We strongly believe traveling solo is something everyone should do at least once in their life. Whether you don’t have anyone to travel with, your vacation schedule doesn’t line up with friends or you simply just need to get away, solo trips present endless opportunities to experience new places for the first time. Our team has put together a list of tips to always keep top of mind when you’re planning out your first (or next!) journey out on your own.
If you’re traveling alone, you are free to do whatever it is you want to do! You have this time to yourself, so push your personal limits and make the most of your time exploring – you may not get to do this for every trip you take. Do all the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s sitting on a beach, walking 18 miles sightseeing in a new city or spending four hours in a museum, find out what you want to do and knock a few things off your bucket list. Avoid saying to yourself “I can do that the next time I’m here” because you never know when you’ll be back. Take advantage of the present and do it now.
It’s important to set limits on solo trips and keep yourself in check. Get an understanding of what your sunk costs and variable costs are while you’re planning out a trip in order to budget accordingly. Here are major baseline budget items to keep in mind and account for during your planning:
We’re all guilty of packing way too many outfits on vacation at one point or another. When traveling by yourself, be sure to not make this mistake. Keep your bag light so that you can easily carry it with you and don’t be afraid to rewear the same outfits – nobody is going to notice. Also, don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes / sneakers to keep your feet happy as you explore.
It should go without saying to only book places that are reliable and have plenty of positive reviews when traveling in a city you’re unfamiliar with. Reviews will give you a good idea of what to expect from the listing from people who have actually stayed there and what the host is like. Whether it’s hotels, hostels, an Airbnb or anything in between, make sure that wherever you’re staying has at least a handful of good reviews. For the most part, we also recommend booking directly with hotel or hostel via their websites and avoid 3rd party sites, just in case. You don’t want to show up in a city and find out you’re stranded for the night!
If you’re traveling solo, you’re also likely to be traveling frugally. Avoid these types of charges by staying at hotels and hostels that have free access to wi-fi built into your nightly cost. That way, you can check emails, message with friends and stream TV shows and movies without the fear of racking up an extra unwanted internet bill.
This is something our team does for any trip – both domestically and internationally. You never know when you might lose your signal in an unfamiliar city and lose track of where you are or where you’re going. When planning out your trip, use that time to get a general understanding of the areas where you will be in relation to where you are staying so that you can set mental landmarks for yourself. We highly recommend the Google Maps app for downloading offline maps, especially now that they offer the ability to save locations and add notes. It’s a wonderful tool and another great tip is to save vacation landmarks, such as hotel or Airbnb addresses you will be staying at, for reference throughout your trip.
Depending on how long you’re traveling by yourself, it can get a bit stale if you don’t go out of your way to create experiences with new people along the way. Even if you have a shy personality, step out of that bubble and encourage yourself to chat up a local at a cafe or bar, or try using resources like Meetup to join a local group to meet people. Also, see if any friends you haven’t connected with in a while are now based where you are visiting – don’t hesitate to reach out and rekindle a friendship. There are plenty of opportunities, just put yourself out there!
Getting up early in the morning opens the door to a lot of opportunities. Between catching an epic sunrise, going for a quick run or beating the crowds of tourists to popular attractions in the city, it’s worth getting up before the rest of the city. Not to mention, you have more daylight to do as many things as possible in the limited time you’ll be on vacation. It’s all too often that we wake up on the last day of our trip and think back on how quickly it flew by, so avoid any regrets and fill your day with exciting activities from the moment you wake up. All that said, don’t end a night early if you’re having fun!
We get the idea of “living in the moment,” but keep in mind that you don’t want to forget that moment. Having photos to look back on and share with your friends and family after your trip are great to have. You’ll be glad you took pictures along the way to bring back intimate details and feelings when you look back on them five years down the road.
Getting around major cities like New York and Paris can be confusing without doing the proper research, but it can be even more challenging in smaller cities that have spread out attractions and not as many signs to point you in the right direction. When it comes to getting familiar with public transportation in the city, here are some of the main things you’ll want to know:
Most importantly, you especially want to know the name of the stop around where you will be staying and drill it into your head so you always have a landmark to reference. If you find yourself totally lost in a new city, don’t hesitate to ask a local to point you in the right direction.
This is one of our biggest travel tips. No matter what, always bring a portable phone charger with you every day as a backup plan, just in case. You never want your phone to die and find yourself lost in an unfamiliar city. Do yourself a favor and always have one on hand.
Eating alone gets a bad rap when you’re taking a solo vacation. Instead, we feel that it’s a perfect time to reflect on your day. Take this time to look through and favorite your best photos each day, which saves time from having to do it all at the end of a trip and spend hours looking through photos. Another suggestion is to write a quick recap of your day on your phone notes app or in a notebook while the day is fresh in your mind. The longer you wait, the more of those intimate details about what you saw and how you felt will start to disappear. Lastly, feel free to use this time to finish planning out your next day and make sure you have everything you need. And, of course, take the time to enjoy your meal and savor every bite!
One of the many beauties of traveling the world is experiencing new a culture and speaking a new language. While you’re not going to learn an entirely new vocabulary overnight, you definitely should learn a few phrases (and practice them) to make an effort and communicate in the local language. We recommend downloading the Google Translate app to get you started on understanding how to say these basic important phrases:
Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, so roll with the punches and don’t panic. A flight might get cancelled or delayed because of weather, or public transit workers might go on strike – who knows! Think of this as an opportunity to spend another day in a new city to see things you might’ve missed or didn’t originally have enough time to check out. You might lose out on a deposit for a hostel for one night at your next planned destination, but that’s not the end of the world. Definitely spend some time sorting out details so you can continue your trip (i.e. rebook your flight, make accommodation plans for the night in question and reach out about any previously made plans that will be changing due to the trip alteration), but don’t freak out. Take a deep breath and it’ll work itself out.
Flight delays, inclement weather or strikes could happen at anytime, throwing a wrench in your travel plans. We had a close call once and never want to experience that ever again. Now we make sure to plan any excursions or reservations 5+ hours minimum from landing in a new city to account for anything that could delay travel plans. For events that require an advance deposit, you may even want to leave a day between landing and the event just to be safe. Most tour companies have no cancellation or refund policies within 24 or 48 hours of your experience, so keep that in mind when booking travel.
Depending on where you visit in the world, you may be required to register or purchase passes to gain entry to countries or attractions. A couple different examples include:
Make sure to do your research in advance in order to check off the boxes of base requirements that need to be completed prior to your trip.
A day or two before your trip, start thinking about what movies, TV shows and podcasts you want to download for downtime on flights and other general travel. We recommend thinking about downloading shows for your entire trip, since Wi-Fi may be spotty or unreliable at airports or places you stay. Additionally, think about what airlines you will be flying and download their entertainment apps, so you can get access to their catalog. If you’re not the type to watch Netflix, grab a book you’ve been meaning to read and set a goal to finish it by the end of your trip!
You never know when you’ll need to reference any reservation confirmation numbers, addresses or other important details, so make sure to have your itinerary on hand just in case. You can either email it to yourself, take screenshots, save to the Notes app on your phone, or (our personal favorite) save in Google Docs or Google Sheets and download offline in the app on your phone. We generally prefer to create our itineraries using Google Docs or Google Sheets so that you can easily edit it on the go and…
Even if you’re only out of town for a long weekend, but especially if you’re on vacation for longer than a week, do your friends and family a favor and send them a copy of your itinerary. At the very least, it should include your flight details, lodging reservations, and a general idea of where you will be visiting on your trip – cities, major attractions, etc. Just in case anything should happen, it will go a long way for someone else to have this information.
Create a one sheet of emergency contact information that is easily accessible in either your wallet or purse for the duration of your trip. This should include personal information, such as names, addresses and cell phone numbers, for yourself and two emergency contacts back at home. Feel free to also include any relevant medical information that you feel is important. The purpose of this list is to provide as much information as possible and help first responders act fast in case of emergencies.
We believe solo travel is one of the best ways to explore the world. Some people use it to find themselves, while some use it to see as much as possible without the hindrance of “going with the group.” No matter the reason, the most important part is that you can, and should, do it however you want. Where will you take your next solo trip? Review our destinations and travel guides to start planning out your next adventure.
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