So, you’ve decided to travel solo. To go out there and see the world on your own and create memories that will forever be yours. And only yours. Congratulations! You won’t regret it. Now that you’ve made the decision to go, it is time to start planning your trip. It is time to put aside all the fear and the doubt for a second and put some plans in motion. It is time to learn how to plan your first solo trip.
The first step to planning a solo trip is to figure out your itinerary.
And while it can be tempting to plan everything out for peace of mind, you will want to remain somewhat flexible. After all, it’s just yourself to consider!
So when you wake up in a new city and suddenly feel the urge to cross the border and experience a new culture, you can. There are no rules when you travel alone.
But of course, there are some things you should plan before you embark on your trip. Flights and some accommodation should suffice. You might even like to make a list of some cafes, bakeries and bars you wish to visit. It is always good to have some research under your belt so you don’t miss the places that interest you most.
So, exactly how do you plan your first solo trip? We’ve got a step-by-step guide for you!
How to plan your first solo trip
Step one: Figure out your itinerary
To plan but not to overplan, is the balancing act! When you’re planning your first solo trip, it can be tempting to want to know what you are doing every minute of the day. After all, it is daunting. This will likely be the first time in your life that you are completely alone. Or at least, completely alone for such an extended period of time. But fear not! Your time on the road solo passes surprisingly quickly.
First thing’s first: book your flights. You will need to book your outgoing and incoming destination to be able to start planning your trip, as well as decide the dates you are away. From there, you can request time off at work and start sourcing inspiration for your trip.
The next step will be to book at least some of your accommodation. Some people like to overplan (shout out to y’all!), while others like to keep their plans open-ended and flexible. There’s no right or wrong answer here. You should book at least your first hotel in the city you are arriving in, to avoid disappointment and navigate away from unnecessary stress. Then, if you prefer to be organised, keep booking! You can book all of your accommodation arrangements well before your trip, or you can book just a few nights in cities you want to visit and know when you will be there.
Next up, you might want to book some attractions. This can be organised on the ground if you prefer, but for popular attractions, you might wish to book in advance to save time and avoid disappointment.
At this point in your plan, you should have your flights booked (outbound and inbound), as well as your accommodation in your arrival city. It’s up to you if you would prefer to book all of your accommodation now, or wait until you get there if you like to stay flexible.
A great resource for figuring out how to get from A to B is to use Rome2Rio. Just enter in the multiple destinations you’d like to visit and the platform will show you the cheapest/quickest ways to get from location to location.
Step two: Figure out your budget
At the same time as you start figuring out your itinerary, you will invariably end up thinking about your budget. Travel expenses quickly add up, so if you’re on a budget you should do as much research as possible to understand which cities are more expensive than others. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid notoriously expensive cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, but it might mean you spend less time there.
Luckily, all this information can be found out online. If you are visiting Europe, you must read our guide to which city costs what in Europe. You’ll thank me later!
Knowing your budget early on will also allow you to figure out a daily expenses budget, which will in turn show you how much money you have to budget on accommodation each night. Which will help with your next step!
Step three: Choose your accommodation
Back when I started traveling the world solo, there were rarely ever accommodation offerings for solo travelers. But due to the popularity of solo travel these days, there are many great ways to travel on a budget as a solo traveler.
The first option and perhaps the most obvious one is to stay at hostels in a dorm room. This is a great way to save money and also meet people in this naturally social environment.
But of course, hostels are not for everyone. Airbnb has made it affordable and appealing to stay like a local in a new city, or even stay with one! You can rent a private room in someone’s house or rent their entire apartment if your budget allows.
Finally, there are great affordable hotels on offer these days, that are particularly appealing to solo travelers. Pod Hotels and CitizenM hotels are great options to save money and stay in the comfort of a hotel room.
Step four: Start booking stuff
Now that you’ve got a list of things to do to plan your trip, start booking things! From flights to accommodation to popular attractions, book your dates and you’ll quickly start to piece together an itinerary.
Step five: Make lists
Keeping a list of things to book or plan will be your saviour when it comes to planning a solo adventure. Every time you think of something, write it down. And if you’re overwhelmed with inspiration for things to do in a city, start a list for each city. Write down cafes, book stores, bars and restaurants you wish to try when you arrive. Then check them off once you’re there!
Step six: Do your research
A smart traveler is an informed traveler. Before you go, do as much research as you can about the destination you are visiting. This is useful to know what days of the week most stores close (like Sundays in Paris), or any events that are happening in town while you visit. The more you know, the easier it will be to stay cool, calm and collected when you arrive.
I also vouch for planning a route from the airport or train station to your accomodation for every city. This is a great way to feel confident rather than overwhelmed when you arrive in a new city.
Step seven: Get vaccinated
If you are traveling to cities or countries where vaccinations are required, you will want to have this organised well in advance of your trip. For example, there are a handful of countries the world over that require a yellow fever vaccination, as well as carrying a booklet to prove your vaccination. Then of course with covid-19, you’ll want to be vaccinated and possess proof throughout your trip.
Step eight: Start packing
Now comes the exciting part! Once you’ve mapped out your itinerary, booked your flights and some of your accommodation, the rest is up to fate (and what you discover on the road!) Now it is time to pack everything you’ll need for the journey.
Be as diligent as you can when you pack for your trip. The last thing you want is to lug around 40 kilograms of luggage up multiple flights of stairs when the elevator is out of use. Keep your packing light, minimal and concise. And don’t forget to consider the location you’re visiting. If you are traveling to the Middle East, don’t forget to pack a head scarf. If you’re heading for winter in Europe, pack all of your warmest clothes. You know the drill.
Step nine: A few things to organise before you go
Right before your trip, run through a mental checklist of everything that needs taking care of while you’re away. Make sure you have considered automating bill payments while you’re away or have someone checking your mail if there’s no one at home. Leave a rough itinerary with your parents in case they ever need to reach you in an emergency, plus a photocopy of your passport in case anything bad happens.
And last but not least… enjoy yourself! Solo travel is truly one of the most rewarding experiences to have in your lifetime, so get ready for the journey.