Without a tour and even without a companion. I promise. That is, if you want to. No pressure, you see. But I promise traveling alone will tell you things about yourself you never knew and never want to forget.
It wasn’t that long ago that I took my first solo trip and I certainly don’t forget the feeling of being so overwhelmed I wanted to cancel it entirely. But I didn’t. And it was worth it.
After traveling a bit, I’ve come to realize what type of planning works for me since I am most certainly not a “I’ll figure out the details when I get there” type. I realized, though, on the very first day of my very first trip that you can plan to your heart’s content but things are, inevitably, going to change. Because of this, the following to-dos comprise the bulk of tasks essential to a stress-free trip, solo or not.
1- Book your flight in advance While there may be deals to be had the longer you wait, and sometimes we have to go along with our spontaneous Eat, Pray, Love-esque impulse buys, if you can, buy ahead. It will save you money almost always and give you the time you need to plan the rest and feel confident about it!
2- Decide on a rough itinerary and book hotels if they tend to fill up I understand why people don’t book- they might get a better deal if they go to the hotels in person or else they’re not sure where they might want to go once they get there. My advice is, if you’re traveling somewhere over the weekend (which presumably you will) and that somewhere is a major city, book ahead. Same thing goes for anywhere during the months of July and August. Especially if you’re traveling solo, you do not want to leave having a safe, comfortable place to stay up to chance.
3- Write down easy-to-understand directions from the airport to your hotel First decide how you’re going to get there-taxi, train, bus (I use Trip Advisor or Rick Steves books (if Europe). “Googlemap” your hotel and check out the surrounding area so you can jot down landmarks and you will know you’re going the right way
4- Print directions/copy timetables for metros, trains,buses or ferries for travel to other locations and book ahead during high season. Repeat #3 above for getting to hotel. Research transport pass options (i.e.: if the city you’re in offers week passes, unlimited day passes, etc…sometimes you need to bring a passport sized photo with you).
5-Gather up a list of recommended restaurants and shops, highlighting two close to your hotel for your first meal following arrival You haven’t eaten in 12 hrs and your body clock is all out of whack…not the time to be finding a “traditional, non-touristy” spot.
6-Write down a list of your must-see sites with hours of operations, as well as metro stops/address This way you’re certain not to miss a hugely important (to you) museum because it’s closed on the day you’re in that particular place. As always, the saying “don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today” really applies to museums and exhibits in cities around the world. Closings happen unexpectedly so it’s best to go first thing.
7-Gather your materials for your travel folder
With all this taken care of, I’m ready to be a little spontaneous! Now that I know where I’m going and when, not to mention where I’m staying and how I’m getting there, the rest is EXCITING! You can go where you want, when you want and whatever you do, it’s going to be nothing short of remarkable.