So it has come down to a solo trip, huh? You know what I am talking about. You want to travel bad but none of your friends are ready or are able to go. You have been hearing about this solo travel thing but don’t think you can do it or don’t know where to begin. Sounds familiar? No worries! I got you girl! Let me show you how to plan your first solo trip!
You might be wondering who am I to give you advice on solo travel? Well, good thing you asked. If you are curious about my travel journey, click here to read about it. My first true solo trip was to Poland back in 2016. It was short and scary! I was scared, unprepared, traveling on my own for the first time to a country where English was not widely spoken. I got a hotel walking distance from the airport for my 3 days stay and pretty much stayed in my room for the entire trip. I ordered expensive room service because I didn’t have the courage to sit by myself at the bar/restaurant in the hotel.
Planning your first trip to Poland? Click here for the ultimate guide to visit Poland
Sounds like a horrible trip, right? To many, yes. My friends back home asked me what all I saw and ate there. Ummmm. Yea about that.. When I told them the details of my trip, most of them said I wasted my time and money!
For some reason, I didn’t come back feeling that way. I actually felt confident and proud of myself for completing my FIRST SOLO TRIP! Did I learn to research and better prepare before a trip, absolutely! But let me tell you that feeling of overcoming all your fears and having traveled thousands of miles away from your home just can’t be experienced any other way.
Is it scary? Heck yes! Will you have a roller coaster of emotions going on such as anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness, etc.? Yes! But with each moment you spend during the trip, all these negative feelings will slowly diminish, your strength and joy will overtake them. Just make sure you reflect each day and give yourself a pat on the back for overcoming every challenge. Click here to purchase my recommended travel journal.
Now here’s the big secret about solo travel- solo trips rarely remain solo unless you lock yourself inside your hotel room like I did! I promise you will connect with other people, many traveling solo too. Now if you absolutely don’t want to leave your room then just go somewhere local, maybe to a nice boutique hotel and just schedule a relaxing massage for yourself. It’s still considered a trip. Having shared my solo travel secret, let’s dive into all the nitty gritty of planning your first solo trip!
WHY TRAVEL SOLO? PROS & CONS- HOW TO PLAN YOUR FIRST SOLO TRIP
“Traveling alone will be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life. Try it at least once!”
Remember seeing this quote? Well, let me tell you, it is 100% true!
You must be wondering, why am I recommending you go on a solo trip if it is so scary? Truth be told, being scared isn’t always a bad thing. I think your brain needs to feel this emotion to remain healthy & sharp. Plus you’ll be surprised at how well you react and handle such a situation.
Solo travel isn’t all negative & scary, it’s actually a lot of fun. Let me warn you though, you might get addicted to solo travel which isn’t always best for your wallet. However, if you want to truly discover yourself, you must travel solo at least once in your lifetime, even if that is going on a local trip. Now let’s talk about the pros and cons of solo travel that I experienced.
PROS OF SOLO TRAVEL
- You will have complete independence, I mean you are your own boss!
- You get to plan the trip of your lifetime, go crazy!
- It is a life changing experience where you will learn a lot about yourself and the world.
- Be ready to come out of your comfort zone because it is going to happen one way or another, whether that is by exploring places or eating out alone.
- You most likely will learn to talk to strangers and realize that people are actually friendly! (Major accomplishment for an introvert like me)
- Your research and planning skills are now pro level and you just might become the go-to trip planner for your family or friends.
- You learn to have fun alone!
CONS OF SOLO TRAVEL
- You have to be fully independent! I mean you literally have no one else to do things for you, but you learn to figure things out. However, this does not mean you have to carry your 50 lbs suitcase on your shoulders, you can always ask for help if available.
- You will go through a lot of emotions especially if it’s your first solo trip but trust me you will survive.
- Safety concerns may arise but can be handled well, as long as you are using precautions.
- If you are thinking of going on a cruise or book a tour package, there might be extra charges for single occupancy. (Yes, this a thing, make sure to read the fine print or ask this question before booking).
- You might get homesick or miss your friends or family. Give them a big hug when you see them after the trip though.
HOW TO PICK YOUR DESTINATION FOR YOUR FIRST SOLO TRIP
Okay, so now that we have learned the pros & cons of solo travel, it is time to start planning your trip. Let’s begin with picking a destination. You can literally go anywhere in the world, however, we are going to narrow down some options. Here are some things I consider before picking my destination.
- Are you going to travel local or international– It might be a good idea to start your solo travel journey local, maybe think of doing a day trip in your own town or a city near home. That way you can get a taste of solo travel yet still be in your comfort zone. The catch though, you have to try to use public transportation mostly! A lot of countries don’t have Uber and driving might not be feasible, so you might end up trying to decode their public transportation. Paris’s metro system is something else! You can also check out my post on using the metro system in Washington, D.C. Click here.
- What’s your budget?– Some destinations are cheaper than others. Your US dollars can go a long way in many Asian and African countries as compared to many European or Caribbean destinations. Checkout the currency conversion rates at this website.
- Checking off your bucket list– Many of us have a bucket list of the places we want to travel to. Think back to what inspired you to add these places to your bucket list. There is no better way to start checking off items from your bucket list.
- What type of trip are you looking for?– Are you a hiker? Do you enjoy adventure or the outdoors? Do you like to learn about the world history? Or would you rather sip on margaritas at a beach? Pick your destination accordingly. Typically, a quick search on Google can help you pick you narrow down some options based on the adventure. Eg: Search for “best hiking destinations in Google” or “best beach destinations in Caribbean”, you get the idea.
HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT ACCOMMODATION WHEN TRAVELING SOLO
So this is kind of really important, I suggest don’t skip over this. The reason I say that is because you’ll need a roof over your head and you want to carefully pick one especially since you’re going to be traveling solo & you want to be able to sleep safely and peacefully.
Based on your preference and budget, you can stay at a hotel, all inclusive, resort, Airbnb/house rental, or a hostel. Each type of accommodation has subcategories meaning there are several types of hotels and resorts. All-inclusive are harder to find or are non-existent in many cities and countries around the world. You don’t always have to share a room at a hostel, there are options for private rooms also. If your considering Airbnb/private rentals, you can either share the space or have an entire house/apartment to yourself.
Couple of things you want to keep in mind:
- Location accessibility
- Shared or individual space
- Type of accommodation – hotel, Airbnb, hostel
Location– Where is this located? How far will it be from your points of interest? Is it easily accessible by public transportation or will you need a car?
I typically look for something centrally located where I can either walk or utilize public transportation. Unless I’m staying at a resort which offers transportation options.
Price– What is your budget? This is important as this will be a factor in helping you pick a place. Hotels/resorts are great for the big spenders, those who like room service and other amenities like swimming pools, gym, complimentary breakfast, etc. Now remember not all hotels offer the same amenities and there hotels for low to high budgets.
Option 2- Airbnb or private rentals. You can either rent a shared space or one entirely for yourself. I have gone with both options and they have gone with both options and they have been all good. During my solo trip to Dominican Republic, I had rented a room in a shared apartment. It might sound weird to some but think of it like roommate style. Plus it was only $25 per night, to be honest, I never saw my roommate and the host had nothing but positive reviews from other solo female travelers. Lastly, you can opt for hostels. A budget friendly option, the more popular way is sharing a room with other people but there are options where you don’t have to share with others.
Safety– Find something that’ll be safe. I recommend going for something centrally located, easily accessible by public transportation so if you’re planning to stay out late, you won’t be walking around all alone in the dark.
HOW TO ACTUALLY PLAN A FUN TRIP ALONE
You might be wondering, what the heck do you actually do all alone in a foreign place, right? A lot! Go explore the new country, you’ll see something new and enjoy doing it.
I have to be honest with you, this whole exploring a new place thing is not so easy especially if you haven’t done this before. It is a good idea to try doing things on your own when you’re at home to help ease into it. So some things that were the scariest to me were eating all alone at a restaurant and going sightseeing alone. I suggest you go explore a local museum or sit at a restaurant or bar alone first.
Next, when planning your itinerary, you want to fill your schedule with lots of fun and exciting things to do but just don’t over plan it to the point where you are stressing the entire time. Start by doing a quick Google search for the main attractions, then add a few more things to see or to do. I like to have a variety of experiences in my trip, so for example, when I went to the Dominican Republic, I had a day planned to just lay at the beach. Day 2 was to explore an island called Saona Island also known as Starfish Island via a catamaran boat which was a lot of fun! Then day 3 was a day trip exploring the historical capital city of Santo Domingo where I visited cathedrals, museums, and the famous 3 trios caves. One the fourth day, I took a day trip to the countryside and had to be my favorite part of the trip. I went to the mountainside, horseback riding, learned how to make cigars and cacao powder from scratch and had some traditional Dominican lunch which was delicious! Oh and the last day was dedicated to a nice relaxing massage!
As you can see I had a variety of activities planned for the entire trip but I never felt stressed or afraid of missing out. There are a few ways to plan you itinerary:
- Search the must dos and create you own custom itinerary. Plan your day how you want to, no conflicts.
- Group activities- If you don’t want to deal with the stress of planning everything, then go for group tour activities, one or several. Some of the websites I used to book are TripAdvisor, Airbnb and VRBO, GetyourGuide. This is also a great way to meet people during your trip!
- Just go with the flow! This is an exciting way to explore and will definitely get you out of comfort zone but at the same time help you grow as an individual.
- Group tours- If you absolutely do not want to deal with the hassle of planning a trip, then go with group tour option. Companies like Ef Ultimate Break offer tailored tours for solo travelers. Totally fun!
- Typically having dinner alone is the most intimidating part of the trip. Some of my tips are: bring a book along to read, sit at the bar, request to be seated near the window or overlooking outdoor views, avoid peak dinner times, go in either early or late when it is less crowded.
- Cooking classes is another fun way to learn about a country’s food as well as meet people.
- Splurge a little and book yourself a private photo shoot with a local photographer. Again they’ll most likely take you off the beaten path. I typically find them on Airbnb.
- A lot of the major cities offer free walking tours. Check out this website, click here.
- Lastly, you can always find friends on Facebook groups such as GLT (Girls Love Travel)to pair up with for some parts of the trip.
HOW TO NAVIGATE A FOREIGN COUNTRY ALONE STRESS FREE
You’ll also need to figure out a way to navigate around your destination. This can be via car, public transportation, taxi, or by foot/bikes. There are some more logistics you may want to research before your trip.
- How are you going to move around the city/country?
- How will you get to your hotel from the airport? How much far is the airport?
- What type of transportation options are available there? Rental car? Public transportation? Train? Uber/taxis? Or is it a walkable city?
- How much do taxi fares cost typically? What are the reputable and safe taxi companies?
- How will you get from one city to another? Will you drive? Take a train or catch a flight?
- If you are planning to drive, what side of the road do they drive? It’s not the same everywhere, especially in Europe
- Do you need car insurance for your rental? Or will your credit card cover it?
I like to decide my mode of transportation ahead of time so I know what type of costs to expect and it just gives me peace of mind. One less thing to worry about when I get to my destination. If you are planning to use Uber, their website allows you to plug in the destination so you can have a cost estimate.
For rentals, a GPS is a must whether that is on my phone or a built in GPS in the car, however, don’t be afraid to ask for a paper copy of a physical map because you never know when you might lose service on your phone, run out of battery, etc. While I am at the car rental counter. I usually take a few moments to learn from the customer service rep. and circle off the major landmarks I plan on visiting including my hotel so I know how to use the map in case GPS is unavailable. I do this for EVERY SINGLE PLACE I visit where I plan to drive!
HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN TRAVELING SOLO
My advice- use your common sense, don’t do anything that will put you at risk or you’ll regret later. Having said that, not every situation is under your control but you can try your best to avoid getting in trouble by being cautious and aware of your surroundings. Some of the basic tips I follow are:
- Drink in moderation.
- Someone back home always knows what my plan for the day is, where I am staying, etc. and I make sure to keep in touch with them on a daily basis. Whatsapp is my go to app for communicating while traveling free of charge, just requires Wi-Fi connection which can be found at most restaurants/cafes/retailers.
- Be smart about those flashy and expensive items. While you might be eager to carry that new Gucci bag of yours for those cute Insta pics, it might not be the brightest idea to do so depending on the location you are traveling to.
- Memorize the local police and health emergency numbers ASAP!
- Research scams about your destination or any specific tips on Google, TripAdvisor or Facebook groups like GLT. I wish I had known not to eat at the restaurants right by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, they are an absolute tourist trap!
- How to dial local numbers from your phone? Something so basic yet neglected. Do you need to dial the area code?
- I also try to avoid staying out too late at night, and if I do, I make sure I know how I am getting back to the hotel as well as stay in busier areas.
PRO TIP: During my trip to India, if ever I needed internet connection, I would ask the store owners to share their hotspot access while I shopped with them. Was never turned down.
ALL ABOUT THE MONEY FOR YOUR SOLO TRIP
A smart traveler is one who knows what to do in unexpected situations. Having said that, there are some costs you want to be aware of so you want to plan for:
- Transportation (flight, boat,car/bus, etc.)
- Feeding yourself aka meals
- Visa (if applicable)
- Cost of tours/and or activities, entrance tickets, parking, etc.
- Travel insurance
- Miscellaneous (SIM card, tips, souvenirs, etc.)
In addition to the costs of the trip, you also want to know how to spend the money. You can not rely on your credit/debit cards at all times, some countries/cities mostly accept cash.
- Always carry some cash with you, the chip/PIN systems are not guaranteed.
- If you are wondering how much cash to carry, I suggest enough to get you through the day of activities, food and transportation money for each day.
- Travel with at least 2 different types of credit such as Mastercard & Visa, Amex is not accepted widely.
- It is also a good idea to download Apple/Samsung pay as backups. I use Apple pay on a daily basis so I don’t have to carry my credit cards everywhere.
- When using your cards internationally, some retailers will ask whether you want to pay in the local currency or US dollars. Always say yes to paying in U.S. dollars because most likely the exchange rate offered by their systems is going to suck!
- I also don’t exchange my money at different exchanges, I always get cash out of the ATM before leaving the airport and then continue doing so depending on my needs throughout the trip. I like to mix and match the use of cards and cash. So for restaurants or businesses where cards are accepted, I tend to use a credit card, and save the cash for smaller purchases.
- You also want to be prepared in case you run out of cash. Things happen to the best of us, so you want to have a backup. Can you rely on a trusted friend or family member who can send you money immediately? If yes, how will they do it? Western Union usually is the fastest option to get cash in your hands but that does not mean it is always immediate. It can take anywhere from 24 hours to more than a week.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS TRAVELING ALONE FOR THE FIRST TIME
So if you are an extrovert, this might not be challenging for you at all. However, if you are an introvert or introverted extrovert like me, I have some survival tips for you.
- Start with a smile and a “hi”. Yes, it is as simple as that! Don’t be shy and say hi first.
- Sit at the bar and start a conversation with the bartender.
- Hotel staff, Airbnb hosts, servers, etc. are all great options to get insight on your destination from locals’ point of view.
- If you are not comfortable being on your own, group tours are a great alternative.
Few more tips and tricks that I have learned from several years of traveling:
- Pack light! I know the temptation to carry matching shoes and purses with the 20 outfits that you have planned for a 3 days trip, ladies, trust me, it is not worth it. Especially, when you might have to carry 2 of your 50lbs suitcases up the stairs in Europe because not every building has elevators.
- Don’t forget the important electronics such as convertible plugs, portable phone charger, etc. Here are some links for products I recommend-
- I love traveling with a tripod so I don’t have to miss out on a good pic opportunity.
- Comfy shoes are a must! Heels are cute and all but think practically!
- Download the necessary apps before you leave home. Google maps, Google translate, Uber, etc.
- What about your cell phone? Are you planning to get a local SIM or you traveling on international roaming? If you are planning to purchase a local SIM, make sure your cell phone is unlocked, and for international roaming, notify your cell phone carrier before you travel.
- Notify your bank of your travel plans, you don’t want your cards blocked in another country! Check the cash withdrawal limits, international usage fees, etc.
- I also like to ask my Airbnb host basic things such as nearby grocery stores, access to public transportation, best way to get from the airport, etc. before I book my accommodation.
Phew! That was a lot of writing! I truly hope my post inspires you to take your first solo trip and you are well prepared to have the time of your life!
Feel free to ask me any more questions that you may while planning for your trip.