By: Jane Moore
Traveling cross country for the first time is exciting, but it can also be a formidable challenge if you’re unprepared. Whether traveling to see something specific or because you just want a new experience, learn as much as possible in advance so you can make the necessary arrangements. Improvisational travel can be exciting, but making it up as you go probably isn’t advisable for a first-time traveler who’s still learning the ropes.
Where to go
You may have exotic dreams of seeing the pyramids or riding on elephants in Thailand or Kenya. It’s an exciting thought, but it may not be the ideal choice for your very first trip. Consider starting in the U.S. and seeking opportunities for new experiences stateside. Take in the majestic views of the Grand Canyon, get an up-close experience of the culture and vibrancy of New Orleans or take your first surfing lesson in Hawaii. With so much to choose from across the country, you have plenty of options.
What do you want to see?
It’s important to have an itinerary to make the most of your travel time. It’ll help you plan for accommodations, transportation and other logistics that should be made in advance. A schedule will keep you on track, making it easier to check all those sites off your must-see list. If you’d rather wing it once in a while, use an itinerary as a loose guideline. Side trips and unexpected detours sometimes produce the most enjoyable experiences of all, so be open to surprises and unplanned excursions. If you’d rather have someone else handle the planning, consider joining a tour group, especially if you like making new friends and interacting with locals. A tour group means you don’t have to worry about getting directions (or getting lost), which saves time.
Traveling solo or in a group
Traveling solo can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. You get to plan the whole trip, go where you want, see what you want and eat where you want. But there are safety precautions you should take, and you should plan ahead for the potential to get lonely. As long as you’re checking in regularly, keeping your family apprised of your itinerary and constantly staying aware, you’re on the right track. Alternatively, traveling with a friend or a group of friends makes for the adventure of a lifetime. But temperaments and personalities can lead to friction if you don’t have a plan before you leave. Talking through budget, travel plans and accommodations will pave the way for a smoother time for everyone.
Comforts of home
First-time travelers sometimes experience a pang or two of homesickness - it’s natural and perfectly understandable, but don’t let it ruin a great trip. Bring along a favorite robe, framed photo, or a memento from home, and for some extra comfort, keep up with your favorite TV shows with a streaming device. These are highly portable and can work with most televisions that have HDMI ports. And since it’s possible you’ll be calling and texting home a lot, don’t forget to check your data plan about overage fees.
The dollars and cents
Take along your debit card, a credit card and some cash so you’re covered. Also, it’s always a good idea to alert your bank so purchases from another part of the country aren’t declined. It might be worth converting some cash to traveler’s checks so that you have a safety net. Lost cash is lost, whereas a traveler’s check can be replaced.
Your first major trip away from home is one you’ll always remember. Make sure they’re good memories by planning ahead, having a clear idea of what you want to see, and knowing how you’ll get there.