Do's and Don'ts of Your First International Trip
Having the constant longing to travel the world finally got the best of me in October 2015 and I finally bit the bullet and purchased a ticket to Germany so I could visit the world renowned Oktoberfest in Munich. I had never traveled out of the United States nor did I know what to expect, all I knew was that I wanted to let the WANDERLUST take control and I would hold on for the ride. I was traveling by myself all the way from California to Frankfurt, Germany until I met up with my great friends who lived in Germany. So here is my list of Do's and Don'ts I learned about myself and with the help of my foreign friends on my first trip out of the country starting with the prep of your FIRST trip out of the country and ending with the final parts of your trip.
- Do your research. To start off, my FAVORITE website to find the CHEAPEST flights around the world is skyscanner.com. They evaluate the prices of every airline I can even think of and even better…they show you the cheapest times of the month to fly.
- Have a flexible schedule. With #1 being said, I learned quickly that you need to have a flexible schedule in order to find the cheapest flight. So I chose the cheapest time in October to fly and that is what my trip was based around.
- Don’t be scared to travel alone. Sure, you are traveling to another country, with another language, with a completely different lifestyle, however, traveling alone gives you time to test your own abilities (mom and dad aren't there anymore to hold your hand through the airport). You teach yourself how to communicate with an unfamiliar culture, how to get around unfamiliar towns, and you leave yourself open to make new friends (just be conscious of who you trust and don’t get too comfortable with others quickly).
- Don’t book a more expensive flight just because the layover is somewhere you want to visit. Sure London seems like an incredible place to have a layover! However, more times than not it is cheaper to get to your destination and then travel around from there. In europe, ryanair.com provides EXTREMELY cheap prices to travel between countries around the entire continent (not the insane prices you’ll pay to travel from one end of the United Sates to the other).
- Do MORE research. I learned quickly once I stepped foot in Germany that my style and their’s did NOT match up. If you want to look like a local (with a better chance of being treated like a local) then do your research on the popular clothing styles in the country you’re visiting. In Germany, as well as the Netherlands, I found that plain, solid, darker colored clothing was very common (definitely not matching up with my bright-colored Victoria’s Secret sweatshirt and Lulu Lemon Leggings). It was also very common among men and women both to pair outfits with athletic shoes such as nikes.
- Pack extra clothes. It is difficult to determine the changes of weather you might experience at your destination (everyone can vouch that the 7-day weather forecast on our phones have disappointed more than once). Do not pack just a few outfits, bring a mix. You may come across a nightclub that you’d love to go into (even if you planned on not going out…bad idea) or an unexpected rain storm might sweep through. Either way, BE PREPARED.
- Pack extra camera accessories, SD cards, etc. Being a media junky, I never want to miss out on that one special shot I know I will never get again. My FAVORITE accessory to bring on any trip whether I'm traveling an hour from home or to the other side of the world is my GoPro! It is the perfect size to pack in any carry-on and the pictures come out so clear. My GoPro is my best friend. However, I have made the mistake of not bringing an extra charger, extra SD cards, or a waterproof case on my trips and I end up losing the one charger or card that I did bring throughout my travels. At that point the camera is useless. So plan ahead!
- Do not pack everything in a small carry on. Hearing endless horror stories about friend’s bags getting lost on their trips around the world convinced me to just pack a few outfits and carry on a bag to the airplane so I would lose the anxiety of guessing if my bag would come around on that baggage claim. I seemed to forget that I was going to be buying LOTS of souvenirs and carrying them back with me. By the time I got off of my last flight I was dragging my duffle bag around the entire airport until I got to my truck in the parking garage (along with an aching shoulder for days on end). A great alternative is to pack all clothes in your suitcase, leaving room for souvenirs, and then packing a small carry on with one outfit and your essential toiletries incase your bag does get lost the first night of your trip.
- Do not bring every pair of shoes you THINK will be great with an outfit. Shoes are a girl’s best friend (Don’t think I forgot about you men who spend the same, if not more, on shoes too)! Shoes take up TOO much valuable space in a suit case. The shoes that I found to be absolute essentials are one pair of athletic shoes (make sure they have good support), one pair of shoes to go out in, whether it’s to the club or to dinner, and one pair of slip on shoes to wear around the hotel or to run to the store in (my personal favorites are Birkenstock sandals, they last long and are durable).
15 Essential Carry-on Items
(From top left to the right)
- A warm beanie for the flights when BOTH of your seat partners want their air conditioner blasting
- Warm socks…for the same reason as number 1
- A thin sweatshirt - great for when you get too cold or to use as a pillow
- NECK PILLOW - easily the best purchase I have ever made! It is especially great for when you get the middle seat, between two people you do not know, and you have 14 hours of awkwardly trying to sleep without drooling on the guy next to you… a neck pillow is a MUST!
- GoPros - these are great because the quality of the photos are unbeatable and they’re easy to whip out quickly. I keep all of my GoPros in a small zip pouch with SD cards, mounts, and chargers so that nothing gets separated.
- Laptop and charger - essential for any business man (or woman), student, or creative mind who enjoys editing photos and videos on long plain rides.
- Earphones - an obvious essential to block out your snoring seat partner
- Pen - this may seem very non-essential, however, many times on your plane ride to or from your destination the stewardesses will hand out forms that you must fill out about what you are bringing to or from the country your visiting, along with other monotonous questions.
- Cash! Cash! Cash! - If your credit card gets stolen or it is rejected because you forgot to tell your bank that you are traveling (happens MANY more times than not) then you absolutely need cash so that you aren’t stuck begging for extra peanuts on your plane since you won’t be getting dinner anytime soon.
- Kava Root Extract - This small yellow bottle provides MIRACLES for you anxious folks like myself. You can purchase this at most natural food stores. A few drops of this root extract in your water can make the WORLD of difference if you get anxious on long flights or even claustrophobic. it is NOT a drug mind you, just an all-natural root extract that calms your nerves.
- Battery Pack - I found this to be, also, one of the best purchases I have made. Some planes do not have USB plugs to charge your phone so these little packs will usually give your phone a full charge!
- Sunglasses - essential…obviously!
- A good book - It’s not healthy to be connected to technology for hours on end! Get back to the basics and open a good travel book.
- Passport and boarding ticket - obvious MUSTS! It is essential to keep these close to you at all times, I (obsessively) check that I have these two things in my bag as I make my way through the airport and onto my plane.
- Little essentials: Chapstick, lotion, and aspirin - For the dry airplane cabin your sitting in for hours and aspirin for the screaming child you got stuck next to.
All 15 essentials fit into a smaller backpack that way I can keep it stuffed under the seat in front of me for easy access! Do not over pack your carry on because more than likely the stewardesses will make you put your goods in the overhead bin, making it even more inconvenient and awkward than it already is to be stuck on the inside or middle seat.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
- Learn. Learn. Learn. The most important thing I could have done was learn the essential terms (yes, no, please, thank you, airport) in the dominant language of the country I was visiting. Not only is it helpful, it is polite to learn about the culture your entering into. Remember, YOU are the guest in the country so respect the locals and their culture. If I wouldn't have learned how to say “airport” in German when I was visiting Germany, I would have missed where to get off on the train to get to the airport…
- Don’t plan! I would say take things as they come. I have found that any good trip I have taken consisted of very minimal plans to obsess over or to stress about.
BEFORE LEAVING YOUR DESTINATION
- Make Plans. Now this is the absolute essential time to have plans that you need to stick to. I cannot emphasize enough to give yourself a few extra hours to get to the airport. Theres plenty of room for slip-ups when you are taking a train back to the airport and all of the stops are in a foreign language. Leave early, know what stops you are looking for, and if you get to the airport and past security early then CONGRATS… you earned yourself extra time to grab a beer and embrace the country a bit more before heading home.
- DO. DO. DO. - Most importantly…PHOTOS. Who knows when you will get to visit this country again, so embrace your inner tourist and make sure you take as many photos as possible before you head home!
- Don’t over due it with the souvenirs! Unfortunately i learned this the hard way… I had one duffle bag, clothes, two bottles of wine, and 5 mugs for my family. Needless to say, I thought I was going to lose my arm and shoulder through the airport. If possible, ship home the souvenirs!
As I continue my journeys I hope to provide more insight on what to look forward to and how to prepare for new experiences!
© 2016 BaileySanchez