Many people dream of traveling! I just happen to be one of those people always seeking the next adventure. In my mid-to-late 20’s, I scarcely went anywhere and not because the desire wasn’t there, but because most of my friends were fresh out of college and starting their professional careers or simply couldn’t afford it. Many had internships that were non-paid or were earning minimum pay. For a while I lived my travel dreams through others going places. During this time Facebook was something new, so it was exciting to be able to see acquaintances loading up pictures of their most recent adventures.
Ah, well that all changed in my 30’s. In late 2015, I realized that this was the time to make my travel dreams come true. But because I was very much in debt during this time, I could only afford trips to surrounding areas and nearby states; something that would change in 2017. I continued to seek travel companionship from family and friends, but due of schedules, commitments and life’s responsibilities, I still couldn’t find that person to be adventurous with.
On Thanksgiving Day 2017, I wrote a goal down; 2018 must be like no other year! And to kick off the year, I decided to start my “tour the world” goal, now that I had become completely debt free. After a long and tough process of elimination, I decided Paris and Brussels would be the two places I would visit first. It was at that moment I decided to travel alone rather than cancel the trip; even if the thought of finding myself in a foreign country scare me to death. I mean, I do not know anyone in Europe; have you seen the movie Taken? Yes, me too. My dad is no Liam Neeson neither and so I would pretty much be on my own. I went ahead and booked my trip regardless; plane ticket and hotel.
For Christmas, my brother gave me this fantastic book by Rick Steves, Paris 2018. I must have read this book a thousand times. It provided me with all the information needed, from Hotel suggestions, visits to museums, walks to take, things to eat, do and not do! I mean, this is a super fantastic book. Very awesome and informative. I followed some of the suggestions on the book, such as buying a Museum Pass for the city of Paris. And so, I started building my itinerary for my stay in Paris and Brussels.
Now, this blog won’t contain any of the details of what I did while visiting these 2 amazing countries (that’s a future blog), this blog is for measures to take when you are traveling alone! Here are some precautions and details I focused on in preparation for my big trip!
First and foremost, I spoke to two of my close friends, Candice and Carolina and my sister-in-law Arlene, because they are world travelers, and I knew that they would have very valuable input. After exchanging messages and emails with them, I took all their information and wrote down key points. I generated a check off list of must do things. These are things that I feel are important when you are traveling, but especially if you are traveling alone.
- Does the county I am traveling to require me to get a Visa through their embassy?
- Is there a travel alert for Americans to the country I am planning to travel to?
- Is my passport current?
- Make 2 photocopies of your passport. Give one to your family members and take one with you in your luggage. If your passport gets lost or stolen, these copies will come in handy.
- Write down the information on your local American Embassy in the country you are visiting.
- Type up the information of your hotel, flight times and flight numbers and give them to a family member and 1 copy to one of your closest friends.
- Call your cell-phone provider and tell them about your plans to travel (name the countries) and find out about cell phone usage and additional charges. Ask them to provide you information on any plans they might offer for the places you are going to. For example, AT&T offers a $10 dollar per day charge plan for unlimited data, text messages and calls in Belgium and France.
- Call your bank (more than once- on 2 separate days) and tell them about your travel plans so your cards are not flagged for “fraudulent” purchases. I found out that even after I called Capital One, whom I bank with, that my cards were still flagged and I had to call them while in Paris. You don’t want to get frustrated while on vacation.
- How will you get to the airport and from? I chose to pay a car service (not a taxi) to pick me up from the airport in Paris and transport directly to my hotel. Pre-arranging this made my life so much easier and kept me safe.
- Based on your research about the place (s) you are visiting, start drafting an itinerary. Plan the places you would like to visit. Visit their websites and write down their business hours, ticket prices, etc. For example, Rick Stevens highly recommended a Paris Museum Pass is purchased. Not only will this save you money at the end, but also time. I did just that and he was correct. I saved money and time!
- Check with your airline to figure out what their charges are to check in luggage and carry-on.
- Once you are done with all these, the hardest part comes; what to pack!
- I did research on the weather for 5-days prior to my arrival to my chosen location and during my stay. This made my packing so much easier. Paris had rainy weather during my stay, having packed a rain coat and rain boots turned out to be such a wise decision.
- A week before departure, each day, write down things you need to pack (tooth paste, deodorant, hair products, soap, etc.). Each day you will discover you remember something else that you use on the regular, that you did not plan to pack. At the end of the week, compile all your lists together and determine what is truly essential.
- But foremost, get travel insurance. My friend Candice and my sister-in-law emphasized on this so much! Candice suggested I check out www.squaremouth.com You enter information about your trip and they provide you with a list of insurance companies and their specific coverage. I figured that I would rather spend $70 dollars on an insurance plan than be in debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars, should I have needed medical attention during my trip.
- Always pack a pair of comfortable shoes! Always!
- You must purchase a charging portable battery for your cell phone. I know that airports are now equipped with charging stations; but while you are out and about in an unknown city, you don’t want to risk your cell phone battery dying on you. I purchased a pretty inexpensive one on Amazon.
- A travel belt. BUY ONE. I was given one as a Christmas gift (from my brother, again) and it came in handy. I put my passport and cash in it. My pocket change I kept handy in my bag. While traveling in Greece for their honeymoon, my brother and sister in-law were pick pocketed. Her wallet, cash and credit cards were stolen, as well as her identifications. So, a travel belt is a must!
- I packed 2 days before the trip to ensure I wouldn’t miss packing any needed items.
- Always plan to give yourself ample time to arrive to the airport.
- When you arrive to your foreign country, BE ALERT, always. Act secure, as if you know what you are doing and where you are going. Confidence will show and turn potential thieves away. They like to approach people who are acting very ‘touristy’.
- At the airport, I withdrew money from the ATM rather than exchanging money at one of the money exchange houses. This was a strong suggestion from Arlene, and she was correct. I got more for my money from an ATM than if I had exchanged dollars for Euros.
- Obviously, I am not fluent in French, but prior to my trip, I learned a few sentences, such as: “Excuse me, where is the nearest restroom”, “Pardon me, how do I get to this place (insert name)”, “How much for (insert food name, souvenir name)”.
- Never, ever, tell people at the Hotel or let strangers hear that you are traveling alone. My line at the Hotel was “I am meeting my father who lives in France at this place, how can I get there?”
- I decided to ride the metro, which was very near my hotel. Prior to walking there, I googled the location “to and from”, this gave me an idea of the direction to take. Also, this saved me money. The only time that I used Uber services, were at night when I had to return to my hotel.
- As an alone traveler, I opted not to drink alcohol (I know it sucks, I wanted Paris wine), but I knew my safety comes first and I did not want to be impaired. I also chose not to stay out past 10:30 on any given day. Everything I had planned to explore, could be done during day hours. I do not regret this, because I made it back home with no incidents.
I hope that these tips become helpful to you, shall you decide to travel alone anywhere. I know it may seem like a lot to do, but it isn’t. Most of these tasks can be completed in a matter of hours. Of course, the daily lists and itinerary might take you a couple of days.
Enjoy discovering the world! Enjoy learning about different cultures!
But BE SAFE & BE ALERT !
Runner. Traveler. Fitness Enthusiast. Optimist.
Special thanks to my world traveler friends, Candice and Carolina and my sister-in-law, Arlene. Combined, they have visited over 40 countries in the world.