Taking on the world solo is an exciting and exhilarating opportunity that I believe everyone who has that dream should jump at. If you allow yourself, solo travel can permanently change your being for the better as being alone in the world forces a steely self reliant version of your own self to emerge. Undoubtedly this risk will cause you to make mistakes that are both simple and preventable where the little things can sometimes make the biggest difference. I can assure you that within my time of travel, I have made plenty. However, the rewards for those risks will give you an experience that nothing else in life is capable of doing. Here are my top 19 mistakes to avoid in order to make for the most successful trips:
1. Not having a plan
Being able to explore new places without a guide can be an exciting way to find those hidden gems and immerse yourself into a new culture or city. However, if you don’t have some idea of what you’d like to experience and don’t do any research prior to exploring, you can end up missing out on some of the in demand and spectacular experiences. It’s also all too easy to miss your bus or not be able to sneak into that incredible restaurant you’ve been dying to dine at because you needed that reservation.
To avoid this, make sure you research your destination thoroughly and make any bookings that you require. Booking early will get you the best prices and deals and you will definitely thank yourself later.
2. Carrying too much cash
I have been to many destinations that are hotbeds for pickpockets targeting tourists for their valuables. When travelling, only take the cash that is required for the day and make sure it is secured somewhere safe in your bag. I also recommend keeping any additional cash and valuable belongings that you may have in a secret compartment of your luggage bag when kept in a hotel as you can never really be too careful. It never hurts to put a decoy wallet in there either.
3. Not having a budget
Travelling solo doesn’t have to be expensive, however even the most thrifty travellers require a budget with contingency while escaping the humdrum of a salaried life. There is nothing worse than being in a foreign country only to realise that you’ve just spent the last of your savings on one too many piña coladas that you didn’t need. It’s a good idea to keep up to date with foreign exchange rates as well as expected local prices including means of transport and make sure your budget allows for everything. Local vendors in many destinations are infamous for trying to charge many times the going rate for goods; still bringing a little more than you think you may need when possible is highly advisable as predicting the unpredictable is the most prudent course of action.
4. Planning too much for one day
I’m guilty of being so hyped up when arriving to a new destination and wanting to see and do everything that’s on offer. I have also learnt along the way that this can be tiring, unrealistic and can also take away the chance of some unexpected but unforgettable experiences. When planning, make sure you have plenty of flexible room to move around with and really embrace and enjoy every planned activity – without having the additional pressure of jumping straight to the next thing.
5. Not staying connected with family or friends
Staying connected with family and friends is a must. Steady contacts provides you with some safety by allowing these people to know your whereabouts and movements. There is no shame in having a tough day and needing some familiar voices to break from the loneliness that is sometimes present in solo travel. My experience tells me that this contact can make or break a trip because a burst of encouragement can cement that sturdy and determined mindset that is so vital to a successful trip.
6. Trusting new people too quickly
When travelling alone, it’s inevitable to come across some incredible people from every corner of the globe. Some of my best friendships have formed with people that I’ve met spontaneously while travelling. I have also met people who attempt to befriend others with not so genuine intentions. Always stay cautious, don’t give out too much information about yourself and never trust anyone you meet travelling solo too quickly. Instinct is key and when things seem too good to be true, it usually means that they are.
7. Not activating bank cards for overseas use
There have been far too many times than what I’d like to admit where I have travelled abroad and made a purchase only to find that my card has been temporarily blocked because I didn’t update my bank of my planned abroad location. Before leaving the country ensure to notify the bank to avoid any such problematic situations. You can do this via going physically to the bank, phone call or banking app.
Alternatively pre paid bank cards are widely available from travel agencies which you can top up on your travels without updating your bank constantly.
8. Letting fear overcome you
Travelling alone can expose you to endless possibilities of new experiences, destinations and adventures. At times this may lead to feeling overwhelmed with fear.
It’s only natural to be faced with some fear when exploring a new place for the first time or adventuring solo. You may be reluctant to try Thai street food for the fear of an upset stomach, or be petrified of the safety measurements in place prior to getting into that hot air balloon basket.
It’s a sensible idea to run a discrete risk assessment, if there are no red flags then close your eyes and take the plunge. Try new things, do something you wouldn’t have expected and keep an open mind to be that fearless intrepid explorer that you dreamt of being before setting out on this journey.
9. Last minute packing
My husband will testify that I’m guilty of constantly doing this and regretting it. Too many times I have packed last minute only to realise that I have forgotten some important documents, personal items or equipment.
I recommend creating a tick list and note down where passports, tickets and money is packed when travelling; this will be your belongings bible. Also make sure you pack at least a day before leaving to avoid stress, it’s not a good way to commence any trip. Believe me, there is nothing worse than arriving to an airport only to realise you have left your passport at home.
10. Being too polite
On occasions being polite to people while travelling has put me in some very uncomfortable situations. These experiences have led me to wish I had been more assertive; although there are countless big hearted people in the world, there are also those that are only interested in looking after themselves even if that means harming others. It’s not uncommon for solo travellers to be targeted by people who attempt to strike a conversation with you with the intention of pick pocketing or giving you unwanted attention. Saying no is nothing new to these people; walking away or making up a little white lie doesn’t harm them but protects yourself and this is a priority.
11. Not enjoying alone time
It may be obvious, but when travelling solo, extended periods of alone time are inevitable. However don’t panic, I found that embracing this idea daunting at first but shortly afterwards I became addicted. This is a unique space in which learn about yourself deeply and grow into the person you want to be. Ironically, I am not alone in staunchly believing that you can overcome almost anything and feel virtually unbreakable with the right mindset and experience to back it up.
12. Taking too many photos
If you’re a keen photographer, you may arrive and try to take a photo at every conceivable angle. There’s nothing wrong with storing those memories but make sure that photo taking doesn’t over consume living in that moment and letting every other sense soak in the experience. The human memory is so vivid and powerful that sounds, smells and temperatures are also inherently important to the experience. You can always look up a picture of a destination or scenery, but you can’t always relive being there.
13. Not taking enough photos
On the other hand, make sure you take the right photos! I have been to many places, especially in the beginning of my travels where I simply didn’t experiment with my craft enough; it left me with no photos where I wish I had taken some for memories sake!
14. Drinking too much
It’s easy to get a little carried away with a cheeky alcoholic beverage on a night out, but make sure you avoid drinking too much. When drinking as a solo traveller, or even with people that you have just met, you become very vulnerable at a time when you need your wits about you. To make sure you get back to your accomodation safely with no horrific event occurring, ensure to have a drinking limit and don’t be bullied in to sticking to alcoholic drinks.
15. Travelling with a cheap flight
There is nothing better than bagging a cheap flight to a destination that you’ve always wanted to visit, but keep in mind that these flights are often cheap for a reason. These flights may be at risk of spontaneously changing, not providing refunds, being unorganised or not having ideal stop overs which may put you at risk of missing a connecting flight. When it comes to international travel, booking directly with the airline will afford you the best terms and conditions.
16. Packing too much
Once again, I’m also guilty of this. There have been many times where I have squished copious amounts of clothes and items into my suitcase for ‘just in case’ reasons. I can’t remember one time that it has been useful, in fact if anything it became a nuisance lugging around a heavy suitcase. Packing light is a surprisingly liberating experience as travelling solo is all about problem solving and diving deep into independence. I recommend making a list of what you need and packing according to your plans. You don’t (even if you think you do) need 10 outfits for a week away; believe it or not there are laundrettes and washing machines available everywhere in the world!
17. Not taking a backpack
I know many people who take a handbag on their travels believing that this is all they need. They are wrong. Always opt to take a backpack. Not only does this give you more room to pack items that simply won’t fit in a smaller place, but are also more secure and comfortable.
18. choosing cheap accomodation that compromises safety
It is a great feeling stumbling across affordable accomodation for your solo travel, but ensure that this accomodation is safe! Backpacking horror stories are a dime a dozen when it comes to open hostels where peoples safety and belongings are compromised. Sometimes saving and splurging a little more is worth the security.
19. Missing transport
This point reverts back to planning adequately. I have missed the last bus and missed check-in for a flight due to poor planning or not accounting for any extra time or regulations. I’d recommend arriving to your transport destination with plenty of time no matter how much time you thin you have. There are so many conceivable reasons for why you might be delayed, especially where destinations are overcrowded and transport is rudimentary and slow.
I’m an Australian blogger based in Central West NSW who has spent the last few years exploring the four corners of the globe, living as an expat and falling in love with the world just a little bit more everyday. Here you can find my tips, guides and experiences to help inspire you for your next trip!
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