How to Plan Your First Solo Trip [Girls Go Abroad Episode 004]

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This week on the Girls Go Abroad podcast we talked all about how to plan your first solo trip. From choosing that you’re going to travel solo and where you’re going to travel to, down to the nitty-gritty details like choosing a hostel, I’m taking a deep dive into everything you need to do to plan the perfect solo trip. So even if you’ve been traveling solo for a while, you’ll want to stick around.

Now, if you aren’t convinced yet that solo travel is right for you, go back and listen to last week’s episode where I talk all about the top 5 reasons you NEED to try solo travel for yourself. Then come back here and start planning your solo trip!

Now let’s dive right in!

How to Plan Your First Solo Trip

Step 1: Decide You’re Going to Travel Solo

Right, so the first step in this guide to how to plan your solo trip–and this is an important one–is to decide that you’re going to travel solo.

Whether you were planning a trip with a friend who bailed at the last minute and you need to figure out if you’re still going to go on the trip or not, or you’re actively seeking out solo travel for the amazing experiences and growth that it brings, you do need to actively make that choice that you’re going to travel on your own.

And once you do make that choice, stick to it! A lot of the time when you tell people that you’re going to travel alone, they’ll be concerned for your safety, or at the very least that you’ll get lonely. Don’t let them talk you out of it! Simply remind them that you’re going to be just as safe on your own in a foreign country as you are at home because you’ll be using the same street smarts you use at home, and that you’ll make plenty of friends along the way, and move on.

You’re going to travel solo, and it’s going to be awesome!

Step 2: Decide On Your Destination & How Long The Trip Is Going To Be

Addie staring out across Lisbon from a viewpoint
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Traveling solo in Lisbon, Portugal

Next up after you’ve made the decision to travel solo is to decide where you’re going and how long the trip is going to be. Now this is obviously going to vary greatly based on your situation and your comfort level.

If you’re a busy career woman or student who may only have a weekend or a short break to travel, then you’ll likely want to choose somewhere that’s closer to home and easy to get to. You’ll also probably only want to stay in one or two spots, depending on how long the trip is.

In this situation, a quick weekend break to a nearby city or a short hop over to another country (if you’re in, say, Europe, where it’s easy to do that) to visit a city or two is a good choice. And even if you do have longer to travel in the future, a short trip is a really good way to try out solo travel and get comfortable being on your own before taking a longer trip.

Now, if you do have a bit more time to travel, then what I suggest doing is starting by choosing a specific country or region, like Southeast Asia or Europe. From there, figure out where you’re going to be flying in and out of, and come up with a reasonable route between the two based on the amount of time that you have.

You don’t have to book everything ahead of time, and I definitely wouldn’t suggest it, because what I’ve found is that when I’m traveling for anything longer than a week I always end up wanting to stay somewhere longer or go to a different location and then I have to blow up all of my travel plans and invariably end up losing some money on pre-booked accommodation and transportation tickets.

Things to Consider

Now, when it comes to actually choosing your specific destination, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. The first thing is, obviously, that it’s a place that you want to go. For your first solo trip, I highly recommend choosing a spot that’s way up there on your bucket list. This will not only keep you excited instead of nervous on the lead up to the trip, but it’ll just be way more fun!

Next, you want to consider safety. I always make sure to check travel warnings for the country I’m planning on visiting, as well as the specific region–for example, when I went to Mexico, I was sure to check the travel warnings for the Yucatan region, where I was going, as well as the entire country.

Because yes, there are dangerous parts of Mexico. But they’re also pretty freaking far away from where I was going to be–basically never more than a few hours away from Cancun–and where the biggest worry I was going to have was petty crime like pickpocketing or tourist scams. So, the same level of worry I would have anywhere in Europe.

It’s also not a bad idea to do a bit of research about women-specific safety in the destination you’re going to (World Nomads has a lot of good resources for this). For example, what is the general treatment of women like? Are you likely to be cat-called? What sort of level of modesty is generally expected of you? These are all just good things to know so that you can make logical calls for your own safety.

Finally, the last thing you might want to consider is budget. For me, I usually travel on a pretty tight budget, so I try to go places where hostels are readily available and there are cheap things to do and places to eat. If money is a concern for you as well, then you’ll definitely want to take this into consideration when choosing your destination.

Step 3: Plan & Book Your solo Trip!

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Alright, so once you’ve figured out where you’re going, it’s time to get to what I think is the most fun part of the whole process–actually planning and booking your trip!

So how do you plan your first solo trip?

If you’re taking a longer trip, think a bit more about exactly what towns you’re going to. Or if you’re taking a shorter trip, think about the top sights you want to see. Also have a think about your budget, what sorts of places you’ll be staying in, etc.

When it comes to actually booking things, I always book my transport first, and that’s what I recommend you do to. Obviously if you need to fly, then you’re going to need to book your plane tickets. Generally, they’ll be cheaper the further out you book them, so it’s always a good idea to book as soon as you know you’re going.

Then, you can choose whether or not you want to book transport between different cities ahead of time or not. On the one hand, you’ll likely get a cheaper price for booking ahead, but it also allows you a lot less spontaneity. If you choose to stay in one place longer or go somewhere else, then you’re going to be losing money, so there’s definitely a trade off.

What I usually try to do is book one or two journeys ahead. That way, I don’t lose everything if I decide to switch things up, but I have the confidence of knowing that I have transportation to my next destination secured. This is definitely one of my top tips for how to plan your first solo trip!

My one other tip when it comes to booking your transportation is to try not to arrive in a new location after dark. This is just a safety thing, as you don’t really want to be dragging luggage and trying to find your way around in the middle of the night.

After you’ve booking your transportation, the next thing you’ll want to book are your hotels or hostels. Now, when I’m traveling solo, I usually like to stay in hostels because they have a much more social atmosphere so it’s easier to make friends. Staying in hostel dorms means that I’m also not overpaying for a hotel room, the price of which I’d usually split between two people.

I usually find the hostels that I stay in on Hostelworld, and always go with ones with good ratings that don’t seem like they’re too much of a party hostel, because I like my sleep. You can usually tell what the atmosphere will be like based on reviews.

I also generally try to go for a hostel that’s at least a few bucks more expensive than the cheapest option, because although I like to save money I also like clean and safe hostels, and paying a few dollars more generally takes your experience up a few notches.

Now, I’m planning on doing a whole episode about staying in hostels as a solo female traveler in the near future, so keep an eye out for that, but those quick tips should be a good place to start from.

The next thing you’ll want to do in your planning process is read a guidebook and some blog posts and take notes of things you definitely want to do. If you’re on a shorter trip with a limited amount of time, then go ahead and book things like tours, cooking classes, and other experiences ahead of time if you need to.

For a longer trip, again I don’t recommend booking more than one or two destinations worth of activities ahead of time.

Finally, figure out what you need to pack and buy anything that you don’t have. And keep in mind that you don’t want to pack more than you can lift comfortably if you’re traveling on your own!

Step 4: The Night Before Your First Solo Trip

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Alright, so you’ve got your trip all planned and booked, and now it’s the night before you leave-so exciting!

Of course, there are still a few things you want to do to prep before you take off, so let’s go over those real quick.

First things first, make sure that you have everything packed. Then, take out anything you’re unsure about and, of course, do a quick test to make sure you can lift your luggage, because you need to be a self-sufficient, badass woman who can lift her own bags when you’re traveling on your own.

Next up, take some time to download a bunch of music, podcasts, books, movies, etc. You’ll have a lot of time where you need to entertain yourself when you’re traveling solo, whether you’re on the plane or train or just spending a night in at the hostel, so these will definitely come in handy.

Finally, go ahead and check into your flight and print out your boarding passes or download them onto your phone. I highly recommend grabbing a window seat if you can, because they’re optimal for personal musing and reflecting on a solo trip!

And of course, don’t forget to send off a copy of your plans to your family, significant other, roommate, or whoever you want to have a vague idea of your whereabouts, just for safety purposes.

And with that, you’re ready to go!

Step 5: On The Plane

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Once you’re at the airport and on the plane, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Don’t be surprised if you find that airports and planes are a LOT less stressful when you’re traveling on your own than when you’re traveling with other people. You just need to do your shit, get yourself through security and on the plane, and not worry about anyone else, which is honestly so nice.

Then once you land, I suggest making your way to your hotel or hostel first. Even if you can’t check in yet, you’ll be able to drop your bag off so you don’t have to drag it around while you’re exploring!

Step 6: On The Trip

Congratulations, you’ve made it! You’re officially on your first ever solo trip! While you’re here, just remember one thing: this is all about YOU.

Do the things that YOU want to do, and don’t do the things that you don’t want to. Don’t go somewhere just because it’s a top spot if you aren’t interested. If you’d rather spend all day sitting in a cafe people watching, do it! Or if hitting up all the top spots as fast as possible is your jam, then do that! Traveling on your own means that you get to do whatever you want, and that’s the best part of it all.

Of course, if you’re staying in a hostel, or even if you’re in a more social hotel situation, definitely try to make friends–and then do things with them! If someone starts making a plan, casually invite yourself and go along.

If you’re looking for a few tips on how to make friends, good spots for making friends are in hostel lounges and bars and on free tours. Free walking tours that leave from your hostel are especially good because you’ll probably end up walking next to someone who’s staying at your hostel as well, which makes planning for future adventures super easy.

Of course, while I’m sure you’ll make tons of friends, I definitely suggest you always have a book on you–it’s perfect for when you’re eating alone. Oh, and on the topic of eating alone, don’t be afraid of it! No one will look at you weird, and a girl’s gotta eat. Over the years, eating alone has honestly become one of my favorite parts of solo travel, because I just get to sit and read or people watch and it’s actually the best.

And of course, don’t forget to let your family and friends know that you’re ok. But don’t stay glued to your phone at all times–they’ll be there when you get back!

Step 7: When You Get Back

And speaking of when you get back–here’s the last step in planning your first solo trip… plan to book your next one the second you get back, because I promise you it will be a life-changing experience!

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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

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