Figuring out how to plan a solo trip can be puzzling if you have never done it! Many people travel with others more than they travel solo. So when no one can go with you, it can be confusing where to start.
That’s where I come in! I’m here to help you figure out what to do on the first solo trip. And it may be the most leisurely trip to plan because the only person you have to worry about is yourself.
I believe solo traveling is one of the most unique types of travel. And as someone who has traveled solo in the U.S and abroad, I support and often do it. So let’s break down how to plan a solo trip!
The most asked questions about solo traveling
Is it safe to travel alone?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it – safety is relative! Internal and external factors impact whether or not you can be safe while traveling. To be honest, being a Black solo female traveler means no place is 100% safe for me.
But does that stop me from traveling solo as a Black woman? Of course not. If I didn’t leave my house because I was afraid of racism or being hurt, I would never leave. And as a traveling homebody, that sounds great to me.
So think less about “is x place safe?” and more about the culture and customs of a place to help you adapt and be more flexible. Understanding the social, political, and cultural context of a location you’re visiting can add to your instincts. Always remember to stay alert while traveling and trust your gut.
Is it weird to travel alone?
Nope! Simple. Traveling or eating alone for the first time may feel different. However, it is not weird to travel solo. Sometimes your friends don’t have the same time off or don’t want to go where you go. So it makes sense to go alone!
Is solo travel boring?
To be honest, the answer to this question varies. I have gotten bored or restless on my solo trips. On the other hand, I’ve also had the time of my life. Many factors can affect your solo trip. But overall, no, solo travel is not inherently boring.
When looking at how to plan a solo trip, activity planning is critical. It can prevent boredom because you have some activities, not all, planned before you go. Early planning means less time for you to get bored because you also have activities to look forward to. More on this in the section!
Steps to planning a solo trip
Determine where you want to go
The first step in any solo trip planning is to decide where you want to go. A way to help you decide is by determining what kind of trip you want to experience. For example, if you want to relax and do very little, maybe find a destination with a great beach. For more adventurous solo travelers, pick a location with lots of activities such as hiking, ziplining, and snorkeling.
From there, you can do the extra research. Look into the current political climate to determine how it may or may not impact your trip. Double-check if you need any vaccines or visas before you go. And, of course, look up if there will be a language barrier.
Once you know where to go on your first solo trip, it’s time to book the flight. You can use websites such as Hopper to track the best time to book. Then use Google Flights to gauge the cheapest days to fly out. Skyscanner is also an option if you want to be adventurous and use their “Anywhere” feature to determine your destination.
However, I recommend booking directly with airlines once you see the possible options. Airlines prefer that instead of booking through third-party websites. It’s also easier to track all your travel information on one platform.
Decide on accommodations
After booking, the flights come the accommodations! Do you want an entire apartment, such as an Airbnb? Or are you more of a hostel solo traveler? Maybe you prefer booking a hotel to get those points? When planning your first solo trip, these are questions to ask yourself.
Create a Google doc or Padlet for your itinerary
Google docs are my tried and true OG travel planning website and app. It’s perfect for solo travelers to put all of their trip information and share it with loved ones. It also updates in real-time, so if your travel plans change, your people back home will know instantly.
For my visual solo travelers, Padlet can be great for you! I love Padlet because, unlike Google docs, you can see previews of your links. That feature makes it easy to remember why you dropped a link on the Padlet in the first place. Also, similar to Google docs, it uploads in real-time, but Padlet is more visually appealing. For an example travel itinerary, check out my Panama Padlet solo trip.
Research other solo traveler experiences
Now that you have the beginning steps of how to plan your first solo trip, it’s time to continue. Go to Google and your favorite social media platform(s) to learn about the experiences of other solo travelers. Using the name of the destination, research “solo trip in _____” or “solo travel tips ____.”
Add that if you are looking for a specific identity experience. As a Black solo female traveler, my research includes “Black in _____” or “Black women solo _______” to find culturally-appropriate tips. This step varies for everyone, but it is crucial to get some extra insight!
Plan activities beforehand
One of the secrets to a great solo trip is to plan activities and tours to fill your time. On websites such as Viator, Get Your Guide, and Airbnb Experiences, you can find food tours, water adventures, walking city tours, bike tours, and so much more. Book one or two ahead of time to build some planned time into your schedule. But also leave some days open for more freedom and flexibility to wake up late or have a lazy solo travel day.
Get travel insurance
When researching how to plan a solo trip, travel insurance is a step that many people miss. But anything can happen, anywhere! So it’s better to be safe than sorry. Investing in World Nomads or Safety Wing can benefit your trip in case of emergencies. And it also gives you peace of mind to know that if something happened you would be covered.
Share itinerary with your loved ones
Don’t let that Padlet or Google doc go to waste! In case of emergencies, always share your solo travel itinerary with people back home. You can never be too cautious as a solo traveler and if something does happen they need as much information as possible to help. So it’s essential to keep your loved ones in the loop – at least about where you’re staying and your flight information.
Stay inspired as you wait for the trip
Now that you’ve learned how to plan your first solo trip and done all the pre-planning, it’s time to wait. Stay inspired by watching videos and reading blogs about the place you are visiting. Join some solo travel or destination-specific expat Facebook groups to learn more about your destination from other travelers. You can also read books and find podcasts to learn more about the history and culture to hold you over as you wait.
Buy any solo traveler accessories
Solo travel shopping is real. Some essential solo traveler accessories include a portable charger, a door alarm, and portable wifi if you don’t have an international data plan. Other items include noise-canceling headphones, a reusable water bottle, a first aid kit, and a microfiber towel. Of course, for all of my hostel solo travelers who are staying in dorms, a padlock is necessary to lock your things too.
Pack for the solo trip
After figuring out how to plan a solo trip, you must pack for it. In addition to those travel accessories mentioned above, get a sturdy backpack and some packing cubes. Then, determine what clothing style works best depending on the trip type.
More relaxed and flowy clothing with some swimsuits are perfect if you are hanging out at a resort or beach. However, workout-type clothes are more suitable for solo travelers who are hiking or more adventurous. Regardless, clothing that can dry quickly be worn with multiple pieces, and comfortable shoes are a must.
Enjoy the solo trip
All that planning for your solo trip has paid off! Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Live it up on your solo trip. Be open to new experiences and meet new people. It’s time to see what the world has to offer.
Flashback: lessons from my first solo trip
Let’s set the scene – it was 2018. I spent the previous year traveling with people I befriended in my Fulbright Program in Spain. And after doing lots of Spanish immersion and group travel, I wanted to test my skills solo.
I booked a flight from Chicago to Cancun and stayed at Mayan Monkey. I almost cried in the airport when I panicked because I realized no one was coming with me. But within 15 minutes of getting to my hostel, I met two Black women, and we became fast friends for the day.
Those two Black women set the tone for me! As I bounced from Cancun to Valladolid and Tulum, I met other solo travelers in the hostels. I ate delicious food and saw sites such as Cenote Suytun and Chichen Itza while riding in those budget-friendly colectivos.
This solo trip taught me that I could learn much more by doing things solo. Planning an adventure from start to finish showed me my capabilities and how I could reach new heights. And as a former insecure introvert, making friends with strangers was something I never thought I would have the confidence to do.
Other key lessons from this solo trip include:
- Knowing the language can take you far, even if it’s only a few words and phrases
- If you use your phone a lot, a portable charger is necessary
- To make friends, you may have to make the first move
- Do not feel obligated to do anything – it’s YOUR solo trip, so do you
How to travel alone as a woman – is there a “right” way to do it?
Now that you’ve gotten this far, this may feel like a “gotcha” moment. And you’re right – it is at this point because I believe every solo female travel experience is different. While there are ways to decrease your chances of being harmed as a solo traveler, I don’t think there is a “right” way to do it.
When wondering how to plan a solo trip, it comes down to your personality. Some solo travelers refuse to go out and experience nightlife due to safety. Others don’t care and have successfully navigated going out solo!
It all depends on what you want your experience to entail. I can give you insight. But at the end of the day, you are curating the experience for yourself and yourself alone.
Final thoughts on how to plan your first solo trip
Creating that solo trip itinerary can take trial and error to figure out your travel style! Of course, each city and country you visit will also vary in itinerary because sightseeing in London is not the same as living it up in New Orleans.
Research is key to figuring out how to plan a solo trip. What do solo travelers do there? What kind of tourist experiences are available? Having that clarity before you arrive on what you want to do, and leaving flexibility for new opportunities once you arrive, is critical!
It’s your life, solo trip, experience – go for it.