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This post was last updated on December 14th, 2018 at 09:23 am
Solo travel is something that divides opinion. If you asked a room full of people whether they’d ever travel alone, you’d probably get a mixed response. Some would find the prospect incredibly daunting, while others would relish the opportunity to enjoy some quality ‘me time.’ If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and planning a solo trip, here’s everything you need to plan the adventure of a lifetime.
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Choosing a destination and booking your trip
There are so many different types of holiday out there, and preparing for a 2-day city break in Dublin or Paris is a very different proposition to gearing up for a 6-month stay in Asia, Africa or South America. Before you book anything, think carefully about where you want to go, and how long you plan to be away. If you fancy a long-haul holiday or a beach break, you’re probably not going to be out of the country for longer than 3 weeks. If you want to see the world, embark on a backpacking adventure or try something completely different like working abroad, you could be away for months, even years.
Once you’ve thought about the kind of break you want, this will help you narrow down your list of possible destinations. If you’re just visiting one place, think about your travel priorities. What do you want to get out of the break? How do you want to spend your time? If you want to relax, chill out, and recharge your batteries, you could head to a tranquil Caribbean island or a retreat in the Maldives, for example. If you want to see the sights, learn a new language and really get to grips with new cultures, a trip to Thailand, Vietnam or South Africa may be more suitable. If you’re not restricted by time, the best thing to do may be to book a round the world ticket and hop off on a global tour. It works out much cheaper to buy this kind of ticket than a number of single flights, and you can choose from a host of different routes. Once you’ve designed a rough itinerary, there is usually flexibility to adapt your travel dates. If you wanted to spend longer in Fiji, for example, you could alter the date of your next flight to Los Angeles.
If you’re travelling alone, but you’re keen to meet other people along the way, you could investigate solo travel agencies and look into options like Just You singles holidays. This way, you can enjoy the freedom of travelling alone, but you won’t get lonely. Another option is to stay in hostels in areas where travellers tend to gather. If you book any hotel on the Khao San Road in Bangkok or you visit Boracay in the Philippines, for example, you’re bound to come across plenty of people who will be willing to exchange travel tales over a cocktail or two.
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Planning what you want to do
Once you’ve chosen a location, the fun can begin, and you can start researching where to go and what to see. If you’re going on an extended trip, think about whether you want to spend all your time doing the tourist thing. If not, you could consider working while you’re out there or taking part in a volunteer project. If these options sound appealing, do some groundwork before you travel. You can apply for schemes, and investigate job vacancies in advance. If you do want to spend all your time seeing the sights and soaking up the culture, it’s useful to read reviews and get some tips and recommendations. If you read some guidebooks and have a look online at travel blogs, you’ll find everything from hostel and hotel recommendations to tips for eating on the cheap and the best dive and surf schools.
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Saving money as a solo traveller
It often works out cheaper to travel with others, but not all of us want to spend our holidays with partners, siblings or friends. If you are embarking on a solo adventure, you don’t have to spend a fortune on single occupancy supplements. Look for hotels that offer single rooms or consider booking a bed in a dorm in a hostel. Another option is to leave booking accommodation for later in your stay until you get out there, as you may meet friends who are travelling to the same places along the way.
Getting around may be cheaper when you’re in a group, but there are ways of saving money on transport. Try and avoid taxis in favour of public transport, unless you can find others who are going to the same place. In this case, you can split the cost. If you’re staying in a city, you can often save money by buying weekly tickets or passes if you plan to use the subway, metro or bus system.
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One of the main concerns people have about travelling on their own is staying safe. The world can be a daunting place, even when you’re flanked by friends, and it’s wise to bear some safety tips in mind when you’re journeying solo.
Spontaneity can be great when you’re travelling, but it’s often best to plan ahead when you’re alone. Doing some research can help you to identify where and where not to stay, and give you some pointers about particularly dangerous areas. Reading reviews from other travellers can highlight potential pitfalls and point you in the direction of safe havens. If you’re considering using sites like Airbnb as a lone ranger, make sure you opt for places that have a large number of positive reviews. Avoid those that have negative feedback or a limited number of entries on the review page.
If you’re going to be staying in the same location for a period of time, you can try and connect with people before you travel, and this will give you a point of contact when you get there. Through forums and sites like Facebook, we can engage in communication and adopt a modern take on pen pals.
Before you jet off for foreign shores, make sure people at home have a copy of your proposed itinerary. When you’re travelling, try and check-in whenever you can to let your loved ones know that you’re safe.
Losing important documents is a solo traveller’s worst nightmare, so make sure you invest in a money belt and take photographs of your passport and any other important information. Store these documents in a secure online folder, which you can access if you need to while you’re away.
Wherever you are in the world, make sure you’re familiar with the number you need to call if you need emergency assistance.
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Taking out travel insurance
Travel insurance is an essential for every traveller, whether you’re going to Amsterdam for a weekend with the girls or you’re off to spend the summer in New Zealand on your own. Do not board a flight until you have a valid insurance policy in your name. It takes two minutes to compare prices and fill in an application online. Hopefully, you won’t need travel insurance, but if you run into any kind of difficulty while you’re away, you’ll be forever grateful that you took the time to complete that application. Insurance covers against theft, delays, cancellations, and lost baggage, as well as medical costs.
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Solo travel gadgets to enhance your experience
Once you’ve got all the fundamentals sorted, and you have a rough idea of where you’re going to be at what time, you can start focusing on how to make the most of your trip and enhance the experience. Travelling on your own can pose challenges, but there are often solutions. If you’re keen to document your adventures, for example, and you don’t want to approach random people you’ve never met and ask them if they’d mind taking part in a photoshoot while you get envy-inducing snaps for Instagram, consider taking a portable tripod or a selfie stick. It’s also a great idea to have a small backpack with you as well as a larger bag. This way, you can explore without having to trek around carrying all your worldly goods with you. Take a look at the app store before you travel, and download some travel apps. These will help you plan your route if you’re on a road trip or you’re out hiking, you can find local restaurants, bars or hotels, and you can read travel recommendations on the go.
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Are you brave enough to travel the world without a companion by your side? If so, good on you! Solo travel is becoming increasingly trendy, and there are loads of advantages to going it alone. If you’re putting plans together for a solo trip, hopefully, this guide will come in handy. Try and plan ahead and take advantage of tales, stories, and reviews shared by people who have trodden the paths you’re about to walk. Use the Internet to keep in touch with loved ones at home and to connect with people who are taking a similar route, and make sure you have travel insurance before you go.