This morning on Timehop I got a notification telling me that it was five years ago to the day that I booked my solo flights to America for four months. I was 19 and looking to go on an adventure between my first and second year, so I couldn’t think of anywhere better to go than California.
That beiTravelling on your own shouldn’t be limited to your gap year. Going solo allows complete self-indulgence – you decide on the location and itinerary, so no compromises to be made there. It also requires self-reliance, but provided you plan well in advance and take sensible precautions, it can be incredibly liberating and enjoyable.
Since this type of travelling is becoming increasingly popular with adults of all ages, I’ve decided to put together a quick guide to help you plan your next solo adventure like a pro (even if this is your first time!).
✈️ First things first
After deciding where you want to go and when, check for available flights and prices on travel comparison sites like Skyscanner or Kayak. Once you’ve found your flights – and before booking them through a comparison site – it’s worth checking their prices directly on airlines’ websites as, sometimes, you may get a better deal there.
Pre-book long-term parking if you’re leaving your car at the airport as it saves you time and money. There are incredible airport parking deals on comparison sites like Looking4Parking, so don’t leave it until you get there to sort your parking out.
It may seem more adventurous to find a room when you arrive, but what happens if there are no vacancies? Booking accommodation in advance means you’ll have a detailed itinerary with contact details to give to family and friends. Try to find a room without single supplements.
Solo tourists can be targets for inflated taxi fares when abroad. Do your research to find the average price, then order a transfer using a licensed firm. Check out travel forums for recommendations.
For more tips on how to plan a super cheap holiday, check out this blog post I wrote back in March.
It’s a good idea to check your passport and renew it well ahead of when you intend to travel. Also, look into what visas you may need. If you intend on taking part in any activities classed as hazardous (e.g., quad biking or whitewater rafting) you may need add-ons for your travel insurance. You should also let the insurance company know if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, otherwise you may not be covered if you need medical treatment. Some destinations will require getting vaccinated against specific diseases. You can find out what’s currently being recommended by the NHS here.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be driving abroad, take your driving licence in case you do end up needing to rent a car. And, while you may plan to change most of your money abroad, bring a supply of local currency with you to pay for taxis or meals when you arrive. A prepaid travel card is a great backup, too, plus it means you’re not incurring any nasty credit card costs.
💼 What to take
It’s amazing what you can cram into hand luggage. You’ll save so much time and energy by not having to wait at the baggage carousel. There are packing hacks on YouTube showing how to turn a carry-on into the Tardis. Rolling is a great way to use up every bit of space, plus clothes don’t wrinkle as much. Try to get by with three pairs of footwear: flipflops for the beach, a comfy pair for sightseeing, and a pair for going out.
A large scarf can transform into a travel pillow, cover-up, blanket and even a window lind. Don’t forget a sewing kit, first-aid essentials and earplugs. Some cultures frown on tourists wearing skimpy or scruffy clothes at religious sites, so pack a smart casual outfit. Backpacks hold a lot and are lighter, but I don’t think you can beat a hard case on wheels for offering the best protection and convenience. And if you’re hoping to bring back lots of goodies but you’re worried you won’t have space, why not pack some old clothes that you can leave behind at the end of your holiday?
🔐 Travel Safety
Here are a few tips to remember.
- Book a hotel room that’s off the ground floor, if possible, and if you’re in a hostel, see if by paying extra you can get a private room so you’re not sharing with strangers. If you’re arriving late and staying at a rental property, find out the name of the person greeting you, with a photo if possible.
- Don’t deviate from the itinerary that you’ve shared with your ‘watch circle’ unless you update everyone first.
- Get certified copies of your passport, driving licence, insurance certificate and all other important documents, and store them separately to the originals. This way you have backups if a document is lost or stolen. Post offices will certify copies for a small fee.
- Don’t wear flashy jewellery or designer clothes (unless you’re going to Switzerland); you need to blend in. Leave your iPhone 7 at home and take an old model instead. Thieves will be far less interested in obsolete tech.
- Keep your money in several places and use a money belt inside your clothing. Thieves cut handbag straps and can lift wallets without your knowledge. Try to leave anything of value at home or use the safe, if one’s provided.
- The clever Athena device (along with the ROAR app) allows you to tell people you’re safe with just a couple of taps.
🌎 Make the most of travelling solo
Experience as much as you can and make every second count. Ditch the beach if necessary, so you can experience all the culture and lifestyle your destination has to offer.
Why stick in one place when you can go where you please? Book multi-centre holidays for variety and contrast. And, if you’re up for a new adventure, try something new!
One of the best things about travelling alone is that you’ll make new friends. Excursions offer great opportunities to do this. Don’t be surprised if you’re ‘adopted’ by other travellers who travel in a group, but don’t feel obliged to accept every invitation.
This is your trip and you have no one to please but yourself. So, whether your solo trip lasts a weekend or a month, live it to the max!