As a first-time traveller, the planning stage is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. You've probably spent time and effort researching destinations and scouring for the cheapest flights and transport options. But, as a first-time traveller, there's a lot yet unknown. You may not know what to expect, and that's part of the thrill of your first adventure! So we've created this First Time Traveller's Guide to ease some of your worries to help you plan your trip and feel more at ease.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Spontaneity is great and all, but as a first-time traveller, we recommend planning most of your trip ahead of time. Planning ahead can take a lot of the stress out of being in a new place. Instead, you can focus on enjoying yourself without worrying about what to do next. Research your destination and note how long you'd like to spend in each place to plan your accommodation ahead of time. We also recommend pre-booking transfers to your hostel/hotel and sightseeing so you're not left stranded on the side of the road trying to get hold of a taxi.
Buy a Local Sim Card for your Phone
Trust us when we say this will make your life 1000x easier when travelling abroad. We recommend getting a plan with plenty of data so you can use digital maps to help navigate your way around new cities. A local phone number will also make it easier for you to be contacted by your accommodation and transport companies in case they need to confirm your bookings.
Use a Travel Money Card
Travel money cards have come a long way in recent years, and they can certainly make life a lot easier when travelling abroad. As a first-time traveller, you may not have thought about using a travel money card since many banks now offer international transactions. However, most banks charge high fees and provide poor conversion rates for international transactions. If you're travelling on a budget, a travel money card is the easiest, most affordable and most convenient option. We recommend you do your research before making any decisions that affect you financially. There are many companies like Wise.com that will allow you to hold money in several different currencies on your travel card, which is ideal if you’re planning to travel between countries.
We get it - you need options! But overpacking is a surefire way to ensure that (1) your pack is super heavy for your entire trip and (2) you have no room to shop along the way! And what fun would that be? Packing can be hard to tackle if your travel plans involve visiting colder destinations. Of course, the number of clothes you'll need may depend on the length of your trip. As a general rule, try to pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched with most of the other things you bring. And don't forget - washing machines are a thing! You'll usually be able to find a washing facility by your hotel or hostel, or they'll be able to point you in the right direction. For more tips on packing light, check out our post on Light Packing 101.
So… What should I pack as a first-time traveller?
Backpacking usually involves spending a few days in one location to explore before moving on to the next. Usually, it takes a few trips for travellers to get the hang of what they should bring to make travel easier. We're sharing what we wish we knew for our first trips abroad. No matter where you're heading, these are things that most people will agree make backpacking life much easier and more enjoyable.
Sleep Mask for Long Rides
Backpacking on a budget can often involve overnight bus rides where you’ll want to catch some shut-eye so you can make the most of your destination once you arrive. Of course, interior lights, street lights and other travellers can make this challenging to do. A cushioned sleep mask that is lightweight and comfortable to wear is a great way to help get your valuable sleep in on that bus ride. Cushioned sleep masks block out more light and conform to your face better than traditional fabric ones that they often hand out on planes. If you’re someone who doesn’t usually sleep well, check out our post on Tips to Sleep Better for ways to make the most of your snooze time when travelling.
Earphones and Earplugs
Most people don't sleep with earplugs at home or even on holiday, but when backpacking, they might just become your best friend. If you're trying to sleep on a bus or in a crowded hostel, having something to help tune out the noise will make a massive difference to your sleep quality. If earplugs aren't doing enough, a good set of earphones can help drown out more noise. Also, don't forget to download your music or podcast before heading on your trip. You may not have service or wifi on long journeys, and you don’t want to use all of your mobile data on a bus ride!
Portable Phone Charger
Many people make the mistake of thinking they won't need a portable phone charger on their travels - don't be one of them! You'll be grateful for the extra battery power when you're on a long bus ride wanting to watch Netflix or trying to find your reservation number in your emails after a long day of exploring. Just trust us on this one, and thank us later!
Good Quality Travel Bag
You never want to leave your valuables in a hostel or the undercarriage of a bus, so a quality travel bag is essential for backpacking. We recommend finding one with several zippable storage compartments to help keep things like your wallet and passport safe while on the go. Keeping your belongings organised in different compartments will make it easier to find items when needed. Therefore, you're less likely to lose something and more likely to notice if something is missing! You can't go past a good quality daypack when backpacking.
Organisation is key! That's the Midnight Crusade philosophy. When travelling light or on a budget, packing cubes are a great way to keep your things organised and maximise space in your pack. People use packing cubes in many different ways; for example, you can group your clothing by item or outfit. Check out our blog post on Light Packing 101 for more tips on making the most of limited packing space.
Umbrella or Raincoat
You never want to get caught in the rain, but it’s even worse getting caught in the rain and then boarding a 10-hour bus ride in sopping wet clothes. Worse, you often won't have easy access to washing facilities to dry your damp clothes when backpacking. You can usually find rain ponchos at service stations on your travels, but we think it's always better to come prepared! Choose a daypack with an umbrella storage compartment for easy access when rain hits.
What should I read next?
If you’re looking for more first-time traveller tips, the Midnight Crusade Travel Journal has you covered! Check out our recent posts on Overcoming Fear of Flying and Staying Safe when Travelling Solo. Also, don't forget to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when we post more travel tips.