Checklist for planning your first solo trip

May 11, 2023

Real talk, friend— solo travel is for everyone.

It’s not just for people whose friends/family don’t have the same schedules, same travel budget, same wants and needs for travel, or enjoy the same activities or pace of travel as you do (though those are all great reasons to travel solo).

What I mean is that you don’t need a “reason” to travel solo. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you want to travel alone (though I will tell you: For me it’s about freedom — doing exactly what I want, when and how I want!). How you spend your money or travel is no one’s business but yours — and that’s an empowering feeling!

If you’re thinking about pushing the “book” button on a solo trip, then you’re in the right place. This solo travel checklist will help you be 100% prepared for an exciting, safe solo trip!

Solo travel checklist (12 points!)

  • Choose a destination that suits your interests and budget. What vibe are you after? Is public transportation important to you, or are you willing to rent a car? Watch YouTube videos and check travel blogs to learn about the places you want to visit— these are usually more accurate than guidebooks that may have been published years ago and don’t have up-to-date information. If you’re looking for a fantastic way to start looking at perfect destinations for your first solo trip, check out the 9 best destinations for your first solo trip.

  • Decide when you want to go and for how long. Consider weather, peak travel season (shoulder seasons can be cheaper), and what you want to see. For example, if your heart is set on Iceland and you want to see the adorable puffins that you see in every IG photo, a little research will tell you that you can only see puffins in Iceland during certain months, not all year. Don’t break your own heart by failing to check on seasonality. There are places in Spain, for example, where many stores and restaurants close during certain seasons— you may be enticed by a cheap flight, but will be devastated when you arrive and everything is shuttered! Do your research.

  • Set flight alerts for your dates (or set them for “flexible dates” if you want to find the most affordable flights and have a bit of wiggle room). Here’s a quick guide that shows you step by step how to use Google Flights to find the cheapest flights and set alerts for price drops. 

  • Check the visa requirements for your destination and apply if necessary. Some countries don’t require travel visas, while others do and take weeks or even more than a month to get. I always check those requirements (check them on this page of the US State Department website) around the same time that I choose a destination and dates. Don’t be the person that shows up to a country without a visa and get denied at the border– I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty. 

  • Book your accommodation and transportation in advance. I don’t always arrange my hotels and transportation before I go, but it’s because I’ve learned a ton from my experiences (ie failures) that I’m comfortable doing it. However, I ALWAYS book my very first hotel in advance– I don’t want to get off an airplane jet lagged, unshowered, tired, and hungry without a place to go relax.

  • Purchase some simple travel safety products. A little preparation can go a long way– you can’t have fun if you don’t feel safe. Here are the 8 best travel safety products for women on Amazon (most under $20!). 

  • Create a rough itinerary for your trip. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but having a general plan can help you make the most of your time and feel comfortable and in control on your first solo trip. 

  • Purchase travel insurance to protect yourself in case of unexpected events like illness, cancellations, or injury. Trust me– you never “need” it until you NEED it and it’s just not worth the gamble. I always use Allianz because it’s really affordable. 

After you finish this solo travel checklist, check out my top 10 tips for first time solo travelers– I’ve made every mistake in the book and a lot of them I would have never seen coming!

  • Make copies of your passport, travel documents, and emergency contact info to leave with friends or family. Also keep one set of copies with you at all times. 

  • Pack smart and bring only what you need. Consider the climate, cultural norms, and activities you’ll be doing. Use my packing tips to avoid checking a bag and fit everything in carry on luggage. Trust me, you don’t want to have to lug a 50lb bag up 8 flights of stairs in a European hotel (which famously generally don’t have elevators) or down patchy dirt roads in Vietnam. 

  • Research local customs and etiquette to avoid offending locals or committing any cultural taboos. Travel is an incredible privilege and as a visitor, it’s important to respect local norms when you can. Again, having some information to help me blend in makes me feel safer in new places when I’m traveling alone. 

  • Learn some basic phrases in the local language to help you get around and communicate. I write a few of these in the notes app on my iPhone for quick reference, because you never know when your cell service (even if you’ve bought an eSim or local sim card) will randomly stop working.

Looking for more? Be sure to check out:

Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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