Updated: Jun 17
Traveling for beginners is exhilarating and just a little intimidating. What should you pack? How much money should you budget for your trip? Do you need travel insurance? For that matter, how do you decide on a destination? This beginner's guide to traveling is for all of you heading out for the first time.
1- Research Your Destination
Spontaneous trips to exotic locales always look amazing on television and in movies, but it’s better to plan your trips in real life. A little research into your destination will pay dividends once you arrive and helps prevent unwanted surprises.
Start your research by exploring travel blogs and travel guides centered on your destination and the type of travel you’re planning (traveling solo, for instance, is very different from traveling with a young family). Read as much as you can about accommodations, food, culture, local laws, things to do, and activities or locations to avoid. Don’t forget to check the weather, which impacts what kind of clothing you pack.
Check what time of year is best to travel to your destination. Do you want to be there for special events during peak season, or would you prefer the off-season? If you’re traveling on a budget, off-season travel can save you money, but you may not have access to all the events and activities you want to experience. Off-season travel can also coincide with unfavorable weather conditions.
Use your research to guide how much time you’ll want to spend at your destination. You may discover that the long weekend trip you were originally planning may need to be extended to a weeklong getaway to get the best experience. Remember to factor travel time into your plans.
2- How to Choose the Right Backpack
Camping and hiking can be uncomfortable pursuits. You're sleeping on the ground, doing your business outside and exposed to the elements. Throw in the wrong backpack and your trip suddenly becomes the outdoor equivalent of flying coach on a discount airline. Yeah, you'll probably get where you're going, but it won't be much fun.
Odds are, you aren't named Dora so you can't unleash your inner explorer with a magic backpack filled with everything you might need while out on the trail. You're going to have to do some research and select the right backpack for you.
When you're looking for the right backpack for hiking and camping, you need to think like a snail. No, that doesn't mean oozing slime over everything you touch. That means remembering that while you're on the trail or out in the backcountry, your backpack is essentially your house. It needs to be able to carry everything you'll need on your trip. And you need to be able to carry it comfortably over long distances.
While carrying the wrong backpack sucks, choosing the right backpack isn't so bad. You just need to take into account how you'll be using it (to carry stuff on your back, duh). What kind of trips will you be taking? How long will you be on the trail? What gear will you need it to carry? You'll also need to make sure that the backpack fits you. You've got choices when it comes to selecting a backpack. You're stuck with the body you've got, so keep trying different backpacks until you find one that fits well. You'll also want a backpack that can be customized to your needs and that can withstand the weather conditions where you'll be hiking or camping.
Check our selection below:
3- Money Matters
How much cash should you take and in what form? The simplest approach is to forget the traveler’s checks and large wads of cash. Instead, bring your ATM card and pull out your money as you need it.
Try to withdraw the equivalent of a couple hundred at a time–this way you don’t pay a fortune in transaction fees, but if you lose your cash or are robbed it’s not the end of the world. Most cities and almost all airports are connected these days. One of the best travel tips for beginners is if you are going to be in an airport or passing through one, you should be just fine with withdrawing money.
4- Cheap Guesthouse or Hostel
Hostels aren’t things that Americans consider. There’s a mistaken perception that they’re dirty, rowdy, dangerous places. I guess some are, but most of the ones I’ve stayed at in the two years I’ve been travelling full time are nicer than most hotels.
5- Meet the Locals
Whether you’re staying in the poshest hotels or the hostel (check out our guide on staying at a hostel) with your roommates humping on the bunk above your head, you can meet other like-minded people more easily while traveling. This is one of the joys of traveling.
But it’s always a good idea to get off the beaten path, especially if your trip is going to be longer than a month. There can be a language barrier, but you’ll be surprised how much information grunts and pantomimes can convey. Meeting locals will only enhance your travel experience. A good way to do this is either through a site such as couchsurfing.org, or wandering into non-touristy areas and just exploring.
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