How to plan your first big trip abroad

It’s easy to forget once you’ve been on the road for a while just how daunting and impossible the first step might seem. One of the most common things that people say to me when they ask about my travels is “God, I’d love to do that”. When you then ask them “why don’t you then?” the normal response is that they look at you like you’re crazy. No, I couldn’t do that. It’s not that easy. I wouldn’t even know how. How would you even earn a living?

Maybe you can’t take the huge step of giving up your job, packing in your “normal life” and heading off into the sunset , but you can start planning a trip, no matter how long or short it is.

The most important step though is to just start doing it! Nothing was every accomplished with a “one day…”!

So, first step…

Work out where to go

The first step is to decide exactly what sort of holiday or lifestyle you want! Do you like intense sunshine, humid climates, chaos and excitement? Maybe head to Asia if you do. Are you more of a city explorer, soaking in cultures and getting to know the ins and outs of alleyways and boutique cafes? Maybe head to Europe – get to know the locals in Barcelona or Salzburg. Want a wild party, very little sleep, a killer suntan and booze-fuelled nights? Head to Ibiza or one of the party islands! Whatever you want to do, you need to make a little list of all the characteristics that you like in life, and then google them to find your country!

Check your travel times

Different countries have different seasons. Make sure you know what you’re heading into! You don’t want to pack your bikini and suncream only to find out that you’ve turned up in the middle of monsoon season, or their winter.

Get some local info

Check out the travel guides for where you want to go. I’m a big fan of mainly just turning up and seeing what happens, letting the days work themselves out and going with whatever life throws at you, but you do need to be proactive to a certain degree. Otherwise you might find out at the end of your holiday that you’ve missed out on something amazing that was just around the corner, and will be kicking yourself for not taking the time to check out what’s around. There are two ways of doing this:

1) Look in the normal guide books if you’re happy staying within the tourist track.

  • Pros: Tried and tested sights (they’re popular for a reason!), and you know that there are other tourists around for safety and company. Plenty of readily available information.
  • Cons: Tourists. You’ll always be around groups of people in the same boat as you, which takes away somewhat from the local culture and experience.

2) Alternatively, Google the ‘back road’ or ‘adventure’ version to find blogs from people who have done it themselves.

  • Pros: Experience a less seen part of the country. Lots of opportunities for excitement.
  • Cons: Less security when you’re off the beaten track. Less information and takes a bit longer to research it all.

Choose your travel buddy

Deciding who you want to go with is a very important part of any holiday. Chose the wrong person and it can completely ruin your entire trip. Choosing the right person however can make the entire thing unforgettable 🙂

Decide where to stay.

I normally book my first few nights when I’m in a new country in advance. That way you know you’ve got somewhere safe and comfortable to head to as soon as you land to get over your jet-lag. A place to keep your things as you explore what’s around, and just generally take away the stress of wandering from hotel to hotel when you’re exhausted looking for somewhere nice enough to stay.

Use sites like booking.com or trip advisor, and these are usually great at not only offering you places to stay within your particular price range, but also show you reviews from other people just like you.

Work out the currency

Foreign money can be mind-boggling. Unless you’re remarkably good at maths, working out how much things cost on the spot is hard, especially when there is someone there waiting to take money off you! One way to overcome this is to keep a mini cheat sheet in your wallet if you struggle (for example, at time of this post, in Vietnam £1 equals 32457.55vnd. After rounding that up to make it 33,000vnd for one pound, I for one couldn’t tell you how much a hotel room at 480,000vnd per night would be in pounds without thinking about it for a minute (or five)! At a glance you can then work out how much things roughly cost., rounding up or down slightly for those odd numbers.

Write down some key phrases

I know that nowadays there are any number of translation apps, but relying on technology can quickly go wrong (drop your phone in the sea, have it stolen in a crowd, and your technology is gone.) One little thing you can do to make life easier is write down the name of your hotel, and a few key phrases to help you get around. I have a mini (massive) obsession with notebooks, and this is the perfect excuse to buy a cute little pocket sized one!

Just do it!

My final step is the most important one. Stop making excuses, start putting little amounts of money away (it’s amazing how far it will take you if you put your Indian or Chinese take-away money into a pot every month, or cut down on your Starbucks habit!), and get your adventure-head on! The world is your oyster after all…..

Originally written by Mick for wanderwomanadventures.co.uk. The affiliate links within this post are the original author’s.

Photo by Angelgreat on Wikipedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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