First time flying abroad was indeed a memorable one. I had fun, despite some fear of heights. The pops in my ear as the altitude changes, demo of stewardess, and my favorite: touchdown of wheels to the runway are what I cherish in every flight I hopped into.
Now that I crossed this on my bucket-list, it’s time to share my experience and some tips when travelling out of the country for the first time. By the way, in this trip, I was with my sister and my girlfriend but majority of preparations were done by me, just like 99% of our small travels. Haha! (Note that I am also a newbie traveler so this post may be a so-so for experienced ones.)
Booking Your Ticket
I put this on the top because airfare takes a huge cut of your travelling budget. Knowing this, I booked our flight months before to get cheap tickets from economy airlines. My first international destination is Singapore which is a well known country to go to for first time flyers like me. Searching Google, I found out that the most affordable airline from Philippines to Singapore is Scoot. In hunting for the cheapest flight, I installed an app called Skyscanner and signed up for price alerts in which you are notified via email or app. If you will be travelling with a partner or group, pick a seat during booking so you can be together for the whole flight.
Planning, Itineraries and Early Preparations
On Preparing early, the first thing I considered is our travel budget. So to determine how much we should allocate, I searched for tips on Google, Facebook and other social media. In lieu with this, I drafted our itinerary for our 6 days, 6 nights stay on the said country. You can find lots of itineraries online of famous destinations around the world; just adapt it to your personal preferences.
In drafting our itinerary, I used google sheets so we can collaborate, edit and view online. You can also apply spreadsheet formulas for easier conversion of currency.
Study the map of the country, its mode of transportation and key locations. Also, determine the cheapest and fastest routes to and from your marked spots so you can follow your itinerary well. For me, it is best to download an offline map in case local data or WiFi failed you.
Next thing I researched for is the culture of my destination country. Singapore is a prominent country for first time travelers as it packs a lot of tourist spots in a small mass of land. The safety and security is also notable. But one thing I listed on my notes is that the locals are straightforward in conversing. So if you are going to ask for questions, be prepared for short but concise answers. The whole experience is for a different post. Going back, be sure to do your research specially on how to cope with the locals.
Packing and Final Preparations
My girlfriend’s part on planning our trip is usually this — to identify what to wear, what will match and things to bring. There are days for wearing our couple/matching outfit, and it looks good on pictures to be honest.
After completing our attire cheat-sheet, we looked for deals on luggages. We figured that the ideal luggage size for 6 days is of medium size, at least for my girlfriend. We checked it in as it won’t fit in the cabin and won’t be allowed neither. Be sure to check the luggage weight and item restriction of your chosen airline before you leave your house to avoid hefty additional fees or leaving some items behind. In our case, we bought some sausage for my sister abroad and were confiscated in the airport. Again it varies depending on what airline and country you’ll choose. As a tip, if you are staying just for 3 to 4 days, maybe it will be better to bring a qualified backpack or a small suitcase (usually 7 kg max weight) as hand-carried/carry-on so you can save big on baggage fees.
Make a checklist of important things to bring. Some are:
- Passport and Visa(if applicable)
- Pen! For filling out forms.
- Travel Pillow. This is a big help, trust me.
- Power banks. Do not leave this on checked baggage, as it is prohibited.
- Printed Itinerary and Tickets
- Pocket Money
- Credit Card. For safety net in case you fall short out of cash. Bonus, it normally has better conversion rates.
- Address of hotel where you’ll stay. You can just put it in your phone.
- Letter of Invitation, if applicable.
Airport Things and Immigration
On the night of our flight, I was anxious as we left home late. It is well advised that you should be at the airport at least two hours before the departure. It’s a relief there was no traffic on the way.
The process flow on international flight was different from that of domestic so we were not so confident that time. Here’s what we have gone into (applicable in the Philippines):
- Pay the travel tax first. Bring your passports and printed tickets/itinerary.
- Check-in, the counter number is usually written on your flight itinerary. If you have checked baggage, this is when they will weigh it in for compliance.
- Fill out the departure card legibly. This is the part that is not present in domestic flights.
- Fall in line at the immigration counters. They may ask you your job, your plans, your two-way tickets…just answer with confidence and prove them you’re going to travel not to find jobs.
- Security check. Remove your belts, metallic accessories, together with your mobile phones and put it in a tray. Sometimes, they will ask to remove your shoes.
- Go to the assigned gate number one hour before flight. You can eat at designated stalls while waiting and that’s what we did.
That’s it for now. Planning is the key for a well organized trip. Of course, you’ll meet unexpected things but be sure to learn from it. Travelling is fun and this first time abroad won’t definitely be the last. Bon voyage!