How do I get started traveling by myself?
If you clicked on this blog, then that means you're somewhat considering in taking a trip by yourself, possibly. There will be no beating around the bush here! The truth of the matter is that traveling solo is not for the faint-hearted! It is both scary and intimidating. Plus, rewarding and possibly one of the most self-respected things you could do for yourself.
We will give you some pointers on how to navigate this solo adventure. But in the meantime, if you aren't use to traveling much at all then we would suggest taking these steps to help with a smoother transition into the solo world....
Start local. Let's put the airplanes and passports on hold for a minute. Take advantage of the adventure right in your own city, or a quick train ride to the next city. Book a weekend getaway in a city that's only a car, train or bus ride away. Checkout the cool restaurants, bars, museums and sightseeing that's right in your background! This is a great way to get your feet wet with your next planned adventure.
Find a group travel company. Believe it or not, they're travel companies that specialize in solo travelers. This is a cool way to actually meet other solo travelers that have the same idea as you do. Most of these companies have transportation, lodging and itineraries in place. This is probably one of the best way to start traveling more long distance without having to worry about all the travel details on your own. Two group travel companies that we admire: www.contiki.com/www.dipaways.com
Group tours are great if:
you're concerned about being alone, about your safety, or simply don't have the time to plan your travels.
you want to go to a destination that you consider challenging.
you want to break up a long trip. If you're on your own for a month or more, you may want to include a tour so that you have company for a while and you can relax while someone else manages the details.
What are the benefits of traveling solo? We're sure that most of your family and friends who you shared your solo adventures with are probably asking you why?! Why do you think it's a great idea to travel on your own? You may have very clear reasons, but at this stage it may also just be an instinct that you have, that it would be good for you. And you are right. Here are just a few of the benefits of solo travel.
Carry your own luggage! Both literally and figuratively, when you travel solo you don't carry either the gear or the issues of another person on your trip.
Do whatever the heck you want! There's nothing worse than wasting time doing things you don't want to do. Going to a museum when you'd rather be at the beach, or vice versa. Traveling with a morning person when you're a night person, or vice versa.
Define who you are outside of people's definition! Whether you're tired of the norm, or in need of a true adventure you live, to some degree, according to the expectations of others. Free yourself to discover who you really are and what are your true interests and passions.
You can make any member of your blog a writer so they can write posts for your blog. Adding multiple writers is a great way to grow your content and keep it fresh and diversified.
Planning for Independent Solo Travel
Make a budget. Know what you can spend so that you plan your transportation and accommodation, the two most expensive aspects of a trip, accordingly.
Know the basics. Before you leave, be sure you understand the visa requirements and spend a few moments to understand the currency exchange. Make sure your passport doesn’t expire for at least three months after your trip as some countries have such a minimum for visitors.
Book your flights/trains. Yes, you check your passport and visa needs first and then book your flights. You don't want to get ahead of yourself, put the money out for a flight and discover later that you have to pay a fee to have it changed. Also, book your transportation so that you arrive before dusk. Everything looks better in daylight and, if your hotel/hostel doesn't look to your liking, you'll have time to make changes.
Book your accommodation. Arriving in a new city, not knowing how it works and still having to find a place to stay can be stressful. Plus, you can end up spending more than your budget because you just have to get a place. Book at least your first night’s stay before taking off. I typically book every night that I'll be in the location. Read Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
Study a map. I love maps. They provide a bird’s eye view of a new destination. They give you a sense of distance between places and, therefore, what’s possible to do in a day. You’ll also get a sense of where the areas are that you don’t want to go for safety reasons.
Add important numbers to your phone. Research useful apps for your phone and download them with free Wi-Fi. Get the front desk staff at your accommodation to help you add important local numbers to your phone such as the one for your hotel. And, though you may not want to stay connected with home, have these numbers in your phone as well.
Pack light so that you can manage your own things. One carry-on sized bag and a daypack or large purse should do it. Here's how to pack light. Here's a comment on packing I recently received from a reader: “I used the info on your blog about traveling with only carry-on and a small wardrobe when I traveled solo to Peru. Having no checked bag saved me from missing a connecting flight in the Lima airport. That is what prompted me to enroll in your course!”
Arrive at the airport, train or bus station early. Whether it’s traffic congestion or a massive line-up at the airport, many things can slow you down when trying to catch a flight. You may want to read How to Get Through an Airport by Yourself
Don’t plan much for your first day. Take the time to settle in and get to know the city and how it works. Do people line up for the bus? What’s the street food like and where are the busiest stands? What’s within walking distance of your lodging?
Build Your Confidence Before Your First Solo Trip
Solo travel is a confidence booster but you have to actually travel solo for it to happen. So how do you get confidence before you go? I have a few suggestions.
Find your cheerleader. When you tell people about your trip, who is excited about it? Spend as much time as you can with them as they will build your confidence.
Stop watching crime shows. They are not representative of the dangers in the world.
Plan how you will stay in touch with home. The fact that you can will build your confidence.
Find a local contact. Chances are, someone you know knows someone where you're going. Get six degrees of separation working for you.
Find out if there is a Greeter program in your destination so that you can meet up with a local.
Be patient with yourself. Take your time. Pamper yourself. You'll find your way.
Stay Safe While Traveling Solo
There is so much to be said on this topic, especially for first time solo travel. There are some very practical steps you can take but the most important thing is to trust your instincts. What your parents taught you about safety when you were growing up is even more important when you're traveling. Because you're in a holiday mindset and because you're in a different culture, your ability to judge situations may not be as strong as usual.
Always have travel insurance. Since I was 15 when I started to travel I've always had insurance. Read: Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must in which I analyze the price and benefits of a number of insurance policies.
Using public Wi-Fi. If you're planning to use public Wi-Fi for doing anything that requires security, such as booking a hotel room with a credit card, make sure that you have a VPN. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide
When you go out for the day, take the business card of your hotel with you.
Don't tell people you meet where you're staying. Your accommodation should be your safe zone.
Keep your money and credit cards in two places. Read Travel Money: All Your Options For Managing Cash and Cards While Traveling.
Be polite but be prepared to be impolite if someone is bothering you.
Travel Solo Not Lonely: Plan for Social Time
Solo travel need not be a lonely experience. It is the experience of many solo travelers that you meet more people traveling alone than you do when traveling with others. After all, you are not focused on a companion. You are open to meeting people and that makes people feel comfortable approaching you.
However, there are things that you can do to make sure that you have a social experience. Here are a number of posts that will help.