Before the actual list, just a no-brainer to keep in mind: say “yes” to opportunities and invitations you never thought you would. Step out of your comfort zone (like, way out). Befriend people from all over along the way. Have a blast. You’re already heading far away from the comfort of home, so make the absolute most of it 🙂
Now, the real deal…
Test your bags before leaving. Walk around with them filled, make sure all the zippers work, decide whether or not you need to eliminate some unnecessary pieces before leaving.
I didn’t do this at all, mainly because I packed at 11:00pm the night before catching my bus & flight. Pretty huge mistake, because as soon as I left home, my “purse” carry-on (holding my laptop, toiletries, etc) zipper totally failed. As in, it doesn’t stay zipped what-so-ever when there’s any weight in it. Save yourself the struggle! Do a trial run beforehand.
Don’t stress about the tiny details before leaving for your trip (or during, for that matter). Especially when traveling alone, you have the freedom to make some spontaneous decisions or new long-term plans depending on how things are going once you arrive in a destination.
So, try not to pull the Type A card and plan every day of your trip from morning until night. Ok, exaggeration. But I was heading down the road of making a detailed itinerary before basically saying “screw it” and planning all of my next moves a couple days in advance. It has worked out so.much.better. than I could’ve EVER planned.
Feel it out as you go. Get a recommendation for a different place to visit? Go there for a day or two! Love a certain city that you only planned on staying two days in? Book another week once you’re there! (Ahem, guilty).
Always carry cash. Walk all the way to a cafe you’ve been dying to try and realize they only take cash, and you haven’t been to an ATM all week? It’s happened.
Screenshot / print any maps and routes necessary BEFORE you leave a wifi zone. As one that’s always prone to getting lost, this has been an absolute essential – even for just getting around town!
Prime example: on my road trip throughout the Isle of Skye, the GPS I borrowed from the car rental company wouldn’t recognize the popular hotspots I tried typing in. So luckily, I thought to screenshot the route and detailed directions on my Google Maps app before leaving the hostel the night before. Trip saved.
As a follow-up to #2, don’t be discouraged by plan changes along the way! Last-minute changes do happen…relatively frequently. This when improvisation becomes essential – just roll with it! If you keep your options open, with at least one back-up plan at all times, last-minute changes won’t turn into a majorly stressful ordeal.
A perfect example of this happened, again, last week during my road trip around the Isle of Skye. All along, I planned on catching a ferry from Skye to the Isle of Lewis for two days before returning to my current “home base” in Inverness. All fine and dandy and I was ready to go, right?
Yeah, no. The ferry times offered were way more limited than when I had looked a week or so before. Aka, there was NO chance of me making it in time. This could’ve thrown a huge wrench in the road trip plans. But instead, I quickly scrounged up an alternative trip route (with the help of recommendations from local friends. So great) and moseyed along part of the North Coast 500 for an unbelievably scenic last two days of the road trip.
Long story short, have a back-up plan and don’t freak out if plans go awry! You’re going to have an amazing time doing something else anyways.