If you’re like me and you love planning, doing research and making bookings for trips is a major joy. It might sound a bit sad, but for me, searching for cheap deals and new destinations is all part of the experience of going away.
However, if you’re not a spreadsheet loser like me, planning your virgin solo voyage might seem a bit boring/stressful/overwhelming/all of the above. It doesn’t have to be though, if you know what, when and how you should be planning.
If you’ve no idea where to begin, check out my seven easy steps to perfectly planning your first solo trip.
Where, when and what?
Before you think about anything else, you need to know where you want to go. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, have a read of my recommended destinations for first time solo travellers (they’re all places I’ve been and have loved).
Next, think about what kind of trip you want to take. Do you want to do activities? Sightsee? Sunbathe? You might want to head off independently and just do your own thing, but if that feels a bit too daunting you could check out some of the suggestions for alternative solo trips I’ve listed here.
Before booking, it’s also smart to double check that your chosen destination is recommended for the time of year that you’re planning to travel. Is it rainy season? Is it a popular time to go and will there be other travellers around for you to meet? Are there festivals or events that could lead to higher crime rates/unrest? The more you know about your destination, the better: so get swotting up!
How will you travel and where will you stay?
Once you know where you’re going, the next step is figuring out how to get there. Skyscanner and Kayak are two of my favourite flight comparison sites, and it’s super easy to tailor your travel to your needs. If you’re still struggling to choose your destination, both websites let you do an ‘everywhere’ search so you can see what’s available and within your budget for the dates you want to travel (my spontaneous trip to Latvia was thanks to this awesome function).
Once you know where you’re going, you’ll need to think about where to stay. Hotels and apartments will give you more privacy and space, but if you want the guarantee of meeting lots of cool people then hostels are your best option. Maybe consider booking a private room in a hostel like I did in Slovakia, so you get the best of both worlds. Hostelworld, Trivago, Laterooms and AirBnB are all firm favourites of mine for booking accommodation, and each of them have loads of options to suit whatever your budget is.
You need insurance!
Yes, it’s boring. But, it’s a necessity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re travelling for one week or one year, you need insurance. If you’re going on a short trip of a couple of weeks or less, your best bet is to see what your options are on comparison sites. Don’t just go for the cheapest option and always bear in mind what you’ll be doing on your trip; some insurers won’t cover water sports, for example.
If you’re going away for longer, and/or to multiple countries, you’ll benefit from choosing an insurer that specialises in this kind of travel. World Nomads is a popular choice and they offer brilliant coverage, but I found Alpha Travel Insurance to be much cheaper and just as good.
Make a budget (and stick to it)
Obviously you’ll have considered how much you can afford to spend when you were choosing your destination, but you’ll also need to think about spending money for when you arrive. Make a list of all the costs that you’re likely to encounter, including airport transfers and local travel, accommodation (if you didn’t pay upon booking), and trips, meals, and other activities.
The last thing you want to do as a solo traveller is run out of money while you’re away, as this can put you in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Maybe think about building in a little contingency, and if you don’t need it during your trip, you can always blow it in duty free on the way home!
Plan a (loose) itinerary
Once you’ve got your budget sorted, you can start to plan what you want to do (and can afford) once you arrive at your chosen destination. Now, I LOVE a good itinerary, but I like to keep it super flexible. Planning every minute of every day might mean that you miss out on spontaneous activities with people you meet, or that you don’t have time for a must-see that you hadn’t read about before your trip.
It’s a good idea to leave at least a day or two free, and even if nothing comes up just enjoy your free time by spending a day wandering or sitting in cafes and people watching. You’ll spend less money if you’re not constantly on the move, too.
Pack light and pack right
When you’re on your own, you need to be sure that you can carry your luggage comfortably and that it’s as compact as possible; you won’t have anyone to help you lift it into your locker, or to guard it while you nip to the toilet.
If you’re going on a long trip that requires a larger bag, do a trial pack a week before you go and make sure that you can carry it. The general rule of thumb is to pack what you think you should take, then remove a third of it. Only take what you absolutely need (plus a few luxury home comforts if you want); you can always wash things or pick up new items while you’re away.
When you’re packing you’ll also need to keep your destination in mind. Does the culture require modest dress? What do the locals wear? You don’t want to stand out too much, as it’ll make you a target for crime and unwanted attention.
To put yours and your family and friends’ minds at ease, you’ll want to think about how you’ll stay safe on your trip. One thing to remember is to always have a plan B. Keep backups of important numbers and addresses in a notebook in case your phone is lost or stolen, and always carry a photocopy of your passport (and any visas or insurance documents) separate from your actual passport.
A bit of cash kept outside of your wallet is also a good idea: stuff it in your sock or your bra in case you need some emergency money to get back to your accommodation, for example. Speaking of which: have you got a map or directions to your accommodation, in case you need to navigate public transport or direct a taxi driver?
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member, and keep in touch with them throughout your trip so they know that you’re safe. You could even let someone at your accommodation know where you’re going each day, so they’ll know to raise the alarm if you don’t return as expected. It might seem paranoid, but it’s imperative that someone knows if something has gone awry. Better safe than sorry, right?
By following the above steps, you’re much more likely to have an amazing solo adventure while staying safe and sticking to your budget.
Still don’t feel confident planning your trip? Get in touch, I’d love to help!