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Travelling alone for the first time is both thrilling and terrifying. It is a completely different experience than anything you’ve had before.
I always encourage anybody who can and feels comfortable to travel alone at least once in their life.
To help you with your first solo trip, I’ve come up with the top things everybody should know before travelling alone for the first time.
One of the best ways to ensure a great first solo travel experience is to be prepared and have a bit of an idea how your trip is going to go.
I definitely didn’t prepare before my first solo trip, and I think I would have had a better experience if I had. I’m not saying my first solo trip wasn’t amazing because it was. But I made a lot of mistakes!
Hopefully some of the tips and tricks on this list will help you feel more prepared and confident as you get ready for your first solo trip.
The tips and tricks on this list are rather broad and will help you when you’re travelling alone for the first time no matter where you go or how long you travel for.
Table of Contents
1. Have a Budget and Stick to it
One of the most important things anybody travelling alone for the first time can do is have a realistic budget.
This was one of my biggest mistakes, and it really impacted my first solo trip.
I read way too many blogs saying you can travel on $50 a day, and you shouldn’t spend more than $50 per day no matter where you travel.
My first mistake was not converting $50USD to CAD and ended up trying to spend $50CAD per day, which was about $37 a day at the time.
I don’t like to subscribe to the notion that everybody has to be a budget traveller and that you’re travelling wrong if you’re spending more than $50/day.
It can sometimes seem that that is the norm- especially when you’re researching backpacking trip ideas.
My biggest advice to you is to figure out what type of travel you’re most interested in and create a budget around that.
For me, I’m a mid-range traveller.
I don’t need anything fancy, but I’m not interested in staying in hostels anymore, enjoy paying to visit attractions, and enjoy a decent meal out.
You may be different.
You may love budget travel. Or want a more luxurious travel experience.
As a first time solo traveller, you may want to spend more money and go on a group tour or group day trip.
It doesn’t really matter.
The important thing is you sit down and create a realistic budget for you. A budget that you can stick to.
Because you’re the only person on this trip and you’re 100% responsible for every penny spent.
You don’t have a friend or family member you can bum money off of if you run out a few days before the end of your trip.
If you run out of money, you’re in a messy situation that you need to find a way out of.
2. Let Go of Perfection
I don’t know if it was just me, but I had very unrealistic expectations on what my first solo trip would look like.
I thought it would be all rainbows and sunshine, but no trip is going to be perfect.
The sooner you let go of the rose-coloured glasses and accept that things are going to come up during your trip, the more prepared you will be for travelling alone for the first time.
I’m by no means saying something terrible will go wrong on your trip. The odds of that are very slim.
But, there is a pretty solid chance that something inconvenient will arise, and you need to figure out how to pivot around that inconvenience.
It could be anything from it raining on a day you were planning to go hiking to attractions being closed all the way to you were robbed.
Although, the last example is very uncommon and not something you should expect to happen.
Even if everything goes 100% to plan, no trip is going to be perfect.
Something as simple as there being heavy crowds could make your trip not perfect.
What I’m trying to get at is no trip is perfect, and you need to stop thinking it will be.
An imperfect trip is more fun anyways! You may experience things you never knew existed a city, meet your new best friend, or stumble on the perfect sunset spot.
If things don’t go exactly as you imagined, breathe and don’t let it ruin your trip.
As someone with major anxiety, I know this is easier said than done. It does get easier with practice though!
3. Be Internet Safe
Travelling puts you and your online data at risk of being accessed and stolen. Everybody who travels needs to be internet safe, but it is even more important for solo travellers.
Imagine this scenario.
You’re on an amazing solo trip and are connecting to public wifi networks all over the place. At the hotel, the airport, restaurants. Wherever you can find wifi, you’re connecting to it.
One day you wake up and discover there are charges on your credit card that you didn’t purchase.
Someone has stolen your credit card, and now you have to go through the process of calling the bank and cancelling your cards.
Not to mention that headache of trying to manage the last of your trip without your credit card or (potentially) your debit card.
That is an absolute nightmare.
This entire scenario could have easily been prevented if you had installed a VPN on your devices.
A VPN puts a forcefield around your devices that makes it impossible for prying eyes to access your online data.
It makes using public wifi networks as safe as using your home wifi where you’re the only person who knows the password.
In my opinion, installing a VPN on all your devices is an essential part of travel. You’re putting yourself at too much risk if you don’t use a VPN!
My Favourite VPN
I’ve used a lot a different VPNs over my many years of solo travel and hated them all.
That is I hated them all until I discovered NordVPN.
I’ve been using NordVPN since 2018 and love it. I have no plans to ever leave them and trust them with protecting all my online data.
The reason I love NordVPN and recommend them to my fellow travel lovers is because they are the fastest VPN on the market.
VPNs are known for slowing down your internet connection to the point where you want to throw your phone against the wall it is so frustrating.
Or at least I did!
I’ve never had an issue with slow internet connection when using NordVPN. I don’t even notice that there is a VPN on my phone and laptop, which is saying a lot.
It is foolish to not install a VPN on your devices. It is one of the most important (and least talked about) safety steps you can take when travelling alone for the first time. Or anytime you travel.
There are no excuses not to protect your online data.
You can protect up to six devices with a single NordVPN subscription, and a two-year subscription costs less per month than a latte.
I always say that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your online data and information.
It is just the smart, responsible, and safe thing to do!
Plus it takes zero effort, so you have no excuses not to protect yourself!
4. Choose a Destination Similar to Your Home City
This is one of my favourite tips for people travelling alone for the first time.
It is also one of the best ways to make sure your first solo trip is a good experience and makes you want to travel alone again and again.
If you’re new to travel and travelling alone, choosing to go somewhere similar to where you live is a great idea.
For example, if you live in Canada like me, you could visit the UK or New Zealand.
If you live in Hong Kong, Taiwan is a great option.
Choosing somewhere similar (but different) to where you live is the best of both worlds. You get to experience something new but don’t have an overwhelming amount of culture shock.
Once you become more comfortable with travelling alone and navigating a new city by yourself, you can branch out into countries that are way different than yours.
But, I do think starting with somewhere similar is the best option and sets you up for long-term success.
5. Have an Itinerary (but be flexible)
This is something I didn’t do on my first solo trip, and I really wish I had. I’m not a huge planner and enjoy showing up in a new city without any plans and figuring it out as I go.
That’s all fine and good, but it isn’t something I would recommend to someone travelling alone for the first time.
I remember walking around and feeling a bit awkward and uncomfortable on my first solo trip. I wasn’t terribly confident and didn’t want people to think I was weird for being alone.
One of the best ways to stop that feeling from coming in is to have a plan and keep yourself busy.
You don’t need a rigid plan (and, in fact, would recommend against that), but having a general idea of what your trip looks like is very helpful.
Figure out things like:
- What countries or cities you’re visiting
- What attractions you need to visit
- If there are any day trips you want to take
- Book your accommodation (at least for the first city you’re visiting)
These may seem like small steps to take, but they can have a huge impact on the success of your first solo trip.
Little things like this help you have confidence and know what you’re going to get up to.
On the flip side, you want to be flexible with your schedule.
There may be a cool festival on while you’re in a city, you may discover another day trip you want to take, the weather may get in your way, or you may meet someone you want to travel with, so you merge your itineraries.
The moral of the story is to have a loose plan on what you want to do on your trip but leave room to change it and go with the flow.
A little yin and a little yang.
6. Have F*ck You Money
You need to keep your money separated and have a stash of extra money just in case something happens.
I cannot emphasize enough how important this tip is for solo travellers.
You can lose your wallet, get pickpocketed, or get robbed, which is bad at the best of times and is even worse when you’re travelling alone.
You’re 100% responsible for paying for everything. If you lose your money (or over spend), you’re going to go hungry and not be able to eat for the rest of your trip.
I highly recommend you have $100 or so stored in a separate location away from your normal pot of cash.
A lot of women are told to keep some f*uck you money to pay for a cab home if a date goes wrong. This is the travel equivalent of that.
It may seem silly or not worth it, but trust me. I’ve solo travelled for years and know first hand how thankful I’ve been to have some extra money when something has gone wrong.
I like to keep my extra money in the inner zipper pocket of my purse.
This way it is on me at all times, and I can use it to pay for transportation if necessary.
Some people prefer to keep it in the safe at the hotel or in their suitcase.
It doesn’t really matter as long as you have some extra money tucked away somewhere for emergencies.
7. Beware of Local Scams
No matter where in the world you go, there are local scams.
One of the best ways you can protect yourself when travelling alone for the first time is to do a quick Google search and learn about the most common scams in the place you’re going.
I don’t like the idea that solo travellers are more at risk of being scammed, but it is more important to know about local scams as a solo traveller.
When you travel alone, you only have two eyes, and you can’t see everything going on around you. You don’t have an extra pair of eyes (or multiple pairs of eyes) to notice something you may not have.
If you’re aware of the local scams, you know what to look for and can keep an eye out for anything that looks like it might be connected to that scam.
I don’t want you to think that you’re going to get scammed as a solo traveller. I’ve only been scammed two or three times in all my years of solo travel, so it isn’t very common.
I just want you to know what to look out for, so you can keep your eyes open. It would not leave a very good taste in your mouth if you were scammed on your first solo trip!
8. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Travelling alone for the first time definitely pushes you outside your comfort zone, and I think you should keep that momentum going while you’re on your trip.
Do one or two things on your solo trip that push you out of your comfort zone.
It can be something as small as going for a nice dinner alone when you normally wouldn’t. Or something as large as bungee jumping for the first time.
It doesn’t really matter.
One of the best parts of solo travel is that it pushes you to be a better person and grow, but it only does that if you step outside your comfort zone.
But, it is important to know the difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing something reckless.
For example, going on a wine tasting adventure alone is getting out of your comfort zone.
Going on a five hour hike when you’ve never hiked longer than an hour is reckless.
See the difference. 😉
So, my challenge to you (and one I give myself as well) is to get outside your comfort zone at least once every trip you take!
9. Keep in Touch with Friends and Family Back Home
Your friends and family are going to worry about you when you’re travelling alone for the first time.
Be a good person and keep in touch with them while you’re gone!
Even to this day I text my mom when I leave my hotel for the day and when I get back. It is sometimes annoying for me, but it makes her feel much better about my travelling alone.
It is a simple thing you can do to put their minds at ease.
Plus you get to brag about how good of a time you’re having!
There is no better way to make someone jealous than by sending them vacation photos! So, update them on how you’re doing and what you’re seeing.
And don’t just post it on social media. Text them and Facetime them as well!
Watch This Video!
I hope these tips have helped you feel more confident and ready for your first solo trip.
No matter what your first solo trip looks like, it will be full of a variety of different emotions, and I guarantee that at least once during your trip you’ll question why you’re doing it.
But I promise that travelling alone is worth it.
Even if you only do it once!
There is nothing else quite like travelling alone for the first time. It pushes you and makes your grow as a person.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a fellow solo traveller who didn’t say they came back from their first solo trip a different person and a better person.
I really hope you get to experience the joy of solo travel to see if it is the right travel style for you.
Solo travel isn’t for everybody, but you don’t know if it is for you until you try it!