Tips For Solo Travel
I am a 20-something female, and I’ve traveled to over 30 countries. One of my life goals is to visit every continent before I die, and Antarctica is the only continent left on my list. I wanted to share a few tips I’ve picked up to make traveling easier for you!
Getting to Your Destination
• Often times, the flight itself is going to be the most expensive part of the trip. So, do your research!
• There’s a very limited amount of time you have off, so you want a flight with the least amount of layovers for the cheapest price. If you see a flight that fits your criteria and is within your price range, get it. Don’t wait. I had a fare go up >$1000 within a week.
• It’s best to buy economy to begin with, and see if there are cheap upgrades closer to the flight.
• Use a travel credit card so that you get maximum points back or free flights in the future.
• Join a frequent flyer program and be loyal to that airline. Travel with them often enough, and you can get free flights, upgrades, and access to their lounge.
• If you plan on traveling a lot, join Nexus, which includes Global Entry and TSA Pre Check.
What to Pack
• Only bring what you absolutely need.
• You should be able to fit everything you need in a carryon.
• If you’re traveling for more than a week, pack for a week and do laundry while traveling.
• Check the weather for the exact dates of travel and pack accordingly.
• Being a Seattle girl, I always bring a rain jacket that I can pack down into a small cube. Even if it doesn’t rain, it serves as a light layer when it gets cold at night.
• Pack a few separates that you can mix and match for multiple outfits.
• Pack at least one “fancy” outfit in case you need to go to a nicer establishment while you’re traveling.
• Bring safety pins, bandages, and anti-chafe cream (trust me; this is the best way to avoid blisters).
• Bring a plug adapter if you’re traveling out of the country.
• Bring a power bank. You will likely be using your phone more than usual to look up directions, take pictures, etc.
• Bring a padlock to lock up your belongings if you’re staying in a hostel.
Where to Stay
• Book ahead.
• Hostels are cheap places to stay, and even better, they’re full of other solo travelers.
• Do your research online (Google reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.) and through word of mouth if you know anyone who has travelled to your destination.
• Pick a place near public transportation hubs and ideally near the places you want to see.
• En suite means there’s a bathroom in the hostel room. Otherwise, you will be sharing a bathroom with the whole floor.
• Mixed rooms (male and female) are often a bit cheaper.
How to Get Around
• Most big cities will have a decent public transportation system, so get a bus card.
• You will be doing a lot of walking, so bring a good pair of walking shoes.
• Uber is available in most cities, and great when you’re in a pinch.
• You may be able to rent a car and drive with an international driver’s license, but I have personally never attempted this.
• Group your activities by area so you can avoid wasting time getting between places.
What to Do While You’re There
• Everyone differs in what they want to do on vacation. Personally, I like to do and see as much as I can, so the following tips are for that purpose.
• Make a list of things you want to do, places you want to see, and foods you want to eat before you go. I use TripAdvisor a lot to see what’s good to do, and book day trips and tours.
• Make a schedule of these items, and group them by area to maximize efficiency.
• If possible, make reservations, or buy tickets before you go.
• Look at (free) events going on while you’re there. Facebook events is a good first step.
• Try to be out and about as much as possible. You should only be at the hostel/hotel to sleep and shower.
• It’s okay to have downtime. Head to a park, a cafe, a beach, whatever you need to reset.
• Don’t neglect personal health and hygiene because you’re on vacation. Hydrate, get adequate rest and find sustenance for your body and soul.
• One of the best parts about traveling is making new friends, so don’t be shy; just say hi!
• There’s a time and place for selfies, but your pictures will turn out better if you ask a kind stranger to take them for you. Look for people in their teens and twenties, as they’ll likely be more comfortable with the technology and capturing the right angles and lighting. You can offer to take their photo first so you get a feel for how you want the shot to look.
• Be aware of your surroundings. This holds true whether you’re in a new place, or at home.
• Standard safety rules apply. Don’t walk in dark alleys alone. Don’t leave your things unattended. Don’t take drinks unless handed to you directly by the bartender. If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
• As a visitor, it behooves us to learn a little bit about the culture of the places we visit. This helps us avoid offending the locals inadvertently and practice cultural competency.
• Even better if you can learn the local language, or at least a few key phrases. Apps like Duolingo and Google Translate are great apps to have on your phone.
I hope you find these tips helpful and you get to test them out during a solo travel trip. I understand that traveling alone is not for everyone, but you learn so much about yourself when you travel alone. It’s not something to be afraid of, and not something to be stigmatized.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences