Going on a first *real* vacation is a big deal. Trips to the next city don't count. We're talking actual trips where you fly to your destination—hopefully across an ocean—where people don't necessarily speak your native language.
Experiencing the culture and traditions of another country is a highlight of any trip, but for your first vacation, we've got some advice. Instead of heading to super-pricey and super-touristy spots, try these five destinations for a first-travel experience you'll never forget.
Visit Thailand For A Cheap And Culturally Rich Trip
Thailand is a popular travel destination for a lot of tourists. But at the same time, you can't go there and not experience local Thai culture. From the food to the people to the sights, you can't go wrong with a trip to one of Thailand's most popular cities. Bangkok and Phuket are high on most veteran travelers' lists, and accommodations tend to be cheap throughout the country. From tropical beaches to relax on to fast-paced city experiences (not to mention the food), Thailand is welcoming you with open arms.
One potential drawback is that the language can be hard to pick up, but as with many other touristy spots, there are enough English speakers to help out when you need assistance. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the alternative forms of transportation in Thailand. Backpackers often hop on tuk-tuks or in taxis, but traffic congestion can mean a bit of a scary trip. There are also buses, trains, and the subway, though, depending on where you stay and how far you need to travel.
Head To Mexico For Tons Of Flavor And Passion For Life
For people living in the US, heading south of the border makes for a super easy yet memorable first big trip. You might be able to get by on basic Spanish, but there's also a large community of American immigrants in areas like Puerto Vallarta (beaches, here we come!), San Miguel de Allende, and even near Guadalajara (where the international airport is!) in Lake Chapala. The food is to die for (street tacos are where it's at), the adult beverages are plentiful, and a US dollar will get you plenty of Mexican pesos to enjoy a lavish trip.
Getting around is exceptionally cheap, and there are buses and Ubers readily available to take you anywhere. And if you're tempted by all-inclusive resorts, don't do it—your first real vacation should be authentic and immersive, not a luxe accommodation where you don't see anyone who actually lives in Mexico or speaks Spanish!
See Ireland (Where They Probably Speak Your Language)
Ireland is known for its beer (Guinness), famous writers, and castles. And honestly, we'd go there for that triad alone. But Ireland also has beautiful cities (Dublin and Galway come to mind), epic landscapes, and a medieval vibe that travelers totally dig. And though Irish folks have a bit of an accent, you can get by with speaking English in most places. In others, though—and especially in small towns—you might hear Irish Gaelic, which can be confusing but is also beautiful.
Oh, and did we mention that Ireland was the filming location for shows like Game of Thrones and even some scenes from Star Wars? Clearly, if you're a fan of either franchise, you totally have to see the locales for yourself.
Venture Down Under Where The Wildlife Is The Highlight
Australia may have been experiencing devastating fires beginning at the end of 2019, but there are many areas that are still safe from the burn. Cities like Sydney (on the western coast) and Cairn (farther north) are open for visitors. Seeing the Great Barrier Reef is a highlight in Australia, but getting to check out a koala or kangaroo up close is pretty epic, too.
And again, if you're a native English speaker, Australia's dialect will be (mostly) understandable. The only drawback with Australia is that depending on how long you stay, you may have to show your account balance to confirm you've got enough cash to get by. In fact, you need approximately AUD$1,000 in the bank to stay a month!
Be The Average Tourist In The World-Renowned City Of... Well... Everything
Ah, Paris, the city of love. Well, and art. And culture. And just about everything, really! We know and love it for the iconic cityscapes, adorable sidewalk cafes, epic fashion, and superb dining options. From the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower and the hopefully-renovated-soon Notre-Dame cathedral, there are so many sights to see. Then there's the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course, high-end shopping for all you fashionistas. There's really no end to what you can explore (or buy) in Paris, and the backdrops (the Eiffel Tower especially) are totally IG-ready.
Knowing a bit of French would be helpful for your trip, but it's not absolutely necessary to enjoy yourself abroad. Plus, the proximity to other European (and English-speaking) countries makes Paris the perfect spot to start your European vacation (or road trip) from.