Ah, solo tripping… a way of traveling that allows you to fully rely on you. If you are looking to break out of your comfort zone and plan a solo trip, then this honest how-to guide is for you!
Taking a solo trip is so different from your usual trips you can plan with friends or family, and as one who has done that more, I think those experiences can translate to make solo trip planning easier. To plan a solo trip is a lot of work though, to be frank, but it is SO worth it especially when you’re already traveling.
Recently, I did my 2nd ever full solo trip. Shocking right…? Although, I do cover a lot of solo female travel topics, it’s mostly me doing solo road trips around my home states and hiking solo.
So, diving into doing a full solo trip planning probably doesn’t make me “qualified” enough, but I can reassure you that I am confident that after having done it twice that I know what I am saying and after some followers have kept up with my adventures, I started getting some questions on how to travel solo and how inspiring it is for them to attempt to do so. It’s always amazing to see how I’ve sparked inspiration in others to do so!
The destination I will be covering here to explain my process to planning a solo trip is to Oregon. I went there for just 5 days and even made it one day to Washington, but in those 5 days — I was able to accomplish so much!! It was a lot of solo driving, so if you are interested in going there for yourself too, I recommend it if you are up to driving a lot (and being prepared to have no service 90% of the time on the road) and if nature doesn’t scare you that much haha.
Although all costs will vary from location to location, you can decide if you are even capable of paying for a whole solo trip for yourself. Because honestly, you can save a lot more if you were to split the expenses with a friend or a few.
1. Figure out your costs.
So going back to my point with costs… Obviously, the cost is one of the most important things to planning any trip. The costs you need to consider is a budget for food, hotels/rentals, car rental, air flight with paying checked-in bags and seats.
You may want to think of a number of how much money you’re willing to put down for food and then as you research everything from the cost of your hotel or vacation rental place is to how much you’re willing to pay for a car daily to the air flight ticket costs then you can add up everything and come up with an estimated cost. For my Oregon trip, I personally did not have a budget but I considered some options more than others, simply because it was cheaper.
I like to first start off with finding out about my air flights because that’s the first thing of knowing where to go and if you can even make it possible to go. I love using Google Flights, SkyScanner, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and Expedia to find good flight deals.
Pro tip: Remember to measure how many things you’re bringing if you’re especially flying. If you go over 50 pounds in luggage weight, you can get charged extra, so try not to pack less than that. I have a guide here on some hacks on how to minimally pack.
2. Figure out where you want to go AND REALLY GO.
…And this leads to my next point. You really need to figure out the destination and also ask yourself: Is this a place I always wanted to go to? Personally, for me, I like to prioritize going to places I’ve never been to before because I love new experiences myself unless this involves going back home to visit.
I’ve been to almost all of the corners of the country, but the Pacific Northwest is one of the areas I haven’t seen for myself and everyone raves about how freaking beautiful it is there (facts!) and how its nature is perfect to explore. So, I thought it was the perfect choice for myself. I originally planned this trip for my birthday back in January but because I was so sick, I had to keep postponing it… 3 times that is!!!
Once you figure out your destination, also research what kind of places you want to see within that destination. Do you want to chase waterfalls like I did? See massive volcanoes? Try the local foods or craft beers? Do you want to go there to intentionally meet new people? You want to probably start listing out places within that place and make a bucket list out of it and you can then keep track of how to make the most of this solo trip. You may also want to go the extra mile to research how to achieve those goals.
If you’re just lost on what places are worth visiting, you can consider finding blogs to read (like mine!) to gain ideas and perspectives of those places.
3. Research things to know about the states or countries you’ll visit.
You will be going to a place you’re unfamiliar with, most likely, and this means doing the research and preparation. You will need to look up things to really know about the state or country you’ll visit. Consider: What’s the demographic like? What laws for driving and other things should I really understand to avoid legal matters or fines? What locations should I avoid or what locations are safe for me to tour around? What kind of animals or insects should I know about before I get out there in nature? What should I pack?
There’s a lot of things to ask yourself for a solo trip, but it all comes down to knowing how much you can learn about that place before going there and if that knowledge will be super important for you to keep in mind as you arrive there.
For example, I almost forgot that Oregon’s gas stations don’t allow you to pump your own gas (which is the same as my home state New Jersey!) as they have people who work to do that and I almost felt dumb that I was going to pump my own gas there once haha.
4. Always plan to check up on the weather.
Weather conditions will be a big determination whether it’s a trip you’ll enjoy or not. You may prefer cooler weather or you may prefer hotter weather or you may not care, but if a preference is important to you, then you’ll know if you should continue to plan for this location and this will help you determine what you should even pack.
I personally thought that when planning my Pacific Northwest trip that I’d run into cloudy and cold weather and I was aware of that. I already knew about how the weather is like there as everyone has told me or from what I’ve read online. However, I did luck out and I ended up in sunny, warmer weather most of the time!
If you have your air flights in mind during a time period, I suggest you look at what the predicted weather is during that time of flying and see if it’s a good enough time for you to go visit. Otherwise, you may want to adjust your air flight dates.
5. Figure out your hotel or Airbnb stays.
I do not like to settle for the first offers or first things I see and you should not too. I am not picky in whether it’s a hotel or an Airbnb to stay in, but I do consider the costs. I like to compare hotels vs. Airbnbs. I also read a bunch of reviews for a good 10-15 minutes before I decide on my decision. You also may want to get more than one rental to stay at if you’re planning to stay at different locations.
I also like to consider if the locations of these places are at a decent and safe location because where you sleep is important! You’d want to sleep like a baby on your stays as I did on my trip, considering it’ll only be you there to sleep at that place.
6. Figure out where to get your car rental or how you’ll take transportation.
Now, you also want to lock down a car rental. I like to look through the site of the airline I’m using (American Airlines in this instant) to compare the prices to travel deal sites (like Expedia and Booking.com). I will also make sure that the car I want to rent isn’t a super big one (I’m only into mid-size SUVs or sedans); therefore, you need to find a car you’d feel comfortable to drive in as you’ll be navigating a whole new place.
In these pics, I decided to go with a car rental in Expedia BUT because I missed my original first flight to Portland, Oregon, I had to cancel that reservation and book a new one, which ended up costing more for me since I was traveling the day of. You will want to book your car rental way ahead and one of the first things to make sure you’re getting the lowest costs!
Your car rental costs can also vary like if you’re under 25 years old, you may have to deal with extra fees just because you haven’t reached the recommended age to rent a car. Another thing is MOST states will require you to have a credit card (credit, not debit) to pay for the car rental as they will also put down a temporary deposit hold, in case you return the car with damages and etc.
Lastly, your car rental may not always be the car rental you’ll be getting. I originally wanted to book a sedan but Budget offered me something better in disguise — a midsize SUV, Mazda CX 5, which drives soooo smooth and so good for my whole PNW trip.
7. Google map every destination close to your hotel for routes or use other route planners to help you verify routes.
I like to save my hotel or Airbnb addresses to my GPS apps because I can really refer back to it later. I love Waze a lot too because even if you happen to lose service at a place, the app will still navigate you to your destination (not always the case though when starting the app when there’s no service).
When you have destinations on your bucket list, you do want to figure out which place to drive to first and see what place is conveniently closer to your Airbnb/hotel or if you can drive from one location to another. This will give you a rough idea of how to plan each day and make the most of each day you’re traveling, especially if you expect to do lengthier road trips.
If Google Maps is not your thing, there’s other route planners too like Roadtrippers.com and Mapquest.com.
8. Book all your excursions and permits ahead.
There are plenty of places that other tourists are trying to score on their own trips. Some places are more popular and can have capacity limits than others. You want to make sure you can get those permits way ahead in advance (if you’re trying to do a hike like the Havasupai Falls one, you’re going to really have to book that months prior and be prepared to pay a lot).
This also applies to excursions. Sometimes, excursions do not always have the capacity limits, but some excursion prices can rise up the closer it is to your date or when you arrive to go there the day of. But, it is important to snatch up tickets to anything you’ve been wanting to see to guarantee yourself a spot and a good deal.
9. Make sure you have all your travel essentials.
Travel essentials are definitely necessary, no matter what kind of traveling you’re doing, solo or with friends and family. I have a whole guide here of travel essentials to consider taking with you.
If you’re doing a lot of hiking and solo ones too, you do need to have a first aid kit on you and all the other essentials I’d typically bring on my solo hikes, like listed in my own guide here.
10. Always buy your snacks and bring plenty of water ahead.
When you’re on the go, go, go, you may not have time to stop to get snacks or drinks. It’s better to have them handy before you drive off somewhere for a while or if you’re moving from place to place.
I like to stop by convenience stores first (Plaid Pantry really is the go-to convenient store in Oregon!) and pick out the snacks I really want. If I know I’m going on a hike, then I pack granola or energy bars or trail mixes. I have a whole guide here on what snacks you should buy for your own road trips.
Another pro tip: Always fill your gas all the way full. You never know for how long you can be driving for. When it empties down to half, fill it again if you’re planning on hitting the road more.
11. Accept nothing’s going to be perfect and spontaneous things might come up.
You may have really planned out a perfect itinerary, but be warned, those things can constantly adjust especially if you’re doing this whole solo trip planning as a new thing.
I had to switch the places I wanted to visit around as I was there in Oregon and check again what places were near each other from where I was and then I have to guess how much time I’d like to spend in each place before it hit night time.
When I visited Washington for a day, I was sad I didn’t get to hike by Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, but there was a state park called Seaquest State Park on the way back home that I came across and I bought a $10 day pass. It turned out to be a beautiful vividly green and lush forest hike.
Pro tip: I like to write all my ideas of places to visit on an estimated day and time (based on which locations are closer too) and put them also in my “Notes” app of my phone too. I’ll make place plans, day, and time adjustments during my travels.
I hope that planning your solo trip will ease the stress of solo traveling. There are a lot of things to consider, but I promise — it is WORTH it all!
Remember, to stay safe and DO trust your guts. Do not be open and talk to everyone you come across. Keep to yourself most of the time. I know as a female solo traveler, it is something that can add to one’s anxiety, but if you feel confident and feel prepared to do it all alone, then your anxiety may not feel so bad. Make sure you also know what to do when things go awry and it never hurts to plan for the worst scenarios.