It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! I’ve been doing some solo travel lately and writing about how to do it as well as possible, but sometimes we learn from mistakes better than we learn from what we do right. So this week, here are some solo travel mistakes and mishaps–don’t do this!
Mistakes to Avoid Before You Go
Choosing Accommodation Solely on Price
Price is important, but there are a few more numbers to consider. How far is the hotel/bed and breakfast/hostel/AirBnB/HomeAway/VRBO/etc. from where you’ll be spending most of your day? Is it a safe walking distance, or will you have to take a taxi, Uber, or public transportation? Does it include breakfast or will you be going out to eat for every meal? Trust me, it was not worth saving $25 a night to stay “just outside of downtown Charleston” (which was really a three-mile walk) instead of in town, where I could be right in the heart of all I wanted to do!
Making Too Many Plans Ahead of Time
Some things need to be scheduled in advance because events and tours can fill up, especially during a destination’s high season. But one of the benefits of solo travel is 100% flexibility! It’s great to schedule a couple of tours or events in your trip, but don’t tie yourself up all day every day. And actually, try not to schedule something expensive and non-refundable your first day. If your flight gets delayed or cancelled, you’ll miss it! Other than that, sleep in, get up early, go to bed early, do whatever you want!
Not Being Organized, Even a Little Bit
Traveling solo means you’re only responsible for you…. but also that you’re the only person responsible for you! Keeping up with flights, accommodations, train schedules, etc. can get overwhelming when you’re jet lagged. I like to use the app called TripIt to organize all my schedules, confirmation numbers, flights, and more! You can forward any electronic confirmations right from your e-mail to the TripIt app, and it will be available to you without using data or wi-fi. You can find my other recommendations here: Apps for Savvy Travel.
Not Bringing Enough Money or Having Access to More Cash
Before you go on your trip, please make a cash plan! It’s a great idea to have a credit card with no international fees for your travels, but it’s also a good idea to have a debit card on you as well. I have a Visa credit card and a MasterCard debit card, just in case one or the other doesn’t work in the country I’m visiting. You can use the U.S. dollar in many countries, but you will always get the best exchange rate in a country’s local currency. I always take out local currency from an ATM as soon as I land. It’s better to pay an extra dollar or two at an airport ATM than a lot more at a currency exchange station, or to be wandering around with no cash looking for an ATM.
Mistakes to Avoid in Transit
Leaving Your Stuff Unattended
This is one of the negatives of traveling solo–no one’s there to watch your stuff when you need to go to the bathroom! It might take a little longer and be a little awkward, but you just have to take it with you! Do not leave your stuff unattended in the airport, in the train station, on the ferry, etc.
Not Having a Plan when You Land
Solo travelers can wing it on a lot of things, but if you plan nothing else for your trip, please plan how you’ll be getting from the airport, train station, ferry terminal, or other transportation to your accommodation. Check out Uber, public transportation, shuttles, and search the Internet for what the norm is for travelers to the area. People travel that same route every day, so there has to be a good solution! Find out what it is before you land.
Not Having a Plan B
Sometimes things go wrong. Have a plan B if your flight gets cancelled, and I don’t recommend planning anything for your first day at your destination–it might be 24 hours before you can get on another flight! Roll with the punches, make the most of every situation and opportunity you’re given, but have a contingency plan if things don’t go completely smoothly. Usually things will go right, but remember that every traveler experiences complications and frustrations. Have your airline’s customer service number handy, and know how to get in touch with your accommodations if you’ll be in later than you thought (not all accommodations abroad have someone at the front desk 24 hours per day).
Mistakes to Avoid on Your Trip
Not Being Self-aware
Again, you’re the only one looking out for you. So make sure you do! Look like you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, even if you kind of don’t. Before you set out for the day, figure out hot to get to your first stop, whether it’s a tour, museum, cathedral, or other site. Know where your phone and wallet are at all times, and leave your expensive jewelry at home. Don’t look like a target, and you’re less likely to be a target! And check out How to Outsmart the Pickpocket and Pickpocket Tricks of the Trade!
Maybe it’s prudish, but I do not drink or do drugs ever, and I advise that you don’t do either while you’re traveling solo. Are you traveling to see the world or to go to a bar? You’ll save some major cash by going to a bar at home instead of abroad. No matter what choices you make, do not lose your self-control or inhibitions. You will be a target.
Not Checking In
You’re on your own, you’re safe, and you’re having the time of your life! But don’t forget to check in with friends and family back home. Whether you post to social media, Skype, FaceTime, e-mail, or communicate another way, make sure those who love you know you’re safe! Did you hear about the guy who travels the world with a sign that says “Mom, I’m Fine!”?
Not Asking Someone to Take Your Picture
I know a lot of travelers are kind of obsessed with selfies. I am not, and I do not own a selfie stick, nor do I want one. But I often get home from a solo trip and realize it looks like I wasn’t even there because I’m not in any photos! Don’t be afraid to ask someone to take a picture of you, and offer to return the favor–especially for a family or a couple.
Now that you know the pitfalls to avoid, you’re ready to set out on your own! But be sure to check out my other posts about solo travel! Do you have more tips? Let me know in the comments section below!