Grace Zehnder, the author, picked Iceland as her first solo travel destination. 

Planning your first solo travel experience can be scary and you might not know where to start. I was 25 when I took my first solo trip and it was the best experience I have had so far. Here are a few tips that can help you through that process that I learned on my solo adventures.

1. Research

Research; research; research. Figure out what destination(s) you want to visit.  Figure out what the budget would be for your travel, how much the plane fare will cost, food, hotels, etc. See what hotels/Airbnb or wherever you’re going to lodge is around the area. Decide on whether you will rent a car or use public transportation, some countries it might be easier to rent a car to get around as their public transportation might not be able to take you to your activities. Look at the activities in the area and decide whether you’re going to do most of your exploring on your own? Or do you want to do more guided tours? Look at where you can get a SIM card for your phone, if you don’t want to rely on the local WIFI.

For my first solo trip, I picked Iceland, as most people there speak English and it pretty safe to travel alone there. There were certain areas I wanted visit and while researching found it was best for me if I rented a car. I also did a solo trip to Croatia because like Iceland it is relatively safe and most people speak English. While researching I found out that it was better to use their public transport, most of the popular cities there have very limited parking.

Grace picked Croatia based on its reputation as being relatively safe city. Here’s a photo she took of Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia.


2. Practice

If you are nervous about your first solo travel, practice doing things on a smaller scale. For example, go to dinner on your own, or take a smaller solo travel for the weekend or just a day trip. This will help you get comfortable with doing things on your own. Before my first international solo trip, I had taken several solo trips within the United States. One of them was to the Ozarks in Missouri. That experience got me more comfortable with navigating on my own.

3. Plan your itinerary

While you want to resist planning every activity, you’ll want to establish a baseline plan. Schedule your visits to the cities/towns you want to go, along with the tours/activities you want to do while there. Be flexible because things will pop up and you will need to adjust for, like weather. Also meeting new people and the locals once you get there could change your plans. They might have recommendations for activities you might not have found while researching.

Grace visited Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

Don’t over-plan

Above all, try not to over-schedule yourself. You do not want to drain yourself right away. Instead, spread out activities and give yourself rest time. The first day you arrive in a new destination, take it all in. Wander around the city, see how the public transportation works, check out local events, and study the map of the city to get comfortable getting around. I roughly sketched out what cities I would be staying in and for how long. I looked at the activities that were available for me to do and then once I got there, I usually decided day of which ones I would do. Since I went to Iceland in November it was hard to plan ahead as weather could change very quickly there.

Don’t over plan your trip. Grace went to Iceland in November so was flexible with her plan since the weather was variable at that time of the year.

4. Don’t overpack

Pack light and try not to overpack. Make sure you can manage your luggage easily by yourself. Some destinations you might have to climb a lot of stairs to get to your hotel/stay. I learned this one the hard way. I took a large suitcase to Croatia, they have a lot of stairs and certain stays where cars cannot go. I had to lug up my 45 lb. suitcase up and down a lot of stairs.

Grace was able to take in the beautiful Northern Lights while in Iceland.

5. Safety Tips

Share important plan details with family members, significant other, or close friends, like flight numbers, hotel names, what cities you will be in what days if there are multiple destinations. It’s also important to leave behind a copy of your passport. This way, it can be sent just in case yours should get lost or stolen. Have a hidden wallet, a money belt, that can be easily hidden under shirt. I purchased my money belt from Amazon. This is where you can keep your passport, other important documents, and extra forms of payment in case of emergencies. It’s also wise to invest in a theft-resistant purse or bag that will have your daily spending money and things you use daily. I had a theft resistant camera backpack for my two trips as I brought my camera along.

Act with confidence to deter thieves

Be confident, looking like you know where you and what you are doing helps deter unwanted attention. If you do get lost, walk into a shop/restaurant for directions. I usually had one earbud in with my phone in my pocket with Google maps on. I would listen to the directions, such as where I would need to turn when walking around town. It’s also a good idea to frequently update your friends and family about your itinerary and plans. Trust your gut, if something feels off or does not feel right leave.

Enjoy yourself while on this trip! You learn things about yourself that you did not know before, have a better understanding of who you are. You be glad you took this time for yourself and took this risk of traveling on your own. It made me feel free and a feeling I had never felt before, I believe that everyone should take at least one solo trip in their lifetime.

–Grace Zehnder 

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