Are you ready to take on the world solo and for the first time? I know, it can be a daunting thought, but let me tell you, nothing you ever experience will be more rewarding than walking through this world with you as your own best friend. You are able to see the world through your own eyes without anyone else's opinions pressing down on you. It's a fresh start to discover who you are, how you view the world, what freedom truly is, and how those things that stick with you along the way, those things and people that set your soul on fire, are connected to your purpose. I continue to feel this way each time I travel alone, and the first time was when I was fifteen years old.
There's no reason to hold back - go out and venture the land you've always dreamt of, no matter the price or risk. It'll always be worth it. But first, take a peak at my top 23 tips for traveling alone and on a budget - chances are it'll make your first journey out into the world a little bit easier and step in the right direction towards changing your life forever.
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1. research! budget! research!
Know exactly what part of the city you're staying in - make sure it's relatively central. It's important to know what the city life is like and if there is any crime in the area, and if there is, don't stay in that area. Also, check the weather, be aware of the current events and politics surrounding where you're going - it could effect your stay and potential safety. For the fun part though, take note of everything that you might want to see (touristy or non-touristy) and how it can fit into your trip cost-wise, time-wise, or potentially even at all! It could be under construction (who knows? You will if you look it up).
Frommer's Travel Guide books are always extremely helpful in finding things you may never knew existed and could be interested in. AND SET A BUDGET, you set that budget and you stick to that budget. This includes airfare, meals, lodging, entertainment, transportation, souvenirs, and contingency! Researching prices and CONVERSION RATES (these suckers get ya) is necessary. You best make an excel document now, print it out, and let it sink in so you don't let it impact you while you're on your actual journey. You'll know it like the back of your hand so you have more time to think about the fun things.
2. Make a checklist before you leave
Depending on where you're going, it's always helpful to have an interactive and tangible checklist to take with you no matter where you go and how many places you plan on traveling within the same span of time. Write what you need down, and actively check it off once it's in your suitcase.
These items should be but are not limited to your passport and drivers license, an outlet adapter that provides you the proper input regardless of what country or region you're in, a phone charger, extra cash in a safe container, medication, specific toiletries, extra undies etc. If you forget something, you're going to have a bad time - and it could take money out of your travel budget - don't let that happen!
3. Pack light! bring only the necessities
After you've researched the weather, which I know you've done, be sure to ONLY pack what you need to. If it's going to rain, bring a proper jacket and shoes. If it's snowing -do the same. If you're hiking - rent boots. Otherwise, stick to light materials and articles of clothing that you can wear multiple times without being gross while still being stylish. One pair of sexy and comfy jeans, jammies, a cute skirt, a few cute tops, a sweater or light jacket, a nice evening dress, one pair of walking shoes and cute shoes, a bra and undies - and that's all you need!
You're good to go! If you bring more than necessary, lugging a fudge ton of unneeded junk around gets old fast, not to mention, it's easier to get lazy with your belongings and eventually lose things. Which reminds me, never bring anything of sentimental value on a trip with you. If you miss someone from back home along the way - talk to them or send them a letter. It's not worth losing.
4. manage your information!
You’ve got your passport, your currency, your driver’s license, the picture of your boo, your plane tickets, your hotel confirmation, concert, Harry Potter walking tour, and haunted house tickets, and who knows what else! That’s a whole bundle of hooblah that you sure don’t want to lose.
Keep all of this in one place - whether it be a proper agenda keeper, a folder in your inbox, a physical folder, a fudging huge- wallet, a fanny pack, whatever suits your preferences, keeping it all together will make your life easier. You can just grab what you need that day and go and never have to look back. More time to focus on all of the good happening on your trip.
5. Get off of your darn phone
Seriously. You’re in a new place with a million different things to discover. You don’t need to be on your phone where absolutely nothing is happening to take away from your time in the real world.
If you plan your day accordingly, you won’t need your phone for a single thing except to take pictures if you don’t have a proper camera, to grab an uber, or to show tickets you bought online (take screenshots because WIFI is hardly available). This brings me to my next point...
6. Be absolutely present and observant
I never get an international phone plan while I’m abroad - firstly, because I think they’re expensive, secondly, I think the way our phones take us away from being present in daily life should not even be an option when you’re in a new place discovering yourself. It’s time to live life through your own eyes and not through what a screen is feeding to you. Pay attention to people. Pay attention to places. Look at the way people talk.
Take in the intricacies of architecture, food, wine, someone’s eye color when they talk. Experience the daily life that someone may have where you’re at, and hold onto that perspective. Take the time to understand the beauty in the world with each passing moment - you’ll realize this life is such a blessing, and then take it back with you wherever you go. Also my dudes, if something seems sketchy - use your intuition. Don’t engage. Walk the other way - still be aware of your surroundings and get to a place that’s safe with people that are aware you’re there.
7. Use airbnb
Chances are, if you are traveling abroad or to somewhere you’ve never been before, you aren’t going to be in your hotel room very often - so why pay for more when only the necessities are key. It only matters if it’s safe, has water, a bed, wi-fi , and a door that can lock. It does not need to be fancy or expensive, nor should it be.
When I went to London on my own in 2017, I stayed in a 4’X 7’ room that was built of canvas and plywood that stood where the flat’s living room used to be. It was split in two and there was a room exactly the same as mine next to me. This was an Airbnb in a flat that was shared with three other people, with these two guest rooms. It had a bathroom (that hardly worked), Wifi, a controlled security system for the building and lock for the apartment ( I also had a lock on my door), and a comfortable twin-ish sized bed.
It was all I needed and it converted to $25 a night. It was also in a central location - perfect. Use Airbnb, It’s the cheapest, most efficient, and most homey way to feel like you’re a part of the city.
8. Go to the supermarket for meals
So, of course you should go out to eat and delve into the local food and delicacies, but my dears, it does add up. If you’re spending all of your money on food, how much of your experience are you going to have to take back with you?
My strategy is to have one meal out a day when I’m on my own and go to the local grocery store or stop - like Tesco in London - for the two other meals or whenever I’m actually hungry (they have a three pound meal deal - sandwich, drink, and a snack - that is perfect). You save oodles of money, feel like a local, and have more cash to spend on what really matters - experiences!
9. spend what Money you have on experiences
Yes. Yes. Yes, a thousand times - yes! If you spend your money on things that truly immerse yourself in the culture and history that the place you’re in has to offer, the more incredible stories you’ll have to tell! Not only that, but it gives you even more opportunity to make lifelong friends.
Whether it be a painting class that you find on Airbnb experiences, a walking ghost tour of the city you’re visiting, a site-seeing bus ride, or random museum you find along the way. If anything is worth investing in, it’s moments that could change your life.
10. carry a map
You carry that sucker everywhere you go, and you like it. Circle where your lodging is and the nearest train station. Be aware of what area you’re traveling to for the day and mark it down. Having a map is the most reliable source of navigation, especially when you’re lost and your phone’s map isn’t working because wi-fi isn’t available.
Use your resources. Right when you get off the plane, you can find a map of multiple cities available to you. Grab it. If you’re going to a smaller place, print a simple one off of google maps at home, just to be sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
11. don't drink too much
By not drinking too much, I obviously mean alcohol. Of course, you can have one or two, but always be aware of how you’re feeling and gauge when you should stop. It’s necessary to be safe in situations like this when you’re alone and you don’t know who you can trust.
Many people, and sometimes not the right people, can tell when they can take advantage of you, don’t ever let it get to that point. This matter especially comes in handy when it comes to getting home, protecting yourself, and staying out of trouble.
12. spark up a conversation with a local
Don’t be shy! If you’re interested in learning about the culture and building relationships, who better to talk to than someone who lives there! Who knows - they could potentially change your life, and you could change theirs. And besides, I’m sure your smiling personality and genuine interest would be more than enough to make their day. Give it a try. You won’t regret it.
13. leave room in your day for wandering
Just like in life, not everything should be planned because some of the best things come when you least expect it. Don’t feel obligated to pack your days with different events that are back to back. Give yourself some time to explore and let your intuition and interest take the reigns.
By doing this you’ll discover amazing things you never knew existed - and it even may bring you in contact with a new friend, passion, or story idea.
14. join in on group activities
Whether it be these walking tours I keep going on and on about, bar hopping with a group at your hostel or Airbnb or meeting up on an Airbnb experience, or going to a random free course at a museum - jump into the opportunity to make new friends and bask in the fresh slate you’ve created for yourself. Take notice of who you are with new people, and understand what you’re really looking for out of life.
Different people from all around the world will surprise you in many ways in kindness, intellect, creativity, perspective, lifestyle, and experience - just like you might surprise yourself when you respond to them.
15. take pictures - always
Even of the random things. Take pictures of the people you meet - with the people you meet. Of the tickets of the show you went to, or the receipt from the incredible meal you had, and the weird guy carting around a corgi with sunglasses on his bicycle.
Anything that sticks out to you or makes you smile - of anything that makes your journey more of your own and that you’ll know you want to remember. Take videos of you by the eiffel tower, on The Great Wall, or chasing an adorable sheep down a hill in Ireland. Don’t hold back! And make sure you find a random someone you feel you can trust to take pictures of you!
16. carry a notepad/ Bring a journal
There is no question or compromise on this one. At the end of every day, you write about what happened, how you felt, who you met, what you saw, what inspired you, what thoughts cross your mind and how your reacted to those thoughts. Write it all down. Also - if an idea for a story sparks while you’re walking the streets and you see someone or something, or its something you hear, smell, taste, whatever it may be - bring a small notepad with you wherever you go so you can jot down your ideas and continue to flesh them out if the inspiration is there.
Coming back to these entries and stories throughout your trip, when you’re back home and are telling your friends about all you’ve experienced, or it’s ten years later - your mind and your heart will go straight back to those moments you set out to discover the world and who you are - it just might ignite rediscovery.
17. know your means of transportation
How you’re getting to the airport. How you’re getting to your hotel from the airport. Where is your hotel? How are you going to get around the city or cities? These are all questions you should know before you even get on the plane to go wherever you’re going (for the first part of the series of questions anyway. )
Know what train stations you’re closest to, and which transfers you’ll need to take to get to where you need to go. Know where you can find Wi-Fi if it’s late and you need to call an Uber. It’s always important to understand distance, area, and details involved with getting from place to place in a foreign area.
18. LEARN THE LANGUAGE - OR TRY TO -
This is the biggest thing. If you’re going somewhere where a different language is spoken, it’s extremely helpful, polite, and necessary in some situations to know at least basic words and phrases of that language. When you need help, or need to go to the bathroom, or when you’re confused about which direction to go, how to find a specific place or person, or when you’re needing to explain yourself for a possible misunderstanding - knowing parts of the language is key. Learn these before you leave.
Also, being more fluent in a language or multiple is especially helpful and gratifying when trying to immerse yourself in the culture. Nothing feels more satisfying and enlightening than talking to a native in their language and learning about them, gaining their respect, and pushing yourself along the way.
19. check in with family/FRIENDS every night
Just so they know you’re safe and where you are. If anything were to ever happen, it gives them a good idea of what’s going on and where to go back to. You know, your parents are always worried - give them peace of mind and send a picture or two. Plus, it’s a fun way to talk about your daily adventures.
20. Don't go to the same place twice
Life is too short to do the same thing twice, especially if you’re only in a place for a week or two. If you grab a cup of coffee every morning, and you go to the same place twice, you’re denying one of the hundreds of coffee shops around you the opportunity to give you a new experience - and why would you do that to yourself?
Smile at a new face, try something new. Take a different path to the main road that’ll take you to where you’re planning on going. Give yourself the opportunity to live a new life every day - a new blank canvas waiting for the masterpiece of the day to be painted on it.
21. take note of the time differences
Whether you’re calling back home, trying to take the train, book tickets for a concert or show, or are catching a plane for goodness sakes - it’s so important to know before you leave on your trip how many hours ahead or behind you are, and switch your watch, phone clock, computer, whatever it may be to the correct time zone, right away! We don’t want you missing out on everything you’ve planned for, for such a silly, but easily mistakable reason!
22. Create something awesome
Let your mind wander - create stories in your head, paint a bomb picture of something that inspires you while on your journeys, make a video - whatever! Make something that will always take you back to the moments where you lived life to the fullest and will be something that you never forget. Even if you just start something while you’re traveling - it’ll give you room to keep on living the dream when you finish it back home.
23.live. Have fun. Don't let anything stop you.
Just do the dang thing. Nothing can hold you back. Live your life without reservations - you never know when you’ll get an opportunity like this again. Life can change in a minute. Take advantage of getting to know yourself the best you can possibly can, and enjoy every single moment of it. The discoveries that come from traveling alone are beyond what you could ever imagine. In fact, just a moment could change your life forever - don’t let it pass you by.
NOW go! Travel the world!