Gone are the days when travel can only be seen on the cover of National Geographic - we see it everywhere these days! We scroll through Insta to enviously heart pictures of strangers’ exotic vacations and business trips; we follow Insta handles whose sole premise is to show you beautiful pictures of places you are not (for beautiful scenes from Tolmee’s favorite travel destinations, follow @greekbeaches).
With all this FOMO (fear of missing out), along with the industry opening up more affordable ways to travel (think Lyft, Airbnb, etc.), more and more of us are taking the plunge and heading abroad.
Venturing out of one’s comfort zone can be daunting for even the most experienced of travelers. This can be amplified when it is 1. Your first time traveling out of the country, and 2. Solo.
This was the case with Keely Agan.
“When I made the cross-planet trip to Australia last April I was the furthest thing from a world traveler. In fact, I had never even traveled out of the country, even though my home state of Vermont is right on the Canadian border.”
It turns out, a whopping 72% of American women are taking solo journeys (Solo World Traveler); a trend that continues to grow.
“Fresh out of college, I felt this insatiable urge to go...somewhere!”
As fate would have it, Keely met a cute Aussie while he was visiting the states, motivating her to make her first solo international trip. Keely wasn’t alone statistically however, as Australia is the number one destination for solo travelers (Solo Traveler World).
Keely, like many of us, recounts anxiety when it came to her lack of experience; “I researched the hell out of how to travel. I was so inexperienced that I was googling “how do I travel abroad?” and “what do I need to do to travel abroad?” or “what is the likelihood of getting rabies from a bat in Australia?”
Like almost anything in life - it is a good idea to take time to prepare, and planning a solo trip proved no different. With help from Keely, the Tolmee team came up with a list of helpful travel tips for the Novice Traveler.
1. Passport: Get It! “And before you even purchase your tickets! You never know how long this process is going to take, and for some, it could take up to six weeks.” Keely warned. Of course, you always have the option to shell out a bunch of money to expedite the process, but let’s face - it who wants to pay MORE money to travel.
2. Shop Around: “Plane tickets abroad are very expensive. Especially for a millennial gal just out of college.” There are so many apps and sites that offer you a comparison across airlines. Keely used Hopper for her flights to Australia; we are also a big fan of Google Flights.
3. Whatever you do, do it in incognito mode! By using this mode it doesn’t allow sites to track your behavior, making it so the flights truly reflect the current market -not what the airlines think they can get you to pay.
4. Additional Documentation: Different countries have different requirements for travelers, such as Visas. Make sure you research what a person visiting abroad might need in order to enter the country. The part of Australia I was traveling to required a specific travel visa in addition to my passport.
5. Vaccinations?: “It may sound a bit melodramatic, but it is important to at least look into what the CDC might recommend you have for vaccinations before entering certain countries.” If you are traveling to a western or more developed country, you will probably be all set if you are up to date on vaccines. However, if you are headed to somewhere more exotic and less developed, you are going to need some preventive injections. Check out the CDC website.
6. Maps: “As a first-time traveler, I had a lot of reservations about foreign airports. Being the paranoid traveler I was, I decided to screenshot floor layouts of the terminals I would be flying in and out of,” and most airport websites have maps on their websites. Be prepared to change terminals when flying back into the United States if you have a layover before your final destination.
*If you need directions be sure to ask airport or airline staff! Especially if you are a solo female traveler.
7. International Phone Plan: Most places you will go in a developed country will have wifi but it is good to have a plan just in case of emergencies. Call your cell service provider for help. AT&T and Verizon have great $10/day International Day Pass plans, only charged on the days you use it.
8. Let your Bank know: This is extremely important. Call your bank a month before you travel. If you forget till the last minute, still call!
“You can tell your bank when you’ll be traveling and where you’ll be traveling (including layovers in case you use your card there!)”
If you are using a credit card - check for Foreign transaction fees!
9. Research the Exchange Rate: It is smart to know the dollar exchange of the places you travel to before you get there. “I had looked into the exchange for when I was in Australia but didn’t bother to look at my layover locations like Hong Kong and Bali. When I landed in Hong Kong I I found the nearest Starbucks. I was so nervous about the language barrier that I didn’t even think about prices. You can imagine how shocked I was when my order came to 82 dollars. Luckily when I did the exchange for 82 Hong Kong dollars my breakfast sandwich and iced matcha only came to around $11 USD.”
10. Accessorize: “For weeks before my trip, I had a recurring dream that I landed in Australia and my phone was dead, I never found my friend, and was stuck in Australia forever.”
To help ease some of that anxiety arm yourself with some handy travel gadgets.
○ Portable Charger: this is a big one. When you are traveling for hours on end, a backup power supply is a must.
○ Tablet or Kindle: “Having a tablet was really important to me during my travels. I have a kindle fire, so I was able to go on my Amazon Prime account and download a bunch of books, movies, and TV series to kill time on long layovers.”
*Make sure to leave your tablet on the top of your carry on for easy access when going through security.
○ Headphones: Whatever type of headphones you prefer, keep them in an easily accessible spot of your carry-on.
○ Power adapters: What kind of outlet will you need? Get your hands on a couple. You will need them!
11. Invest in a Good Quality Carry on: “ After purchasing $2,000 worth of airline tickets to Australia, I didn’t want to check luggage. I decided to pack everything I needed in a school backpack. Turns out carrying a bunch of crap on your back through airports sucks so when I landed in Australia I was on the lookout for carry-on luggage with wheels.”
12. Comfortable Clothes- Especially for long journeys. Nice looking leggings, sneakers, layers, and a hat are Keely’s favorite.
13. “A Freshen Up Bag” This is great for overnight flights! “As someone who can’t go a single day without a shower, these products are how I made it through 30 hours of nothing with my sanity.” Make sure you keep all of your liquids in a TSA compliant clear bag! A quart-sized Ziploc kept on the top of your carry-on for easy removal at security is a must. Check out more TSA rules here.
○ Single-use toothbrushes (Wisps) - For when you are stuck in your middle seat
○ A real and mini toothpaste for when you finally get to a sink
○ Mini dry shampoo (Less than 3.4 Fl Oz)
○ Mini face wash (Less than 3.4 Fl Oz)
○ Mini makeup remover; (Less than 3.4 Fl Oz)
○ Deodorant (Any sized solid but mini ones are great space wise)
○ Wet Wipes- of any kind. These are a great way to feel fresh quickly.
We hope you enjoyed our list of Beginner Traveling tips, inspired by what Keely wish she knew before heading out across the world solo.
If you want a more detailed travel list check out the extensive packing list Tolmee Founder, Lisa put together, here.