Sarah’s 2-Step Solo Travel Guide II
I’ve been traveling the world for over 7 years. Solo traveling isn’t something I would recommend to everyone, but if you are up to the challenge it has given me some of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Traveling on your own is pretty intimidating, and I’ve found that solo travelers’ guides are often outdated and unrealistic. This lead me to create my own 2-Step solo travel guide to help those of you who are looking to expand your individual travel experiences.
If you want to travel on your own it starts with having two very important skills. Read Step 1 here.
Second, you need to know how to completely ignore all the travel advice you’ve been given. Every single person who I have given advice, or those who have asked my advice has taken it as an inspiration to do their own research. I’m even guilty of this.
Everyone travels differently. Traveling is more of an individual experience than shoe shopping or picking paint colors. No matter what place you think someone has to visit, sight they have to see, or hotel they should stay at, a good solo traveler is never going to be satisfied by the word of a friend. Even if they do try the restaurant that you always go back to when you visit, their experience is going to be completely different than yours.
Don’t let someone else plan your trip. If you’re traveling by yourself don’t go to places because someone told you, don’t buy things because an ad told you to, and don’t pick an option because it’s readily available. I have fallen victim to eating at the first place I came upon in a tourist area, and I’ve seen people make the mistake of booking a hotel because it used the city’s name in the title, thinking it would be in the city center, and realizing it was no where near. Everyone experiences things differently and advertising is meant to sell you things. I would know, it’s what I study.
When I went to buy a new duffle bag for my month long trip to Europe it took me four months. Why? Well I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to pay, I was willing to do the research to get exactly what I wanted. That bag was my friend, my companion, something to remind me why I was going on that trip, but that was just my experience. I’ve seen people travel with loads of luggage and some travel with only one pair of pants. Researching and finding the best products, methods, and locations for you are key to having a great travel experience.
Do your research. Don’t stop until you feel comfortable and confident. Below I’ve listed a few resources that have always proven useful to me. Use them or take them as a jumping off point for your research. (I have not been paid by any of these companies)
Any time I need to buy a flight I go to Kayak first. I always check multiple other sites, (Student Universe is great for students traveling) but 95% of the time Kayak has had the cheapest prices. Their interface is simple to use, easy to customize (to filter sites like Student Universe for you) and you can set up alerts for prices.
Pro-tip: Flight prices change at 12am Every Wednesday. They are usually the cheapest that day, and the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Here’s the part where I contradict myself. You might not be completely ready to travel on your own, it’s overwhelming planning everything yourself. If you feel this way, Contiki tours are an incredible resource for you. They let you finance the cost of your trips, without signing up for any credit card, and they even let people help you pay for your trip. Their trips are as short as a few days and as long as just over a month. The tour guides are knowledgable and they get you in touch with local guides as well. The only catch is that the trips are restricted to people 18-35 years of age.
In my opinion these two sites should be used together and not exclusively. The reason being, they take two dramatically different approaches to giving travel advice. Tripadvisor is at times confusing and the wealth of information can be overwhelming, but it has realistic reviews and images from consumers that are invaluable when you want to know what a hostel (or any other accommodation) really looks like. Lonely Planet complies some of the most widely used travel-guide books in the world, and their website is filled with carefully curated blog posts by experienced travelers as well as forums for other questions. However, they are always trying to sell their books in the end. My best results have always come from finding some attraction or place that interests me on Lonely Planet and then cross-checking it with the reviews on Tripadvisor.
I know I’ve been throwing out nothing but brand names, however when competitors concur it’s always good to use the resource with the biggest name in the case of travel. They have the most to lose if they are wrong. If they really are all that they advertise, then they will have reviews. Use your power as a consumer, if you do your research you won’t have to worry about them hoodwinking you. In the end you need to be confident and comfortable traveling. Step one will always lead you to the best result: Never stop asking questions.
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Best of Luck