The Best Places for Your First Trip Abroad

For most Americans, their first trip abroad will be over a neighboring border—on, say, a family trip to Toronto, or maybe spring break to Cabo. You don’t even need a passport to swing that. (Don’t get too excited: You need a passport card still.) No matter where you go, you’ll be out of your comfort zone—and that’s half the fun, right? How far do you want to push it? We canvassed our network of editors and international contributors to get their best recommendations for your first trip abroad, whether you’re on a budget and want to stay close(r) to home; you’re ready to blow some hard-earned cash; or you want to get as far away as you possibly can. Here’s a little inspiration.

Canada (© Getty)


File under: Passport With Training Wheels

When you visit Canada, it’s kind of like you’re going to Europe or Asia without leaving the continent. Montreal lives “la belle vie” in French and English, with Francophonic sidewalk cafés, boho enclaves, Gothic architecture, and decadent cheesy dishes (bonjour, poutine). Vancouver has a Hong Kong-esque skyline and some of the best Chinese (and Vietnamese, and Malay…) food in the region. And then there’s the conversion rate—it’s hard not to love Canada. —Megan Spurrell, community editor

Costa Rica (© Getty)

Costa Rica

File under: Passport With Training Wheels

Costa Rica manages to feel both safe and thrilling: There are plenty of expats, so you barely need to speak Spanish, and everyone’s there for the outdoor adventures (surfing! zip-lining!). Plus, it’s not too far from the U.S. and flights tend to be affordable. —M.S.

Ecuador (© Getty)


File under: Passport With Training Wheels

Hear me out on this one: Ecuador is a great gateway trip to South America. Reasonably inexpensive to visit (both on the ground and with flights), it attracts lots of young professionals from Europe to Australia who are on a quarter-life crisis escape. It’s also culturally and linguistically familiar (especially its Old Town) yet plenty different, and will keep you on your toes. Fly into Quito and take easy-to-use buses to explore the surrounding areas, like the cloud forests of Mindo and waterfalls of Baños. It’s just the right amount of adventure. —Meredith Carey, assistant digital editor

France (© Gallery Stock)


File under: I’m Not Totally Broke—Let’s Go to Europe!

You’ll live out every cinematic travel fantasy on a first trip to France, taking leisurely walks around Paris —breaking for goûter, a must for anyone with a sweet tooth; diving into the opulence of nearby Versailles; and indulging on a tour of the historic, and very romantic, neighboring Champagne region. —Corina Quinn, senior editor

The U.K. (© Getty)

The U.K.

File under: I’m Not Totally Broke—Let’s Go to Europe!

The U.K. feels like such an obvious suggestion—but for good reason. Aside from the added bonus of not having to grapple with a new language, you have grand old towns like Bath and Edinburgh that feel like movie sets, dramatic countryside to explore, and the whole of Europe just a low-budget flight away if you want to tack on a weekend somewhere else. Sure, London is expensive, but the free museums, booming food scene, eclectic markets, and easy-to-navigate Tube system more than make up for it. —Lale Arikoglu, digital lifestyle editor

Italy (© Getty)


File under: I’m Not Totally Broke—Let’s Go to Europe!

I have a hard time imagining the drawbacks of making Italy your first destination abroad. The natural and manmade beauty, the warmth and hospitality of the people, not to mention the food (comfort in a bowl: pasta! risotto! gelato!)—Italy has a way of making you feel right at home. For a first-timer, do the Grand Tour: Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples if you have time. You can save deeper exploration of the regions and coasts for a return visit. You’ll most certainly be back. —C.Q.

Melbourne, Australia (© Getty)

Melbourne, Australia

File under: Get Me As Far Away As Possible

For my first solo international trip abroad, I packed up one giant bag and moved to Melbourne, Australia for six months. (I’m a risk-friendly overachiever.) Despite the distance, many college kids will feel at home in the laid-back, flat white-loving, easy-to-navigate city (that comes with its own trolly!), which is also full of artists, comedians, musicians, and creative restaurateurs making the city hum. It’s a bit like Boston in that regard—but with a better accent. —Laura Dannen Redman, deputy digital director

Southeast Asia (© Getty)

Southeast Asia

File under: Get Me As Far Away As Possible

Is there anything that screams “first big trip” more than a month spent backpacking Southeast Asia? Countries like Thailand and Vietnam are primed for young travelers—and young budgets. You can work your way through the best street food of your life in Bangkok for just a $1 a plate, or rent a motorbike for the equivalent of $10/day in Sa Pa and get your adrenaline pumping as you zip around rice paddies (just please, please wear a helmet). I felt incredibly safe traveling with just one friend, and there is such a well-established backpacking trail you’re never really alone. —M.S.

Morocco (© Getty)


File under: Get Me As Far Away As Possible

Intense, colorful, and totally unlike anywhere else, Morocco has a huge range of places to visit—cosmopolitan Casablanca, heady Tangier—and is affordable enough that you can take your time exploring. —Paul Brady, articles editor