Are you going to travel alone for the first time? You have come to the right place!
Solo trips are always exhilarating experiences. I mean, you’re hitting the road all alone, with nobody but yourself for company!
Sure, it’s daunting as hell, but it’s the good kind of daunting- the type you get as you step onto a rollercoaster, strap yourself in, and wait with baited breath and beating heart for the ride to shoot you skyward. It’s scary. But you want it.
Moreover, solo trips are downright life-changing. You venture out into the world on your own two feet, with nobody to hold your hand. It’s up to you to navigate foreign shores, fend for yourself, and forge unforgettable overseas adventures. If you are considering to travel alone for the first time, then I’m super excited for you! You’re about to have the time of your life.
However, planning a solo trip is another ball game altogether.
With no prior experience doing it, and a whole range of possible problems that are well worth avoiding, you might benefit from a few ‘pro tips’ to help you on your way. Does that sound good?
Keep reading to discover my 15 top tips that will help you travel alone for the first time.
17 Very Useful Tips To Travel Alone For The First Time
Get Used to Being Alone
This tip might not sound like a whole lot of fun!
Yet it’s probably one of the most important tips if you intend to travel alone for the first time. Basically, before you do anything else, I think it’s worth learning how to be by yourself (and being comfortable with it).
Remember, you’re sure to spend masses of time alone on your solo trip- it’s the nature of the beast.
Don’t worry though. You soon get used to the solitude and have ample opportunity to meet and hang out with fellow travelers anyway. But it can still take time to adjust. For instance, as often as I’ve done it, getting a table for one at a restaurant on the road always makes me squirm.
If you’re accustomed to being around others 24/7, then think about getting some solo practice in before you leave. Eat out by yourself, go on a road trip by yourself (here are some tips on what to do on a road trip if you’re interested!), take walks alone, and see a film at the cinema with nobody else for company, and so on.
Doing these kinds of things ahead of time should stand you in good stead for when you’re by yourself on the other side of the world!
Looking for more tips for road trip? Check out my post “28 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Road Trip.”
Use a Small Backpack
My second top tip for those of you who want to travel alone for the first time?
Avoid big backpacks like the plague! They’re a recipe for trouble. After all, big backpacks have lots of space which, speaking from experience, can be all too tempting to fill with things!
You end up with a monstrous backpack to lug around the world with you. It’s tiring, painful, and uncomfortable all-around. Trust me! The first time I went on a solo trip I filled a 70L backpack, had a jam-packed day-pack to wear on my front, and a plastic bag with some budget hiking boots in it at my side.
It was ludicrous. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t actually see me behind all my stuff. Please don’t make the same mistake- packing light is the real key to success.
These days, I can fit everything I travel with into a 50L backpack and recommend that you do something similar. I know what you’re thinking, though:
“How will I fit all of my stuff into a tiny backpack?”
And that’s basically the point- you can’t! Limiting your available space by committing to a smaller backpack is the best method I’ve come across to pack light. It forces your hand. With no room to spare, you have to be super selective with everything you take. Anything superfluous to requirements gets left behind.
That might sound unideal. But you’ll be thankful for it when you’re carrying around a small, lightweight backpack around the world with you!
PRO TIP #1: You may want to carry a lock to keep your valuables safe, even in your daypack – remember to always zip it close, especially if you have valuables in it.
Choose Your Destination Wisely
Next up, another important thing to consider when you travel alone for the first time. Think about where you’re actually going to go.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Here’s my suggestion:
Pick your destination with money, weather, ease-of-travel, and personal interest in mind. In other words, make sure you a) will be able to afford traveling there, b) will enjoy awesome weather, c) will be able to get around easily enough, and d) feel a genuine pull to spend time in the country.
Find somewhere that ticks all those boxes and you’re on your way to amazing trip.
Need more inspiration? Make sure to read my post “The 30 Best Places To Travel Alone.”
Pick Your Departure Date Wisely Too!
Deciding where you want to go is step one. Now it’s time to consider when you want to go there. This is a key thing when you travel alone for the first time.
My best advice here is to think about peak seasons and weather conditions. Basically, it’s no good choosing a destination with its climate in mind if you then travel there in wet season, or when it’s winter (aka wet, cold and dreary)- unless that’s your kind of weather…or you’re going skiing. Do some digging, find out when the weather’s at its best, and book your flights accordingly.
But be sure to think about peak season too.
Peak season almost always coincides with good weather! If you go at the same time, then you’ll have to put up with higher prices (for everything from food and drinks to accommodation) and more tourists. Consider going on the shoulder season to get the best of both worlds (reasonable prices, decent weather, and fewer tourists to boot).
Think About Duration
Think about how long you want to be traveling for as well.
Is this a round-the-world, trip-of-a-lifetime fiasco that’ll take you around dozens of countries and multiple continents over the course of months? Or is it a shorter, sweeter, slower affair with days or weeks spent exploring the same spot? Or is it something in-between? If you are going to travel alone for the first time, perhaps you want to keep it shorter?
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to travel! It’s all about personal choice, preference, and practicalities instead. Think about how much time and money you have, the type of trip you’d prefer, and, ultimately, how much time you want to spend away from home.
These kinds of considerations should give you the best chance of choosing a trip duration that’ll suit you to a tee. My one piece of advice here? Think about booking a one-way ticket! It gives you ten-times more flexibility to alter course as you see fit.
Set a Budget (and a Savings Goal)
Money’s a big deal for any budding traveller. And it’s even more of a tricky issue if you travel alone for the first time.
It can often feel like stumbling block that gets in the way of the trip you really want to take. With no cash in your account, going traveling for an extended period of time can seem off-limits.
Thankfully, you don’t need as much as you might think. Heaps of travelers explore the world on an absolute shoestring. It just takes practice, a bit of sacrifice, and a willingness to do things differently on the road (read: rough it!).
Nevertheless, it’ll help to set yourself a bit of budget.
Sit down before you go, research your chosen destination, and figure out a rough estimate of how much money you’ll need to explore it (taking into account your chosen time of year to go and the potential trip duration you’ve settled upon).
Think about accommodation, food, transport (including flights), special activities you’ll want to do, potential working opportunities, and so on. Consider every possible expense, figure out an average ‘daily spend’, and tot it all up to realize a total savings target.
This will give you something to aim for when it comes to making your travel dreams a reality.
The next vital part of this planning process is to start saving.
It’s up to you how you get the money together. Of course, the simplest way is to get somebody to give you the cash! If you ask me, though, that’s too easy.
A better option would be to sell all your stuff. Scour the house for your old and unwanted things, then set about advertising it all online, having a car-boot sale, or seeing if your friends/family want to buy anything. With a bit of effort you can rid yourself of your old possessions and make some money in the process.
However, I think the more reliable way to earn money for your trip is to get a job (and a second one, if need’s be). Working in any role(s), however menial they may be, and saving your pay for a few months will help you get the cash together with ease.
Even better, you’ll feel as if you’ve earned your travels when the departure date rolls around. All that time, effort, and hard work will make the experience feel ten-times more worthwhile.
Grab a Travel Guide for Itinerary Ideas
Okay, so you’ve sorted out where and when you’re going, decided how long you’ll be traveling for, and are on your way to saving up for the trip itself.
Now it’s finally time to get some actual travel planning done!
Try to get your hands on a travel guide for your chosen destination. There’ll be a dozen options out there, but I recommend Lonely Planet. Those guys have been writing travel guides for decades now and are a well-respected brand. The result? You know you’re in safe hands.
Having one of their travel guides to hand means you can start researching your first destination, learning about its culture/history, and getting some practical tips for traveling around it.
More to the point, you can read up on everything you’ll be able to do there. You’ll see the main places to visit, the top tourist attractions, and the specific activities that are available at each stop. That all helps to a) plan your itinerary, and b) build the excitement for your trip.
Not a fan of travel guides? There are tons of excellent blogs that will help you plan itineraries. This one you are reading, for example!
Book in Advance
This is especially relevant if you are a girl looking to travel alone for the first time. Have at least some things booked in advance.
Having a room booked in advance will spare you from the trouble of having to knock on doors looking for accommodation, which may be particularly daunting after hours of traveling, or when the weather is unforgiving (ie, it’s blistering hot or it’s raining). You don’t have to be too menial – just book a room to your next destination when you decide where to go and when.
TOP TIP: Staying in hostels – especially dorms – will help you meet other like-minded travelers. This is super helpful if you are traveling alone for the first time!
If you are landing in a brand new place at night, you may also want to book a private shuttle or a taxi to your hotel or hostel – most places offer the service, so double check if it is available. It takes a lot of the stress of having to figure out how to get to your place! Make sure to jot down the name, address and phone number of your hotel, just in case.
Join a Group Tour or Activity
If you aren’t a fan of hostels but feel the need to meet other people, your best bet is joining a guided group tour or activity. It really can be anything from a walking tour of the city you are visiting to a cooking class, a surfing lesson, a diving expedition. Not only you will learn more about the place or learn some new skill but you will also meet other people – that is definitely a bonus!
Always Let Someone Know Where You Are
This is a key tip for those who travel alone for the first time. Make sure someone in your circle of family and friends always knows where you are. Let them know the name of your hotel, and the address, and if you are planning to stay out of reach for a while, let them know that too. It’s for their peace of mind as much as yours.
If you are going out for the day, you may also want to tell your hotel receptionist or your landlord, in case you are staying at an Airbnb. This way, they more or less know when to expect you back and will notify the local police and authorities if they don’t see you back.
Adding to this, make sure to communicate with family and friends on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a phone call – a quick whatsapp message takes a few moments and then they will know you are fine!
Always Carry Copies of Important Documents
One of the best tips to travel alone for the first time is to make e-copies of all your important documents and save them in your email – but actually, for those times when technology doesn’t seem to be willing to help, also make physical copies of the documents and carry them with you.
Consider Your Safety
Solo travel is not dangerous per se, and whether you are traveling alone or in a group, a man or a woman, bad things can happen. In order to stay out of trouble, it’s important to keep your eyes open. Don’t go out alone at night when you are in a city you don’t know well, and definitely avoid areas that are poorly lit.
Definitely avoid walking the streets if you have had a drink too many – being drunk makes you all the more vulnerable.
And by all means, don’t let strangers know that you are traveling alone. The whole idea is to give the impression that someone is waiting for you and if something happens they’d be searching for you.
All in all, make sure to trust your instincts and when you are not comfortable or don’t feel safe doing something, just don’t!
Get a Travel Insurance!
Travel insurance it that thing you buy hoping you never have to use it. All travelers should get it – whether they are going to travel alone for the first time, or they are joining a group tour. The whole point is that if something happens, you want to have your back covered. Get your travel insurance here.
Do you have doubts? Then go check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Keep a Low Profile
One of the most important tips to keep in mind if you travel alone for the first time is to keep a low profile. The idea here is not to stick out – which of course is easier said than done in many cases.
But here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dress modestly, especially if you are traveling to a conservative country.
- Follow local customs.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry.
- Don’t flash your money around – just carry what you think you need for the day and make sure to keep your cash in different pockets / wallets.
- The same goes for other valuables such as your camera.
You know all the planning tips we have just shared on how to travel alone for the first time? Those are all nice and good, but make sure to also leave some room for spontaneity. After all, the best thing about solo travel is that you only have to think about yourself, about what you want and need and you can do things even on a last minute whim!
Being spontaneous also means giving yourself the chance of meeting locals, getting to talk to them and enjoying things as they come your way.
Be in Your Photos
One of the best ways to keep memories of your travels is photos, but when you are traveling alone you end up never being in the photo – unless you take selfies, that is.
There are a couple of ways around this issue.
You can either start mastering the tripod and timer skills – which is actually very valuable; or ask someone else to take your photo. My trick is to look for someone nearby that is handling a good camera. That gives me an impression (which can be completely wrong, at times) that he knows what he’s doing and the photos will turn out great. Some of the pictures in this post were taken by complete strangers and the results were impressive, don’t you think?
Final Thoughts On Traveling Alone For The First Time
Few things in life are better than hitting the road with nothing but yourself for company.
Sure, it’s daunting as hell at the start! But it’s also hugely exciting. I mean, you’re having a solo adventure on the other side of the world, with ultimate freedom to explore as you see fit. In the process, you learn more about who you are, develop newfound self-confidence, and come home with a hundred stories that’ll live on in memory forever.
First, though, in order to avoid the plethora of problems that can arise along the way and ensure you have the best time possible, you’ve got some planning to do! Alas, for a first-time traveler, this can be easier said than done.
Are you thinking to travel alone for the first time? Well, I hope the tips, steps, and suggestions in this post will help you do it. Got any thought, suggestions, or questions? Drop a comment below to let us know!
This post was written by Danny Newman, who is currently writing and traveling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. You can follow his journey on What’s Danny Doing and on Facebook.