You are planning a solo travel adventure – do you know where you want to go? Maybe you already have the ideal location in mind or if you are like me you probably have a long list of places you want to explore. The following tips will help you with planning your solo trip.
Some places are easier on solo travelers. Bigger cities allow one to blend in with the crowd whereas in a small village you are no longer incognito. Ask yourself some questions in order to narrow down your travel choices.
What do you want to get out of your travels?
Are you looking for relaxation, adventure and physical activity, exploring nature, do you want to take a class, attend an event, or enjoy big city culture?
I usually opt for the excitement of a big city but when I planned my getaway to Costa Rica a couple of years ago I knew I wanted nothing but beach and relaxation. In addition to running my bookkeeping business I had been studying Arabic during summer school at the local community college. I spent 20 hours a week studying or attending class for 12 weeks straight. My brain was fried and I decided to take a break in Manzanillo, Costa Rica.
Think about what you want to get out of your travels.
What environment are you looking for?
- Big city chaos or small village community?
- Beach or mountains?
- Backcountry on your own or join a group tour such as trekking Machu Picchu?
- Craving tranquility or partying and dancing all night long?
- Modern art and design or back to nature?
- English-speaking country or someplace where the language is unknown to you?
Narrowing down your desired environment is a key factor in planning your travel.
What climate do you prefer?
Are you trying to escape your own climate or just want to experience something different? In Texas I like to escape the brutally hot summers so I often visit Canada during the summer months.
I have escaped both winter and summer weather here in Austin, TX by going to South America where it is the opposite season. In some locations the climate is tropical year round, for instance Medellin Colombia is known as the city of eternal spring.
Check the average temperatures on the internet so you can plan accordingly. Bear in mind that some locations may have wild fluctuations in temperature as well as precipitation so make sure you investigate thoroughly.
Before I booked my trip to Costa Rica many people told me it was rainy season. This was not entirely true as I was visiting the Caribbean coast which has its own micro climate.
When planning your solo travel adventures be sure to consider climate. My solo trip to Big Bend National Park was planned as fall trip because I know it would be way too hot for me in the summer months.
How long do you plan on traveling?
If you have only a week to getaway then you will likely want to keep travel time at a minimum. Maybe opt for a road trip or direct flights only. When I traveled to China for a study abroad class we only had 10 days in China yet our flight from Chicago took 14 hours to Beijing. It was worth it but I wouldn’t want to spend so much time getting to every destination.
With 2 weeks or more you can spend a little more getting to your destination. I usually take 7 – 10 days for my trips and I often spend 2 days traveling. I try to book overnight flights whenever possible and take steps to avoid jet lag so I will still feel energetic when I arrive at my destination.
A month or more gives greater flexibility. Many people opt for long-term travel of several months or even years, you can check out Gary Arndt’s travel blog, he traveled for more than 8 years!
My first solo trip was originally a 3-week vacation. After talking with friends I was convinced to change my plans – I traveled for 7 months instead!
The length of your trip will impact much of your solo travel planning – particularly your budget and what to pack.
Planning the budget for your solo trip
When planning your first solo trip make sure you have an idea of what your basic costs will be:
- Getting There – are you traveling by plane, train, boat, bus – how much will it cost?
- Accommodation – will you stay at a hotel or hostel – or both as I did in Montreal, bed & breakfast, camping, rustic lodge, or with a local via AirBnB – click for your free $20 credit – what is your budget for accommodation?
- Transportation – will you get around via bicycle, bus, subway, walking, rent a car. Will you be visiting other places via train, boat, bus, or plane? Research the costs. Read my post about transportation options in Barcelona for some ideas about getting around in a big city. If you are visiting a remote area the transport options will be much more limited – plan accordingly.
- Meals and Entertainment – whether you choose to eat street food during your whole trip or you decide to splurge on expensive meals – decide on a budget and add some extra cushion is my advice. People often spend more on meals and drinks while traveling than they had initially planned.
- Visas – does the country you want to visit require you to obtain a visa in advance? How much will it cost? How long will it take to obtain the visa? For US passport holders visit the US Department of State and Canadian passport holders can visit the Government of Canada travel advisories page. All others google “visa requirements (country) citizens”. When I booked my trip to Brazil I had not even checked the visa requirements – not smart! When I was reading a travel guide I noticed my oversight and bought my visa right away.
- Immunizations – Do you need to get any immunizations before your trip? Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and TDAP (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) are some of the common immunizations travelers need. Many cities have travel clinics that specialize in international travel medicine. Otherwise consult with your health practitioner. Plan in advance as some immunizations require a booster shot to be most effective.
Reviewing travel guides and travel blogs will give you some first-hand experiences to gauge the costs of your travels.
When planning a trip bring twice the cash and half the clothing you had planned.
What event have you always dreamed of attending?
Annual music, art, or film festival, Carnival, or a sports event, whatever your passion you can find events in other countries that would be interesting to you. If it is an annual event that you want to attend you already have eliminated the need to decide when to go.
I recently met a solo female traveler who had been apprehensive to travel alone – she opted for a one-week dance class in Montreal so that she would have people to socialize with each evening during the classes. She learned some new Latin dances each night and had the daytime to explore the city on her own.
Consider planning your trip around a key event, festival, or a class.
Research your dream solo travel destination
Researching my travel destinations usually involves a lot on online searching and reading. I save a folder in my online bookmarks for each destination I am researching. As I find websites or articles of interest I bookmark them in the folder.
I search for books, movies, and music CDs using my local library’s online capabilities, which allow me to reserve media and have them sent to my nearest library. I receive an email notification when the item is ready for pick-up.
Evernote allows a user to collect information from websites, handwritten notes, photos, etc and organize them all in one place that can be shared from tablet to phone to desktop. I know a few people who use Evernote but I have not tried it yet. Evernote offers free as well as premium versions.
TripIt is an itinerary planning app that allows the user to create, customize, and share their travel plans. The user can add maps, photos, directions, recommendations, etc with TripIt. I have not used this app. TripIt offers free as well as premium versions with 30-day free trials on the premium versions.
I hope you enjoy your travels wherever you are planning to go!
Please comment with your own best tips for planning solo travel. What advice do you have for other travelers?