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Make sure you’re set for your inaugural solo adventure with Bamboo’s first time abroad checklist. We’re talking about our first proper time abroad, not the summer holidays with your family or the trips abroad with school. They don’t really count. We’re talking about that giddy, first time alone in a brand new country experience. Because there’s nothing quite like the first time you pick a destination, book the flights and pack your bag to head out on an adventure all of your own. It’s exciting. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking. And it’s more than a little bit confusing.
Do you need 50 types of medicine?
What about a thick coat, just in case it gets cold?
And should you learn lots of the language, or just hope they speak English?
With so many questions bound to pop up, we thought we’d save you some frantic hours of Googling and put together a first time abroad checklist for you run through and make sure everything is in order before you head out on your globe-trotting adventure. So, whether you’re planning a summer-long trip around Europe or a quick weekend break to that city you’ve always had your eye on, this first time abroad checklist has got you covered.
12 essential items for your first time abroad checklist:
#1: Your passport
Make sure you pack your passport and take a few copies with you (just in case it gets lost or stolen) but if it’s your first time abroad and you don’t have a passport yet, apply as early as you can. It usually takes around 6 weeks to get an adult passport if you’ve never had one before (it’s just three weeks if you only need to renew an old one but can take longer). Take it from somebody who booked tickets, planned his cross-Europe trip and completely forgotten to apply for a new passport until it was too late. It’s not worth it. That was not a fun summer. Looking back, I probably should have made a first time abroad checklist…
#2: Learn a little of the lingo
Of course, we’re not suggesting that you get fluent for a quick city break (most people can speak a little bit of English, anyway) but it’s always worth trying to learn just a few simple phrases – thank you, hello, goodbye and please in particular. You’d be surprised how much friendlier people are if you make the gesture of trying to speak their language.
Tip: Duolingo is a free app that helps you learn languages quickly and easily – just right for killing time on the flight over!
#3: Don’t forget your jabs
You’ll only need vaccinations to travel to some countries, but make sure you check well in advance and book yourself in to get them as soon as possible. (There’s often a waiting period to get them.) You don’t want to end up in bed – or in hospital – when you should be enjoying a nice day on the beach.
#4: Make sure you’re covered if you get ill
It’s easy to forget – or just not bother with – travel insurance, but it’s more than worth it just for peace of mind, even if you don’t use it. And it’s usually really cheap, so you’re not wasting any travelling money at all. We’ve written a whole post on why we think so, if you’re still sceptical.
#5: Check in online
Trust us, you’ll thank us when you get to the airport and just breeze right through. While you’re checking in online, double check the flight times too. You don’t want a sweaty dash through the airport to catch your flight. Can you tell some of these items come from personal experience?
#6: Avoid those pesky international fees
Change your money up at home. Not only can you budget how much to spend abroad, but you’ll get a better rate and can avoid the fees and charges from using your card abroad. Result.
Don’t forget to take a credit card or bank card, though. If you lose (or spend) your money, it’s good to have something to fall back on.
Pssst – if you’re looking to travel on the cheap, we’ve written another guide to seeing the world without breaking the bank.
#7: Pack smart – part 1
Right, now we’re on to packing. Of course, a lot of this comes down to personal preference, but wherever you’re going, make sure you’ve got:
- A jumper – in case the weather isn’t as great as you think it’ll be
- Jeans/trousers – not just in case it gets cold, but some tourist attractions (like cathedrals) sometimes won’t allow you in if you’re wearing shorts
- Shirts – for smart evenings (and or if you spot a local you want to impress)
- Raincoat – sometimes, you just can’t outrun the British weather
- Bras – if you’re female, of course
- Underwear – obviously
- Socks – pack more pairs than you’ll need. Not only do suitcases seem to devour socks, but they’re also great hiding places for valuables.
- A hat
- Decent shoes (perhaps two pairs) – a pair of sturdy shoes are great if you’re going to do a lot of walking, while flip-flops are great for the beach. Do not – I repeat, do not – buy a £3 of plimsolls for a 7-day stay in a hot, dusty country where you’ll be doing lots of walking.
- Swimwear – for those dips in the pool or days by the beach
- A lightweight rucksack (inside your luggage) – you’re going to want somewhere to store your guidebook, bottle of water and any other trinkets you pick up as you walk around town
- In terms of your washbag, remember that foreign countries have shops too. Pack your toothbrush, and any special items you may have or can’t go without, sure. But things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc… can add a lot of weight to your baggage, and you can usually pick them up super cheap abroad.
#8: Stay healthy
Of course, if you have an allergy or medical condition, pack everything you’ll need to stay fit and healthy. But even if you’re normally perfectly healthy, you might still want to pack a small first aid kit that contains the following:
- First aid kit
- Diarrhoea medicine
- Lip balm
- Sun cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Insect repellent
- Antiseptic cream
It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
#9: Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist – pack a guidebook
Guidebooks usually include maps, key words or phrases, and tonnes of advice on things to see and do. Even if you don’t want to take it with you, make sure you’ve read it before you head off.
Not only do guidebooks show you the must-see sights, but they are usually written by travellers who have discovered hidden treasures off the beaten track. And, as you’ll find out, the best parts of travelling aren’t the moments that you see an amazing cathedral or breath-taking sight, but the times when you just stumble across the perfect café or a local restaurant that feel like a hidden treasure.
#10: Your phone charger
More specifically, chargers and an adaptor for international plugs. There’s nothing worse than going to take a photo of that once-in-a-lifetime sight and having no charge in your phone, trust us.
#11: A deck of cards
This one might sound odd, but a deck of cards can be a game-changer if you’re staying at a hostel (alone or with a friend) and want to make friends quickly. All you’ve got to do is take a pack of cards and start playing with a friend (or somebody you’ve met) in the hostel bar. Within half an hour, you’ll likely have a bunch of new friends to enjoy your travels with.
#12: A good book
The last item on our first time abroad checklist is incredible versatile; it’s a boredom killer, conversation starter and travelling companion all in one. One of the less glamorous parts of travelling is the time spent in airports and bus stations, on shuttles and planes or waiting for the tour to start – but a good book can help all of that. Not only does reading a book lead to conversations with locals and fellow travellers, but if you choose a book set in the city you’re in, it can add a whole new level of understanding and appreciation to your trip.
Did we miss any items from our first time abroad checklist? Have you got one item you can’t travel without? Let us know on social media or in the comments below!
- Author The Bamboo Team
- Posted 22 March 2018