Many travelers wouldn’t think twice about booking a solo trip to a far-off destination, but for others, the idea of traveling abroad alone can be a bit unsettling and intimidating. Traveling solo is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, but it helps to make sure you’re thinking about the experience in a way that is informed and thoughtful. If you’re thinking about embarking on your first solo trip, here are 11 questions to keep in mind to make sure your first time traveling alone is everything you want it to be.
Why am I traveling solo?
Before you take the plunge and buy that plane ticket, the first question you should be able to ask is why you want to travel solo. You don’t need a fully fleshed out answer, just be able to explain to friends and family (because the will certainly ask), why you want to travel abroad alone. Not everyone will get it, but that doesn’t have anything to do with you.
Why am I going to this destination?
Whether you’re going to Thailand because you want to try authentic Thai food or you’re heading to Barcelona because the flight deal was too good to pass up, ask yourself why this particular destination is where you want to begin your solo travel journey. The place you visit will very much impact how you shape your ideas around solo travel, so make the first destination a place you’re excited about visiting.
How much do I know about my destination?
You don’t want to worry yourself about every detail of your destination, but you should have a general knowledge of the culture, customs, weather, and overall nature of a place before you go. A country that has experienced economic challenges or is recovering from a natural disaster may not be as carefree as a destination that has plentiful resources, so keeping things like that in mind will help you be more mentally prepared for your trip.
Have I saved enough money for this trip?
Traveling with family and friends is a lot cheaper than traveling on your own, so be sure to have an honest conversation with yourself about the money you’ve saved up for your trip. Having to foot the bill for your accommodations, meals, taxis, and activities pile up fast, so before you go, make sure your funds are in order.
How will I get around?
I made the mistake of assuming that Uber was in Vancouver (it’s not). Don’t let that be you! Check before you leave to find out the rideshare, public transpiration, and rental car situation so that you’re not stuck at a bus station wondering how you’ll get to your hotel like I was.
What’s my accommodation style?
I need a lot of alone time. It’s a reality I’ve come to accept. I also like a lot of space, flexibility, and convenience, so Airbnbs in bustling cities are best for me. I enjoy the city at my doorstep, but if you like seclusion or are better when you’re super social, the place you book needs to reflect that. Don’t stay in a hostel to save money if you don’t like being around people, and don’t book a lavish house if you know you’ll want to be in the middle of the action. Have an honest convo with yourself about how you like to travel and book accordingly.
What kind of experiences do I value?
I’m not a big shopper, so spending hours in a destination that’s known for shopping (looking at you, Waikiki Beach), isn’t something I’d want to spend my time doing. I value art and I always make time to visit local museums and galleries, but plenty of travelers would skip a museum in a second to do something I’m only lukewarm about. Have a firm understanding of the things that you enjoy doing at home, whether that’s being outdoors, going to shows, or eating interesting foods, and be sure to look for those experiences in the place where you’re headed.
How much will things cost?
To avoid surprises at restaurants, I like to find places using the geo-location function on Instagram to see where people are eating and partying, then look up menus at those restaurants online. It works surprisingly well and it’s how I knew I’d be eating light in pricey Iceland and able to feast in affordable Ponta Delgada.
Will I care about pictures?
The answer to this will probably be yes, and I take a tripod with me to make sure I get the pictures I want because, let’s face it, you don’t want to rely on strangers to capture your moments in places you may only visit one in your lifetime. It took a while, but I got over the looks I got when I would set up my tripod in the middle of landmarks, and I also invested in a camera remote! Problem solved. Just be careful not to try this in a densely populated city or a place known for crime.
What will I do in case of an emergency?
The reality of traveling is unfortunate events can occur that can throw you off. From something as common as the airline losing your luggage to something serious like getting sick, injured or assaulted while abroad, it’s crucial that solo travelers are prepared for the unexpected. To be safe, I always make sure I pack my important items in my carry-on and that I always have a change of clothes on hand in case my luggage is lost, and I make a note of the hospitals near my accommodations to be sure I know where to go if I get sick or have a medical emergency. Also, be sure to make a copy of your passport and find out where the US Embassy or consulate is where you’re traveling in case your passport is lost or stolen. You can find a list of US Embassies around the world here.
What do I hope to get from my trip?
This is a question that you may not be able to answer until long after you return home, but take time to think about what you hope to gain from this experience. Do you want to connect with others? Do you want to simply observe? Or do you want to focus on getting in touch with yourself? Have a general idea about what you want your trip to be about is the best way to make sure you do just that, and you’ll almost certainly return home ready to go on your next solo adventure.