If you’re looking to book your first solo trip, then this post was made for you! Whatever your reasons for deciding to go it alone, taking a solo adventure is one of the most fun ways to travel and you likely won’t regret it. Here’s a step by step guide for planning your first solo trip; tried and tested tips, tricks, and practical advice included…
- Decide on your destination
- Practice solo travel at home
- Have a few plans in place in advance
- Consider a group tour
- Pack light(ish)
- Always have several travel funds at the ready
- Confidence, Exploring & Nerves
- Keep in touch while you’re away
- Keep multiple copies of essential information
- Research your accommodation in advance
- Read up about any scams/ dangers of a place
- Get travel insurance
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Decide on your destination
Not all travel destinations are created equal and nor are all destinations as easy to visit as one another. First things first, you’ll need to decide on your destination. And it doesn’t have to be too far away either. Instead, pick somewhere where you think you might feel comfortable visiting.
Maybe you speak a little of the local language, perhaps you have friends or family in a city nearby. If you want to get out of your comfort zone but are feeling a little nervous, then selecting a destination that’s not 100% out of your usual life is the way to go.
Practice solo travel at home
Once you’ve decided on your destination, before you even book anything, practice at home first! What I mean by this is try to go to dinner on your own (here are my best tips for dining alone), watch a movie in your local cinema or take yourself around a museum solo. Basically, get used to travelling by yourself within the environment you’re used to. It may sound silly but it totally works!
In fact, it’s at this point, before you’ve decided to go away, that you might realise you’re not sure if you want to go it alone. While nerves are normal, as is feeling a little awkward about being by yourself (I still get nervous before trips!), you might realise that travelling alone just isn’t for you.
One of my best friends hates travelling alone. It’s not that she can’t do it or anything. It’s just that she literally doesn’t like it very much. Instead, the joy in travelling for her lies in sharing the experience with the people she cares about. And that’s totally fine! Solo travel isn’t for everyone and that’s obviously okay.
Have a few plans in place in advance
While it can be daunting, scary and downright exciting to arrive in a destination with literally no plans, when it comes to your first trip, you may well want to plan a few elements in advance while in the comfort of your own home.
Perhaps plan to reserve a hotel/ dorm room for at least the first night of your trip and plan how you’ll reach said accommodation. Having an itinerary for when you arrive will take a lot of pressure off the ‘solo’ aspect of your trip.
Consider a group tour
If you’re still not sure about going it alone, then a group tour is a great way to go on your own but with all of the nitty-gritty details planned out. My first ever solo adventure was a trip to a destination I’d been dreaming about ever since I was little (two weeks across many of the highlights of Italy).
However, as a teenager on my first solo trip, I was incredibly nervous about going it alone (and this was in the days before travel blogs/ travel YouTubes were ‘a thing’).
Instead, I opted to join a group tour where I’d have travel companions and an already set itinerary built into the framework of the trip. In the end, I had a whole load of fun, made lots of friends, and it gave me the confidence to plan my whole next solo trip entirely on my own!
When travelling, you barely ever use as much as you think you need. This is especially important to remember when you’re going alone and there won’t (necessarily) be anyone to help you with your luggage!
Make sure to pack light (perhaps even going hand luggage only) and make sure that you’re able to easily move your baggage around on your own. Only take what you need and lead everything but the necessities back at home.
Wearing layers and creating a capsule wardrobe for your travels can also vastly reduce the number of things you need to bring with you. When it comes to packing, look up clothing guides online (Pinterest and search engines are a great place to start) so that you’ll be able to dress like a local and blend in as much as possible.
Consider purchasing a phrasebook in the local language of where you’re visiting, as well as printing off some maps of the area you’re going in case your phone runs out of battery/ breaks/ etc. And while we’re on the subject of travel gear, make sure that all of your bags have zips and well-concealed pockets in which to place your valuables.
Always have several travel funds at the ready
On my recent solo trip to the South of France, I decided to just travel with one form of payment (my debit card) which I’ve also done on plenty of occasions before. I also had a £5 note and €2.75 in change.
Needless you say, you can guess what happened next. The very first machine I put my debit card into in a train station damaged by card! Literally, the first time I tried to use my card while abroad on that trip.
For the rest of the trip, I was too worried to withdraw funds from any ATM as they often swallow damaged cards. This also meant that every time I went to pay for something, I just hoped my contactless (and now temperamental chip and pin) would carry on working okay.
Luckily it did! Anyway, my silly/ self-inflicted mistake demonstrates that it’s important to travel with at least two different cards (one debit, one credit) as well as some cash.
While you don’t want to carry around too much cash, having around $50 hidden somewhere away from your main bag and on your person (think in your shoe/ bra) is always a good idea for emergencies. Lesson learned!
Confidence, Exploring & Nerves
On your first solo trip, it’s only natural to be nervous. When you’re walking around, stroll with confidence and look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going.
You know, fake it ’til you make it! If you do need to get out your phone/ map to check you’re headed in the right direction, then going into a coffee shop to go through your bag is likely your best bet.
Keep in touch while you’re away
Today, with data being cheaper than ever, and with WiFi available in coffee shops, bars, hotels, and airports throughout the world, keeping in touch with people back home couldn’t be easier.
You can even make use of apps such as ‘Find My’ by Apple that allow approved people (for me it’s my parents) to check the location of where your phone/ laptop is at any given time.
Give a friend/ family member/ partner your itinerary before you leave and plan to check in with them every so often. If something does happen and you don’t get in touch, then your friend/ family member/ partner can alert the relevant people.
With this being said, don’t post your live location on social media. This is particularly important if you’re travelling on your own. I always wait a couple of days after leaving a place to update my social media with where I’ve visited. That way, I’ll be long gone before the time that I say I’ve been in a place.
Keep multiple copies of essential information
One of the key travel tips I could give you in this beginner’s guide to solo travel is to keep multiple backup copies of essential information such as family/ friends’ numbers, local emergency numbers in a small booklet in case your phone gets stolen.
I also recommend having a photocopy of your passport/ travel insurance handy to leave with someone back home in the event that you lose your belongings or they’re stolen.
Research your accommodation in advance
Whether you’re staying in a hostel or opting to splurge out on a special hotel, if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my years of travelling alone it’s that there are plenty of times where the accommodation you’re expecting looks nothing like the photos! As such, be sure to always read the reviews before booking somewhere to avoid dissapointment.
Read up about any scams/ dangers of a place
I don’t say this to put you off going on your first trip, but it’s essential to plan well in advance before visiting a destination in order to get a feel for any dangers/ scams that might be in place before you arrive.
For example, while Paris as a solo traveller is fairly safe, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fair amount of petty crimes and common tourist scams. In the same vein, I recommend always travelling with a crossbody bag as it is harder to pickpocket.
Get travel insurance
Perhaps this is a surprising way to make the most of any trip, including your first solo trip but it is probably the most important. I often hear people saying ‘If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel’.
And to be honest, they’re probably not wrong. Having travel insurance ensures peace of mind and can help you to avoid potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Even the healthiest person can have accidents and you never know when.
With travel insurance, you can carry on exploring, snapping photos and making new friends, safe in the knowledge that, should the worst happen, you’re covered. Because let’s be honest, no one wants to come home with a tourist t-shirt, let alone $100,000 in unpaid hospital bills!
All in all, solo travel is really fun but your safety is still the number one priority. And while I’m on the topic of safety, make sure you have travel insurance! Interested in learning more about safety trips for solo female travellers? Here are my best travel hacks for women travelling alone.