Sometimes you learn more about yourself by discovering new places- alone. If you haven’t traveled solo before, I highly recommend taking the plunge. Last weekend I tried solo travel for the first time, spending the weekend in Amsterdam.
I absolutely loved my time here, the city is brimming with terrific museums, quaint neighborhoods, and gorgeous canals. It is incredibly walk-able, and really offers experiences for all types of travelers. While some things (nightlife stands out) are clearly more fun with friends, most people I met were very friendly and sociable. And the food in Amsterdam- absolutely delicious. From cheese to stroopwafels, local shops and markets across the city had amazing selections.
It’s an incredible experience to be on your own and see how you act when no one’s watching. A fun challenge I picked up from a fellow solo-traveler is: Don’t take a single selfie. There’s always someone to ask for a picture, and you never know who you’ll meet.
Be sure to journal and take time to reflect on what you notice about yourself. These trips really reveal a lot about yourself (for example, I’m often overwhelmed by having lots of options). It’s worth spending 10 minutes at the end of the day to write down your thoughts. You can also review your trip to make changes for next time: What you wish you did/didn’t do, packing tips, what you like/don’t like paying a premium for, and so on.
I packed my days full of activities using a general outline I’ll share here, and some other tips for planning your own solo adventure:
3 Steps to Planning Your Own Travel Weekend
Make a go-to list
- Start with some light reads about your destination, and write down anything that excites you. I made 3 categories for my trip: See, Do, and Eat. Include everything remotely interesting, no limits!
Plot your points
Open Google Maps and save each place on your list on your “Want to Go List” Pretty cool huh? Now you can group activities together and maximize your time! Look for clusters of activities you can do together (that’s an afternoon!), and make sure the out-of-the-way ones are worth it.
Check the Logistics
- Now that you’ve filtered your activities, check some basic logistics: Opening hours, admission fees, security procedures. Then begin planning the order of your clusters and place each cluster into a daypart (morning, afternoon, evening). That’s it! You’ve got a framework for a great trip!
- Always check for seasonal events and local markets/festials going on during your trip. I like Eventful and Eventbrite (plus any city-specific ones).
- Book in advance: Hostels, museums, and events fill up (Yes, I missed the Amsterdam Wine Festival). You’ll save money and skip ticket lines.
- Take advantage of freebies: Get a hostel with free breakfast, and always get your fill of free samples at stores. Hostel breakfasts are typically buffets that open at 7am, so you can get an early start and eat as much as you’d like.
- Save time for wandering: Don’t fill up your whole day, block out time for spontaneity and travel hiccups. The last thing you need is feeling stressed or rushed on vacation.
- Look for authenticity: The more self-promotion, the less authentic. In general, avoid places that sell themselves as authentic or local. Also, the best restaurants don’t need to sell themselves, their reputation provides all the marketing they need.
- Pack light and stay late: Try to fit everything you’ll need into one backpack. It makes traveling easier. Pay up (within reason) for an early Friday flight and late Sunday flight. In the long run, 6 extra hours in the city is worth some sleep and being more frugal elsewhere in your budget (How to save money you ask?)
- Avoid sit-down restaurants: Always try good local food and enjoy yourself, but there’s nothing wrong with a quick and cheap to-go meal. Save money, see the city, and stay active! In Amsterdam, I had one sit-down dinner and ate my other meals while exploring canals and street markets. Here’s how I did it:
- Know before you go: Visiting times for museums, tours, and events vary. Take two minutes to see how long to block out for big activities. You won’t be able to do everything and that’s okay! Focus on enjoying what you do see and save some activities for another trip.
- Be nice to people. Friendliness (with locals and travelers) always gets rewarded. It’s as easy as offering to take a photo of them, and can get you recommendations, a place to charge your phone, or even discounts (I got a free pastry at a street market after connecting with the owner about being half-Argentinian).
- Get Moving! It’s amazing what you can fit into solo travel when you aren’t coordinating a group. You will run out of time, so be sure to see the city, not your hotel room. Get up early (walking neighborhoods as storefronts open is very serene) and stay out late (always check out the nightlife, or at least the night lights).
That’s all for this week, I hope the tips are helpful and feel free to reach out with questions on my trip or anything you have planned!
Hosting friends! I’ll share how I show off Stockholm to two Tulane University friends staying with me this weekend.
As if there weren’t enough delicious food pics already, here’s me stirring up some Heineken hops at the original brewery. The Heineken Experience (granted its rather touristy) is a neat tour through the beer-making process, and you’re rewarded with a rooftop bar and two free beers.