Our Best Tip For Planning Your First International Vacation

Perhaps you're a student embarking on your first trip or a member of a family of five who has taken plenty of road trips but never an international flight. The allure of adventure is powerful, and it gets even more exciting when you venture beyond familiar borders. However, for someone preparing to embark on their first international vacation, it can be pretty daunting. Where to go? What to do? How do you ensure that the first experience will be smooth and memorable, as well as ignite the love for more travels? Our best advice for such eager yet inexperienced globetrotters is this: Start with an easy foreign country.

First, let's delve into what we mean by an "easy" foreign country. When we say easy, we don't mean a place that lacks depth or culture — every place has unique draws. Instead, an "easy" destination offers a gentle introduction to international travel. These places cater to tourists, often have many people who speak English or another common language, and present fewer logistical challenges.

Of course, this is all completely personal and relative to the traveler — where they're from, their passport and visa allowances, budget, language abilities, and so much more. Comfort thresholds also vary from person to person. A seasoned hiker who did the entire Appalachian Mountain trail and dirtbiked through Nevada will probably have a higher "discomfort" tolerance for a more "difficult" foreign destination than someone who doesn't have the same high-caliber experiences under their belt.

Language and logistics for a smooth journey

Language is one of the main barriers that travelers can face in a foreign land. Not being able to communicate can be frustrating and intimidating. Choosing a destination where there's a shared language can be a great advantage for your first international trip. It simplifies everything from asking for directions and ordering at a restaurant to understanding the local culture. For example, if Spanish is your first language, some possible destinations could be Chile, Mexico, or Argentina. And even if you aren't fluent, locals often appreciate any effort tourists make to communicate in their language.

Some countries are more accustomed to welcoming tourists and, therefore, have systems in place to accommodate them. From easily navigable public transport and comprehensive tourist information to well-maintained landmarks and attractions, these countries make it simpler for newcomers to get around. The infrastructure, be it transport or accommodations, is often designed with tourists in mind. Cities that have seen millions of travelers over the years are a good starting point. Think Paris, New York, Tokyo, and others. 

Another crucial factor is how straightforward it is to reach your final destination. Direct flights, good airport connectivity, and proximity to major attractions can be a blessing. For a first-time international traveler, navigating multiple layovers, remote airports, or complicated routes can be overwhelming, or worse, cause a mishap that could derail your trip. Starting with a destination that has a relatively simple journey can make the entire experience less stressful.

Embracing the gateway trip

One of the main reasons to opt for an "easy" foreign country for your first international vacation is to build confidence. Once you've navigated the streets of a new country, mastered the basics of a new culture, and successfully completed your first trip, you'll be better prepared mentally and logistically to tackle more challenging destinations in the future. Think of your first trip as a place to learn the ropes of international travel.

Let's say you're from the United States and are considering Europe for your first international trip. Places like the United Kingdom, Ireland, or even Spain or Italy can be fantastic starting points. Stonehenge, Tortilla Española, Vatican museums, the birthplace of Guinness beer — sounds excellent. They offer rich cultural experiences and also feel familiar enough for someone from the West. English is widely spoken, there are direct flights to major cities, and these places are accustomed to catering to foreign tourists.

Remember, every seasoned traveler started somewhere, and every place, no matter how "easy" or "tourist-friendly," offers a unique and valuable experience. The etymology of the word "travel" comes from the late 14th century "travailen" which means "to journey" or "to go on a difficult journey," based on the struggles of travel in the Middle Ages. Your first international vacation is a special milestone — choosing the right destination ensures it becomes a journey that is memorable and, hopefully, not too difficult. Soon, you'll be expanding your world one country at a time.