The Solo Traveller’s Survival Guide

While everyone dreams of travelling, a lot of people get slightly nervous at the prospect of travelling alone. Large airports in foreign countries can be a particularly daunting prospect when you’re companionless, and so it can be easy to put off a solo trip on the off-chance that someone might want to come with you.

But waiting around for other people might mean that your holiday never happens, so it’s best not to delay things. Not having anyone to join you on your adventure shouldn’t stop you from setting sail, as there are actually a lot of benefits to travelling alone – the least of which is that you get to make all of the decisions! To help you make it through your solo trip, we’ve pulled together some tips, tricks and hacks to make sure you make the most out of your holiday.

What are the benefits of a solo trip?

One of the factors that holds people back when it comes to solo holidays is the fear of getting bored or lonely. But these are easy feelings to overcome. Making sure you’ve got a full itinerary and are always on the move will not only alleviate those lonely feelings, but will help you to get the most out of your trip. Not only this, but getting used to making your own way on public transport, as well as handling day to day transactions in a foreign country where they might not necessarily speak English will help you to build endless amounts of confidence.

Solo travelling is not only beneficial on a personal level, but on a professional level as well. It’s no secret that travelling looks great on your CV, as it shows prospective employers that you’re adventurous and determined. But a solo trip looks even better, as it shows that you’re mature and capable of working independently. So if you’ve just left university and are looking to build up your CV, then a gap year, or just some time out travelling, could be exactly what you need. Equally, if you’re not really sure what you want to do for a career then undertaking some volunteer work abroad might give you some insight into what industry you might want to work in when you start looking for full-time jobs.

But the real beauty of travelling alone is that you really need only worry about yourself. If you want to go on an excursion, you don’t need to have a long debate about it with someone else first – you can just book a ticket and go. Equally, not having someone else there as a distraction means that you really pay attention to your surroundings, and potentially even meet some interesting people along the way

While it’s clear that there are a lot of benefits of a solo trip, it isn’t for everyone - so weigh up the pros and cons before booking your ticket. If you’re prone to getting a bit anxious, for example, then you might want the support of having a friend with you, particularly in stressful situations – even the most chilled out person in the world might lose their cool in a busy airport!

What might be useful to pack?

Now that you’ve decided whether or not you want to take a solo trip, it’s time to pack your bag. This will obviously be the same as packing for any other holiday, with a few key additions:

Selfie Stick

Lots of people scoff at selfie sticks, but the fact remains that they’re the perfect gadget for when there isn’t anyone else to take a photo for you. Taking a selfie stick will ensure that there’s never a missed photo opportunity. It also negates the need to bother strangers for an awkward snap!

Headphones

No matter where you’re travelling to, it’s likely that you’ll have a lot of time to kill in various airports, on public transport and while queueing for various attractions. And that’s fine if there’s someone else there to keep you entertained. But if you’re travelling alone, you’ll need to come up with another method to entertain yourself. It could be as simple as always making sure you’ve got a set of headphones so you can listen to music whilst you wait – just make sure that any gadgets you take on holiday are protected, either by a gadget or a travel insurance policy.

Pocket Guide

A pocket guide is always useful, whether you’re travelling alone, as part of a group or with a partner. But if you’re flying solo, you’ll want to make extra sure that your itinerary is full of interesting sights and landmarks so that you don’t get too bored or lonely. You can always schedule in time to relax and watch the world go by once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing – the choice is completely yours!

A comfortable backpack

It has to be said, the main downside of travelling alone is that you have to carry all of your own belongings, which means that it’s a good idea to travel light. Make sure you have a big enough backpack that it can hold everything you could possibly need for a few days if required. You’ll also want to make sure that it’s comfortable and doesn’t cut into your back or shoulders – it might even be worth trying out your new backpack on a quick day trip before you head off on your travels – just because it’s comfortable for the first 5 minutes doesn’t mean that it will be after a few hours of walking.

Emergency contact details

Unfortunately, even on holiday the unexpected does happen, so it’s important to be prepared. If you’re travelling alone, carry easily accessible emergency contact details and identification, just in case a passer-by needs to help you should you fall ill or be involved in an accident.

Some things to consider…

Travelling alone as opposed to with a group does come with its own risks attached, so consider the following to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality:

Does someone always know where you are?

While you’re on your solo trip, you might get the sudden urge to go off on a mini-adventure – and the best thing about travelling independently is that you have the freedom to do so. Perhaps you want to go and find that hidden beach from that movie, or parachute out of an airplane. Whatever activity has taken your fancy, anyone that’s seen 127 hours will tell you that it’s a good idea to make sure that someone knows where you are at all times, just in case they need to raise the alarm should you not return when expected. Even if it’s just mentioning to your hotel’s front desk where you’re going and what time you’ll return, it’ll give you some additional peace of mind. It’s also important to make sure that any extreme sports you undertake on holiday are covered by your travel insurance policy, otherwise you could be looking at some pretty expensive medical expenses should you take a tumble!

What would happen if you ran out of money?

It’s common knowledge that tourists are at higher risk of being pickpocketed abroad, as they don’t know the area and tend to carry more cash. Not only should you take measures to protect your money abroad, but also make sure you’re prepared should you find yourself without any cash. Would you be able to get home, or even just back to the accommodation? Could your friends or family transfer you any funds to tide you over until you can call your travel insurance provider? Have a look into what your options are, and have a plan in place.

Do you remember key phone numbers?

As above, tourists are often a target for thieves as they tend to carry more cash and expensive gadgets than you usually would on a day-to-day basis. With this in mind, do you have a plan in place should you misplace your mobile phone? It’s not the end of the world should you find yourself without a mobile phone abroad, as you can always use payphones (if you can find one), or the landlines at your accommodation. But it might be worth committing some of the more important phone numbers to memory, or keeping them written on a piece of paper in a safe place.

10 hacks for surviving a solo trip

Now that we’ve covered off all of the key things you need to know about solo trips, here are some solo trip travel hacks to make your solo holiday even more stress-free:

1. Make a detailed plan

Independent travel means that you have complete control over your itinerary, so take the opportunity to plan out exactly what you want to do each day. Keeping yourself busy will also negate any lonely feelings you might get after some time away from home. Just make sure to schedule in some time to relax as well.

2. Never be without some form of entertainment

A fundamental part of travelling is that you’ll have to spend quite a lot of time waiting around in airports, stations and queues. And when you’re alone, unfortunately there isn’t anyone else to keep you entertained. Make sure you’ve always got something to keep you occupied, whether it be a book, pocket game or set of headphones so that you can listen to some tunes while you wait.

3. Book excursions in advance

Now that you’ve got your itinerary, make sure it actually happens! Book excursions and attraction tickets in advance to save yourself some disappointment. In some case you might even be able to access a discount for booking in advance.

4. Don’t be afraid to chat to people

Whether they’re lying next to you at the pool, sat next to you on a park bench or you simply need to ask for directions, don’t be afraid to chat to people. You might even meet some interesting people, or find out something new about the local area that you wouldn’t have known to look for.

5. Keep an eye on your surroundings

This has been mentioned a few times, but it’s worth reiterating – tourists are, unfortunately, a common target for thieves, so make sure you always keep an eye on your surroundings, and try not to stand too close to people in busy areas.

6. Keep your cash out of sight

As well as splitting up your cash so that, should it get stolen, it doesn’t all get snapped up in one go, buy a theft-proof bag that has zips at the back, rather than the front. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your personal belongings without alerting you.

7. Use a selfie stick to get professional snaps

Don’t be afraid to shamelessly pull out your selfie stick at every opportunity to document your holiday – when you’re travelling alone, it’s considerably easier to snap it yourself than awkwardly ask a stranger to take it for you. You don’t have to say ‘cheese’ either if you take it yourself!

8. Take a first aid kit

If you’re prone to accidents, it might be a good idea to take a first aid kit to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality. Include painkillers, antiseptic wipes, plasters, bandages, tweezers, and anything else you think you might need – it’ll save you having to visit a pharmacy whilst you’re away on holiday.

9. Check in with someone at home

If you’re planning on travelling around various countries on your travels, then it’s a good idea to let someone at home know where you’ll be heading and when, as well as the details of your accommodation when you arrive. Let them know when you’ll next check in, and stick to it. It’s also a good idea to provide them with contact details for your accommodation, just so that they can raise the alarm should they need to.

10. Make sure you’re covered

Unfortunately, even on holiday the unexpected happens, so it’s important to make sure you’re covered. In fact, research shows that 48 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds travel without cover each year, with one in four young people wrongly believing the UK Government will cover their medical expenses if something goes wrong overseas.

While travel insurance might not be at the top of your list when planning your exciting get away, it’s important to cover yourself against those unpredicted moments involved in any holiday; from losing your bag, to flight delays and getting ill abroad.

When it comes to travel insurance there are a number of different types of cover available. Make sure you take out suitable insurance cover for your trip – backpacker insurance, for example, will cover you for up to one year anywhere in the world. Consider how long you’ll be travelling for, where you’ll be travelling to, what gadgets you might be taking with you, as well as any extreme activities you’ll be undertaking whilst you’re there, as these will all need to be factored into your quotation. 

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Naomi Soanes

Naomi Soanes is a Digital Engagement Executive in our marketing team.

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