When booking your first solo trip you are probably going to be hit with a mixture of excitement and panic. There is so much to look forward to: from deciding on where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do there.
I’m sure you are keen to spread your traveller wings. However, knowing where to start with organising the practical aspects of your adventure can feel a little off-putting.
The temptation is strong to book the plane tickets and run off into the night, hoping all will just fall into place. However, you and I know that head-in-the-sand is perhaps not the most sensible approach. So whether you’re worried about planning your solo travels or not, my advice is the same: it’s time to get practical.
But before you react like I’ve just set you a really difficult piece of homework, I promise you that the steps you need to take to book your upcoming solo travels needn’t be a hassle.
Follow my 12 simple, totally practical tips for booking your first solo trip and you can get back to dreaming about sunsets and sunshine in no time.
Practical Tips For Booking Your First Solo Trip
Even if you’ve travelled a little before, it’s always worth taking a moment to go back to basics when in planning mode. Below is the no-nonsense, nuts and bolts approach to making sure you have the practical side to your upcoming travels covered.
1. Check Your Passport Is In Date
If you’re planning international travel you will need a passport. That is pretty much a given and something you probably knew already. However, what you may not realise is that the majority of countries apply the rule that your passport must be valid for at least six months after you travel.
It’s worth getting your passport out of its secret hidey-hole and taking the opportunity to check its expiry date. If you’ve only got six to eight months left on your passport then it’s time to renew. You don’t want to be blocked from booking your flight, or worse; stopped from boarding the plane at the airport.
Hey, if nothing else, it gives you the opportunity to renew your passport photo, right? I know how much you love your current one, after all.
2. Ensure Your Name On The Booking Matches Your Passport
Be super careful when entering in your details to book your flight. You know that it’s important for your name on the booking to exactly match the name on your passport, which means no nicknames. If your full name is Victoria but you go by Vicky, don’t be tempted to book your flight using your nickname.
That Brazilian immigration officer at the airport in Rio is not going to care that you are of course the same person when they are frowning at your passport. Or worse still, you’ll be denied boarding at the airport as they won’t have a record of a Victoria with a booking.
It’s as simple as that.
3. Check Visas Or Visa Waiver Schemes
Do you need a visa for the country you are travelling to?
The easiest way to answer this question is jump to the immigration website for the country you are planning to visit. Heading straight to the governmental website will ensure you receive the most up to date and accurate information.
For example, if I want to travel to Australia, I head straight to the Australian Immigration website.
The immigration website should provide information for every visitor to their country, of every nationality, listing what visa you will need.
This website will also let you know the costs associated with your particular visa, how to apply and whether it is an electronic visa (e-visa) or if you are required to send off your passport to receive a physical on-page visa.
I have found that applying directly through the country’s immigration service is the easiest and most cost effective way to get my visas. Applying through an agency may incur extra costs as the agency will want to make a commission on your application.
Visa waiver schemes are when you do not need to apply in advance for a visa to specific countries because you are allowed to enter the country for up to 90 days. Again, all of this information can be found on the immigration website for the country you intend to travel.
4. Proof Of An Onward Journey
Whilst we’re on the subject of passports and visas, another little trick to consider is whether you need proof of onward travel plans.
Here’s a little example: your dear travel blogger pal, Meg, books a one way flight to Bali from Australia. She knows she is entitled to a 30 day visa on arrival in Bali and has not yet figured out what she wants to do after Bali.
Picture Meg’s dismay at the airport in Melbourne, Australia when the terribly polite yet firm airline employee refuses to let her check in because she does not have proof of an outward journey.
You see, even though you may be intending to go-with-the-flow and book a flight at a later date, or exit via land border at some time in the future, Balinese immigration will take an incredibly dim view of your lackadaisical travel lifestyle.
For the planners out there, you may be horrified at my laid back approach and would never dream of travelling without a concrete plan. For those who are cut from the same cloth as me, a word to the wise: make sure you can prove your intention to leave the country before you overstay your welcome!
5. Check Safety Of The Country You Intend To Visit
I don’t want to alarm you or put you off travelling, but depending on where you want to visit it may be wise to check the safety of the country.
This shouldn’t be something that you get yourself worked up about. You’re simply reassuring yourself before you commit to travel that your intended destination is going to be a good choice.
Again, your government should issue warnings for safety and even extreme weather alerts. If you’re from the US you can take a look the Department of State or if you’re from the UK check out the Foreign Office’s website. If you’re from another country, do an internet search for your governmental website as they’ll have the most trustworthy and up to date information.
6. Be Familiar With Religious And Cultural Norms
Travel enables you to learn about cultures, religion, history and food that’s different to what you know. However, read up a little on your chosen destination before you travel so you can be prepared. Respect for the culture and the people you will be in contact with is a sure fire way to ensure your travels are a pleasant experience.
If you’re heading to a Muslim country, for example, where dress codes are a lot more modest, it’s worth giving some thought to how this will affect your packing.
7. Check The Weather At Your Destination
So you want to go and chill on the beaches of Thailand? Sounds incredible to relax under a palm tree with a beer in hand, right?
This dream will come crashing down pretty hurriedly if you inadvertently book your trip to coincide with the rainy season. You can certainly visit a country in its winter or rainy season if you have specific activities in mind and can ensure your safety and comfort, but I would advise putting some thought into which is the best season to travel to that destination.
I’ve certainly waded through thigh deep water with my backpack on my back and still managed to smile. But torrential rain does make the act of travel a lot more difficult than it has to be.
8. Check The Religious Calendar
Another small thing to consider when you’re booking your trip is whether there are specific religious or cultural ceremonies at a particular time of the year. Depending on how you look at it, you may want to either be there for that experience – i.e. Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival – or avoid that time of year as travel and infrastructure may close down – for example, Bali’s Nyepi New Year- or prices could rise significantly as local holidaymakers take advantage – Chinese New Year.
9. Do You Need Vaccinations Before Travel
Your health and well being is always going to be your number one priority when you travel. The process of taking care of yourself starts even before you begin to pack.
Be really organised with this one. As you start to look into the places you’d like to explore, take a look at what vaccinations (if any) you need. It’s a risky game to turn up to an area of the world that’s prevalent for malaria, for example, when you have made no precautions at all to protect yourself.
It’s not a pleasant thing to have to sort out. Nobody likes an injection – something that probably stems back to childhood vaccinations. But, use it as a time to revert back to your inner kid and treat yourself with a chocolate bar and a hug after you’ve had your jabs.
Many countries may ask for proof of vaccinations, so heading to a travel health clinic or your doctor is the first step you should take to talk through your options and make sure you have the dates of your injections officially written down.
Don’t be that person who books a flight and realises a week before they go that they should have had a course of injections over the past six weeks. You don’t want to add unnecessary stress to your pre-trip planning!
10. Money Matters
Check the exchange rate and change a small amount of cash into the local currency. It will be useful to have some local money available to pay for transport to your accommodation when you arrive.
Think about how you are going to access money whilst you are abroad. There are plenty of cash cards you can use whilst you travel, like the Post Office’s Travel Money Card if you’re from the UK, which you can load up with money and use just like a debit card without incurring costly charges.
Traveller’s cheques are a little old fashioned these days and you may struggle to find places to exchange them.
11. Store Important Documents Electronically
Scan copies of your passport, driving license and any other important ID documentation and email them to yourself. Save electronic itineraries, details of embassies, travel insurance policy, proof of vaccinations, and visa grant letters and save them in your emails and in the cloud – OneDrive or Google Drive for safe keeping.
Send these to someone else too. Not only will they be able to check on your itinerary for you, but they’ll have all the information if you lose access to your emails.
12. Get Travel Insurance
One last super practical piece of advice that you have to pinky swear you will not neglect is to buy travel insurance before you go.
I know, I know, major eye roll because who’s ever needed travel insurance, right? Wrong. I’ve come across many a horror story (sorry guys, it’s mainly a horror story because of the lack of travel insurance) that has meant people have lost a ton of money dealing with ill health, delays, stolen items and worse on the road.
So, although it may feel like a waste of money to buy something ‘you will never need,’ think of travel insurance as your essential protection blanket and your go-to for resolving issues when you travel. You wouldn’t sunbathe all day without sun cream would you? It’s good to know you are covered when you walk out the door.
All You Need To Know About Booking First Time Travel
So there you have it. All the steps you need to think about as you book your first solo trip.
Have I covered all bases or do you still have questions? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email if you would like any more tips and tricks on first time travel.
Wait, there’s more!
I’ve made this all super easy for you by creating a FREE downloadable check-list for booking your first solo holiday. Print it off or save it so you’ve got it to hand when you’re planning your next trip.
Useful Planning Sites I Love
It’s also nice to have a go-to selection of resources on hand when booking your travels. Here’s a list of the travel sites and apps that I love to use when organising my trips.
Meeting Travel Buddies
Tourlina (for women)
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