Dreaming of taking your first solo trip? Traveling in general can be an amazing experience, but going it alone can also be incredibly freeing. You can do whatever you want when you want to, and you don't have to worry about appeasing anyone else with your plans. It can also push you out of your comfort zone and help you grow as a person. But, when you're traveling alone, you have to prepare for anything and be even more careful than you would going on a trip with your friends or family.
Whether you're going across the country or going international, there are some things you should always have with you. From the safety necessities to fun ways to make your travels more memorable, here's what you should definitely bring with you on your next solo trip.
A First Aid Kit
Don't just buy a first aid kit from a store and call it a day—customize your kit with essentials that you personally might need and can use. Stock up on things like aspirin, Benadryl, Lactaid (if you're lactose intolerant), and Imodium (you never know when you'll feel sick to your stomach, and depending on where you're going, it might be hard to find the medicine you need). Make sure you're covered, just in case.
An Emergency Contact Card
No matter where you're traveling, you should keep an emergency card in your wallet or on your person, just in case something happens to you. Include contact information for someone back home and any relevant information about your health, like allergies or conditions you have.
You should also fill out similar info on your smartphone. If you have an iPhone, you can access the Medical ID section from the Health app—an emergency responder doesn't need your lock code to access it (it's under Emergency on your lock screen). If you have an Android device or other smartphone, look for a similar option (it depends on the model of your phone) or download an app that can do the same thing, like ICE.
Copies of Your Documents
The last thing you want is to be stranded somewhere unfamiliar without any of your important information. Make copies of every document you're taking with you—your license or ID, your passport, your visa, travel insurance, traveler's checks if you have them, your credit cards, plane tickets, hotel reservations and anything else you may be bringing with you. Also include extra passport photos, in case you need to get a new one. Keep a physical copy of everything in a safe, waterproof place, and back-up copies electronically as well.
A Book (or Several)
Traveling solo means you're doing everything solo, including eating at restaurants and riding public transit. Bring a book (or multiple, if you tend to go through them quickly) or magazines with you to read when you have down time or when you're by yourself and want something else to focus on, so you're not just on your phone. It's something to do, but it's also something that will make you look busy if you're worried about strangers approaching you.
A Safety Whistle or Alarm
Traveling solo also means there's no one there with you to watch out for you, so you'll want to keep something on you that can help you in case of an emergency. Since things like mace and pepper spray can't be brought on a plane with you (sometimes they're allowed in checked baggage, but that doesn't help if you're a carry-on only kind of person) a personal alarm that you can set off or a whistle you can blow to make a loud noise can help in those times when you need help or feel unsafe. It'll draw attention to you and deter any attackers.
A Portable Charger
Of course you should bring your usual charger and any adapters you might need if you're going abroad, but you should also have something you can take with you on-the-go. A portable power bank can come in super handy when you're traveling in all situations, but especially when you're alone. With a portable charger, you'll always be able to keep your phone charged, so you'll always have your lifeline with you no matter where you go.
A Clothesline and Detergent
This is especially useful if you plan to pack light—you'll be by yourself anyway so who cares if you wear the same two outfits all week— and are going on an extended trip? For easy laundry no matter where you're staying, be it a hotel or a hostel, a portable clothesline and some laundry detergent can keep your clothes fresh and clean for your entire trip. (P.S. If you're new to doing laundry on the move, check out our tips for doing laundry while traveling.)
A Towel (and More) for Hostels
If you only plan to stay in hotels with full amenities the entire time, skip this step. But if you plan to stay in hostels, definitely pack a towel—and flip flops, and any other toiletries you might need. Some hostels charge you to rent a towel for your stay, and having one with you can help you avoid that. Make sure you get a towel that dries quickly—microfiber towels usually do the trick.
Going to a country where you're not totally familiar with the language? Having blank notecards on you while you're out and about can be helpful in several situations, but especially if you're planning on taking cabs or might need help with directions. Write out addresses for your hotel and any destinations you're going to that you're unfamiliar with, so if you find yourself struggling to convey where you're going, you can just pull out a notecard and show it to your driver.
When you're traveling, you're experiencing new things and making memories that will last a lifetime. To keep those memories fresh and have them forever, take a journal with you on your trips (like a Midori Traveler's Notebook). At the end of each day, write down all the cool things you saw, the people you met and how you're feeling. When you go back home, you'll be able to flip through and re-read it—and re-immerse yourself in all those feelings and experiences—whenever you want. Plus, when your friends and family ask about your trip, you'll have all the info right there so you don't leave anything awesome out.
Okay, so this isn't a necessity by any means, but it's a great tip I learned from my friend Erin and her travels—whenever you travel somewhere new, take a bunch of tiny mementos (think shiny pennies, beads or other little unique knickknacks) with you. If you're the kind of person who likes to meet new people while you're traveling, you can give these out to new friends and people who make an impact on you during your trip—it's something for them to remember you by, and often they'll give you something small to remember them by, too. Another great memory to bring home with you!