How to Plan a Solo Trip
Travelling alone can seem like a scary prospect, but solo trips are becoming more and more popular. There are many benefits to going on holiday by yourself which outweigh the potential drawbacks. If you have never been on a solo trip before, this guide will help you to prepare and plan your first solo trip. It explains everything you need to know about travelling solo to make sure that you have the best possible experience out there. Follow these tips to plan a solo trip.
How to Choose a Solo Trip Destination
When it comes to planning a solo trip, all of the big decisions are yours to make. Choosing where and when to travel by yourself will depend on your own preferences and circumstances. You will need to be able to fund the trip and get the time off work or out of school. Your destination should be somewhere that appeals to your interests, and that you haven’t visited before. If it is your first solo trip, it is best to choose a destination where the locals can speak the same language as you. The best way to choose a destination is to consider your hobbies or particular cultures or cuisines that you enjoy. Popular tourist destinations can work for solo travellers too, but you might want to go in the off-peak season instead. Places in Europe or the USA are a good start for solo trips because it is a different culture while still being familiar. Don’t forget to factor VISA requirements or vaccinations for your destination into your budget and plans.
Where to Stay on a Solo Trip
Once you choose your destination, you should book your travel tickets and accommodation in advance. Seasoned backpackers can show up with their bag and worry about where they’ll sleep and how they’ll get around when they get there. For new solo travellers, securing your flights, transport, and a hotel room can reduce some of the stress and give you more confidence. You have more flexibility in your choice of accommodation when it’s just you. Hotel rooms can be expensive when you’re not splitting the cost, so you should look around for alternative options. You could look for smaller B&Bs or private room rentals on Airbnb. Hostels are great for low budgets, but you might not be ready to jump in at the deep end and share a room with strangers. Your accommodation choice will depend on your comfort level and the kind of experience you are looking to have. Check reviews before booking and always look for a place to stay that is close to a tourist-friendly area. Familiarise yourself with maps and directions before you go out every day.
How to Pack for a Solo Trip
Travelling alone means that you are responsible for everything that you bring. It is best to travel carry-on only for solo trips so that you only have a single suitcase or backpack to worry about. You’ll want to have everything that you might need, but you also should travel light so that you don’t get tired of lugging it all around. You can compromise on this by packing smart; this means downsizing and maximising space. Your choice of bag and how you pack will affect your entire trip, so this is one of the most important steps in planning the journey. Many travellers recommend backpacks which can double as rolling bags so that you have the convenience of both being able to carry it on your back or pull it along on the ground whenever you need to. You can view our guide on how to pack a carry-on bag here to ensure that you only take what you need and organise it effectively. Remember that your bag needs to meet the size and weight requirements for your airline or other travel services of choice. Measure and weigh your packed bag and edit it down.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
No matter whether you are travelling alone or with others, or where you are going to, travel insurance is not optional. Although it’s not mandatory to purchase travel insurance, it can literally be a lifesaver if things do happen to go wrong on your travels. Many people think it’s unnecessary because of the “it’ll never happen to me” mindset – and some feel that purchasing insurance cover is just asking for a reason to need it. Neither of these types of traveller is right. Travel insurance is a relatively low expense, and if you get the appropriate level of cover for your needs then you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay if you fall ill, suffer an injury, experience theft or loss of belongings, or have an issue with a travel service provider at any point in your trip. Of course, you still need to make sure that you get all the recommended vaccinations and have copies of all the relevant documents. Failing to do so can invalidate your policy.
Manage Your Money
Setting a budget is crucial when you plan any holiday. You need to stick within what you know you can afford. Only paying for one means that the trip will cost less, but on the other hand, you are the single person responsible for the bill. Make sure that you save up enough money and pay off any outstanding debts relating to your travel costs before you depart. If there is a different currency where you are going, you should exchange some cash in preparation. It isn’t good to carry too much cash around with you, though, so bring a card as well. Check whether your card type is widely accepted and if there are any international fees for transactions or ATM withdrawals. One way to avoid banking fees is to get a pre-paid card for travel, such as a Post Office Travel Money Card. However, when travelling, you should never have one single source of money in case you lose it. Travel with at least two cards and some cash stored separately.
Live Like a Local
Always research your destination during the planning stages of your trip so that you are well-prepared for the climate and the culture. There may only be subtle differences, but you need to pack clothes that suit the weather there at the time of the year and comply with social etiquette. Following local customs and dressing and eating appropriately will help you to blend in. This means that the local people are likely to be more friendly towards you, and you will be less obvious to any criminals who target tourists. Always avoid wearing revealing provocative clothing and flashy jewellery. To further ingratiate yourself and get the best guidance from locals, try learning some phrases in the local language. People will respect you more and be happier to help you if you are also showing respect to their country and ways of life. Try to avoid looking like an obvious tourist, such as trying to read a map in the street or taking obnoxious photos.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dine Alone
One of the worst parts of travelling alone for some people is dining out by themselves. They might feel uneasy or as if they are drawing negative attention towards themselves. You shouldn’t let these fears stop you from enjoying meals. Breakfast and lunch are often casual meals, so taking a table for one in a cafe rarely seems odd. Outdoor seating may be an option, and it is a good choice if you want to sit with a drink and read a book or people-watch for a little while. If you are going for dinner at a restaurant alone, you could sit at the bar. This makes you less conspicuous and allows you to talk to the bartender or waitstaff if you do want a conversation. If the restaurant has booths then you should be able to sit alone with more privacy. If you find it too lonely to dine by yourself in public, you can order takeout or cook for yourself if your accommodation has a kitchen. This should factor into your accommodation choice when you plan.
Be Confident and Friendly
Even if you are not confident at all about travelling alone, you should fake it until you make it. You just need to appear confident enough to deter the wrong people and approachable enough to attract the right people. Listen for people speaking your own language, particularly with your accent, if you feel homesick. You can strike up a conversation with them because you immediately have something in common. Being a solo traveller means that you are also likely to run into other solo travellers along the way. Communal areas are a good place to meet others and get talking about your experiences. If you make friends with others going solo, you might end up doing activities together instead of by yourselves. To ensure that you won’t be a lone tourist, you can book places on group tours of attractions. Or you can book immersive activities such as local cookery or crafting classes, which allow you to have fun and learn new things with other people. You should build up your confidence before you travel alone by practising at home. Take a few day trips by yourself and get used to eating out or doing activities, such as going to the cinema, without any companions.
Keep in Touch with Family and Friends
Travelling solo is all about you. It’s about enriching experiences and learning new things about yourself. You can’t do this if you’re constantly messaging or posting online. Taking pictures is great for capturing memories, but living them is more important. Get out there and do whatever you feel like doing – but always let somebody know what that is. You should give family and/or friends copies of your itinerary before you leave. That way they know where you will be and when, and how to contact your accommodation if they can’t reach you directly. Check in on social media every now and then when you have Wifi – but never post your location online until you have left the area, just as a precaution. If you speak to anyone locally, such as a receptionist or cleaner, let them know where you are headed when you go out. Keeping in touch with people reduces loneliness and also helps people to find you if there is an emergency situation.
Always Have a Backup Plan
Create a plan, double-check everything before you go, and stick to it as best as you can. Having a strict schedule is never ideal, because you need to leave time for relaxing and for any little surprise adventures that might occur. It is extremely rare for everything to always go to plan, so be a bit more flexible and have alternate options ready if things aren’t working out. At least some part of solo travel is supposed to be about wandering and self-care, so don’t get too hung up on having all the expected tourist experiences. Familiarise yourself with directions so that you don’t have to consult a map or your phone while you are out. You should always take screenshots of booking information on your phone so that you can find them easily. Back up your important documents with photographs or physical photocopies in case something happens to your hard copies. This can be helpful if you lose your passport or tickets for a booking.
Safety Tips for Solo Travel
One of the biggest deterrents for would-be solo travellers is the lack of safety in numbers. Travelling alone means that you always have to be vigilant and can’t rely on anyone else to take care of things for you. However, it is safer than you might think to travel by yourself as long as you trust your intuition and use your common sense. Here are some travel safety tips for solo travellers. Following these
- Travel during the day. Don’t arrive somewhere new at night when businesses are closed and there are fewer people around, and don’t go sightseeing at this time either. Avoid going out late at night at all if you can help it.
- Never keep your valuables all in one place. Keep your ID on your person and don’t keep all of your money or cards in your wallet. If one snatched bag could lose you everything, then you aren’t prepared enough to travel.
- Research everything beforehand. Being able to fit in with the locals will prevent you from standing out and attracting the wrong kind of people. Become familiar with your surroundings and common scams in the area.
- Lock it down. It’s helpful to always carry a spare padlock for extra security on lockers, doors, or luggage. You can even use a cable lock to secure your bag to you when you’re out if you are overly concerned about theft.
- Stay in a safe area. Choose accommodation that is close to attractions and transport links so that there will usually be other people and you know how to get around. Check for areas with high crime rates and avoid these.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. Getting drunk in a strange place means putting yourself at risk. You will be less alert and become an easier target for wrongdoers. Never leave any drink or food unattended either, just in case.
- Get enough rest. Make sure that you have a secure place to sleep so that you are well-rested enough to remain alert in the daytime. Avoid taking naps in public areas or on public transport, even if you have a lock on your bag.
- Don’t be too trusting. It would be nice to believe the best of people, but you never know a stranger’s intentions. Trust your gut – if something or someone seems sketchy, remove yourself from the situation as soon as you can.