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You finally booked your tickets. You are ready to head out on your first major trip – maybe alone, maybe with a friend or family member. Either way, booking hotels and planes is one thing. Doing it is an entirely other thing.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Prepare for travel pitfalls. If you are ever going to experience a flat tire, flight delay or train cancellation, I wholeheartedly believe it occurs when you need to get somewhere. If you decide to fly, be sure to arrive early with ample time to check your bags and make it through security before finding your gate. As described here, “On the day of your flight, it’s really important that you arrive at the airport at least two hours before (three hours is preferable, particularly if it’s your first time flying). This will allow you to check-in, pass through security and immigration channels in a leisurely fashion and manage any delays or unexpected situations that may arise.” Depending on the timing or airport, you may have your bags in order and be through security in less than an hour, but it’s better to be safe especially when new to traveling.

Do Your Research

Plan ahead. If you know you want to see certain locations or visit certain museums, make reservations in advance. Lay out your days so you know you have your bases covered. Obviously, plans change from time to time, so you don’t need to stick to your plan perfectly, but it helps to at least have a loose guideline. This goes two ways though. Overplanning leads to stress and doesn’t account for the fact that things come up. Under planning leaves you feeling as though you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Make sure you build in enough time to just enjoy the trip. As Ben Groundwater instructs, “You have to trust that you’ll travel again. Instead of trying to see everywhere at once, slow down, get to know one country, or maybe two, and your appetite will be whetted for a lifetime of similar adventures.

Be Smart, Stay Safe

Maybe your parents were on to something when they told you to be careful. The fact of the matter is that safety is relative and while you control your own actions, you can’t predict the actions of those around you. In other words, be cognizant of your surroundings. As Jaimee Ratliff describes, “Whether you are traveling with a friend or alone, backpacking in Europe or going out for a night on the town in your own neighborhood, you can only control yourself and not others. Look at it like driving a car. You can control your performance on the road, but you can never predict the danger that another driver may cause.

Also, remember to bring multiple forms of identification. Make copies of your passport or license. Be sure to pack it in a bag other than your purse. Again, accidents happen. Things get stolen. In case of emergency, you will be happy to know you have a backup.

Last but not Least – Enjoy Your Trip