Since planning my first solo trip, I’ve been wanting to share my tips with you all about how I made my first solo trip a successful one. Read on to learn my top 10 tips to follow when solo traveling.
Live in the moment
It can be really tempting to take your phone out everywhere you go to take a photo or video, but it’s important to remember to put your phone away and enjoy the moment. I distinctly remember being in Rome and I was in this phenomenal basilica taking a million photos and I was forgetting to use my eyes instead of a camera lens to take in all of the beautiful features. That’s not to say that taking photos isn’t important, because it totally is. I look back at my photos all the time and it brings back memories that I was starting to forget. It’s all about finding a balance.
Stay in a hostel!
No, I didn’t see the movie, and I don’t plan on ever seeing the movie. Staying in hostels was one of the best choices I made when I planned my solo trip. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that every hostel experience was great, but I never felt unsafe anywhere I stayed. I did my research on each hostel before booking, and when I say research I mean I read reviews for days. I booked hostels and canceled hostels and re-booked them over and over again. I was a mess going back and forth between wanting to stay in hostels to not wanting to stay in them. But honestly, it was so much more affordable than hotels and Airbnb’s. I was able to travel to more places because of it and I met awesome friends in the hostels I stayed in.
Pack a variety of clothes and pack light
Depending on the time of year you’re traveling, it’s important to remember that weather changes and it’s always good to be prepared. I traveled Europe with a 46L backpack so I didn’t have a ton of room to pack a variety of outfits. It’s all about layering! Pack things that all match one another and clothing that can be layered. Also, I know it’s really hard but don’t over pack. Lugging a massive suitcase around is the worst experience ever. I remember being in the tube in London and my backpack was literally knocking people over. I usually wore the same outfit a lot, so if you think you need a ton of clothing, you’re wrong. Pack light! I recommend this amazing dress from Desert Tide Boutique >>
Always be aware of your surroundings
There came a point while in Rome where I was being approached by random people on the street multiple times a day. A man would hand me a bracelet and tell me I could keep it for free. The first time I was shocked. I said thank you and began to walk away….only for him to chase me down and demand payment for the bracelet. This happened to me 8-10 times in three days. Keep your belongings close to you and I recommend that you use a satchel and not an over-the-shoulder purse. In big crowds, I kept my hand over my bag and kept my eyes wide open.
Get out there and get to know people!
One day in Florence, I was desperate to get some laundry done. When I was waiting in the laundry mat, I met this wonderful girl from the States who was traveling around Europe by herself. She quit her job and wanted to explore the world. I felt such a connection towards her story. She had told me she was traveling back to her previous destination just to hang out with the new friends she had made. I loved that! When traveling alone, take some time to walk around and engage in conversation. You’ll be surprised by the awesome people you can meet and the friendships you can build. Also, you’re going to want to be friendly to the locals when you’re asking around for someone to take a photo of you!
Use public transportation
The few times I chose to take a taxi from place to place, I was charged an arm and a leg. In larger cities like Athens, London, and Rome, it’s best to take public transportation. It is so much cheaper than taxis! If you do need to take a car and you’re in a larger city, than order an Uber. When in Prague, I used Uber a bunch and it literally cost me almost nothing.
Do your research
I am totally all about getting lost in a city and exploring somewhere new with no concrete plan. However, with that being said you should research the city and living accommodations you’re staying in. Whenever I wanted to book a hostel, Airbnb, or hotel I did thorough research on the location, if they offered breakfast, their hostel rules, etc. This is important so you know if their rules and location work for your needs. If I planned a trip to a city for three days, I had a handful of activities that I wanted to do each day but I didn’t pack the trip so tight that I didn’t leave room to wander around and explore. But if I didn’t do any research about the place I was traveling to, I may have missed extraordinary sites that I was unaware of. Another important part of doing your research is that many countries are more conservative and have stricter social rules than other places. Learn about a country’s customs because many places will have rules that don’t seem common to you and I, but are in the day to day of the locals. It’s important you know and understand these rules before traveling to that country.
Know that it’s okay to be lonely
You’re going to be lonely at some point. You’re going to question your decision to travel alone. You may even look at some flights to go home. It’s okay, I was right there with you. But as long as you remember that this is a journey that will help you find yourself and become the person you’re meant to be, then you’ll get through it. Whenever you’re feeling lonely, get out of wherever you’re staying and find something to do. I was in London and I was feeling really alone. I went on my computer and researched some things to do close by. I realized then that I was staying really close to the West End Theater. I found really affordable tickets to see Wicked. I got all dressed up and went out to enjoy a show that I absolutely love. I ended up meeting people in the theater and we talked about our journeys and my feeling of loneliness began to fall away. If I stayed in my hostel and didn’t head to that show, who knows how my trip would have continued.
Do free walking tours!
Something I read about before leaving for my first trip was about free walking tours. It was probably the best thing I discovered. Larger cities have amazing free walking tours with franchise companies that are organized really well. You can find free walking tours in smaller cities as well, they just may not be by the large companies that you’re used to seeing in larger cities. The best practice for these free tours is if you enjoyed the tour and guide, then you should tip your tour guide. I normally gave my tour guide about 10 Euros. In Barcelona, the company I used offered different types of tours that focused on different points of Barcelona’s history. It was one of the best tours that I did, showing me the old sites and the local history, all for free! This was a great way to spend a few days exploring Barcelona while not getting lost.
Eat like a local
You’re going to see a ton of fast food places in larger cities. Please don’t go to them! There is such phenomenal food you’re going to come across that’s worth a chance. I’m a picky eater, but I didn’t let that stop me from experiencing some new foods. In my opinion, the one thing to splurge on is a great meal that you will always remember. If you need to save some money, go for some tapas or a couple of appetizers. You’ll be amazed by the way local cuisine prepared well can open up your palate.
Follow these tips and I promise you will have an amazing solo backpacking trip! As always, comment with any questions:)