There is no way of running away from pain, or the memories that bring tears to your eyes. There is no escape from the process that healing requires. Healing requires honesty and deep truth. It requires confronting ugly and painful parts of yourself, to accept them and work on them. There is no escape from yourself.
Luckily we can escape to places we like for a little while, and so I decided on a solo Italian escape!
I will share more of the Italian travel tips and pictures in the subsequent posts. Let’s start with the basics, do the dirty work and see if this is for us. Right? Right.
Planning a solo trip is not that much fun when you have a limited budget. I wanted the trip to be as reasonable as possible and go easy on my pocket. You don’t want to have a broken heart and also be broke. One struggle at a time. You must flourish in your travels and have so much fun that you question why you were even crying for your dead relationship, especially if you saw it dying from over a year ago and kept holding onto what you hoped it would become.
I will share some of my travel hacks on this blog (not particularly on this post) and ways to get the best out of most of your vacations, solo or otherwise.
My unpopular travel opinion: Expensive flights are unplanned flights! Period.
Flights are usually the most expensive part of the trip. But it should not be that way all the time. Here’s my flight check list:
- Book at least 3 months before the trip
Booking at least 3 months ahead of your trip will score you some low fare seats. These get sold out really quick so I’d actually book 4-6 months ahead where possible. The closer you get to the date, the more expensive the flights. I usually book the lowest fares but these come with their own disadvantages. They are not flexible and non-refundable. You can almost imagine the horror if you suddenly have to change your flight due to emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. So carefully weigh the risk you are willing to take. Less risk is costly but can be worth it.
- Visa Requirements
If you are planning on not taking a direct flight, which is the case with most cheaper flights, then make sure that you comply with the visa requirements of the country you will be taking your connecting flight from. Check that you will not need a visa for a connecting flight. Most countries allow you to connect visa-free if your connecting flight will be taken within a certain maximum hours. Do the research prior to booking the flight.
- Book directly with the airline
Using booking sites or third party websites are not as cheap as most people believe it to be. I use them and search engines to scout for the cheapest airlines but once I have decided to go with an airline I book directly with them. Always subscribe to newsletters of local and international airlines. You’ll be the first to know when they have promotions and this is another way of getting ridiculously cheap flights!
Travel includes lots of research before heading off. Make sure you are up to date with the current affairs of the country you will be visiting and even the ones you plan on taking your connecting your flight from. It makes no sense to book a flight to The Philippines when a volcano has just erupted in Manila. ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU HAVE COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL INSURANCE!
The first thing you must know is that solo travel can be expensive if you plan to stay in a hotel. Not as as expensive as not finding yourself, though. So, solo travel is always worth it on so many levels.
There are always cheaper alternatives and it all depends on what your needs are. This is usually my check list for accommodation options:
- Always book at least 31 days before the trip
Most hotels offer a 10% discount or more for booking made in advance, usually more than 30 days before check-in. I prefer to book much earlier. The cheapest rates are usually the advanced payment non-refundable ones. These are not flexible to change or cancel. But they can save you a lot of money if you are sure about your schedule. Remember that less risk is costly. If you mind the risk, then you need to pay a little more. Sometimes it is worth it to pay a little extra for flexibility.
- Book directly with the hotel
I always use booking sites and search engines to search for accommodation but when I have found the ones I want it is always better to book directly with them. Make sure you search for their official website. Most hotels have membership and loyalty programmes which offer instant discounts and points when you join. Others may be running specials for a particular period. The other cheaper option is booking through AirBnB. It also caters for different tastes and budgets. Beware of additional costs such as cleaning fees, admin fees and deposits.
- Location, location, location!!!
Location is very important when booking accommodation. I prefer hotels closer to public transport stops or hubs. For example, when in Europe, I travel mostly by train and bus, so I’ll look for hotels within 500 metres of the train station. I’m thinking of the shortest distance to pull my luggage.
- WiFi, Breakfast, Bad Reviews
Most international travellers prefer free WiFi. Personally I’d like unlimited free WiFi to get in touch with everyone back home. I also don’t want to leave the hotel for breakfast. But the most important thing I do before booking is to check the reviews. I always go for high rated accommodations as options. Reviews never lie. I also check what people have complained with about those I have shortlisted to make the final decision. If I find the complaints silly I go ahead and book. Make sure your hotel offers storage for your luggage even after you have checked out. I had to leave mine to go and explore the city and collect it just before boarding the next train. The location comes in very handy here too.
The mode of transport you choose to get around while visiting your favourite locations can make or break your vacation if not carefully selected and planned for.
If, like me, you love saving some major bucks then getting around during your vacation means using public transport. Some cities are explored best on foot, others by bicycle, bus, taxi, train or tram, while others require a combination of a few modes. My transport check list is really simple :
What are the transport options available in the city you want to visit? What routes are available? Are there maps available online? Do they have Apps? On average, how much will they cost you to get to your desired locations? The best way to go about your research is to first determine your points of interest in the city. How far are these from your hotel? Then come up with your transportation plan for the trip based on your itinerary. Make sure you have a city maps App that can work while offline. I found Ulmon CityMaps2Go very useful for all my travels.
Places of interests are what makes up most of the amazing experiences in a city. If you don’t know how to navigate your way around them you can end up paying for expensive tours unnecessarily.
Things To Do!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking guided tours. In fact, I would recommend one or two in a few cases. But there really is no need to take a guided tour to each and every tourist attraction.
- Research, Book direct and avoid highlights
By the time you get to your destination you should already have an idea of points of interest and activities you’d like to partake in. Research is important and there are quite a lot of travel blogs and sites to assist, even from a local’s perspective. There are some points of interest and landmarks that have very long queues and booking is mandatory to avoid them. Where possible, book directly at the official site and not with tour guides. There are also guided tours with highlights: these don’t allow you enough time and most people feel rushed. If you want perfect photo opportunities and just spending more time at points of interest then guided tours of highlights are not for you, particularity when you have ample time in the city.
Provided all the basics above are covered, then you are guaranteed the best travels of your life! If you are lazy to do the work, then you must have more money to pay someone to do it for you. Whatever it is, remember to always have the time of your life! Just live your best life, mntase*!