The Biggest Mistakes Solo Travellers Make

Brooke Saward in Morocco
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The biggest mistakes solo travellers make are often really simple, preventable little things that can make the difference between an amazing journey of self discovery to a trip from hell. After travelling solo for the last few years, I’ve compiled as many of the mistakes I’ve made that I can remember by memory… and trust me when I say that I hope my mistakes prevent you from making the same ones!

Travel Scrapbook DIY

Before you Go:

Not sharing your travel plans

Imagine being on the other side of the world on your own, things start going terribly wrong, and your family back home have absolutely no way of tracing your last steps to know where you could have been beyond what continent you’d be on. Further to this it is not uncommon to lose track of news and current events while travelling, so if your friends and family know your whereabouts, they can reach out with any warnings or updates on current events.

Not updating your friends + family as you go

Similar to the above, it is also important to keep your loved ones back home updated, as more often than not plans change! I have always left a broad idea of my itinerary at home and almost always deviated from that, sometimes being in Serbia instead of my scheduled visit to Croatia… just because I heard about an event, cool city to visit or just felt like catching the next train departing! Social media is good for this and you don’t have to be “that guy” who updates 50 photos a day… just a quick status update to say you’re on your way to a new country or city is enough.

Not copying your passport

One of the mistakes I made recently was to get overly confident and think I didn’t need to keep carrying around a copy of my passport in case of emergency. I know many friends who have lost their passport and tried to convey through hand signals to foreigners their need to find the embassy, which would have been made easier with a simple photocopy and pointing system. For me, I found myself needing to hand over my passport at hotels for check-in and once it was not handed back, leading to a long line of events to retrieve it. It is always best to have a couple of photocopies to resort to, and I also keep a photo of my passport details on my phone as a backup of the backup.

Not sorting out your finances adequately

I flew into Sydney on an early morning and made the rookie error of putting my purse down on the seat next to me while I frantically tried to detangle my headphones before the train to the city arrived. Halfway into my journey to the city I realised I didn’t have my purse and was forced to retrace my steps back to the original train station, as I wouldn’t have been able to exit the platform anyway, given my train ticket was in my purse! Luckily someone had handed it in (eternal gratitude), but if I hadn’t have been so lucky I would have found myself in the middle of Sydney without any cash or cards to retrieve any! The best idea is to always keep a little cash on you, separated in two different places in case of loss or theft. The same is true in foreign cities. Even though it is easier to use a card and travel cashless, it is much wiser to have a little cash in the local currency to fall back on.

Not researching a medical plan

Something I have not yet struggled with is not being adequately prepared for my trips medically (I usually go in to the doctor’s surgery and ask for all the travel-related immunisations I will ever need – as I never know where I might end up). But something I have struggled with is illness, leading to a couple of hospital visits over the past few years. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get travel insurance and how you can help yourself by coming prepared with a few simple meds for headaches, other aches (gals), becoming blocked up, or the illustrious Bali Belly, Delhi Belly… and all the bellies! To prevent falling ill overseas or being stuck in bed for days, research your destination and make sure you’re prepared for anything that might come your way.

Brooke in Arizona

On the Ground:

Letting people know you’re travelling solo

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was to proudly state to everyone and anyone that I was travelling solo – which of course (for obvious reasons) was a really big mistake. This is of course different for different people you encounter, but if you ever get the vibe that someone is too interested in your travel itinerary and knows you’re travelling solo, then you’re in for trouble (or just a really clingy new friend).

Not faking a marriage or boyfriend

Don’t have a ring on your finger? Time to get one! Over the years I have found one thing to be effortlessly successful: a fake engagement or wedding ring to fend off the not-quite-eligible-suitors.

Not looking behind you and using your periphery when walking alone at night

As a general rule you should avoid walking alone at night anywhere in the world, but if you do happen to find yourself running late one evening or walking home from an evening meal, be sure to keep your wits about you by looking around you and never put your headphones in when walking home solo at night (better to hear what is going on around you).

Not lying

Don’t feel bad for lying when you are travelling solo as not everyone you encounter will be a good person (!!!) Speaking from experience, there have been more occasions than I can count for which I should have lied. If you don’t trust someone or just don’t get good vibes from them, be sure to make up a little white lie to get yourself out of there, pronto! Saying something along the lines of “Well I better go, I’ve gotta meet my boyfriend in a few minutes” when said boyfriend does not exist is entirely okay if it gets you out of a sticky situation. Better to be safe than sorry!

Not sticking to your budget

This is a point I do and don’t want to make, because I’m kind of one the fence about it, but hear me out…

Having a budget is entirely necessary to keep yourself on the road. However some days you are going to overspend. Some days you will have the urge to splurge and some days you won’t feel like doing much at all. If you go over budget for 1 day in 7, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you do however go over budget every day for a week, you’re going to run into problems if you want to stay on the road.

I suppose the important point to make is to be realistic as to how much you will likely spend each day, times that by how many days you’re travelling, and add a little “fun kitty” to the end of your total for those days you just want to do something fun, splurge on some new clothes, or post all your old clothes home and buy new ones (sorry not sorry for doing that more than once!)


Getting the Most out of Your Trip

Not making the effort to meet people

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that I haven’t always been as outgoing and open to making new friends as I am now. I wholeheartedly believe that blogging has given me the confidence to go out and meet more people, especially readers who reach out to me to meet up in their city! As time has passed me by, I’ve become more and more confident approaching people just to say hello, making conversation on the plane or in a coffee shop. Meeting people is now by far and large my favourite part about travel, getting to know their story and perspective on life. Someone once told me that we are a composition of our favourite traits from people we’ve met – taking a little piece (personality trait, perspective, mantra) from each person who inspires us and that comprising of ourselves. I love that.

Not joining a tour somewhere along the way

When I took my first trip solo I was determined not to join a group tour, if even for a week. That being said, I was away for just under a month. On my second major solo trip, I went for a year. 12 months. 365 days. If I hadn’t have joined a tour group a couple of times throughout that year (in Scotland and in Argentina + Brazil), I would have driven myself mental. As much as I love spending time on my own, I also love people. Don’t be ashamed to join a tour because it “isn’t solo travel”… it is. Its all a part of the journey.

Not using every inch of Daylight

This is a mistake I slip in and out of, depending on my work load. As travel is now my full time job (or more accurately, this blog is my full time job), I now have lots of housekeeping to take care of daily – like emails, managing a small team, updating my blog, updating my social channels, editing videos, editing photos, etc. However before this was the case, I would spend every inch of daylight adventuring. I have been avidly trying to get that back – so that I can spend every inch of daylight outdoors adventuring and spend only a couple of hours at the end of each day online. Of course that isn’t easy when I’m travelling for months at a time, but I’m determined to make it work! Remember that you might never be in that place ever again, so you’ve gotta make the most of it!

Not enjoying your alone time

Travelling solo means a lot of alone time (I know, I know, stating the obvious here!) But for one reason or another, this scares some people as they don’t believe they will enjoy so much time alone. I’m hearing you – this was me once upon a time. But let me tell you in complete honesty here, that solo travel leads you to actually like yourself. You learn more about yourself, you learn to love yourself and you learn what you like AND what you don’t like. You learn to control your emotions and to listen to yourself instead of others.

Not going at all 

Lets finish on a high note and the most important of all – the biggest mistake you can make is to not go at all! Solo travel is intimidating to many and almost put me off travelling for a while, until I hit the age of 22 and decided that I would just do it. Worst case scenario I could come home, right!? Luckily I didn’t ever come home because I loved it so much, but it is always comforting to know that if times get tough, you can always come home and try again next time you’re ready. When people ask me “should I travel solo?” I always say “you’re halfway on the plane”. If you feel the desire to travel solo and are already considering it, you’re halfway there.

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    January 10, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Wow! That was so wellwritten and helpful!

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    January 6, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Great post & tips! Thanks for sharing!

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    January 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    I’d read other blogs that suggested making up a fake boyfriend as an easy getaway from annoying/aggressive men and I used to think it was ridiculous. Why can’t we stand firm and just say no, I’m not interested? Why do we need a phantom man to save us from an uncomfortable situation?
    I’ve recently embarked on my own nomadic journey with Latin America as my first wilderness. Needless to say, I now completely agree that it is sometimes necessary to use the fake boyfriend excuse. Unfortunately, there are some societies where expectations and treatment of women are very different from what you’re used to and telling a little white lie can be the difference between a good travel experience and an unpleasant one.
    Thanks for sharing this list and all your awesome insights and adventures!

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    January 3, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Good tips ! Thank you!

    January 2, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I am looking to book a solo trip in 2016 and these words of wisdom is absolutely helpful 🙂

    Renates Reiser
    December 31, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I love this. So many great tips! Travelling solo really forces you out of your comfort zone, and into so many great experiences!

    Lotte - scratchingmymap
    December 31, 2015 at 12:07 am

    What a great post: it’s full with wise lessons and true facts. I think all solo/first-time travellers can get usefull tips out of this one! Thank you for sharing and enjoy the last days of 2015.

    December 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    That’s an awesome and really helpful post. And I think it is unbearable that to be left alone, a woman should make up a boyfriend or a husband or even lie at all. Why a “I’m not interest” isn’t enough ? Do we really need to have a reason not to be interested ?

    December 30, 2015 at 8:10 am

    It’s not exactly traveling alone, but the first taste of this I got was when I did Camp America. It’s not quite the same, but you still have to travel their alone and meet a bunch of new people from across the world. I think it’s a good start to someone who wants to go alone but doesn’t want to be entirely alone.. if that makes sense!

    December 30, 2015 at 4:31 am

    A lot of my friends travel abroad solo, and now that I’m almost 23…I think it may be time to take a break and go get lost in Peru , or Australia, and thanks to you I’m slowly getting inspired!!!! Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Thelma Day
    December 30, 2015 at 3:56 am

    A lot of great tips. Thanks for sharing

    Cest La Vibe
    December 30, 2015 at 3:51 am

    I usually take a picture of my passport so it’s on the memory card of my camera. I could see how an actual copy would be better though.

      Michael Taylor
      December 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Having had my passport stolen in China and experiencing just how difficult (and expensive) it was to sort things out, I’d have to say you should do BOTH so that you have a backup. Also, if you have copies of your credit cards and other ID, it will make things easier if you have to notify your bank, etc. I had my wallet (but not my passport) stolen in Hong Kong. When I reported it to the police, they asked about my credit cards. Fortunately I had made a Xerox copy of them and they were able to call the the banks for me to put a stop on them.

    December 30, 2015 at 1:15 am

    These tips are great! Thank you so much.

    December 29, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Haha I have done the fake a boyfriend or oh I have to go, my families meeting me soon, many times..

    December 29, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Love the ring part! I’m definitely going for that!
    Could’ve used that in Istanbul!

    Joëlle from

    December 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Excellent tips !

    I love this part “faking a marriage or boyfriend” haha


    December 29, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Definitely agree on the need to join a group tour. There are some parts of the world which are simply not doable alone. During my last trip to South America, I took several guided tours – of the Moon Valley, of the Amazon, of Uyuni. It was great, I made lots of new friends and it was much cheaper than I expected!

    Michael Taylor
    December 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Very good tips, and here’s an update regarding making copies of you passport. Not only should have make hard copies of your passport and credit cards, etc., you should also photograph them and then send emails to yourself and a trusted friend or family member. My passport was stolen in China, and it took a week to straighten out (unfortunately it happened on a Friday night before a 3 day weekend). One of the first questions the police asked was, “Do you have a digital copy?” So even if the hard copies had been lost, there would have been a soft copy in Cyberspace.

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    December 29, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Excellent tips! That’s so lucky that your wallet was handed back in, I can’t imagine how scary that must have been! I’ve definitely done the fake boyfriend thing before too, although unfortunately that doesn’t always seem to deter some people.

    Tessa at Bramble & Thorn

    December 29, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I used the fake boyfriend story many times when I started travelling alone… it works a treat! Especially in South America where the guys are really quite confronting, they moved away after they found out I was taken. Changing the topic of conversation as quickly as possible helps avoid those conversations as well!

    Rachel Oliver
    December 29, 2015 at 9:56 am

    some really great tips here, i’m definitely surprised at the faking a marriage trick, but definitely saving this post for future trips!

    rachel // Style Soup

    Zoe Joy
    December 29, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Huh! You rock my world. I love that some of these tips apply to life in general. As a fellow introvert, I can get a little too comfortable by myself and forget to invite people into my day. But blogging really does help. though I do need to work on getting out more in the day and exploring California. The last tip would have to be my favorite. Solo travel is just something I have to do. I’m thinking Australia will be my first conquest❤️

    Paige McCullough
    December 29, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Love these tips! Yes, to the lying if you need to. I once stuck around with a guy I met at a hostel for nearly ten hours when it should have just been a few hours. I was new to solo travel and he was on his own as well. I told him I was going to a museum the next morning and so he asked if he could come along with me. I said sure, why not. The museum was fine but then he just would not leave my side. I was too shy to speak up and tell him my true feelings. Looking back I dread that whole experience. So if something makes you uncomfortable, speak up or lie to get out of it. I wish I had.

    December 29, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I’ve never actually travelled alone. I always took a friend, my mom, or my hubby with me. I’d love to do it sometime.

    Rachael @ Catch Me if You Can
    December 29, 2015 at 8:41 am

    great tips and totally yes to the lying! i do like to travel alone but i also like to travel with my husband. when i was in amsterdam for business no one wanted to go with me to the kukenhof (beautiful tulip gardens only open a few months of the year) and i was pretty scared of going on a bus alone to the countryside but im so glad i sucked it up and went because it was absolutely beautiful and i would have been so upset with myself if i hadnt of gone. with all this ISIS business it can be scary still to travel but im not going to let that stop me from seeing the world. more cautious and aware of whats going on yes, but i will go

    December 29, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Yes to the tips you share here, you are very experienced! I recognised it makes further sense to wear shoes which enable to walk self-confident and running if necessary 🙂
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
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