The Best Destinations to Visit on Your First International Trip

written by KARA THOMPSON
best places to visit"
best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Simon Nham
Source: Unsplash | Simon Nham

If I could move somewhere in a different part of the world every couple of years, I’d start mapping out my destinations and packing my bags ASAP. The opportunity to explore a new area, meet unique people, and experience a new-to-you culture is simply unmatched. And even if the nomad lifestyle isn’t part of your long-term plan, I’d say it’s safe to assume you have some bucket list trips you’d like to take. But if you’ve never traveled internationally? The thought of organizing your first international trip can feel wildly intimidating. There are seemingly endless questions that come up when you start brainstorming—mainly, where should you go? How many cities should you hit? What time of year is best? The stress of planning all of this can put your dreams on hold—but you shouldn’t have to wait to start experiencing what the world has to offer.

To inspire you to begin planning your own getaway, we talked with Pamela Garza, founder of the luxury travel club Tory Ellers, to round up the best places to visit for your debut international trip. All of these spots are easy to get to, relatively affordable, and accommodating for tourists with varying interests. Whether you’re looking for a city experience with museums and shopping or a more laid-back escape, your dream itinerary starts here.

How to Start Planning Your First International Trip

From personal experience, a big reason to put off planning an international trip is because there are too many options to choose from. With so many cities around the world worthy of a visit, how do you even begin to narrow down your list? There’s also no denying that a vacation like this is a big commitment, both cost- and time-wise, which makes choosing a destination feel like a high-stakes decision.

One of Garza’s top tips for those who find themselves paralyzed in the planning process? Utilize the help of a travel advisor. “Many people think that we will cost so much more versus booking travel on their own, but when you factor in the amount of hours it will take you to do research, plus the expert advice and amenities we can provide, we’re actually not only saving you money, but you will travel much more confidently,” Garza explained. Another perk to using a travel advisor is that they’ll have your back throughout your trip, especially if something unexpected happens. This can save you a lot of stress and worry—particularly if you’re a travel rookie.

Regardless of where you intend to earn your first passport stamp, Garza’s biggest recommendation is to take your time to do the proper research for your trip. Seek out travel tips online, read travel blogs, or purchase a physical travel guidebook to flip through. All of these strategies will help you gather all the important information you need, including the best time to go, where to stay, how to handle the currency exchange, top things to do, and more.

The Best Places to Visit for an International Trip

Now, onto the good part—where to actually go! Below, we laid out all the details of Garza’s top recommendations for the best places to visit for your first international trip.

1. France

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Ilnur Kalimullin

France is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations for international travelers. From the hustle and bustle of Paris to the perfectly manicured vineyards in Bordeaux, the western European country offers a well-rounded experience to travelers of all kinds. As is true for the majority of Europe, France absolutely crushes it in the transportation category, making it easy to get from one city to another in a timely and cost-effective manner. Head here for a mother-daughter trip or for a milestone birthday celebration—you’ll get a little bit of everything and will make incredible memories in the process.

2. Canada

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | John Lee

Canada is a strong choice for those who have yet to travel internationally because it’s relatively easy to get to from the States. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that English is the official language. This sprawling country also has so much to offer in terms of activities and scenery. Craving a cosmopolitan vibe? Head to Toronto. In the mood for a more nature-inspired trip? Try Banff. Because there’s so much variety, this destination is attainable for travelers with both larger and more moderate budgets.

3. Bali

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Guillaume Marques

Enjoying a glimpse of island life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend your life savings to get to the Maldives or St. Barts. Instead, Garza recommends jetting off to Bali for your first big trip. “Even if there’s a language barrier, there’s a big expat community and you will have no problem making new friends from all over the world,” she said. Another perk? Garza noted it’s one of the cheapest places to visit and the locals have a reputation for being very friendly. Known for its vibrant culture, stunning sunsets, and spiritual charm, Bali offers the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. Grab your fellow wellness-loving friend and spend your time lounging at a beach club, visiting a temple, or practicing yoga. Regardless of how you fill your itinerary, prepare to return back to the U.S. as a calmer, more grounded version of yourself.

4. Italy

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Giuseppe Mondì

While an Italian vacation might be on the pricier side, it’s certainly a dream destination that many people have on their vision boards. There’s no shortage of things to do in Italy, whether your goal is to kick back on the beach or stuff yourself with pasta (bonus points for doing both). Garza also noted that you’ll likely meet fellow first-time travelers while making your way through this country, which is a bonus in and of itself.

5. Ireland

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Alejandro Luengo

As if the gorgeous green landscape isn’t reason enough to visit Ireland, how about the thought of hunkering down with a pint and some fish and chips in a historic Irish pub? I’m currently planning a trip to Dublin with one of my friends, and I’m already daydreaming about the old-school charm that Ireland has to offer. Another highlight worth visiting for? The stunning cliff and water views.

6. Portugal

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Nick Karvounis

Lovers of architecture and rugged coastline views will fall hard for Portugal. Combine that with a highly coveted dining scene and affordable lodging options, and you’ve got one of the best places to visit for a first-time international trip. Spend your time admiring art, tasting wine (they produce a lot of it here), and strolling along the riverfront district in Porto or the white-sand beaches around Lisbon. The peak time to visit is in the spring or fall when there are fewer crowds and the temperatures are most comfortable.

7. England

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Benjamin Davies

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t need much convincing to book a trip to England. The first thought that comes to mind: A cozy cottage in the countryside that gives off major The Holiday vibes. To replicate the feel of that beloved rom-com, recharge in Surrey or the Cotswolds and spend your days biking down cobblestone streets and sipping tea. If you’re looking for something more fast-paced, venture to London to experience the grind of the country’s capital (and to check this iconic city off your bucket list).

8. Australia

best places to visit
Source: Unsplash | Dan Freeman

I can’t imagine a better winter vacation than jaunting off to Australia to bask in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. Swapping cold, dreary days for bright blue waters and warm temperatures just sounds like a no-brainer. Plus, the general consensus is that Australians are incredibly welcoming, fun, and kind. If you end up in Sydney, the Opera House and Bondi Beach are two obvious must-sees, or you could head further south to the street-art-covered foodie paradise that is Melbourne.