Every traveler, especially first-time teen travelers, will find guidance and words of travel wisdom in these 14 smart and simple travel hacks. From where to go and what it’s like to get there, we’ve got you covered from departure to arrival!

1. When you dream about your first international trip, what do you see?

If you’re a first-time teen traveler, brainstorming and researching the type of trip you want to take may seem like the “hard” part at first but it usually turns out to be the most fun. This is how you turn your travel dreams into reality! Start by deciding how many days you’d like your trip to be and what this means for both your schedule and your budget.

Next, explore trips by program. Trip programs often focus on a specific skill like photography or a unique project like animal rescue. So you can choose a trip that matches your interests and passions. You can choose to focus on language immersion or cultural exploration. If you’re passionate about making the world a better place, you can choose a trip that focuses on community service or healthcare and medical outreach.

teen girl pointing to landscape of mountains on a travel abroad trip

2. Share your travel ideas and seek advice

Now that you have an idea (or a few) about where you want to go and what you want to do, start sharing your ideas with important people in your life. Seek the advice of friends, family, teachers or coaches. For example, if you’re nearing high school graduation, you might be thinking about college or careers. And if you were interested in going to college to study healthcare, you could talk to your teachers about how a trip to Bali that focuses on public health could give you valuable insight into this career path! Your friends can help you choose exciting activities while your family helps you put together a first-time travel checklist.

3. Create a timeline of to-dos for first-time teen travelers

Stay stress-free and organized by creating a travel timeline. Start your travel timeline today and conclude it at the end of your trip. Gather all of the information that you will need for every step of the way. For each week leading up to your trip, make note of important first-time traveler checklist items like passport application deadlines and reminders. Keep track of your to-dos like when to book or check-in for your flights. You can even add a savings tracker to make sure your travel budget is ready for the start of your trip.

4. Start saving for your trip now

A major part of creating your travel timeline is managing your money, both before and during your trip. Take the time to figure out how much money you already have to put toward your travels and how much you’re going to need to save. How much time do you need to save to make your first international trip a reality? Break the time down into weeks and commit to saving a certain amount every week to reach your goal. Your savings goal should cover travel necessities like accommodations and food but should also allow you to afford fun activities or a small souvenir. A little bit of smart saving and budgeting can take you far!

5. Be passport ready

First things first: do you have a passport? If not, check out this guide on how to apply for your first passport. If you already have a passport, check if it needs to be renewed soon. Most countries require that your passport is valid for a minimum of three months from the time that you enter the country that you are visiting, so be sure to keep this in mind too.

6. How to book your first international flight

It’s never too soon to start scoping out flights. Finding the right flight doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, if you’re anything like us, you might even think it’s fun! There are plenty of helpful airfare websites to find the best flight options. We are big fans of Student Universe, Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak, and Momondo—just to name a few! Always be sure to cross-reference too. If you find a flight on Kayak, for example, cross-check it on the airline’s website or other airfare search sites to find the best price for your search parameters. Choosing the right flight is something that TFT is always happy to help with too!

Teenage boy traveler in Parc Guell Barcelona on summer youth tour

7. New to international travel? There’s an app for that.

Familiarize yourself with these travel apps before you embark on your first trip abroad! You can kickstart your language skills with Duolingo or map out a tour of your destination city with Time Out City Guides. Once you’ve made it to your destination, apps can help you change currency, find the nearest wifi network, or view public transit schedules. We recommend that first-time teen travelers download a handy app for every part of their trip!

8. Don’t forget about everywhere in between

Beginner travelers are often so focused about their first time flying internationally that they forget to plan their in-country travel. Once you book that “big” flight to your destination, start looking into the country’s public transportation. You’ll need to know how to hop a bus or buy a train ticket to travel from one coastal town to the next big city. Research the subway system, rail lines and other transportation options in your host country so that you’re familiar with how you’ll get around once you’re actually there. You can download an offline version of maps so that you never find yourself feeling too lost.

9. Discover your home away from home

Staying in the “right” kind of accommodation can really make or break a trip for first-time teen travelers. When everything else—the food, the streets, the language—is strange and new, you’ll want your accommodations to feel familiar and to provide a comforting reprieve from busy travel days. When you search for accommodations, whether it’s a hotel, hostel or houseboat, check out Google’s street view to get a 360-degree feel for the area. Of course, you’ll want to look at photos, but most importantly, read the reviews of other guests! Reviews will give you an “Instagram vs reality” picture of the true experience a place provides.

10. The Double V: Visas & Vaccinations

Along with safety, visas and vaccinations should be at the top of first-time teen travelers’ priorities. Many countries have different rules about visas, their types and how long they’re valid for. If you plan to travel to more than one country, you’ll need to know each country’s requirements. For U.S. citizens, the best place to start for all of this information is the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization provide recommendations for vaccinations, malaria prevention and other health precautions to take before you travel abroad. Some countries require visitors to present a Yellow Card before they’re allowed to enter. A Yellow Card is an International Certificate of Vaccination—in other words, proof of inoculations or other medical tests that may be required before you arrive. You can find the most current entry requirements and other helpful information about your health abroad here!

11. Know what to expect when you’re flying for the first time

This is one of our best travel hacks for first-time teen travelers! Use Trip Advisor’s SeatGuru to plug in your departure date, airline, and flight number. Click “search” and the platform will pull up a seat map of your aircraft so you can choose the best seat for you! SeatGuru rates good and bad seats based on the comments of previous travelers. Whether you want to make sure you have a reclining seat, a seat that’s close to a bathroom or far away from one, you can choose the best seat for you.

Knowledge of your airline’s check-in times are key to securing that perfect spot on the plane. The majority of airlines will allow you to check in online 24 hours ahead of your flight, but there are a handful that start online 36 or 48 hours in advance. Be sure to read the check-in policy carefully and set a reminder or alarm for yourself so you don’t forget! When you check in, you can also list things like dietary restrictions so that you don’t get stuck with a meal that you can’t eat.

View of thatched roof hut and river seen by teenage travelers during summer youth program in Southeast Asia

12. Make smart money decisions abroad

Once you arrive at your destination you will need a reliable way to access your money, especially if you’re traveling overseas. There are many ways to access your money abroad, from withdrawing to exchanging, and this complete guide has all of the information that you need to make travel-savvy money decisions.

13. Prepare for “culture shock”

“Culture shock” is an experience that everyone encounters, not just first-time teen travelers! So don’t worry, if this is your first time traveling abroad as a teen, you’re not alone in this experience. Plus, if you know how to prepare for this experience, you’ll acclimate a lot faster, and be able to dive in and enjoy your new surroundings. One of the biggest ways you can help to curb the feelings associated with culture shock is to research and understand your destination’s etiquette and social rules before you leave home.

14. Don’t just do it for the ‘gram but when you do, know how to do it safely!

During your travels, one of the best ways for you to share your experiences with others is through social media. Take advantage of the many opportunities that exist for you to share your travels, teach others about different parts of the world, and encourage people to take their own big step toward their travel dreams! Learn how to post safely, configure your phone for international use and more in this how-to guide.

Teen jumping in front of a London phone booth

Ready to plan your first international trip as a teen?

Planning an international trip for first-time teen travelers can be intimidating at first but it can also quickly become fun, especially when you have professional guidance. From flight logistics to tweeting responsibly while you’re abroad, Travel for Teens staff is globally minded, puts safety first and is passionate about using their expertise to give first-time teen travelers and experienced teen travelers new experiences they’ll never forget. If you’re ready to make your international travel dreams a reality, Travel For Teens offers over 100 programs in 40 different countries. Contact us today to request upcoming trip information and to find a program that’s perfect for you.

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