You can just go to the airport and buy a ticket for the next flight out.
But most of us do a bit more planning than that.
And for good reason. For some there is pleasure in the planning process itself.
It’s because you’ll get more travel for your money and you’ll be better protected on the road if you do a little trip planning. To make it easier for you, I’ve created a list of resources I think you should consider when planning your next trip. Let me also mention that some of the links on this page are affiliate links meaning that Solo Traveler will receive a small commission when you make a purchase. Your price is the same as always but you’ll be helping make Solo Traveler possible.
Trip Planning Basics: What You Need for All Trips
These are services I have in place on an annual basis so that I know I’m covered whenever I travel.
- Essential – Travel Insurance.
Basic travel insurance that covers medical, flight cancellation (under some circumstances), baggage, lost items… is essential in my books. Trust me. I’ve claimed more than I’ve spent in travel insurance. You can read what bloggers from five other countries had to say about the necessity of travel insurance here. Here are our recommendations…
- Americans – Allianz Global Assistance – I can recommend Allianz as I have had claims through them and all were handled very efficiently. No hassle at all.
- Americans – Roamright – They’re the recommendation of a blogger I respect, Matt Long who blogs at Landlopers.
- Canadians – American Express – I’ve done the research a couple of times and, as a Canadian, The American Express plan comes out on top for me. It’s managed by RSA. You don’t need an American Express card to buy it.
- Essential – Protect Your Identity as You Travel
If you use public WiFi when you travel (or at home) you should have a VPN. Turn on the VPN and you can safely use your credit card or do banking over public WiFi. It’s easy to set up.
- StrongVPN – A VPN is a bit of software you download onto your computer, phone or tablet. I pay $55 for an annual plan. I did the set up myself – it was easy. Do it once and you’re done for years of security at home and abroad. If you just want it for a specific trip you can buy the service for a VPN for month for $10.
- Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide
- Recommended – A no Foreign Transaction Fees Credit Car and a Backup Card
I always travel with more than one credit card. In fact, I travel with three.
- No-foreign-transaction-fee card In Canada I use the Amazon.ca Visa Card which is free and has no foreign transaction fees. In the US it seems that the Chase Sapphire card is one of the best as it has both rewards and no foreign transaction fees
- Rewards card. This is the card that I get rewards/points with and it’s my go-to if for some reason my number one card isn’t working or available. Again, if you’re American look into the details of the Chase Sapphire card.
- Backup Card with no annual fee – I have a basic free Visa card that is a backup to my backup. And yes, I have had to use it.
- A Good Idea – Manage Your Points
If you’re collecting points with multiple airlines and hotels you may want to join Points.com. Their short description: “Manage all your loyalty programs in one spot, move points and miles between programs, and reward yourself with gift cards.” I consider this a great idea but optional whereas the three suggestions above I consider essential.
- A Good Idea – Audio books
Not essential at all but I love my audio books when I travel. You can get a free book to download onto your phone with the Audible app by signing up here.
Getting there and Getting Around
- Booking Flights – Everyone has their favorite booking engine
Before you book your flight you might want to have a read of How to Get the Best Deal on Flights. I tend to use Skyscanner and then I double-check the prices with the airline’s site as per one of the tips in the post. But everyone has their favorites so here are some of the more popular booking engines.
And for your comfort at the airport you may want to check out the Priority Pass option for accessing lounges.
- Car Rentals
- Zip Car – You get a membership and then rent a car by the hour or the day with gas and insurance included. It’s a great deal, especially if you don’t have a car at home and make use of Zip Car there and on your travels.
- Sixt Car Rental – for just about anywhere in the world but especially for Europe. They boast high-quality cars at low prices including the world’s largest BMW and Mercedes Benz fleet.
- Auto Europe – as it sounds, they specialize in Europe.
- Avis Rent A Car – Avis is an American household name that you can rent from all over the world.
Where to Stay
Naturally, I recommend that you check out The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide for hotels, B&Bs, hostels all of which have been suggested by other solo travelers. If it doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try working with these tools.
- Hotels, B&Bs and Hostels
- Trivago is a hotel price comparison site. They give you results from a variety of booking sites like Expedia and Booking.com
- Booking.com is a hotel booking site with a wide range of hotels, hostels, B&Bs and boutique hotels. It’s here because it seems to be quite popular in Europe.
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith offers luxury boutique hotels at good prices. They bill themselves as a free vacation club and say that they get you free extras on arrival.
- Bed & Breakfast.com is a great option for B&Bs which are simple, local, friendly places to stay.
- Hostelworld is a great resource for hostel reviews and booking. Read my post on Sleeping with Strangers to get a good idea of what this deep budget option is like. Personally, I love a good hostel.
- Apartments, Vacation and Resort Rentals
- Airbnb is well known for booking apartments, homes or rooms. Click here to book and you’ll get a $25 credit.
- VRBO is similar to Airbnb but tends to include more holiday condos and resort rooms. I used it for a stay in Kauai and got a great deal.
- Vacation Home Rentals, another option for holiday rentals. This is similar to VRBO, Vacation Rental by Owner
- Homeaway is yet another option similar to Airbnb.
- Free Accommodation
- Home Exchange saves you big time on accommodation. Live like a local and stay for FREE. They have 65,000+ worldwide listings.
- Couchsurfing.org as recommended by many members of the Solo Travel Society. For information on how to couchsurf safely read Overcome Your Fear: how to practice safe couchsurfing.
Don’t Miss the Best of Your Destination
You’ll usually save by booking these in advance. I once watched some hucksters on the street catching people unprepared and charging a premium for attractions. Read Tickets to Attractions and Day Tours: How to Get the Best Deal.
- Tours and Attractions
- Urban Adventures – I’ve taken a number of Urban Adventures tours and I’ve really enjoyed every one. They have food tours, wine and beer tours, adventure tours… in 65 countries. Check them all out.
- Viator.com has thousands of things to do in hundreds of countries. Book ahead and you’ll sometimes save money. If they don’t let you book as a single person, call the tour or attraction directly. There may be a minimum number of people required to run a tour which is understandable but you may be able to join a group already booked. Attractions in major cities: London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney and lots more…
- Tours4Fun focuses specifically on tours. From tours in Italy to exploring National Parks in North America, they have lots on offer.
- City Passes
- City Pass – for travel in the US and Canada, City Passes will give you up to 50% off admission to major attractions in 12 major cities in North America including New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto.
- Go Card – for travel in the US, Go Cards promotes discounts up to 55% off admission to major attractions. They also cover 12 cities, some of which are the same as City Pass but some are different. They also have a cards for all of Florida and all of California.
- City Passes and Other Deals in the UK and Europe. TicketBar has set up a page specifically for Solo Traveler with lots of special deals for over 40 cities. They have the London Pass, The Paris Pass… Have a look.
My Favorite Travel Gear
I really like and use all the items below. As you know, I’m all about packing light so I don’t have a long gear list. I consider every one of these products worth its weight to carry. I hope this page is of help.
I don’t travel with a computer.
I now use my iPad, coupled with the Logitech keyboard described below, to be fully connected on the road.
This is not a 3G model as I’ve had it for a couple of years so I either pick up free WiFi or tether to my phone. I run all my email accounts through gmail so that I have full access to email and I load my main documents into Dropbox so that I have access to them on the road as well. Dropbox is a site where you can securely store photos and other documents. Get it free here. I still use my Apple iPad 2 16GB, but it is out of date. Here’s the current model.
This is my camera… and that of a Nat Geo photographer too.
I knew I had the right camera when I met a National Geographic photographer with the same camera. The Lumix G is one step up from a compact camera. It has a view finder in addition to the flexible LCD screen at rear. My main complaint with compact cameras is the difficulty of seeing my subject in bright sunlight without a viewfinder. I don’t have that problem now. The camera has a full range of automatic and manual features. It’s a camera worth considering. The Lumix G has interchangeable lenses. Again, it’s been a couple of years since I purchased this camera. There is an update which a photographer I met just last month was saying is on his list so I think looking at a Lumix is still a good bet.
I love using my Skyroam hotspot. After purchasing the unit which comes with five days of free WiFI, you pay just $8 a day for unlimited data. You can connect up to 5 devices to Skyroam so as I travel I have my phone, tablet and/or computer connected. I have the Skype and What’sApp on my phone. With Skyroam I can call, text, go online… for the $8 a day.
What a great piece of technology for the solo traveler who also likes to read. I have the Kindle Paperwhite and I love it. A Kindle is best protected with a cover so don’t forget to get one at the same time.
This is a great camera bag.
I saw this camera bag first on another travel blogger who is also an Emmy award-winning producer. I saw it and loved it!!! The Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag is great for men and women – it looks just like an ordinary city bag but functions like a day pack and travel bag. Yes. Love it
This Compact Camera is Great for Selfies.
At first I stopped carrying my Sony Cyper-shot in favor of my Lumix but I then found that the wider angle on this camera is better for selfies. So now I often carry both. The link takes you to the current version of my camera which is now three years old. The biggest downside to this camera is the lack of a proper viewfinder. I like a viewfinder for high light situations. However, almost all compact cameras have this problem.
I walked out of the store in my Berghaus hiking boots and started hiking – in the rain! No blisters. Dry feet. Heaven.
I bought these Berghaus hiking boots on my trip to the Lake District of England in 2009 and I’m still using them. It was November so I was hiking in the rain and through streams. These boots were a perfect fit from the get-go.
BERGHAUS Ladies Explorer Trek GTX Boots
I’ve walked a lot of miles in my Merrells. But then I injured my knee (dancing!) and I have my Eccos.
I’ve had a number of pairs of Merrell sandals in my life and I have found them to be comfortable and durable. I usually get three years out of a pair. But at my son’s wedding I wrecked my knee. Now, for a sandal with more support, I wear the Ecco Yucatan.
I love my Vaude Backpack
Unfortunately, this isn’t my pack exactly but it’s pretty close. It seems that my pack was designed for the Canadian store where I bought it. Regardless, Vaude backpacks are smart and sturdy. This one, like mine, is 45 litres +10 making it the right size. I can’t overpack. Designed for women, the frame is adjustable and there are zipper pockets in the hip belt.
Countless miles since 2006
My Swiss Gear carry-on has been through Europe, India and other parts of Asia and most of North America and it has performed flawlessly. The zipper is strong. The wheels are great – and I’ve dragged it over seriously tough terrain.
I swear by my Swiss Gear. Here’s a link to a variety of their products.
It took me over 15 years to wear out my first Marmot Jacket
I bought my first Marmot jacket in 2001 and I just replaced it this year. And the rain pants I bought at the same time are still going since they’re not used as often. With pitzips and breathable, waterproof, ripstop material, I think it’s a great jacket.
I don’t use the rain pants as often as the jacket so my original pair are still hanging in. They’re light and roll up really small so I take them on most trips that will involve a lot of outdoor time.
If you’re looking to get a travel guide for your destination consider buying the ebook version or just a chapter. You’ll save money and weight that way. Here’s a deal for Lonely Planet Guides – 3 for 2 on all Books, eBooks and Digital Chapters
Yes, this is my book…
The 2nd edition of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook offers more stories and tips on solo travel fun and safety. Part how-to manual and part travel literature, it will help you venture out with confidence to discover yourself as you discover the world!
In the seven-plus years since I started this blog, I’ve published more than 1,000 articles on solo travel. While it’s a wonderful resource and forges a sense of community amongst solo travelers, it is sometimes difficult for readers to find the information they’re looking for. This is the why I wrote The Solo Traveler’s Handbook. You’ll find all the basic information you need to travel solo in one place. Read the reviews.
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by Paulo Coelho is a book I’ve mentioned a number of times on Solo Traveler. To learn why I think it’s a great book for solo travelers read 10 Reasons to Read The Alchemist.
Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2016 This is a great resource to help you get beyond the common tourist destinations in Europe. I used this book when I did my 10-month trip through Europe.