Traveling alone can be both a one-of-a-kind experience and a daunting challenge. I’ve traveled solo to more than 20 countries, and well, I made some mistakes when I first started too.
Before starting your journey, you should know these 27 common mistakes when traveling solo to enjoy the most of your trip.
Go too cheap on your flight
I went really cheap on my flights and went for the best price rather than the best experience. I surely regretted it when spending 12 hours layover at the airport in the middle of the night.
Another time was when I booked an early flight at 5 am departing from Bergamo, Italy. I had to arrive at the airport the night before because there was no bus or train early. I was completely exhausted and even caught a cold after that.
So, I highly recommend spending a bit extra to have a more comfortable seat or a better time frame to avoid a long layover.
Also, many budget airlines depart from airports outside the city. You may end up paying more for trains and buses to get to the airport.
I usually use Skyscanner to compare prices and get the best price. It’s best to pay extra bucks for direct flights.
Not prepared for emergencies
Accidents and unforeseen situations can happen on your trip. It could be minor incidents like a flight delay, a more significant injury, or even worse. Before traveling alone, be prepared for emergencies.
Write down your complete travel itinerary and share it with a few trusted people, and regularly contact family and friends during your trip to keep them updated on your situation.
Also, you should buy travel insurance to make sure you’re covered no matter what. And have some emergency money ready and keep it in a safe place if you need it.
Miss your bus
Traveling solo means you have to arrange transportation and remind yourself to get to the station on time on your own.
Missing your buses, trains, or other booked appointments is not the end of the world, but it’s definitely not good for your budget.
You may have to purchase a new, last-minute ticket which costs more than double what you originally paid for.
Get locked in a group
Meeting people, traveling with them, and then not knowing how to say, “It was nice to meet you, but it’s time for me to go.” is probably one of the most common mistakes when traveling solo.
Decision fatigue is definitely a thing. There was a point on my trip when I had had enough and just wanted someone else to figure things out for a few days.
So I ended up sticking with a group for a couple of days. When we first met, we all had quite similar plans, and at some point, it seemed that we were just traveling together.
However, looking back, I feel like it may be better if I depart earlier and not compromise my plan to stay in the group.
They are great people, and I had a fantastic trip, but I know that I’ll think twice before locking in with one set of people on the next one.
Too many activities for the first/last day of the trip
The first day of your journey is usually filled with excitement, and you may do a bit too much sightseeing or activities.
However, the first day of your trip can be tiring, so you should take some time to relax and regain balance for your body. The same goes for the last day of the trip.
Don’t try to cram in too many activities these times, which will make you tired or frustrated because you can’t do it all.
If you miss something, that’s okay because you can use it as an excuse to come back to that destination later.
Not planning your itinerary
I love the idea of exploring new places by chance, and I used to avoid doing proper research about places that I was going to. So I ended up wasting lots of time wandering randomly instead of planning an itinerary.
Also, I missed things too! Now thinking back to some of my earlier trips, I wish I had visited some places instead.
Before you plan to go somewhere, it’s a good idea to first go through things like:
- Means of transport: If you can book your trains, buses, or flights in advance, you will be more proactive.
- Weather: you should check the weather forecast in advance. If you want to know more accurately, ask the local people where you are going (hotel staff) to prepare appropriate equipment and clothes.
- Hotels: I recommend booking accommodation in advance to avoid problems or out of rooms during the holiday season. You’ll also have more choices.
- Amazing places to visit: Plan your itinerary.
Carry a bunch of luggage
Traveling alone means you can’t expect anyone to help you with your luggage. So, make a list of essential items you’d like to bring when planning for your trip.
Bring only the things you need for a few days of travel, find out where you can wash your clothes along the way. Don’t be greedy to carry a bunch of luggage. It’ll make you tired of moving and taking care of the whole trip.
Not taking enough photos
When I started traveling, I didn’t take many photos to avoid looking like an obnoxious tourist. Also, the thoughts of going through tons of photos made me feel lazy too.
I regretted it after coming back from my first trip, especially when I reminisced about my earlier days of solo travel and didn’t have many photos to look back on.
So, I recommend finding a middle ground that works for you.
Now I take as many photos as possible and sort them out after my trip. I also carry a battery and extra memory cards for my camera.
Take only selfies
You don’t want all your photos from your trip to be just selfies. Don’t hesitate to ask someone to take a picture for you, and offer to do the same for them.
I know it may feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it.
Not backing up files
I lost my phone when I was in Copenhagen, and photos from my Italy and Sweden trips were gone. At that time, I didn’t buy a camera yet, and all my photos were saved on my phone.
Some photos survived, thanks to my efforts to send them to my friends and family earlier. But most of them were gone.
So back up your files!!! Back up is cheap. Save them on Dropbox or any cloud backup services.
Use exchange booth
Using the exchange booth may be handy if you just visit a place for a short time, but it’s not good if you travel a bit longer.
I spent a few days of my Europe trip exchanging currency every time. USD to Kroner to Euro to Sterling back to Euro. I should have just used ATMs the whole time.
The ATM fee and your bank’s currency exchange fee are much better than the percentage exchange places take. Much much better.
And some cards don’t charge you at all, making it much better than the exchange places. Also, you don’t have to carry a lot of cash with you all the time.
Get wasted just before your departure day
Drinking too much just before your departure day is a recipe for disaster.
Not only will you increase your chances of missing buses or flights the following day, but you’ll also feel exhausted and nauseous.
Going on transit while being hungover would not be very pleasant.
Not having a proper backpack
Not thing worse than traveling alone with a bad backpack.
Get yourself a good-quality backpack with posture corrector hooks over your shoulders and connects over the stomach. They’ll support both the upper and lower back and avoid back neck and shoulder pain.
Be a last-minute packer
Don’t wait till the last minute to pack your luggage! It’ll be troublesome and inconvenient if you forget to pack important stuff on your solo trip.
Also, if you’re flying, you should check your carry-on bag carefully to avoid unpacking and repacking at the airport.
Not updating your phone number
You may not be able to access your phone number abroad, especially when you change your SIM card.
I made the mistake of not updating my new phone number to my email while still accessing it. I ended up couldn’t log in to my Airbnb account in Thailand, and my only way to contact the host was through email.
Choose cheap accommodation that ignores the safety factor
While sticking to a budget is a great idea, your accommodation is not the place to save. I know it’s tempting to choose cheap places to stay on your trip. However, you shouldn’t ignore the safety concern.
As a solo traveler, you’ll want to choose a place that’s both comfortable and safe. So, make sure that any hotel or motel you stay in has a front desk with 24-hour security and that your room has a safe to store your valuables.
However, this does not mean that you have to stay at expensive hotels. Many hostels and homestays can also meet the above safety requirements.
Publicize the address you are staying at
Telling strangers where you’re staying would be a big mistake, especially when you travel solo. I know it may just appear in your conversation at the bar, but just say no when someone asks you about it.
Who knows what might happen if someone knows where you stay? Theft, robbery, sexual assault, etc. It’s best to limit the disclosure of your location.
Read more: How to avoid theft when traveling.
Not bringing earplugs
Earplugs are a total life-saver when you stay in a hostel dorm. They help block the noises and give you a pleasant sleep.
Also, they’re great when you travel by bus, train or airplane.
Carry a lot of cash on you
Carrying a lot of cash when traveling solo is dangerous. I usually have a small amount of money I need to spend per day, and the rest is on the ATM card.
Unable to overcome fear
One of the most common mistakes while traveling solo is not to over your fears.
Traveling won’t be memorable if you don’t have new experiences.
For example, don’t dare to try the zipline because of fear of heights or not eating local food for fear of stomach pain.
If you can’t overcome your fears, you won’t enjoy new experiences and learn new things. So, try many new things on your travels, they will be great!
Think that you can do it later
Almost any time I said, “I’m busy, I can do that later.”, I regret it afterward.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by a new place when alone and has so many things to see and do. And you also have the freedom to just move from place to place, so you’ll end up not doing what you want to do.
Not planning a travel budget
You may think that traveling alone won’t cost much. However, even most budget trip requires financial planning before going.
For example, if you’re traveling abroad before you depart, take the time to look up exchange rates and menus at the restaurants you want to dine in. This way, you can anticipate how much cash you will spend each day.
Also, have some money ready as a small emergency fund if you need it.
Going out every single night
Traveling and enjoying nightlife is a wonderful experience, but you shouldn’t go out every single night on your trip.
Staying out late will make you feel tired and sleepy the next day, and you can’t enjoy most of the trip as much as you want to.
Too many expectations about the trip
With the increase in talks about solo travel and its fantastic experience, you may think it’s filled with joy.
However, sometimes it’s difficult, anxious, and boring too.
So don’t expect too much. Appreciate every day on your trip. This way, you will not be disappointed but also surprised by the little joys of the trip.
Just focus on making new friends
You can easily make new friends while traveling alone, focusing on connecting with everyone you meet. That’s great, but you should also spend time alone.
Traveling alone is an opportunity for you to get to know yourself. Try reading a book in a park, having lunch in a cafe, or visiting a museum yourself.
Traveling alone gives you plenty of time to make new friends, but also to be your own.
Not bringing enough medicine
You could have saved yourself several days of itchy misery after being bitten by bugs if you had just brought some Benadryl and cortisone cream along.
Some medicines are only available in your home country, and you definitely don’t want to go from store to store to find a specific treatment on your trip.
Also, check if you may need to vaccinate against some of the serious diseases in where you’re heading. Read the NHS guide for more info.
Not activating bank cards for usage abroad
Your bank may lock your card if they detect purchasing from abroad. So contact them before your departure and let them know where you’re going.
You definitely don’t want your cards to get blocked when you’re alone in a strange country.