How to Prepare for Your First Solo Trip

How to Prepare for Your First Solo Trip

Itching to go on your first solo trip? Here's everything you need to know to successfully travel the world alone (and have fun!)

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How to Prepare for Your First Solo Trip - Rachel Off Duty

So, you want to travel alone?

When I went to Italy to study abroad at 19 years old, it was my first solo trip without friends or family.

I was no doubt excited, but there was definitely a voice at the back of my mind worrying whether I’d get lost, or not make friends, or have a miserable time.

Fortunately, that’s not what happened at all! My first solo trip was incredible and is one of those defining moments that has transformed the way I travel today.

While I didn’t know the first thing about planning a solo trip when I booked my flights to Italy, I’ve picked up plenty of traveling alone tips over the years.

If you’ve already eased yourself into the idea of solo travel, but are feeling overwhelmed with questions like:

  • Where do I stay?
  • How do I figure out public transportation?
  • What about safety?
  • Will I feel lonely?

This post is for you! Here are my top tips for planning your first solo trip.

RELATED: How to Overcome Feeling Lonely While Traveling Solo

Create an Itinerary for Your First Few Days

Rachel Off Duty: Woman Lounging By the Pool

Traveling solo to an unfamiliar city or country is DAUNTING. No matter how many happy, inspiring solo travel stories you hear, there’s nothing that can really mentally prepare you for the experience until you rip off the bandaid and try it for yourself. 

Every decision is up to you when you travel solo. Intimidating, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be!

Nip those feelings in the bud by making an itinerary for your first few days. It will reduce the overwhelm from being in a new place alone and give you a solid plan to follow until you find your feet.

Checklist: Here’s What to Include in Your Initial Itinerary

  • Book your accommodation
  • Figure out how to get from the airport to your hotel (it’s definitely reassuring to have transportation booked ahead of time on your first solo trip!)
  • Book a tour or two
  • Explore what public transportation options are available
  • Research a few cafes and restaurants to check out

Remember: The easier you make your arrival and first days alone, the less stressed and more confident you’re going to feel! 

Do Some Research Ahead of Time

Rachel Off Duty: Researching for Your First Solo Trip

First-time solo travel is intimidating because everything is new and unfamiliar, and your comfort zone is not too happy about that.

While you can’t possibly prepare for every situation you might encounter on your solo trip, you can set yourself up for success by doing your due diligence and arming yourself with research ahead of time. The more information you have, the more prepared you’ll feel once you arrive in your destination.

Plus, it will stop any preventable surprises from happening (like forgetting to check visa requirements).

Checklist: Here Are Some Things to Research Before Your First Solo Trip

  • Passport: Check your expiration date and make sure you have enough blank pages. Some countries will not accept your passport if it’s within 6 months of expiration.
  • Visa Requirements: Do you need a visa to visit this country? Are they provided on arrival, or do you need to apply ahead of time? Depending on your passport and where you’re going, visa requirements may need to be taken into consideration.
  • Travel Documents: Some destinations require proof of travel insurance and funds.
  • Transportation: How to get to and from the airport as well as public transit options and costs.
  • What to Wear: Is the dress code going to be culturally or seasonally different? For instance, if you’re traveling to Bali, you’ll want to know ahead of time that you need to cover your legs to enter religious sites.
  • COVID 19 Requirements: Do you need to self-isolate on arrival? Does the destination only accept 72-hour PCR tests, or do you need proof of vaccination?
  • Where to Stay: What are the best and safest neighborhoods to stay in? What are the reviews of the places you’re considering booking? Are there any positive reviews from solo travelers?
  • Common Scams: Destinations like Rome are well-known for their pickpocketing and tourist scams.
  • Safety: Speak to other travelers who have been to the destination recently and read up on how to stay safe as a solo traveler. Join solo travel Facebook groups for a safe space to ask any questions you might have!

Start with a Tried-and-True Solo Travel Destination

Rachel Off Duty: Solo Travel Destination New Zealand

For your first solo travel trip, choose your destination wisely. Some countries are incredible for female travelers because of low crime levels and how easy it is to get around, while others are more challenging and potentially better suited for seasoned travelers.

According to the Global Peace Index, the top three countries for solo female travelers are:

  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal

While you’re deciding, here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a solo travel destination:

  • Choose a destination that speaks your native language if you don’t feel equipped to deal with language barriers.
  • Go for a country with good infrastructure and safe public transport options.
  • Worried you won’t make friends? Choose a popular destination or stay in a hostel.
  • Pick a destination that suits your interests. For instance, you might choose Portugal to learn how to surf, or Mexico because you love the food.

RELATED: The Best First-Time Solo Female Travel Destinations

Create a Budget for Your First Solo Trip

Rachel Off Duty: Woman Exploring Canyonlands National Park in Utah

If money is a huge concern that’s holding you back from taking your first solo trip, know that you’re not alone. Solo travel is technically more expensive. After all, there’s no one to split hotel bills with, and some tours charge extra for solo travelers.

But all hope is not lost. All you need is a game plan and a budget! Open up a spreadsheet and research prices for everything you might need to account for, starting with the below.

Checklist: Here Are Some Solo Trip Budget Costs to Research Ahead of Time

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Visa costs
  • Average hotel, hostel, or Airbnb prices in different areas
  • Food and drink costs at restaurants and grocery stores
  • Transportation (public transit options, Uber, car rentals, etc.)
  • Entrance fees for activities
  • Tours

When you’re done, you’ll have a clear idea of how much your solo trip will cost and a savings goal to work towards. Little things like taking public transportation and alternating between restaurants and cooking at home will help you extend your cash while traveling alone.

RELATED: 10+ Effortless Ways to Start Saving Money for Travel

Consider Staying at a Hostel

Rachel Off Duty: Solo Female Traveler at a Hostel in the Philippines

Just because you’re going on a solo trip doesn’t mean you have to be by yourself the entire time. Hostels are an excellent option if you want to meet other travelers, make friends, and potentially explore together,

But you might be thinking, “Hostels? I don’t want to share a room with strangers!”

While booking a bed in a shared room is definitely one solid way to save money, you don’t always need to do this in order to stay in a hostel. Most hostels also have private rooms which will cost more, but will give you more privacy if that’s important to you. I stay in private rooms most of the time when I’m traveling solo, unless I’m doing a quick overnight somewhere.

What I love about hostels is that the good ones are always hosting events. Over the years, I’ve gone on pub crawls, taken surfing lessons, and even attended a full moon party in the Philippines thanks to organized hostel activities.

If hostels aren’t really your thing, here are two other options:

  1. Go on a Group Trip: Companies like Contiki, Legit Trips, Intrepid Travel, and more make it SO easy to travel solo. You won’t have to handle any logistics or itinerary building. In most cases, you’ll get your own room (or share with just 1 other person), with the added benefit of having a built-in group of new friends to explore with. For some inspiration, read up on my time exploring Europe with Contiki here, and visiting Cozumel with Legit Trips here!
  1. Consider a Home Stay: Websites like Couchsurfing, Home Stay, and even Airbnb make it easy to book a private room in a house where you have the added benefit of meeting and mingling with your local hosts. 

RELATED: 10 Priceless Benefits of Traveling Alone

Take Advantage of Solo Travel-Friendly Apps 

Rachel Off Duty: Apps for Solo Travel

Take the anxiety out of solo travel with technology. Your phone is a powerful tool, and there are dozens of useful apps to make traveling alone fun, easy, and stress-free.

  • Backpackr: Like Tinder, but for connecting with other solo travelers. It shows you users who are heading to your destination around the same dates. If you find a match, you can chat and make plans to meet up.
  • EatWith: Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to eat alone. The EatWith app has food tours, cooking classes, and other culinary events you can join. You can even filter experiences by dietary requirements like vegan or kosher.
  • Google Maps: Download an offline map for your destination, and you’ll have access to directions if you run out of data and there’s no free Wi-Fi nearby.
  • Travel Smart: This app offers useful information like weather, currency conversion, travel documents storage, cultural etiquette, and safety features that alert you about travel advisories and danger spots.
  • Noonlight: Safety is crucial as a solo traveler. Noonlight has a panic button that you can press to alert local authorities if you’re in danger. The app can also detect if you’ve been in a collision and will notify first responders.
  • TripLingo: Struggling with the local language? TripLingo translates voice and images and is available in over 100 countries. Besides translation features, you’ll also get a list of key phrases and a guide to cultural norms.

Travel With a Carry On Only if Possible 

Rachel Off Duty: Traveling With a Carry On Only

One of the biggest solo travel mistakes I made early on was overpacking. The last time I was in Europe, I had two rolling suitcases plus a massive canvas tote bag, and dragging all three bags up and down cobblestoned streets by myself was a huge nightmare.

Trust me. Those extra outfits were not worth the back pain.

The lighter you pack, the easier it’s going to make getting to and from your accommodation.

Plus, the fewer bags you have to keep track of, the better!

My Top Luggage Recommendations for Solo Trips Are:

Arrive During The Day 

Rachel Off Duty: Singapore at Sunset

I know, I know, the red-eye flights are so cheap.

But think about it.

Do you really want to arrive in a foreign country alone at 1 am? On your first ever solo trip?

Probably not.

It’s generally safer and easier to arrive during the day so that you can check into your accommodation right away. But, if you do have a flight booked that lands really late or really early, it’s a good idea to arrange private transportation in advance so your experience is seamless. Let your hotel or Airbnb know ahead of time that you have an odd flight time, and make sure late check-in or early bag storage services will be available to you upon arrival.

Things to Remember During Your Solo Trip

Rachel Off Duty: Things to Remember for Your First Solo Trip

Here’s a rapid-fire list of things to remember during your first solo trip:

  • Use Public Transport: It’s cheaper, and you can explore the destination like a local.
  • Start Your Day Early: Being the early bird means you can avoid crowds at top attractions and have more time in your day for wandering around and discovering things that aren’t on your itinerary.
  • Stay in Touch: Check in with your friends and family every day. It’s a good idea to share your full travel itinerary with flight numbers and hotel bookings ahead of time, too. This way, if something happens, it will be easy for your family to trace your movements.
  • Be Safe: Don’t walk around at night by yourself, and always be aware of your surroundings. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and leave the situation. Lastly, make copies of all your documents in case your handbag is stolen, and you lose your passport.
  • Familiarize Yourself with Basic Safety Tips for Solo Travel: Don’t tell people where you’re staying, notify your banks ahead of time, keep your money in two different places, get travel insurance, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (for US citizens). 
  • Organize Your Travel Documents: Have copies of your important documents, keep your passport in a safe place, etc.
  • Manage Your Expectations: Not every moment will be picture-perfect, but that is OK. in fact, that’s where we often grow the most as solo travelers. And, when things don’t go as planned, it opens up opportunities for other fun, spontaneous adventures to unfold.
  • Research Cultural Norms and Customs: Is smiling at strangers a thing in the country you’re going to? Should you take off your shoes when entering a home? How much do you tip?

Got any tips for planning your first solo trip? Let me know in the comments below!

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Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

Recent Adventures:
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