Some time ago, a good friend asked me what kind of traveler I am and whether I plan my travel or prefer to improvise. Well, I think that the right answer would be to say that I plan as much as I can to feel free to improvise once traveling.
I travel solo. I always did cause I actually need to feel free when I’m traveling: silence, last-second new plans, meeting other travelers on the way, not having to find compromises, doing nothing when I feel like… Solo trips allow me to be myself and feel good, but being a female solo traveler with a medium budget, I need to plan the travel.
So, in this post I’m telling you how it all starts:
- how I pick the next trip
- how I plan it
- how I get ready
Where do my independent travel plans come from
Until a few years ago, I was always away on business trips in my previous life, and everything was always well organized and quite long in advance. Opera houses and festivals’ planning (but Italian alas) are always decided years in advance, as well as auditions for singers and competitions and so were my travels… dates of performances, flights, taxis, hotels, meetings, dinners and free time moments detailed, fixed and annotated. Perfectly planned trips.
A few years ago, I changed my life: I moved back to Italy, changed my job, rhythms and context. Now I only travel because I love it and it is a beautiful thing. I surely travel less, soooooo less, but the time is mine! Apart from a few free days during my Levanto hotel opening period, I allow myself a few weeks away between November and December and a long journey of five or six weeks between January and March.
Now my travels almost always arise from meetings with other travelers or books. A novel, a short story by another traveler, or sometimes an article makes me fall in love with a destination and makes me feel nostalgia even before I get there, so I can only start making plans for it.
From this love at first sight moment, I begin to look for information on the chosen country. I look for them online, reading other bloggers’ experiences and official sites, I look for novels set in the country and start to live the journey, carefully avoiding watching photos and videos because they might disappoint me, just like it can be disappointing to watch a movie based on a book…
My short guide to plan an independent travel
My falling in love with remote destinations means that I can often not afford the actual trip for years, and perhaps some travels will never happen, but planning them is a way of living them… I know, it’s pathological 😀
I create a file on Numbers on my computer and start planning my ideal itinerary, by entering dates, milestones, flights, special things not to miss in a particular location as recommended by those who were there before, the accommodation I prefer and related costs… because actually what I really need to figure out is if I can afford the trip or not and how much should I save to be able to enjoy it fully.
This file also allows me to see if my itinerary is possible with the available days I have or not because once there, I only move taking public buses, trains, etc… so it’s all quite slow 🙂
Having an overview of the trip, I evaluate whether I can afford it or not. If the answer is painfully negative, I put it aside for the future, and if I can go without distorting what I have in mind, I immediately book the flight to avoid seeing its price increased as time passes.
* I look for flights on Opodo, E-dreams, and Skyscanner, and once I find the right one, I book it directly on the airline company as the rate is always a bit cheaper or even when it’s the same as the customer care in case of a problem is much better!
In case some accommodations are true experiences by themselves, I book them too to ensure a room for the needed dates. Still, it actually happened only two or three times, for instance, with the Casa Panq’Arani in Puno, the Patios the Cafayate in Argentina, or the Naga Hill in Chiang Rai.
*I look for hotels on TripAdvisor (not reading reviews written by someone who only wrote one or two cause they generally are awful or excellent and I, therefore, don’t trust them, or those written by families, as I usually have different needs and priorities…) and then check their website and book directly to have an immediate idea of their hospitality. For more details, also check my complete hotel booking guide.
Another detail I plan, book, and pay for in advance is an eventual expensive visit, such as the Orient Express that I absolutely wanted to take to go from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes in Peru. This to reduce the last-minute expenses once on site. Budget distribution oblige…
My independent solo travel
The day before the trip, I make a list of things to put in my backpack, and the night before the departure, I pack (always during the night to have something to do as I can’t sleep due to the excitement).
Once my backpack closed, I fill the Italian Government’s online travelers’ security form and send a copy to my parents. I will only contact them by e-mail if I change my plans and, above all to inquire about my sweet Atena. I lock the door, put my iPhone on airplane mode and leave!
Once I landed, I start discovering, talking to people, letting them advise me, letting my mood and feeling guide me… I start to improvise, extend, shorten, delete or add stages, sometimes only to share moments with other travelers met along the way. Nothing is as wonderful as traveling and learning!
And you? How do you plan you independent travel?