First Time Travel: Tips to Get You Started

I’ve had a few friends planning trips lately who I’ve had to remind about travel insurance. One friend said “Why would I need travel insurance, it’s only a family holiday in Indonesia”? My jaw dropped.


But it made me think about all the things there is to know about heading off travelling for the first time, whether it’s a 2 week family trip to Asia or a 6 month expedition through Europe.

I guess most of us who have been travelling for a while take these things for granted now, so this is for any newbies or potential first time travellers out there.





Don’t Book Too Much Before you Leave


It’s only natural that the fear of travelling to unknown places might make you want to have as much as possible organised before you leave.

I remember very well the first time I travelled overseas from Australia in 1998: a 3 month trip backpacking trip though Europe. I planned everything I could possibly think of, from accommodation and bus/train journeys to car hire and flights. You name it!

And honestly, most of it didn’t go to plan.


We changed our minds; we found places we loved and wanted to stay a little longer; I got sick and we needed to cancel a tour we’d booked….you get the idea.

My next trip was to the US and I didn’t book anything except the first night of accommodation in San Francisco and a couple of flights (which we inevitably changed). It was fabulous!



paros hotel



Depending on your destination and the time of year you are travelling, it may be necessary to secure certain bookings. Just try to leave room to move. Allow your plans to be changeable so that if you hear about a great place to visit you don’t have to miss out because you are locked into flights and accommodation.

Resist the temptation to cram in as much as you can in as much time as you have. Better to see a place properly and soak up the sights and culture rather than merely check it off your list.


Travel Companion – Friend or Foe?


Think carefully about your choice of travel companion. You will be spending a great deal of time together and this can cause tension in even the strongest of friendships.


I have been incredibly fortunate and have had the pleasure of travelling with three of my closest friends over the years who are just the perfect travel companions (and who are still, incredibly, my closest friends!)






But I’ve heard the horror stories. People who leave on a trip the best of friends, excited and enthusiastic, and return barely on speaking terms.

Choose carefully and if in doubt, remember there is always the option of travelling solo.


Looking After Your Health


I have one thing to say here. Get good travel insurance. Please!! Chances are you won’t ever need to use it, but if you get sick or end up in hospital you will thank me later.

Medical costs outside your own country can be astronomical and you will be paying out of your own pocket if you are not covered by travel insurance.



Paris Notre Dame



Accidents happen. I had a bad fall on my second day of a trip to Paris and broke a rib. It was just seriously bad luck. Australia and the UK have a reciprocal health program so I managed to hold out until I got to the UK to see a doctor to avoid the hassle of claiming on my travel insurance.

But, if I’d needed X-Rays, doctors appointments etc immediately in Paris, something as simple as a broken rib could’ve cost me thousands without travel insurance.




It’s said that you are probably at no more risk of being robbed or mugged on the road as you are in your home city. Having said that, it is best to take precautions and not flaunt the fact that you are a tourist.


A couple of tips for keeping you and your belongings safe:

1. Make sure you have more than one way to access money (eg two different accounts) and don’t keep all your cards/cash in the one place like you would at home. At the very least separate your cards so that if one gets lost or stolen you have another cash flow until you get the situation sorted.

2. Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket. Pickpockets are rife in many large cities and tourists are easy target.

3. Photocopy any important documents (passport, e-tickets, insurance details etc) and leave with someone at home. It will make things much easier if your gear is stolen.

4. Trust your instincts. I am a firm believer that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Whether it’s a person, a place or situation trust your gut-feeling and act on it.





Don’t Over Pack


This is a difficult one as everyone is able to carry different weights and will have different needs depending what kind of trip they are taking. Being a photographer, the heaviest thing in my pack is always my camera gear. And it’s heavy!

Assuming you are backpacking, you will need to be able to carry the weight of your pack comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to try walking up a decent sized hill with it – if you struggle, it’s probably too heavy.






Even if you travel with a suitcase, unless you plan to be chauffeured everywhere, there will be times when you need to carry your luggage a fair distance. All those extra, unnecessary items in your bag will seem mighty heavy after wandering the streets of somewhere hilly like San Francisco.


Check out this comprehensive packing guide that you can customise to get an idea of some of the things you might need to think about taking depending on the kind of trip you are taking.


Accept the Challenges


No doubt, there will probably be many. Unpredictable weather, flight cancellations, train delays, snorers in your hostel just to name a few, will potentially hurl your plans in a different direction and it’s very easy to get frustrated.



Edinburgh snow



It may seem at times that your ‘dream-trip’ is on a slippery slope to becoming your worst nightmare, but this is only the case if you let it. Your travel experience, like most things, is very much what you make it.


Don’t let a couple of crappy days ruin an entire trip. Accept that some days might be far from perfect and others will be so incredible you won’t want them to end.

Sometimes the most surprisingly interesting things happen as a result of unexpected changes to your plans.


There are, of course, many other things to consider when heading off on your first big trip abroad but this should be a good start to get you thinking on the right track.


Paris airport






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This post has been sponsored by InsureandGo Travel Insurance. As always, all opinions are my own.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company, Limited ABN 49 000 525 637 issues InsureandGo Travel Insurance (the Insurance). Please read the combined product disclosure statement and financial services guide available at to decide if the Insurance is right for you.

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Comments (2)
  • Avatar

    Shannon J Jun 17 2013 - 11:53 pm Reply

    Great tips! I have fallen victim to traveling with the wrong companion… it was definitely no vacation! Arguing or spending the whole time was a real drag!

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Jun 19 2013 - 10:56 am Reply

      I am grateful that this has only happened to me once but yes, it’s awful wasting time arguing when you are travelling.

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