There are two types of people when it comes to leisure travel: people that travel to vacation and people that travel for adventure. This concept is an excellent example of why solo travel is so special. It doesn’t matter which of these people you are because you don’t have to compromise or discuss activities with anyone but yourself.
If you want to become a solo traveler and want to get the most out of your trips, you must research at least the basics for your destination. Does this mean you will plan every minute of your trip? Hopefully not! Having every minute accounted for is constricting and is something that I do not recommend at all, but I also know that some travelers enjoy a well-structured trip.
I believe in striking a balance when planning a trip and allowing spontaneity. The tips I give you below will help you learn more about the local culture of your destination and help you create a loose itinerary to make the most out of the time and money you will be investing in your journey.
One thing I will not do is show up to a destination with no idea of what to see or do while I am there. If you wait until you reach your destination to research what to do, you risk being sold out of attractions or wasting time and money trying to figure out your next best step.
Set Your Priorities
This step sets the foundation for a travel itinerary. Identify the sites and activities that are non-negotiable for you.
I use Google and Pinterest to search for things like “Must See in XX” or “Must do in XX.” I then create a list of places and activities I would be disappointed to miss.
I divide my days into natural time blocks of morning, afternoon, and evening. Then I assign activities throughout the blocks. If I know a particular activity will be strenuous, such as hiking, I will leave a block of time free to rest.
I will always assign a free walking tour on my first day at a new destination. These tours help me get acquainted with the destination and are a great way to meet people and get recommendations from someone with insider knowledge of the surroundings.
Give yourself time to wander
I love to give myself time to explore different neighborhoods, supermarkets or farmers’ markets, and parks without a scheduled activity. This helps me see a destination from a different perspective.
Create Groups of Attractions
Want to spend less time and money commuting to the attractions you want to see? Make sure that you have created a list grouping the sites and activities that are nearby to each other.
Planning a trip to a dream destination can get the best of us. We think we will have all the time in the world to do all the activities. We want to cram that itinerary with as many activities as possible.
Well, I have good and bad news. The bad news is that you will not be able to do it all. There will always be something you miss, and many factors can cause things not to go as planned. But the beauty of travel is that it helps us become more flexible in these situations. The good news is that you will now have a reason to return to your destination with a new itinerary comprising all the attractions and activities you missed on your first visit.
Use Technology to Your Favor
Use travel apps and resources to help you find nearby attractions, restaurants, and public transportation options. Check out this blog post for my favorite travel apps and why I love them.
Research Local Holidays, Festivals, One-of-a-kind Events, or Exhibitions Happening During Your Visit
Check for any local events, festivals, or exhibitions during your visit. I also always add a Add any events that interest you to your itinerary for an authentic cultural experience. Search for “free things to do at your destination.”
Blend in Must-See Locations with Off-the-Beaten Path or Special Interest Attractions
I love to mix popular tourist destinations with lesser-known places. I also run searches on “hidden gems in XX” or “City of the beaten path” and read through what other travel bloggers have written about the destination.
Leave room for Relaxation
Even if you think you can do it all, leave some space for relaxation. Leave unplanned room in your itinerary to dedicate an afternoon to lounging in a local park, savoring a leisurely lunch at a quaint café, or simply wandering the streets without a destination. These moments of relaxation rejuvenate your spirit and allow you to fully absorb the essence of your surroundings. I, too, suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). Still, we must learn that leaving room for relaxation doesn’t mean missing out on experiences—it means creating space for discovery and rejuvenation.
Embrace the Unexpected
Flexibility is key. Sometimes the best experiences happen when you deviate from your plans. Allowing time for spontaneous activities makes your trips more vibrant and unforgettable. You never know when you will be invited to a spontaneous salsa lesson or an impromptu hike up a hill to catch a breathtaking sunrise. These moments will etch themselves into your heart, reminding you that sometimes, the best adventures aren’t found on a map—they’re discovered when you embrace the unexpected.
Remember that the magic of travel lies in finding the balance between preparation and exploration. The purpose of crafting an itinerary is not to confine your adventure but to provide a loose framework within which you can fulfill your curiosity. In that delicate dance between structure and spontaneity, you will find the true essence of solo travel – the thrill of navigating new places while savoring the joy of unscripted moments.