5 essential tips for travel beginners

If, like me, you’re new to this whole ‘travel thing’ (although I’m not quite as clueless as I once was) you’ve probably noticed there are a few obstacles to overcome before jetting off.

You need luggage. But not too much luggage. How many clothes are enough? Can I take combustible canisters like hairspray? Medical supplies are important.

Let me say that again:

Medical supplies are important.

Some things you don’t even know to consider until it’s too late and you’re stuck wishing you’d gone with travellers cheques instead of a cash passport or chosen sports shoes instead of boots.

There’s a lot to consider when all you really want to do is step out of your front door, follow your feet and find adventure.

If the ‘details’ are starting to weigh you down, then read on! These are my top five essential tips for travel beginners to ensure that when you step out of your front door, it’s on the right foot.

New traveler boarding the plane

Tip 1: Keep your luggage light

Obvious tip is obvious. In theory.

However in practice, most travel beginners fail to keep their baggage light. Oh you have good intentions. You open your suitcase, fully intending to travel just a tad heavier than Bear Grylls might.

Two hours later you’ve packed half of your wardrobe, a quarter of your shoe collection and a pharmacy of toiletries, deodorants, sprays, mousses and cosmetics. You’re wondering: is your iPhone, iPod and iPad going to be enough?

It’s ok. It’s natural.

At home, you have access to all of your stuff, all of the time. You can totally pop home to collect something you forgot.

You definitely can’t do this when you’re travelling. And you have to actively restrict your choice before you leave. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and can feel a little, well, uncomfortable.

But the end of your comfort zone is exactly where new experiences and adventure begin: embrace it.

First off, reduce the size of your suitcase.

If you use a massive bag, you will take a massive amount of luggage. The urge to fill the suitcase can’t be resisted so cut it off at the source and choose a smaller one.

‘But what about stuff I buy on holiday?’ I hear you saying. No worries – just buy another small piece of luggage while on holiday. If your baggage limit is 20kgs and that limit is split across two bags, that’s fine.

Second, reign in the ‘need’ for your entire wardrobe with some practicality.

To keep your clothing under control, divide the amount of days you are travelling by three. Pack clothing for that amount of days.

There is of course, an upper-limit for this. I wouldn’t suggest taking a whole month’s worth of clothes for a three month trip. But for your average ‘holiday’ period (say ten days to one month) this formula will work well.

So for a 14 day holiday, take five days worth of clothing (this includes things like bras, underwear, tights and socks). Then depending on how dirty you get, simply visit a laundrette once or twice.

Next, control the urge to over-stuff jewellery, makeup and perfumes by choosing signature items of each. And by signature, I mean just one.

That’s right. Just one pair of earrings, one necklace and one ring. Take a single pair of shoes. But make sure they’re good ones. Go for quality and support over flashy and cheap. Watch out for anything that encloses the ankle.

Take a single perfume. Choose one makeup look comprised of a single lipstick, a single blush and one eye shadow pot teamed with the basics (foundation, mascara, eyeliner). Take only the basics for styling your hair.

If you’re an accessories junkie like me, this will be tough. The urge to add ‘just one more necklace’ will be huge but stay strong!

The great thing about taking signature accessories and scents is that they will remind you of your holiday. You’ll wear them every day during every experience and they’ll be in all your pictures. When you wear them again at home, you’ll be reminded of your wonderful holiday.

Finally, there’s a simple way to keep your toiletries under control too. Which leads me to my next tip:

Tip 2: Allocate an ‘amenities’ fund from your spending money

As you are going on holiday and not a religious pilgrimage, you’ll probably be taking some spending money with you.

It’s a good idea to section off a small portion of that fund and allocate it directly to ‘amenities’ items. Say 50 to 300 dollars, depending on your destination, duration of stay and funds.

This way, instead of weighing yourself down with hairsprays, mousses, deodorants, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and moisturisers you can just buy them at your destination. It’s practical and fun.

Also, you can totally buy travel sized versions of these items and save yourself the hassle of dragging them back home with you!


Finally, use this fund to buy items you didn’t expect to need (perhaps a pair of gloves) or that second piece of luggage for all your goodies.

Tip 3: Consider your electronics carefully

Questions that you need to ask yourself:

Is there accessible Wi-Fi at my destination? Will I really use my laptop? Do I really need a 30GB phone AND a 30GB mp3 player?

Am I enough of a photographer to justify a DSLR? Or can I live with happy-snaps? Will I really use that e-reader?

Consider things like your hairdryer. A difference in voltage at your destination can make it useless. Hairdryers are big, heavy and bulky – you could save yourself a lot of hassle with a bit of research.

And remember any electronics you do choose to bring will come with accompanying chargers and possibly USB cords.

Keep it simple.

Tip 4: Make or buy a decent first aid kit

I cannot stress this enough.

I don’t care if your holiday is nowhere near a jungle, forest, ocean, canyon or river. I don’t care if all you’re planning to do is shop till you drop. I don’t care if it’s a family visit or a working holiday.

Take a comprehensive first aid kit.

You should include things like: antihistamines, laxatives, dioralyte, antacids, antiseptics, pain-killers, condoms, band-aids, a strap bandage, a sling bandage, sunscreen, motion sickness medication and a vomit bag.

If you’re really going off the beaten track, you should consider a thermometer/scissors/tweezers combo, water purification tablets and taking your own syringes/needles in case the place you’re visiting has low hygiene standards.

The fact is you just don’t know what life or your body is going to throw at you and when it comes to medical emergencies, over-prepared is always better.

Tip 5: Google Translate is your friend

Even just five years ago, taking all of your hotel/event addresses and popping them into Google Translate just wasn’t an option.

Today it is. So get on it.

The fact is, stumbling your way through a conversation with someone in a language you hardly understand is part of the charm of travelling.

Stumbling through a conversation when time is swiftly running out and that once-in-a-lifetime show you booked the whole damned holiday for is passing you by is not charming. Not at all.

So do yourself a favour and take all of your hotel, sight-seeing and event addresses and make yourself a little list. One that shows your addresses in English and the local tongue.

Your trip will run much more smoothly. I promise.

Google Translate is also a God-send if you have a complex situation or an emergency on your hands. If you can get the internet during your crisis, make sure to use it.

I hope these five tips have helped to point you in the right direction and to redirect your mental energy back to the adventure.

Author Bio:

Kally Whitehead is a freelance blogger and adventure enthusiast from Perth, Western Australia who currently writes and maintains the travel blog JaPlanning. She enjoys writing, dancing, tea and gardening. In that order. Also: ALL THE COFFEE.

If you’d like Kally to write for you, you can find her professional website here.

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