Rookie Notes on How To Plan Your First Trip Abroad

How To Plan Your First Trip Abroad
Hi y’all! My name is Chelsea and I blog over at Rookie Notes where I share my notes on life and the mistakes I’ve made in the hopes that you won’t make the same faux pas. I blog about travel, women’s issues, my language updates in Spanish & Chinese, and random topics like how to apply eyeliner or buying a used car. Also you’ll find some interviews from some pretty ballin’, awesome people.
In this post, I give you my rookie notes on planning your first trip abroad.
How To Plan Your First Trip Abroad
1.Decide Where You Want to Go
Before deciding where to go, you must be reflective. There are tons of questions that you should ask yourself when determining your destination. Such questions include: What do I want to get out the trip? Would my trip be all about relaxation? Am I studying abroad and is this my only chance to live/visit a “non-traditional” (my definition: not westernized) place? Do I want to have a religious experience?
When deciding where to go, I would also look at factors such as:
·         Climate- Weather is huge. Don’t choose a place that is too cold and you hate the cold. Also, be mindful of the rainy seasons. Even if you want to go to a tropical climate and sit out on the beach all day, you might be disappointed when you’re stuck in your hotel room, dodging thunderstorms.
·         Ease of traveling to other places- If you would like to hit up other cities/countries, this is important. For example, it is easier to visit multiple countries in Europe than it is in North America because of proximity.
·         Language- Communication is highly important when traveling. In some areas your native language is not spoken at all, makes getting around tougher. But, don’t let this be a deterrent. Brush up on survival words and phrases before you go.
How To Plan Your First Trip Abroad

·         Interests- Let’s say you’re an outdoorsy person. Consider locations where you can take full advantage of nature. Having options that lets you tap into your interests/hobbies while abroad, can elevate your experience, and allow you to appreciate your destination’s culture all the more.
·         Safety-There are tons of places in the world that are safe…and don’t let the news keep you from traveling. But, I would suggest not choosing a destination with a travel warning/alert. Countries with travel warnings may have frequent terrorist attacks, unstable government, extreme violence, civil war, etc. It’s just…um…unsafe! If your location has a travel alert there is usually a short term event (for example, an election or health outbreak) that may cause unrest in your vacation spot. Travel alerts are usually cancelled when the event is over. To see which countries are on the U.S. government’s alerts and warnings list, visit this site here.
2.Get a passport 
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, you need a passport. Except Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, American citizens need a passport go travel abroad (and yes, this includes Canada and Mexico). I have covered how to apply for a passport in detail here. I broke it down even further and have a brief tutorial on your DS-11 form here.

3.Determine your budget
The budget is a huge component to traveling, but, don’t let money deter you. When budgeting, it’s important to set aside money for food, lodging, transportation (people forget to budget for transportation. This can be a costly rookie error), souvenirs, entertainment and random mishaps/emergencies (like if you miss your train…true story). When determining your budget, keep in mind the cost of living. If you travel to India, for example, your expenses will be less than if you went to England.
4. Develop an Itinerary 
I’ve made the Rookie mistake of just going to a place without a set agenda. I do not encourage this. When planning for your trip abroad, search engines are your best friend. For example, let’s say I’m going to Johannesburg, South Africa, and I will be there for 5 days. I would type in the search engine: 5 day itinerary for Johannesburg. Usually there are pre made lists of travel plans in the duration of time you want to go for. I usually compare multiple lists and pick and choose what I want to do/see.
Also, I check out online forums about the places I want to go to. In these online forums, you can read people’s comments about where to go (including non-touristy) spots, what time of day to visit certain places, and their opinions about local attractions. is a wonderful site to use.
While it is awesome to have an itinerary, do not over schedule yourself. Have a few attractions on your list of “must-sees” but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to be so overscheduled that you didn’t get a chance to take it the sights, sounds and smells of your destination. Sometimes, the best part of travel is the spontaneity factor.
5.Book Your Airfare 
This can be the most expensive part of planning your trip abroad. When finding deals on airfare, my go to sites are and Skyscanner compares the prices from airlines and companies selling airline tickets and offers prices starting with the lowest available. If you are under 26 or a student, Student Universe is a gem as they offer discounted airline tickets.
How To Plan Your First Trip Abroad

6.Find Accommodation 
You can’t get to your destination and not have a place to stay. In the past I’ve used to find rooms. What I like about sites like is that you can narrow your search results to price, star and guest ratings, and payment plan among many other features. If you are looking for a “homey” feel while traveling, try I have used it and have landed some sweet deals. Airbnb is also a great way to connect with locals and “discover” the hole-in-the-wall places.
Remember less is more. You don’t need to bring everything…and if you do, you are going to regret it because you’re probably the one who has to carry it. Carrying a suitcase up a flight of stairs and dragging it around town is never fun. Also, plan head. If you know your suitcase is going to be overweight when you return from your trip, it might pay to bring a duffel bag or small, empty suitcase to put your things in. Sometimes, this is a cheaper alternative to mailing your things home or paying the overweight fee.    
Yes, go and enjoy your time abroad. Remember to use common sense, take lots of pictures and enjoy what your destination has to offer.

Until next time,

About Us

Quirky, Brown Love is a media outlet for quirky, brown millennials. EST 2014.

Email Bryanda Law, Editor-in-Chief