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I believe travel is invaluable. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, opens your eyes to a new worldview, and feeds a sense of adventure. Your first time traveling abroad can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. Let’s get you started on that first adventure.
Don’t forget to check out the great Lonely Planet travel guides before you depart. These guides are specifically designed to help independent, responsible, and budget-conscious travelers get the most out of their destinations. As beginner travelers, we loved their print books and now as expats, their digital e-books are a must for any new destination.
English Speaking Countries
First, you do not need to speak another language fluently or even decently before traveling abroad. I’ve made it through most of western Europe and Taiwan with only a quick reference phrasebook. I even traveled several days in the Czech Republic with only gesturing!
If you prefer to skip the language barriers, these countries still have plenty of adventure and culture to experience. And sometimes these accents feel like another language on their own!
Stay in London and spend your morning munching on fish and chips by the Thames. In the afternoon, check out Buckingham Palace or the British Museum for your history fix. Grab dinner at a local pub, then catch a West End show at night. I highly recommend Les Miserables, it’s been running in London for over 30 years! Flights from New York to London from $383
Get out of the city and see the famous Stonehenge, drive through the Welsh countryside, or head north to Scotland and see if you can spot Nessie.
In Dublin, check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral to see the neo-Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass. Churches not your thing? Head over to the Guinness Storehouse or Jameson distillery for a tour and tasting.
For something more off the beaten path, breathe in the sea air at the Cliffs of Moher or meet some puffins on the Blasket Islands. Later, take a stroll through the colorful city of Cork.
For surf, sun, and beaches Australia is the place to be. Take in all the sites of the city climbing the Story Bridge or riding The Wheel of Brisbane. Head to South Bank to relax for the day at their man-made beach before indulging in the foodie scene for dinner.
Head south towards Gold Coast to spend a day at one of the amusement parks or wandering tree canopies at Gallery Walk on Mt. Tambourine. Get up close and personal at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where you can cuddle a koala and feed kangaroos – don’t forget to snap some photos!
Whether traveling alone or as a couple, you can’t help but fall in love with the cities of Europe. These cities are popular with tourists. They’re easy to visit without speaking the language but still offer many authentic experiences. Visit one city or all them with inexpensive international train tickets. Rail Europe has very affordable tickets and a variety of packages for longer vacations. I used their Rail Pass Finder when I backpacked Europe after studying abroad in Paris. Click here to check out their Train Tickets and Schedules!
The City of Lights is a must for any European itinerary. Stroll along the Seine munching croissants or sip on coffee at a local cafe during a long, leisurely breakfast of people watching. See the beautiful stained glass of the Notre Dame and view the city from the Eiffel tower. Or head north to Montmartre for another beautiful church and better views but fewer tourists. Flights from New York to Paris from $337
For museum-goers, the Louvre is a must, but don’t forget Musee d’Orsay. Built inside an old railway station, this museum is less crowded and boasts works by Monet and Van Gogh.
Related: How to Pack the Perfect Carry-On
Rome has the Colosseum and Milan has the fashion, but Florence will always be my favorite Italian city. It’s the best city in Europe to see all the history and eat all the food while avoiding the crowds. Like to shop? The local leather works are famous, be sure to check them out at the San Lorenzo market. Wander the markets and winding city streets while eating gelato until you burst.
Climb to the top of the Duomo for the best view of the city and walk across the Ponte Vecchio. Finish the day eating pasta and watch tourists in the Piazza della Signoria, then sneak a peek at the statue of David.
Home of Picasso, Barcelona is Spain’s capital of art and architecture. Indulge in the cuisine, eating tapas and paella while sipping sangria. Still hungry? Head to La Boqueria Markets for food stalls filled with fresh fruit and local delicacies. Flights from New York to Barcelona from $342
Walk through Las Ramblas and the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter and visit the still-unfinished La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona is also a great starting point for exploring more of Europe by train. Just make sure you don’t leave without catching an FC Barcelona game!
You’ve got this! Where are you going for your first trip abroad? If you’ve already been abroad, where did you go? Let me know in the comments below!
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