Whether you’re taking a quick trip away or embarking on a longer adventure, here’s a list of some of the top tips I found useful when travelling solo in the past year, and some I wish I had known sooner!
Useful Items to Take With You:
Before you go, make life a little easier on the road by doing some research, and make some handy purchases to aid the budget lifestyle, such as…
Travelling Clothes Line
An amazingly useful piece of kit, a packable clothes line that you can hang up wherever you are, and not have to worry about damp clothes or paying a fortune to use the in-house dryer!
Dr. Bronner’s Soap
A natural and beautifully fragranced all-purpose soap, that’s available as bars or liquid. You can use it as body soap, as well as on your hair and your clothes. You can find other similar multi-purpose products easily, both in online shops and specific travelling websites; this one’s just a personal favourite of mine.
Universal Sink Stopper
Another absolute blessing! No more clothing shortages as this means you can do your emergency laundry anywhere! It also means you can pack minimally. They are easy to find online or in D.I.Y shops.
GoToobs are reusable silicon travel bottles that come in a range of sizes and colours, and are especially good for short trips when you only want to take a small amount of liquids, or if you have items you need to decant before coming back!
Staying Safe Whilst Solo:
Use Your Judgement
Making new friends on your adventures is part of the fun when travelling, but don’t give out personal information too freely. Keep your accommodation as somewhere just you can chill and recharge alone if you need to. Even if it is a room with 8 bunk bends or a kitchen shared between 200 people…
Make Digital Back-Ups
In case you do lose anything super important, you don’t want it to be the end of the world. Keep a scan or copy of your important stuff, such as passport, insurance, and bookings accessible online or on a memory stick.
This means that if you do end up needing to replace a lost passport, you could save valuable time and worry as you have the details to hand should you need to take a trip to the embassy.
Know Where You’re Going!
Sounds simple, yet in today’s world, most of us couldn’t imagine travelling without a smartphone, not to mention surviving without WiFi. Try not to be dependent on your phone battery or internet connection to get from A to B.
Downloading maps offline is handy, as it allows you to have a record of your route even if you can’t determine your location via GPS. Or you can even draw up your own! Figuring out my plan whilst at a hostel and then jotting down my own way there is something I did quite often.
It’s partly to do with blending in a little more; when I’m out and about I can check my notebook rather than gawking at my phone or turning a guide map upside-down, with a disgruntled expression that reads “CONFUSED TOURIST HERE” .
Writing it out yourself also helps you remember road names and details better, so if you re-visit the same area again you should be able to get there easier.
It sounds obvious, but do make sure you are equipped with a sturdy water bottle throughout your trip, no matter the duration. It will save you money in the long run and is better for you and the environment, especially if BPA free! If you’re visiting somewhere where the water isn’t drinkable, you could think about taking water-purifying tablets. You can get these from any pharmacy relatively cheaply.
Dress to Impr…ove Your Chances of Avoiding Frostbite:
Unless you can guarantee the only weather you’re facing is a beautiful beach climate for weeks on end, you’ll need more than a bikini and summer accessories to get you through.
That said, it’s surprising how little luggage we actually need. The amount of clothes you think you need to take probably ends up being half that. The key is to make sure you are prepared for a range of conditions, especially if experiencing multiple seasons and different climates.
- A lightweight rain jacket
- A good hoodie
- Supportive shoes
- Good socks
- Light layers that you can build up.
If you are going to be very active, make sure to include quick-drying materials. A travel towel is also really useful and dries very quickly, taking up a fraction of the space of a regular one.
You can also get hand-roll vacuum bags to minimise space that don’t require a vacuum/electricity to use. Or you can roll your clothes or bundle-wrap them to use up as little space as needed!
Be prepared for periods!
If you’re travelling and you’re going to be on your period, it’s a good idea to make a note of the dates. You don’t want it to spoil your time or become difficult if you are in a particularly remote place! Also factor sanitary products into your budget if you need to. They can often be a forgotten about expense!
If you use disposable products, you can stock up before you leave.
If you wanted to try reusable products then you could go with a menstrual cup such as a Moon Cup or Diva Cup, which would again save you money whilst you’re on your travels. (Other alternatives include: reusable cloth pads and menstrual sponges.)
Know Your Budget
Depending on whether you’ve saved up huge amounts of cash for a luxury trip or you’re doing some more economic backpacking, it’s super important to have at least a rough idea of your expenses.
Not just accommodation, but activities too. Is there something you’ve specifically come to this country to do? Factor it in, and any other things you think are likely to pique your interest.
Also be realistic. If you are someone who likes to have a few beers in an evening, give room in your budget for these little extras, rather than not including them and trying to be ‘good,’ if that’s going to be tricky! This way, splashing out for the odd social night with your new companions wont ruin the budget.
Have a Sort-Of Plan
To a certain degree, you’re going to want the freedom to change your plans, to up and go to the next adventure in the spur of the moment, particularly as you meet new friends along the way. And this can sometimes be the best part about travelling, just make sure you never leave yourself in a vulnerable situation.
Always have an idea of where you’re going to stay and when. Which town do you want to be in? Check out hostel and accommodation options, and if you are leaving it late to book because you don’t know your exact itinerary, have a plan B. (And possibly C & D if travelling at peak season.)
Many hostels offer better deals if booked directly, so bear this in mind if you’re prone to using booking sites that charge commission like Hostelworld etc.
Hostels usually release their availability in the evening for the next day, so check back then if you have your eye on a certain place.
Lastly, this might come across as painstakingly patronising, but…
Have a return ticket!
This from the person who went London-NZ via Asia and Australia with no escape plan… The idea was to work, and when this didn’t work out as well as I’d dreamed up, I was stuck & had to rely on my family members to scrape together and help me back sooner than I anticipated.
Even if you are on a working holiday VISA, be sure that it’s definitely the right call; know the areas that you’re going to try and agencies that you can sign up with.
If you’re not, but you don’t know when exactly you’ll be back, purchasing a flexible ticket is a good option. STA and similar companies provide flexible tickets with a set number of changes/destinations.
Hopefully this mix of advice and handy products is useful to some of you first-timers. You will most likely discover your own must-haves and handy hacks. This is just a collection of things that worked for one weary traveller.
If you want further reading, other great places to look are:
- LonelyPlanet.com – they have lots of traveller lead forums
- Trip Advisor – if you want opinions on particular accommodation, areas, or activities
And of course, look at posts from other independent travellers themselves. The chances are, if you Google a question or worry you have about travelling, many of us have already been in that same position. The more wisdom you can glean from other’s experiences (and mistakes) the better!
Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem.
Images from Lauren Barnard, Amazon and Earth Wise Girls.