How to plan a solo vacation

Shaelee Haaf and Shaelee Haaf

Summer is in full swing. With a break from school, lots of students find themselves in a place different from their home. Many travel with close friends or with families, but have you ever thought about doing it on your own?

After spending a semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria, I’ve had my fair share of solo trips, and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Although making memories with other people is great, there’s a certain appeal that comes with traveling alone. Below are a few things I’ve learned about planning a solo trip.  

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1. Pick a destination.

There are thousands of possibilities, where will you go?

First time?

If you’re traveling alone for the first time, choose a place you’d be comfortable visiting in order to get a feel for what it’s like to be on your own. Traveling can often be exhausting and stressful, especially if you’re not familiar with a location. 

You also don’t have to go far! Your trip can be as simple as taking a two-hour drive to a city or across a state border. Once you know what to expect, you’ll be more comfortable taking it up a step, but it all depends on you.  

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No idea where to go? 

Try searching for places based around your hobbies or interests. If you love music, check out these places, or if you have an appreciation for art, consider these cities. One of my favorite sites to get ideas from is BuzzFeed’s Bring Me Instagram page. It’s full of videos that focus on destinations to visit (including hotels and houses), exotic food to try or unique experiences from all around the world. I also love Rick Steves’ website, as he is a renowned traveler who knows everything there is to know about Europe.

2. Plan it out.

An important part of taking a trip requires planning it out. Doing this will help things run more smoothly. Not to say that nothing will go wrong if you do have a plan, but being prepared beforehand can still make a trip that took a few unexpected turns into a great experience. 

The wheres, whats and hows? 

One of the first things to consider would be the expenses of the trip. Ask yourself questions like how will you get there, where will you stay and what will you do? Think about daily expenses as well, such as gas, food, public transportation, activities or souvenirs, then, start doing your research. (I always make sure to use a private browser when I plan out trips, because it prevents travel sites from raising prices of tickets and hotels. For more information, see number four below.) 

When buying tickets or booking hotels (check out Airbnb for a cheaper alternative), have several, secret tabs open to compare prices and dates of different sites to get the best option you can find. It’s especially important to read the reviews. 

Writing things out, keeping notes on your phone or typing in a document can also help you stay organized, because making plans for a trip isn’t always stress-free and it can be easy to forget something.

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Setting a budget.

After you have a general idea of how much traveling will cost, set a budget for yourself, but keep in mind that just because you’re on a trip doesn’t mean you have to spend a bunch of money. I know I’m guilty of spending money I don’t need to if don’t set a limit for myself. It’s also a good piece of information to keep in mind if you need to start saving money up for it.

3. Go!

Now that you’ve got it planned out, all you have to do is follow through!

Feeling nervous about going alone?

This is completely normal! Even though I’ve experienced traveling by myself many times during my semester abroad, I got nervous every single time. Forcing myself to step outside of my comfort zone enabled me to keep doing it time and time again. It’s different for every person, but you’ll become more confident in yourself the more often you travel alone. 

Packing.

Since you’ll be the only one to carry your bag, pack light! Check the weather of your destination in advance so you know what kind of clothes to bring and try to get your things together at least a few days before you leave. 

I usually make two checklists: one for packing at home and one to take with me to make sure I bring it all back. Here’s some ideas on how to get the most out of packing.

4. Last minute things…

Here’s a few extra tips I found to be useful when I traveled. 

Being flexible.

There will be times that things don’t go according to plan, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself. Your experience will be what you make of it, so adaptability is key to making a great trip out of unfavorable circumstances, and more times than not, things usually end up working out.  

Telling someone about your plans. 

It’s a smart idea to tell a friend or family member where you’re going and when you expect to be back in case of an emergency. It’s as simple as that. 

Owning portable phone chargers.

You’ll thank yourself later when your phone is dying, and you’re able to save it with a portable charger (and don’t forget the phone cord to plug it in). 

I always keep a portable charger and a cord on me. I want to make sure I have a charged phone in case of an emergency. I can’t count how many times having them with me has gotten me out of a tight situation. 

Using a private browser.

Anytime you search for hotels, plane tickets, train tickets or excursions, websites use cookies to track your online activity. Because the prices are based on demand, the more often you search for a specific place or date, the more expensive tickets and hotel prices will become. By searching with a private browser, your cookies are not recorded, therefore allowing you to search anonymously.   

Here’s how to open a private window: 

  • Google Chrome (PC): ctrl + shift + N

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  • Safari (Mac): ⇧ + ⌘ + N (shift + command + N)

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  • Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer (PC): ctrl + shift + P 

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  • Firefox (PC): ctrl + shift + P

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  • iPhone Safari: click the icon with two squares at the bottom right-hand corner and click ‘Private’ 

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  • Android Google Chrome: click the icon with three dots at the top right-hand corner and click on ‘New Incognito tab’

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  • Samsung Internet Browser: click the Tabs icon at the bottom right-hand corner, click ‘More’ at the top right-hand corner and click ‘New secret tab’ 

Enjoy it!

Take photos, make memories and do it all over again!