Enjoy A Peaceful International Vacation With These Traveler-Approved Laidback Destinations

So, you've decided to jump in and plan your first international trip, and while you're excited, you may want to choose a stress-free destination, as you don't want to be overwhelmed while planning or post-arrival. Overseas travel is not to be undertaken lightly, especially if it's your first time abroad. But don't worry, we've got you covered if you're enthusiastic but a bit inundated with options regarding where to go on your first international vacation.

We've chosen 12 amazing countries perfect for your inaugural trip as an international traveler, sourcing the list from well-known and trusted travel bloggers as well as travel discussion forums where seasoned travelers give their recommendations for a first trip abroad. We've specifically selected places where English is either the (or a) main language of the country or where high tourist numbers mean locals often speak English. This ensures you won't encounter too many language barriers, which can be stressful, even for seasoned travelers abroad. 

Additionally, all the listed destinations are well-worn by international tourists, so you can relax knowing the infrastructure (both in general and for foreigners) is high-functioning and that all destinations are more or less easy to navigate. We hope after reading this article you will have the inspiration and confidence necessary to book that flight.


Canada is a massive country. Geographically, it is the second-largest country in the world and has a little bit of everything, which makes it ideal if you're not quite sure what you want to do during your trip. Numerous threads on Travel Reddit noted that the country is an easy and stress-free destination for travelers taking an initial trip abroad. On Reddit, Artistry for Adventure says the country is "great for beginners looking for some adventure." The Great White North is ideal for those who want to participate in a few varied activities and visit multiple destinations during an international trip.

If you love the outdoors, the west of Canada is a fantastic place to explore. Hike the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, ski your heart out in Whistler, British Columbia, or learn to surf on Vancouver Island. If cities are more your thing, you'll love the Montréal and Vancouver food scenes and Toronto's cosmopolitan vibe. And don't miss the Atlantic provinces such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where coastal walks and uncrowded beaches await you. On Reddit, curiousrambutan adds that Québec may be ideal "If you want to do something that's much closer, rich in culture, but less of a cultural shock." 

Canada is a great baby step into international travel, as it is simple to get to from the U.S. and has enough cultural similarities that you won't feel too out-of-sorts. English is the main language spoken throughout all provinces, even in Francophone Quebec.


While it might be thousands of miles away and a completely different culture from the American continents, Thailand makes for a fun first trip overseas. It frequently tops the list of relaxing destinations as well for people traveling abroad for the first time. Well-known (and well-traveled) travel bloggers Matt Knepes (Nomadic Matt) and Oneika Raymond (Oneika the Traveller) both cite the country as a good choice of destination for newbie travelers. Thailand is also one of the most frequently endorsed countries in "first international trip" forums on Reddit.

That's because it might be quite a divergent place from the U.S., but it is popular enough that the country is used to welcoming foreigners. You'll find plenty of hostels, guesthouses, and day-trip tour companies in the majority of destinations. All of these will have English-speaking staff ready to help you plan your best trip yet and ensure your only job is to relax and enjoy it all. 

From the bustling cities of Chiang Mai and Bangkok to the lush mountains in the north and the tranquil beaches of the islands, Thailand is such a unique destination. In addition to super helpful hospitality staff, Thais are known to be friendly and welcoming. So you'll never feel on edge as a visitor. Additionally, the country has been on the backpacker route for decades, which has made language barriers less of an issue and created a good tourist infrastructure for first-time travelers.


At first glance, Iceland might not seem like the most obvious place to have a relaxing first séjour abroad. The terrain and weather can be unforgiving, and you probably don't know much about the country beyond those fantastic pics all over social media. However, thanks to Iceland's big push in the past decade-plus to become a major tourist hotspot, the formerly harsh country is now a very easy place to travel! 

This all began when Icelandair began a stopover program back in 2014 that allows passengers to book up to seven days in the country as part of a larger itinerary between North America and Europe, free of charge. The goal was to, yes, increase passenger bookings with the national airline, but also increase tourism to Iceland. Nearly a decade later, it's safe to say the strategy has been a success. Visitor numbers have risen steeply, from under a million in 2014 to nearly two million in 2019, the peak of foreign visitor numbers in the country.

Travel expert and blogger extraordinaire Kate McCulley (Adventurous Kate) is known for top-notch travel advice. And she highly recommends Iceland for newbie passport holders. Today, the country is well-prepared to welcome international travelers, with great things in place like bus routes stopping at popular sites en route to Reykjavik and numerous day trips and tours departing from the capital city. Or, you can explore Iceland's famous and well-maintained Ring Road if you want to drive yourself. Additionally, English is widely spoken, should the thought of learning Icelandic intimidate you.

The Cayman Islands

If all you want to do is chill out, preferably in the sun, then head to the Cayman Islands, a postcard-perfect place to sun tan and relax. On Reddit, Quaerenti_Librorum says, "The Cayman Islands have the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen and plenty of sites to keep you and your friends entertained." The famous (on Instagram and in general) Seven Mile Beach is exactly what one pictures when "Island in the Sun" by Weezer plays. The turquoise waves of various shades crash against, well, seven miles of bright white sand. If that doesn't scream "laidback vacation," we don't know what does. 

However, that's not the only beach worth visiting and reclining on. The three islands that make up the territory Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman are awash with hundreds of miles of coastline. Drive a few minutes down the road and, suddenly, you're gazing at what you swear is the best beach you've ever laid eyes on. If you want to do something more active than just lounge, you're in luck. The area has a ton of aquatic activities available to visitors. You can go scuba diving, swim with giant Manta Rays, or try out kayaking and kite surfing. And don't worry, English is the official language, and the roads are well-maintained, which is important as you'll need to rent a car here. 


The Irish are universally known to be some of the friendliest folks you'll ever meet. And a visit to their country means you'll be surrounded by this warmth and good humor for the duration of your first international trip. Nothing better than good laughs all around to help curb any nerves or apprehensions you might have about traveling abroad. Beyond friendly locals, Ireland is a beautiful place to visit, with so much history and natural beauty that it's hard to go wrong, no matter which direction your itinerary takes you. 

On Reddit, user cat4nav points out that Ireland is an easy trip from the U.S., while Redditor lazyjk describes the country as an "easy stepping stone" into international travel. And it's true. Aer Lingus offers numerous nonstops to Dublin from many American hubs, clean water and good food are abundant, and renting a car isn't too difficult.

The rugged coastline out west and beaches that rival those in the Mediterranean (as long as you aren't looking for warm water) will delight those looking for a holiday by the sea. Additionally, between the Wicklow Mountains, the Ring of Kerry, and the Dingle Peninsula, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice. And if you're ever lost, whoever you pull over to ask will always be more than happy to give you directions, as well as some personal insights, before sending you on your way.


The Balkans is a trickier region to travel; thus, we would normally recommend it for more experienced travelers. However, the one exception is Croatia, which in the past decade has made it a goal to become a top tourist destination. That effort has been a success, with Statista showing a steady increase of visitors to the country between 2006 (9.4 million) through 2019 (19.6 million), before numbers dipped during the pandemic years.

Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate cites it as one of the best countries for first-time, solo female travelers. She notes the high number of English speakers, decent infrastructure (that's easy for visitors to navigate), and general safety. That makes it a great choice for anyone looking to plan their first international trip, not just women traveling alone. And what a beautiful option. Croatia boasts the Insta-famous Dalmatian coast, tranquil islands, breathtaking national parks, and quirky cities like Zagreb, Split, and Zadar. The bus and ferry system is also robust and easy to navigate for tourists. If you want to drive, Croatia has some of the best roads in the Balkans — just be prepared for fast drivers. 


Bloggers and solo travel experts Kate McCulley (Adventurous Kate) and Alexx (Finding Alex) both tell their readers that Australia is a fantastic choice for a newer international traveler. And like Thailand, it came up over and over again in discussions on Travel Reddit when users would ask for suggestions for initial trips abroad. Like Canada, Australia is culturally close enough to the U.S. that you won't feel too out of sorts, and English is the main language (even if they use funny abbreviations sometimes). And Aussies are also very friendly and happy to help, just like the Irish.

As for an itinerary, we'd advise you to stick to one to two states maximum and base yourself in a mix of major cities with decent public transportation and smaller towns with a car rental. Sydney and Melbourne have robust train, tram, ferry, and bus systems that are simple to use and allow you to see the sites without the stress of driving. However, you should rent a car for part of your trip. You've come all that way after all, so drive the coast to enjoy beach towns like Byron Bay, Berry, and Lorne. Or perhaps you want to hike the Blue Mountains or trails in Tasmania. Choose two neighboring states and build a trip from there!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the quintessential "laidback destination" with a beach town vibe that can be felt throughout the country. It's one of the best-developed in terms of visitor infrastructure in Central America. Travel experts, OG bloggers, and influencers Oneika Raymond (Oneika the Traveller) and Kate McCulley (Adventurous Kate) both cite Costa Rica as an ideal first overseas destination. Reddit backs up this recommendation, with Redditor merlotmadre writing, "I've been to Costa Rica a few times and it's an excellent choice for a first trip," while tube_advice adds that "tourism is very developed and the infrastructure is cater[ed] to tourist." Many others in the forum agree that Costa Rica's quite safe, not too difficult from a logistical standpoint, and that English is widely spoken.

Additionally, it's not too far from the U.S. (just a bit further south than Mexico), and many airlines such as Alaska Airlines and JetBlue offer nonstop flights from various U.S. hubs. The proximity also means no matter where you live, the time change won't be more than a couple of hours. This can be huge, as you don't want to be exhausted from jetlag on your first international trip.

The Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg)

The three countries that make up the Benelux region are a fantastic choice for an initial trip abroad, due to their small size, which makes them explorable in a single go. Numerous forums we sourced cite at least one country, and sometimes all three, as great destinations for first-time international travelers. On Fodor's Travel Forum, MyriamC writes, "Public transport is very well organized here and, our countries being very small, everything is nearby," and numerous others in the same thread provided fantastic itinerary ideas and echoed the sentiment of Myriam. Additionally, one Redditor listed the Benelux as their choice for a first trip abroad, which received many positive responses.

Beyond being able to see a lot in a small region, it's also very easy to get around within and between Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The train and bike-lane systems are well-maintained and connected. English is also spoken by the majority of the population in all three countries. Finally, crime is also not a huge concern, as the region is known to be safe. Just always keep an eye on valuables, and be on extra alert in touristy areas like Amsterdam's Red Light District, the Grand Place in Brussels, and at train stations.


The Nordic countries are a great option because they speak English, and the roads and other infrastructure are well-maintained (and visitor-friendly). These points were reiterated throughout Travel Reddit. One anonymous user wrote, "People are nice, very safe, and everyone speaks English. It's like Europe for beginners." The last part is very accurate. Many first-time international travelers place Europe at the top of their bucket list.

However, if traveling independently (without a tour group or organized trip), some of the most popular destinations, such as France and Spain, can actually be a bit trickier. This is due to higher language barriers, especially outside of major cities and tourist sites. In Norway though, most locals speak English and are happy to help a lost traveler (albeit with a little less enthusiasm than the jovial Irish and Aussies.) This and a low crime rate make the country a terrific option for newer travelers looking to explore Europe. And it has a bit of everything, including hikes along fjords and mountains, cute towns, and bustling cities. You'll never be bored or stressed during a Norwegian holiday.


Ecuador is a great South American option for first-time international travelers. The country has everything found in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia: the Amazon Rainforest, mountains, coffee, chocolate, and cute towns, but with a few important differences. First, the country is much smaller than all of the aforementioned, which makes logistics simpler versus say, Brazil, where a trip to the Amazon could be an entirely separate trip from a Rio beach vacation. In Ecuador, it's easy to visit the capital Quito, the rainforest, the cloud forest, and the coast over a week or two.

The country also has fewer safety concerns than many of its neighbors. Numerous forums on Travel Reddit repeatedly underscored this point, and many travelers noted they felt safer in Ecuadorian cities than many cities in the U.S. The locals usually have a decent grasp of English, but it is advisable to brush up on basic Spanish for the best experience.


For those very green in the international travel space, we normally don't recommend regions such as Central America. While it is a gorgeous area, rich in history, home to amazing food, stunning scenery, and wonderful people, it usually requires more planning, constant awareness on the ground, and at least some basic Spanish language skills. Belize though, is an exception, and we highly endorse it for an initial journey overseas.

Due to numerous reasons, Belize makes for an easy stepping-stone for first-time passport users. On Reddit, kvom01 says, "Belize would be an easy intro. No Jet lag, fairly inexpensive, and you could combine it with Guatemala easily." The no jetlag has been a major reason we've suggested other Western hemisphere destinations such as Canada, Costa Rica, and the Cayman Islands. Depending on your origin, you might not change time zones at all! Additionally, unlike the rest of Central and South America, English is one of the official languages of the country, making communication easy. If you want to relax by the beach, have a jungle adventure, and not worry about speaking a second language, Belize is a sure win.

Our methodology

The destinations above were chosen based on recommendations from a few sources. First, we read through numerous "where to travel solo" or "where to take your first international trip" posts from well-known travel bloggers. This included Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate, one of the first solo female travel blogs where tens of thousands of readers come every month for travel advice; Oneika Raymond of Oneika the Traveller, who also hosts "About the Journey" by Marriot Bonvoy Traveler; and Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt and author of "Ten Years A Nomad" and "How To Travel the World on $50 Day."

We then read through many travel discussion forums on Reddit and Fodor's, where travelers advised those looking to take their first international trip. We note which countries overlapped between those approved by these travel bloggers and what others suggested on travel forums.