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How to Plan Your First Trip | An Easy Guide for Solo & Adventure Travellers
Planning your next adventure is a very fun and exciting step of your journey. However, there are some important steps to consider throughout the process.
In this article, I will highlight 19 important things you should know when planning your first solo trip.
1) Confirm Where You Want to Go
When you plan your first trip solo, you should develop a good idea of the bare bones of your itinerary. You don’t need to know all the specific details, just get a basic idea of the places you want to go (eg. countries & cities).
If you literally have no idea, you can check out some of the travel destinations I’ve been to for inspiration, ideas and advice.
Be realistic though…
You don’t want to overcommit or try to visit too many places in the one go.
In this step, you’ll also want to do some basic research on international flights and accommodation to gain an idea of what your largest expenses will be.
2) Create a Travel Budget & Pre-Travel Plan
The next step is to determine a travel budget.
When travelling solo, it’s always important to organise a trip within your means.
You never EVER want to overspend or find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere or in an unsafe situation because you’ve run out of money.
Ain’t no one got time for dat!
That’s why you need to pre-plan some of your trip.
Having a budget also helps to clearly define whether you even have enough money to afford your dream trip in the first place, or if you’ll need to make some sacrifices.
Sure, it may be one of the most tedious and dry elements of planning a trip, but it’s worth the effort and can save you from a lot of pain down the track.
I explain and demonstrate all that you need to know about planning and budgets:
You can also download my FREE Pre-Travel Budget & Planner here.
3) Book Your Main Flights
Once you have a good idea of your budget, and feel confident that you can afford it, it’s time to book your departing and returning flights.
That is if you have an end date in mind.
These websites save you significant time and make the process easier by allowing you to compare multiple flight deals at the one time.
You then get to choose one that best suits you and your budget.
4) Consider Booking Some Group Tours
If you’re planning on doing a group tour that’s more than 4-5 days long, it can be worth booking it in advance to shotgun your dates. Again, this is an optional step.
If you’re not planning on going on any tours or prefer to travel spontaneously, then skip your way through to Step 5.
When I travel, I personally like to pre-plan some kind of tour or activity that immerses me into the local culture. Whether it be having a meal cooked by a local, watching a cultural show, learning how the locals live etc.
To check out what options are available for your target destination, I highly recommend these sites:
5) Time to Book Accommodation & Transport
Depending on whether you’re the kind of person who likes to wing it, or plan things in advance, you may want to secure your accommodation before you leave.
If you’ve never travelled solo before, I would recommend doing this as part of planning your trip (Even if you just book the accommodation in the first location you’re arriving).
This is an important part of learning how to plan your first trip.
My favourite website is Booking.com, especially if I don’t know what I’m looking for.
- Want to save money and stay in a hostel, my go to is HostelWorld.com or HostelBookers.com
- Feeling like getting a local vibe and feeling more at home, I go with Airbnb.
6) Travel Vaccinations & Visas (If needed)
If you’re travelling to a third-world country or somewhere where you could acquire an illness, you MUST get your vaccinations before you leave your home country.
In some cases, I even suggest organising them months in advance as some vaccinations need to be given to you in separate jabs (eg. Tetanus) and take time to be effective.
Visas can also take time to get approved.
Therefore, I highly recommend being on the front foot with them.
The last thing you want is to have your trip all booked to find out a day before you leave that your visa has been denied. It’s just not worth the stress.
If you’d like to work out whether you need any vaccinations or visas for your trip, you can use the websites below:
- Vaccination information: https://www.travelvax.com.au
- International Visa Info
- AUS: https://visalink.com.au/visa-quick-check
- US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens. (You may want to find a more reputable source though…)
7) Buy Your Travel Gear & Accessories
No matter where you intend to travel to, there are certain travel gear and accessories that you should have in your backpack.
I suggest that you start buying travel gear you need over the course of a few months, rather than all at once at the last minute.
This will help you to prevent you from breaking the bank and getting overwhelmed with all the things you need to buy.
Of course, climate can also have a big impact on whether you need to pack dense or light clothing, but there is a common list of travel gear which I feel all solo backpackers should pack with them when they travel.
You can also check out some of my other travel gear recommendations and reviews below:
8) Book Your Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is one of the MOST critical things you buy before you leave for your trip.
Sadly, many rookie travellers skip this step which causes a lot of hardship and financial stress during their trip (when something doesn’t go to plan!)
Don’t let this be you.
When researching travel insurance, the best thing you can do is to look for value for money. This is a critical step that you should spend adequate time on when learning how to plan your first trip.
In my opinion, it’s not worth spending a fortune on travel insurance that’s way in excess of what you actually need.
Similarly, it’s no use being a cheapskate and purchasing the cheapest insurance you can find. It will only increase your chances of not being covered for the important things.
When comparing travel insurance, these are the websites I like to use:
Compare travel insurance is my preferred option.
Another global option you can check out is World Nomads.
World Nomads is great because they allow you to set your country of residence and then provide insurance options that are tailored towards your needs.
They’re also known to be great for adventurous travellers and solo backpackers because they cover you for things that many other policies wont, unless you pay a premium.
Definitely an option to consider. I’m going to try them for my next adventure too.
9) Get an International Credit Card / Money Card
Before you leave for your overseas trip, it is important to have numerous ways to access money.
You want to have backups of cash in separate luggage locations and also multiple cash cards (that have low conversion fees).
When I backpacked solo for a year, I had various forms of money on me at all times. In some cases I had money:
- on my body
- in my day bag
- in my luggage or
- locked in a safe in my accommodation.
This meant that I never had any issues accessing money if I ever got robbed.
And it was always a mix of cash and card.
For example, I had
- $USD and local currency spread between my waist belt, backpack and luggage
- An international travel credit card
- A travel money card with low exchange fees
- And, also my personal bank card (my last resort)
Sure, I may have been a touch paranoid, but it served me well when I travelled.
If you have no idea where to start when it comes to choosing an international travel card, you can learn about travel cards here:
- International Credit Cards vs. Travel Money Cards | What’s the difference? (Coming soon)
Also try to limit the number of currency exchanges and conversions you do overseas, as they have the potential to accumulate and eat away at your budget.
10) Consider Your Gear Wisely
There’s always a fine line between packing too little and packing too much. In saying that, you ALWAYS want to be on the side of packing too little. You should consider this as you plan your first trip solo overseas.
Packing too much when backpacking is a pain in the arse because no matter where you’re going, you have to carry it with you, on your back.
This SUCKS if you’re moving between locations a lot or are within a hot country. It becomes insanely burdensome.
AND… it puts a massive weight on your shoulders… literally. (Te he he, see what I did there).
Jokes aside, you honestly want to pack as light as you can. If you don’t pack enough, you can always buy stuff as you go.
A couple of suggestions:
- Sacrifice unnecessary clothing so that you have room for other critical travel gear and tools
- Save space by compressing and squishing air out of things like clothes, towels, etc.
- Pack mini toiletries, not the normal stuff you have at home in your bathroom.
11) Looking After Your Mental Health
For some reason, travellers don’t talk much about this topic.
Yet stress, anxiety, depression and paranoia can present themselves when you travel, just as they do back home.
If you’re someone who‘s previously suffered from anxiety, stress or depression back home, travelling solo can trigger these emotions.
When you’re alone in your own company and your thoughts have free rein it can be hard to distract yourself.
BUT the great thing about this is that you get time to:
- allow those feelings to come up
- observe and process them
- reflect on what’s going on for you
- gain a better understanding of your triggers and
- have a chance to heal and grow.
Travelling solo can be an emotional rollercoaster – but it’s not all bad.
You also experience massive highs.
You get to live in the moment, let go, meet like-minded people, step outside of your comfort zone and do things that make you happy.
If you are worried that you’ll feel anxious, stressed or depressed when travelling in your own company, these are some great resources to check out.
They will help you to cope with the common struggles that solo travellers have:
- How to Meet People & Make Friends
- The Pros & Cons of Solo Travel
- How to overcome Loneliness and Homesickness When Travelling Solo
12) How to Stay Safe When Travelling Solo
Your safety is the one thing that you CAN NOT compromise or bargain with when travelling solo.
Safety is always my #1 priority, which is why so far on my solo travels I have had no issues.
No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m often very calculated with how I approach things.
Whether I’m going scuba diving, bungy jumping, hiking or out clubbing, I will have usually done my research and know where to go and the places to avoid.
I also trust my gut.
If something doesn’t feel right, even with someone who seems nice, I’m pretty quick to bail. Politely of course.
You may not be this pedantic or deliberate, and that’s ok.
But if travelling alone, there’s never any harm in taking extra precautions.
Here are some of my top tips to help you stay safe when travelling solo:
13) Best Solo Travel Apps for Beginners
When travelling overseas, you realise very quickly how you miss the simple luxuries you had back home.
- knowing where everything is, including the closest supermarket or chemist
- not having to convert the price of something into your local currency each time you want to buy something
- being able to speak the same language as those around you
- not having to pay for every place you stay
- knowing where the closest public toilets are when you’re desperate
- not having to buy food every day
- earning a weekly paycheck (unless you’re travelling with annual leave)
- Deep conversations with people you’ve known for a while
This is where apps come in handy.
I recommend checking out this article below where I talk about 10 of the best solo travel apps I use when travelling overseas:
These apps can help you to reduce stress, budget effectively, converse with locals, meet people and more, which is very convenient.
It’s always worth keeping these babies in mind as you plan your first trip overseas.
14) How to Find & Use Wifi When Travelling
Unless you have an international phone plan, international sim card or don’t care about being charged international fees, wi-fi is going to be your lifeline as your travel.
The best places to find wifi are usually:
- your accommodation
- the airport
- regional buses and coaches (not very reliable though)
- restaurants and cafes (some)
- public places (eg. malls and shopping centres)
- McDonalds or Starbucks are often pretty reliable Wi-Fi sources too.
There are some others, but they’ve slipped my mind at the moment.
Do keep in mind that wifi from places is not often encrypted or protected. It’s all public use.
Therefore, if you only need to chat with someone, search something on google or use maps, then public wi-fi is good.
However, I would avoid making purchases or payments over public Wi-Fi as you just never know who could be lurking nearby or if someone could hack your credit card details or personal info etc.
This is where a VPN can come in handy, but I’m still learning and building my knowledge in this area.
15) How to Get a SIM Card If You Need to Make International Calls
There are a few different options you can check out if you want to use your phone when overseas.
For example, you can:
- buy a global roaming / international sim package before you leave your home country, from sites like this: https://simsdirect.com.au or https://travelsim.com
- talk to your current phone plan provider and ask what global roaming options they have
- buy a sim on arrival at your destination at the airport, a newsagent, some supermarkets, shopping centres, phone stores etc.
Personally, I have relied mostly on Wi-Fi when travelling because I’m cheap, it’s free and its prevalence is growing all over the world.
This gives me the ability to use apps like Facebook messenger and WhatsApp when I need to and to stay in touch with people back home. But otherwise, I’m off the grid and fully immersed with living in the moment.
And, if I ever needed to make an emergency call, I could just turn on my international roaming temporarily, despite the additional charges.
If you’re travelling to a third world country or prefer the security of having an international SIM, going for one of the above options could be better suited for you.
16) How to Stay Fit & Healthy While Travelling
Another thing that a lot of travellers don’t talk about is how HARD it can be to stay healthy and fit whilst travelling.
There’s so much delicious food and cuisine around you ALL the time, which is always very tempting. AND you can’t just pop into your local gym or pool for a workout.
When it came to fitness, there were two key things that helped me stay fit and mentally sane: running and walking.
I literally ran and walked EVERYWHERE! Even if it would make sense to catch a cab, I’d walk.
I often went for runs in the morning and would use it as an opportunity to familiarise myself with a new destination before I went out exploring.
If I was staying somewhere where I had my own room, I’d do planks and sit-ups on the floor to try and maintain some sense of normality to back home.
Hikes are also great for keeping fit and also clearing your mind.
You may not be a fitness junkie like me, and that’s ok. Even just walking around exploring can be great exercise.
When it comes to eating, it’s important to eat mindfully.
I actually made a pact with myself in Europe that I was allowed to eat 1 naughty thing and have 1 meal out each day, whether it was having gelato in the afternoon or a pastry in the morning.
Doing this allowed me to taste the local cuisine and treat myself to local desserts, but prevented me from spending too much on eating out and consuming high carb meals excessively.
And guess what, I still gained like 5-6kg!
I also did a lot of grocery shopping and made home-cooked meals in my hostel.
Taking full use of hostel kitchens allowed me to cook meals that I’d usually have back home. It also helped me feel grounded and maintain a greater sense of control over what I was putting in my body.
It also saved me a ton of coin!
Of course, travel is about indulgence and enjoying the experience. You should never deny or restrict yourself from trying something new or delicious, because you’re scared of gaining weight.
It’s about moderation.
It also only really becomes important if you’re planning to travel for 6-12 months like I was. For shorter trips it doesn’t really matter.
17) How to Maintain Good Hygiene When Travelling Overseas
When it comes to maintaining good hygiene, your travel style will of course impact what you can and cannot do.
For example, if you’re doing an over-land camping trip for 40 days in Africa (like I did), keeping clean can seem like a daily battle.
BUT hygiene is not just about having a shower every once in a while, it also includes simple things like:
- Being prepared for your period (women) and having the right sanitary products on hand when you need them
- Wearing thongs (flip flops) in public showers and bathrooms to prevent contracting diseases like athletes’ foot, warts & HPV, MRSA, and other fungal and bacterial infections (YEP! Gross I know. So, please pack thongs always!)
- Keeping an eye out for bed bugs in hostels (It truly exists!)
- Hand-washing your clothes or paying for laundry service as needed
- Keeping a small portable packet of tissues in your day bag so that you can use them in the event that there’s no toilet paper
- Keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser on you / in your bag at all times.
These simple things can save you from catching diseases and getting sick, whilst also helping you feel sanitary and smelling tolerable to your peers.
It’s often the small things, like this, that we take for granted back home.
Something to keep in mind…
18) How to Overcome Sickness when Travelling Solo
Travel sickness sucks balls.
Some of my worst travel experiences have been related to being sick on my travels.
- being stuck on a plane with food poisoning and gastro for 6 hours
- positioning myself strategically between a basin and toilet because I didn’t know which end was most active (#gastro)
- missing out on an entire day exploring Paris because I was stuck in bed with the flu
- catching recurring colds due to being confined on a plane and surrounded with sick, sneezing and coughing people
The worst part about getting sick when overseas is that you can’t access your usual comforts.
- No comforting hot bean bag to place on your cramping stomach.
- No ice packs.
- No cuddly mum to make you a hot cocoa or give you cuddles.
The truth is you just have to do what you can, self-medicate (eg. anti-diarrhoea tablets, hydrolyte, aspirin, etc) and wait it out.
Travellers’ diarrhoea is a thing and I promise you, you’ll probably get it at least once throughout your travelling journey.
That’s why I always encourage travellers to pack a solid first-aid kit that contains everything you’ll ever need for diarrhoea, colds, headaches, accidents, gastro etc.
And if things get really bad, see a doctor or go to hospital.
19) Dealing With Post-travel Depression
Just like traveller’s diarrhoea, post-travel depression is also a thing.
It’s the weirdest feeling when you get home after the most transformational journey of your life, to find most things exactly the same as you left it.
- Your bedroom is unchanged.
- Many of your friends and family are in the same position as when you left.
- People who you once felt close and connected to will start feeling distant.
- You may start feeling a pressure to conform or slot back into your old life
- There’s still the same drama, complaints, politics and societal expectations as before you left.
And although you had all this amazing stuff happen to you, it’s hard to truly verbalise and explain it to people who weren’t there with you.
For one, it’s hard for them to understand, share the same enthusiasm or place themselves there with you. Second, they may find it difficult to empathise with something they’ve never experienced before.
And finally, for some, your stories can be a painful reminder of all the things they haven’t done in their life.
Coming home after a big trip (6-12 months) can be emotionally turbulent.
There’s the gratitude and relief that you feel towards having access to simple luxuries again like:
- not having to live out of a backpack
- being able to have a bath
- driving a car
- being able to hang up clothes in a wardrobe
- knowing the area
- catching up with family and friends
- and having everything you need within arm’s reach.
But at the same time, you can’t help but feel some degree of inner conflict.
Getting “back to reality” can be a really hard transition. Especially if you’ve travelled for a long time, you often find yourself wanting more from life.
You don’t just want to go back to the same career or slip into the life you had planned before you left.
If you only travel for a short time, this may not be the case for you. But for myself, as well as other travellers I met on my journey, it has been a common challenge.
So, there you have it…
A simple guide to help you plan your first trip, broken down into things to do and be mindful of:
- Before you go
- During your trip
- When you return home
If you have any further questions relating to how to plan your first trip, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to help you.