Solo travel hacks
Over the last several years there’s been a steady rise in the number of travellers heading out to explore the world on their own. And for the adventurous among us, it’s easy to see why.
The thrill of travelling solo
The feeling of independence you get from striking out alone is both empowering and exciting. You can go where you want, at your own pace, without having to worry about anyone else’s needs or preferences. Once you overcome any worries you had about travelling on your own, the world is your oyster.
There are lots of perks to travelling on your own – and just because you’re going solo doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely. Some common reasons that people go it alone include:
Go where you want, stay however long you want, and change your mind if you feel like it. Who’s going to tell you no? Plus, you don’t have to put up with the annoying habits that sometimes come with a travel buddy.
Making new friends
You’ll probably make more of an effort to connect with new people and fellow explorers when you’re on your own – more than you would if travelling with a friend. Others might find you more approachable too.
Learning about language and culture
Exploring new places on your own means you’re more likely to engage with the locals. This could open new doors of opportunity for you to get to know the language and culture of the places you visit.
Controlling your budget
Travelling with a friend or family member usually involves at least some compromise. And possibly going on pricey day trips or visiting expensive attractions you hadn’t planned for, nor have any real interest in.
Building your confidence
It can be daunting to head out into the world on your own. But overcoming the fear and discovering that you’re able to deal with obstacles and new situations, without depending on someone else, can be a huge confidence boost.
Getting to know yourself
Solo travel can be an excellent way to learn more about yourself. By the end of your trip you’ll have a greater understanding of what you like, what you care about and what you’re not so keen on. You’ll also have more experience engaging with different types of people and cultures – which will come in handy when dealing with all sorts of situations that life might throw at you.
To make the most of travelling alone and explore the best places, have a look at our complete guide to solo travel.
Tips and hacks for booking your trip
There’s so much conflicting advice about when to book to get the best prices. The good news is that there are lots of websites that can help you scan for the best deals.
When’s the best time to book?
The short answer is that there isn’t a definitive best time. It will depend on the destination, airline and how popular the flight is. But there are some general tips to follow when you’re planning your trip.Long haul flights
Long haul flight prices are unpredictable – but booking between eight months and six weeks before you want to travel will typically get you the best price.Short-haul flights
When it comes to cheap short-haul flights, the general rule of thumb is that the earlier you book, the better – ideally at least eight months in advance for busy periods. Last minute prices tend to be higher, so holding off for a good deal might not pay off.
Why not try Skyscanner’s interactive best time to book tool? It lets you select a departure city and destination, then tells you the best (and worst) times to book. Various other flight comparison sites and tools like Kayak and Google Flights also let you search by dates to find the cheapest deals.
Fare alerts and airline newsletters
Set up alerts on sites like Skyscanner and Kayak a few months before you want to travel to receive email notifications when prices change. That way, you can keep an eye out for price drops and act quickly on any great deals.
You could also sign up to all airline newsletters, as they often run offers for their subscribers that you could take advantage of.
Snap up error fares
If you’re flexible with your dates, you can snap up a super deal by booking a flight that has been listed at the wrong price, known as an ‘error fares’ or ‘mistake fares’.
As these deals don’t last for long, use Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying to be alerted and book quickly. According to Jack’s Flight Club, around 70% of error fares are honoured by airlines. And if they’re not, you’ll always get a full refund.
If you’re travelling long-haul, you could break up the journey with a stopover and buy your tickets separately. For example, book a ticket from Manchester to Munich and then a ticket from Munich to Havana – it’s often cheaper than a direct flight or through ticket.
The downside is that if one of the flights you’ve booked is delayed or cancelled and you miss your next flight, the airline won’t have to cover the cost of the second flight.
If you’re going to split tickets, make sure you have travel insurance that covers you for any missed flight connections.
Luggage and packing hacks
If you’re travelling alone, you won’t have anyone to help you with your luggage, so make sure you can manage all the bags by yourself. That way, you’ll avoid drawing attention to yourself and minimise the risk of having your bags stolen.
What you need depends on where you’re going and how long you plan on staying. For example, a backpacking trip needs a good quality rucksack, while a duffel bag is useful for a guided tour. If you’re staying in city hotels and will be getting taxis to and from the airport, a suitcase with wheels should do the trick.
Remember, designer luggage will draw attention and will be a magnet for thieves, so leave your Louis Vuitton at home!
Managing money when you’re away
You’ll need access to money on your travels – and carrying large amounts of cash isn’t always a good idea. Using a travel money card or debit and credit cards is an easier and less risky option.
Different bank accounts offer different rates for overseas withdrawals, so take some time to do your research. Unless you already have a card with great rates, look for one that offers the lowest fees for withdrawing cash at international ATMs. Your aim is to make smaller withdrawals more often, so you never have to carry more cash than you can afford to lose. However in some countries, it’s common for ATMs to charge a flat fee per withdrawal so this can become more expensive the more you withdraw. So be sure to weigh up what is the best option.
Money Saving Expert is a great resource with up-to-date information on the best bank and credit card deals.
A multi-currency money travel card (also known as a cash passport) is another handy option. You can also pre-load specific currencies to get the best conversion rates when they are available. ATM withdrawals might incur a charge from the machine provider.
You’ll need to keep your cards safe and use them responsibly to make sure you’re covered if they’re lost or stolen and used fraudulently. And it’s a good idea to always carry a back-up debit or credit card, in case your main card goes missing.
Make sure you only access your internet banking abroad when you’re sure you’re on a secure network and device. For more details, check out our guide to keeping your money safe abroad.
Before you head off
- Find out if you need to let your bank and credit card companies know that you’re travelling, to avoid any cancellation or blocked account.
- Set up a direct debit to automatically pay your credit card bill in full every month.
- Make sure all your other bills are paid and scheduled to be paid while you’re away.
- Download a currency convertor app on your phone and research typical prices at your destination, so you’ve an idea of what things like a taxi journey from the airport might cost when you arrive.
- Make a note of all your credit and debit card numbers, plus the emergency phone numbers you’ll need if your card is lost or stolen.
Ready to go?
With the planning, insurance and packing sorted, all that’s left to do is double-check you’ve got your passport. Remember to get your travel money sorted before you jet off, and make sure any electronics are fully charged. Finally, don’t forget to send your family and friends back home a postcard. Happy travels.
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.