How I Solo Travel: A Simple Plan

Solo travel allows complete freedom to follow your bliss. Discover my strategies for planning the perfect solo adventure

How I Solo Travel: A Simple Plan
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

We all plan and execute our solo travels differently. Some of us have whiteboards, some of us use templates, some of us just haphazardly plan on the fly. There’s no right or wrong way. We all have our ways of making this happen. This guide series is meant to explain my process of planning a solo trip from start to finish.

I tend to be a futuristic thinker. I always look ahead to what is coming up, knowing very well that things could change. I believe it’s still always good to have a roadmap, as it’s the journey to arrive that keeps things interesting. Planning is the part I find most enjoyable. With endless possibilities in the world, it's important to know where you want to go and what you want to do, but how do you begin? I believe the best approach to travel is to learn from others' experiences. There are various methods to make it work, and there's no right or wrong way, just what suits you best. Through this series, I aim to demonstrate how I prepare for a solo trip using meticulous research, whether it's to see a friend in a different city or to explore a new area. This will be a high level overview of how I plan a trip, but the devil is always in the details and I will explain in the coming weeks how I engage in flights and road trips, hotels and accommodations, activities and getting around.

Planning a solo trip requires thorough research and preparation. I always start planning months in advance, focusing on a specific time frame. While I don't usually write things down unless it's a must-see location, I do pay close attention to the weather patterns across America. I’m a weather nerd, and being knowledgeable about the weather helps me determine the best time to visit a destination. Now, you don't have to be a weather expert to travel solo, just be diligent in your research. Understanding your destination is key - consider the weather, activities, and your personal interests. Whether you're exploring the U.S. or venturing abroad, it's crucial to plan according to what you want to experience.

Typically, my first step is to utilize Google Maps. I begin by identifying the specific areas I wish to explore, such as National Parks, Presidential Libraries, baseball stadiums, football stadiums, museums, and so on, and then zoom out from there. For instance, I have plans to visit Southern California and Kansas City in the future. Interestingly, both places have two presidential libraries that are conveniently located within driving distance. In Southern California, the Nixon and Reagan libraries are easily accessible from Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. On the other hand, in Kansas City, the Truman presidential library is situated in Independence, MO, while the Eisenhower presidential library is located in Abilene, KS. Both libraries are within a reasonable "day trip distance" from Kansas City. Typically, I prefer to stay at a hotel near the airport or on the outskirts of the city. This allows me to map out the driving distance to these destinations and determine how long it would take to reach them. If you've noticed, I often share "day trips" shortly after sharing my “travel stories”. This is because I utilize my chosen destinations as central hubs to explore the surrounding areas and regions. This approach enables me to visit states that I may not have had the opportunity to explore otherwise. Both examples demonstrate my tendency to find a well-located central spot to secure accommodations. In general, I have found that being near airports and highways is the most practical approach. Rates are usually more affordable compared to staying in the city, and it also saves me from constantly navigating through busy urban areas, even if I only plan to venture out for a day or two.

The first example has Topeka, KS situated on the path to the presidential library, this might be a good opportunity to stop in a city that probably doesn’t come to mind for most people. Perhaps there’s a state museum to check out or a walkable downtown area to visit and explore. It’s also good to plan stops on road trips.

In this last example, I would split this 2.5-hour drive in half, and you'll notice that both are close enough to my destination.

I have a history of traveling in early Spring, typically in April, and my planning usually begins in October. Living in the northeastern United States, April weather can be unpredictable, so I prefer destinations that are consistently warm during that time. The Deep South has been a great choice for me in the past, with visits to cities like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Tampa. I enjoy visiting cities where the weather is warming up but not yet scorching hot or overly humid. Occasionally, I switch things up by visiting colder destinations like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay, WI. Recently, I traveled to Phoenix for work during Spring and would love to return for a leisure trip. As I pointed out previously in “For The Love of Money”, having multiple options for your time off and prioritizing flights in your planning process will make everything else fall into place seamlessly.

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When organizing my itinerary, I prefer to engage in various activities as I work in an office setting and enjoy being active. I want to immerse myself in the sights, sounds, and culture of the places I visit. I particularly enjoy touristy activities such as "hop on hop off" tours, which provide a great way to explore a new city. Additionally, I like joining group tours with fellow travelers to delve into the history and significance of specific locations, especially when it comes to National Park tours. Moreover, I take great pleasure in visiting local breweries, wineries, museums, and markets to gain insights into the local culture and history. I also make it a point to explore scenic parks and trails in the area. To streamline my experiences, I often seek out "city passes" that include access to hop on/hop off tours, museums, and even brewery or distillery tours for a single price. Depending on the destination, I may either book these activities in advance or closer to the trip. This meticulous planning is all part of thoroughly researching my destination.

When I strategize, I envision a comprehensive plan in my mind, recognizing the potential for unexpected alterations. This mentality is essential for solo travelers, as various unforeseen circumstances may arise involving friends, family, or even that damn sliding door at home that needs repair or replacement. I hate when that happens. A catastrophic hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or wildfire could potentially affect your intended destination. These are challenges that manifest themselves, yet they can be overcome. While these obstacles may surface, adequate preparation and a positive outlook can help you overcome them. Being adaptable to changing situations is crucial, highlighting the importance of conducting thorough research in your planning process.

Alright, it's time to finalize your decision and proceed with booking the trip...or is it? This is typically when financing becomes a factor, and I'll discuss that next time.