How to Travel Alone: Trip Planning

by Janice Waugh /
Janice Waugh's picture
Dec 16, 2009 / 0 comments

Some of us who travel alone
like to organize every detail and hour of the trip. Others prefer to
wander and see what happens. I’m somewhere in between. I like to have a
general knowledge of where I’m going and why, but leave the details to
the whims of my mood and who I encounter along the way. Regardless of
trip planning style, it does take some planning to travel alone.

This post assumes that you know where you are going and why. If you haven’t yet decided these, please have a read of How to Travel Alone: choosing your destination.

Trip planning step 1: Get organized
You will likely collect a lot of information during the planning stage. Here’s a strategy for organizing it.

  • Open a bookmarks folder in your web browser and a file folder on
    your desktop for storing all online information you find on your
  • Make subfolders if necessary for things like “accommodation”, “things to do”, “restaurants”, “clubs”…
  • Get a portfolio or actual paper file folder (yes, they still exist)
    where you can keep hard copies of the most important information you
    find online as well as articles and brochures you collected.

Trip planning step 2: Research
The information you need for traveling alone is slightly different than when you’re traveling with a companion. Here’s what you’ll need to research. The second part of this section offers some excellent resources.

How to get there
Being solo on an airline doesn’t really make much difference but, when
traveling by train, I like to choose my level of service carefully. If
I want to be social I prefer to travel coach. If I want quiet, I book
business class. Likewise, if it’s by bus, I choose the back if I want
to be more social and the middle for quiet. The front may have someone
who wants to chat with the driver.

Where to stay
Accommodation is a big issue when you travel alone.

  • B&Bs and Hostels that have common rooms and shared breakfasts
    tend to be quite social creating opportunities for solo travelers to
    meet others.
  • Hotels, especially high end hotels, tend to be less social. When booking a hotel:

  • Refer to current travel guides or websites and choose hotels in
    safe neighborhoods. You may want to use Trip Advisor or Google Street
  • Ask for a hotel room on the second floor or higher. If you’re a
    woman and they have a women only floor (not that common) ask for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: Are there smoke detectors in
    every room? Will my room door have a peep hole? Does the room have a
    safe? Is there 24 hour professional security personnel?

Where to eat
Food contributes to health and we all want to stay healthy when we travel alone.

  • Choosing where to eat may depend on whether you’re a foodie or have
    dietary issues. If you fall into either category, you already know what
    you’re looking for and a bit of research should help you find it.
  • If neither of the above applies to you, you may want to go to
    restaurants that have communal tables. This is growing trend for both
    causal and fine dining and great for those of us who travel alone.

How to get around and see stuff
Of course you can rent a car, use local transit and taxis. But, when you travel alone, more social ways to see things are helpful. You may want to find out if your destination offers:

  • A Greeter Program
  • Free walking tours
  • Backpacker’s tours (often cheaper, smaller and more fun)

Like every other traveler, you’ll also want to research

  • How to stay safe, happy and healthy when you travel alone. (There are posts coming on these topics)
  • The weather and climate so that you can pack clothing accordingly
  • Local cultural expectations concerning dress, etiquette, customs…

How to stay in touch
For safety reasons and for the peace of mind of friends and family,
it’s especially important to stay in touch when you travel alone. In
advance of leaving, research the availability of Internet Cafes,
cellular reception, how the land line phone system works, prepaid phone
cards and, of course, the postal service so that you can stay in
communication with home.

Some great resources:

Trip planning step 3: make your arrangements

With the research done, you can make your arrangements with confidence.

  1. Book your transportation to make sure that you can get there when you want to
  2. Confirm accommodation so that you have a safe home base.
  3. Purchase tickets to the theater or other events that may require advance arrangements.
  4. Arrange transportation to the airport if necessary
  5. Pack lightly – including concise notes on your most valuable research.
  6. Go and have fun!

Janice Waugh is the Solo Travel Editor for Wandering Educators.