Planning an overseas trip is always exciting, but setting off on your first overseas holiday can also be a little daunting. Other people always have lots of advice … “take half the luggage and twice the money” … but there is no better teacher than experience. We asked a few seasoned travellers to tell us about their first big overseas trip …
Mahu Express operator
“When I was 17, I visited Tenerife with my girlfriend for 10 days, but it was a pretty commercial packaged holiday. I really consider my trip to Hong Kong in 1996 as my first real overseas experience. On the first night, my wife and I were served food that was still moving in the bowl. The city was so hot and busy and polluted, and the people didn’t share the same concept of personal space. We used to get away and find deserted beaches where we would camp for the night. I would tell a first time traveller to ‘throw themselves in’ and travel like you are going to live there.”
“I went on a four-month working holiday to Melbourne with a friend when I was 19. In those days, you caught a ship over there, which took three days from Auckland. There were lots of Italians, Maltese and Greek people who were called the “new Australians”, which was quite different from New Plymouth. They had shops and markets in the city where I tried things like sauerkraut and salami for the first time. It was really exciting delving into the different cultures and cuisines. I would say to a first time traveller be open to lots of experiences.”
One Warkworth manager
“At 16 I was competing for the Toch Athletics Club in Christchurch as one of the top juniors in 100m and 200m sprints. I got the chance to travel to Melbourne to compete against the Power House Club. It was hugely exciting. We were billeted with the other athletes and the team ethos was great. I was a plumber’s apprentice, only earning £5 a week at the time, so my parents helped me out a bit. I got to try things we didn’t have in NZ like ten pin bowling and drive-in movies, and managed to fall in love with an Italian girl for three weeks.
I would recommend to any new traveller to ‘immerse yourself in the experience’. Try the food and the customs, and make an effort to meet the locals.”
“In 1981, aged 24, I played rugby for South Canterbury. One of my team mates had arranged for me to play for a club in Bordeaux, but that ended up falling through at the last minute. I had already left my job so I decided to fly to Australia. From there I went to Bali before catching a boat to Singapore, which I think was illegal. Afterwards I visited Malaysia, Thailand, and then flew to Moscow before travelling around Europe. Italy was first, then France, Spain and England, where I bought a Volkswagen Combi to travel around in.
Working on a ski field in Switzerland was a highlight for me. I got evicted for working on an expired visa, so I just went over the border to France and then went straight back. From there I tried Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England a second time and then India on my way back to NZ in 1982. I loved India, it was such a proud country and the people were great to talk to. I remember when I mentioned NZ they always complimented our cricket and brought up Richard Hadlee. If I could give one tip to a first time traveller it would be ‘don’t be too organised’. I didn’t know where I was going next for most of my trip.”
Warkworth Town Hall supporter
“My first trip was to Sydney when I was 19 and living in Wellington. I went there to study interior design. I was very excited about the trip because not many of my peers had ever left New Zealand. The city was bigger than what I was used to, more compact and lots of high rise.”
First time traveller tips Q+A
from helloworld senior travel consultant, Kerrie Hudson.
What are the important parts of planning a first trip?
Make sure you have a valid passport and know if you need a visa for where you’re going. Think about what you want out of a holiday, how long you want to be away for and how much you want to spend.
What are the challenges for a first time traveller?
Language, cultural differences, jet lag on longer flights, illness, getting around big airports and getting lost in general. There are some great phrase books available so you can learn some of the local language like “hello” and “thank you”.
What are good ways to ensure you stay safe?
Be vigilant, be aware of your surroundings and have travel insurance. Keep valuables out of sight, there is safety in numbers and use common sense. Keep up-to-date with safe travel alerts by following safetravel.govt.nz
What countries would you recommend for a first time traveller?
English speaking and safe destinations such as the Pacific Islands, Australia and cruising. With cruising you only unpack once and you get to see multiple destinations. It’s like a floating hotel. A good destination for first time travellers is Fiji where I would definitely recommend a Blue Lagoon Cruise for seven nights ending with a few nights at one of the luxury resorts on Denarau Island.
Do you recommend spending more time in fewer places or less time in a lot of places?
More time in fewer places is definitely better. It gives the traveller time to see more of the country, and experience the food and culture, with time to relax instead of rushing between places.
Any other tips?
Always book with a travel agent so you have backup to help you while you are on the other side of the world. We also check you have visas, passports and give any advice on your chosen destination. Also make sure if taking prescribed medication, it has your name on it and is in the original packaging with enough for your whole trip. The first thing I do when arriving at a hotel overseas is take a business card from the front desk. That way, if I ever get lost, I have the name and address of the hotel in the local language. Also, make sure you have travel insurance.