’s very true we all learn with each new trip.

  7. Chelsea
    April 13, 2020 / 2:16 pm

    Okay so I laughed a lot at your packing story!! Haha I have been there! Lugging a HUGE pack all over Canada! I swear my back still hurts!!
    I also am a huge advocate for not over planning! Going to a schedule is stressful!
    Buying tickets in advance is great too! Often you get huge discounts for it also 🙂 great tips! Travel is addictive for sure!

    • hharris11
      Author
      April 13, 2020 / 9:27 pm

      Haha its definitely funny now looking back but man Kyle was so angry. I can’t really blame him though. The only time we really plan ahead is when we are buying tickets or if we plan to get some shots done before it gets busy. Other than that I love just going with the flow and exploring.

  8. April 13, 2020 / 6:31 pm

    Google translate is the BEST! I went to China in the 1990’s and could not speak to anyone. I actually had an emergency while I was there and wished for a tool to open communication. So many great tips in this post that I learned through experience and wish I’d had this post first!

    • hharris11
      Author
      April 13, 2020 / 9:28 pm

      Wow! We are so lucky now that we have access to amazing technology that helps us travel easier and smarter. Thanks so much for reading, Jen.

  9. April 13, 2020 / 8:53 pm

    I am a serial over packer. I keep trying. Lists help, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with that “heavy” tag on my bag. Maybe I’m doing a little better. And I can totally relate on the over ambitious itinerary. I learned that no one in my family likes me when I over plan. So, often, I get up super early and sneak off by myself to see things we’ve missed.

    • hharris11
      Author
      April 13, 2020 / 9:35 pm

      I normally pack early. Like 3 weeks early and then every few days I go back and go through my stuff again. I almost always end up taking things out each time. Overplanning is the worst. I didn’t think about going out by myself. that’s a good idea I may do that next time.

  10. April 14, 2020 / 12:46 am

    I used to be a horrible over-packer too, now with work I travel on the regular and have learned to decrease my “packing footprint”. It’s truly an art form LOL

    • hharris11
      Author
      April 15, 2020 / 4:11 pm

      You’ll have to teach me your ways! haha, I still overpack. I can’t help it.

  11. April 16, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    Great post! My first trip abroad was on a college choir tour. Talk about overpacking!! But immediately afterward, I did a study abroad, and then have traveled ever since. It is very addicting! And, expensive, yes, but so worth it. And definitely agree – find experiences (cooking classes, painting classes, unique experiential activities to discover the culture, chat with locals) more than just tourist spots. Great post!

    • hharris11
      Author
      April 20, 2020 / 8:28 pm

      Thanks so much, Keri!
      It is so addicting! The local experiences are my favorite part.

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