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Travel planning can be exhausting and daunting, especially if it’s your first time, or if you’re traveling alone. But it’s also one of the most exciting parts of traveling. At least, Mar thinks so!!
After traveling for a cumulative of 3 decades, we (Mar and Meg) both have quite a lot of advice on planning a trip, and this is where this page comes in: we want to help you plan your travel in the most efficient and fun way possible, so you don’t forget anything important, and you prepare as much (or as little) as you like, according to YOUR travel style.
We use almost all the websites listed here ourselves, but in the handful of cases where we haven’t, they have been included because they come highly recommended by Solo Female Travelers community members. This list of travel planning resources is constantly updated with the most recent tips and advice from our community, so we recommend that you keep checking back. And don’t forget to look at our Deals page for the latest exclusive discounts.
We know that planning a trip can be stressful and that safety is important, so this page covers literally everything you need to look at before you go. This page is admittedly quite massive, so jump straight to any of the sections in this article with the links below:
Unless you’re spending a long time at a destination, flights are usually the most expensive component of a trip, and the first place to start your travel planning.
It feels like there are just as many flight booking tools as there are travelers, and everyone has their favorite! But regardless of whether you use Kayak, Skyscanner, or Google Flights, here are some tips for saving money when you make your booking:
Tips for booking flights
- Be flexible with dates. There can often be a big difference between departing Friday evening or morning. Most search engines like KAYAK will allow you to see the rates on a calendar view so you can spot if there are cheaper days to fly. For example, it might be really expensive to fly on holidays and long weekends but by taking an extra day before and after your trip, you could be saving big.
- Set alerts for a specific flight so you receive an email if the price for a flight you are monitoring drops. KAYAK and other similar platforms allow you to do this.
- Sign-up to flight deals sites such as CheapAir to receive alerts when there is a deal for your itinerary, to Scott’s cheap flights for deals from your home airport, and to error fare sites like Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying so that when the airlines release a fare that is significantly below the usual price, you are the first to know.
- Search in incognito mode so that your data is not tracked. Airlines (and all other travel companies) will track what you do online via cookies in your website browser. If they see you are really interested in a flight (because you have been searching for it a lot) they will increase the price, so it’s always best to search in incognito to get the best price.
- Check for fares to nearby airports for a better chance of spotting offers. Many cities have multiple airports, and less popular airports may be cheaper to fly into. If you’re going on a road trip, consider buying a flight to your origin, and returning from your final stop rather than driving all the way back (just make sure there is no significant price increase from the car rental company for dropping the car at a different location). For example, land in New York and depart from Chicago.
- Use the “Cheap flights anywhere” function to find deals on popular apps like KAYAK. If you haven’t decided where to go but have your days set, apps like KAYAK and Skyscanner have an “Explore” option with a “Fly anywhere” feature to find cheap flights and just go with the flow.
- Make sure you have looked at all airlines. Although search engines nowadays include most airlines, some budget carriers are not always listed, most notably Southwest Airlines which refuses to be included, but also smaller budget airlines. I use Google and FlightsFrom.com to make sure I am not missing any airlines in my research, and then go to the individual websites for those not on search engines.
- Read the fine print especially on budget airlines, to avoid nasty surprises and unexpected charges that you didn’t plan for beyond the obvious hand or check-in luggage weight limits. Some airlines charge for airport check in or even to print your boarding pass (eg. WizzAir).
- Combine two separate one-way flights instead of buying a connecting ticket. Search engines can’t always piece together two budget airline flights to show you one price. For this, use Kiwi.com which shows connecting budget tickets, or look at the budget airline sites directly. For example, I saved $350 by booking Singapore – Dubai with Emirates and then separately Dubai – Riyadh with FlyNas. Just make sure you allow for enough time between flights to collect your luggage and check in again. Kiwi offers a guarantee for connecting flights bought on their website which is why it makes sense to book through them so, in case you miss your connection, they help you re-book.
- Add a stop–over to have a multi-destination trip and save on flights. I do this often when flying to Europe from Asia by adding a stop-over in Dubai, breaking the trip up and visiting friends. This is also helpful because I am taking two 7h flights instead of one 15-16h flight which is more comfortable. Many destinations can be seen in 24 – 48 hours – you don’t have to spend a full week in a place for a stop-over to be worthwhile.
- Reverse the flights if you plan to fly to a destination more than once. I used to do this when traveling to Manila every week from Dubai for months. I would buy one return ticket from Dubai – Manila for the first and the last flight in the series, and then Manila – Dubai return flights for all the flights between those two dates. This saved me 30% because Dubai is a higher fare city than Manila, and has more demand so flights originating there are more expensive.
Our favorite flight booking sites
Everybody has their favorite travel planning and booking sites but we like to use a combination of airline aggregators, search engines and booking sites as well as some hacks from the pros.
KAYAK is the most flexible and comprehensive flight search tool there is, and also the most reputable. It allows you to compare prices for hundreds of airlines around the world and has some cool and useful features such as:
- Price alerts
- Calendar view to spot cheap dates to fly
- Prediction on whether the price will drop
- “Fly anywhere” search option
Don’t forget to look at their Deals page.
Skyscanner is very similar to KAYAK but we find their ads distracting.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is an email subscription service that alerts you of cheap airfare offers from your home airport.
There is a free account type for general offers from your closest airport and a premium plan with extra discounted fares and holiday offers.
Deal alerts include a booking link, price details, and estimate how long the deal might last.
The service is US based.
Airfare Watchdog is entirely devoted to spotting error fares the airlines sometimes publish for a short-period of time (until someone notices).
You can score incredible (and legal) flight deals this way.
Secret Flying is another site that does this too.
Other Search Engines
There are many flight search engines:
- Kiwi.com searches for connecting tickets on separate airlines
- Momondo, great for Northern Europe, it also has a cool “find cheapest flights” option.
- Google Flights is especially useful for unusual destinations (eg. flying between Pacific islands or in Africa)
- Trip.com, is great for Asia and China.
- CheapAir.com to track deals for a specific route.
Hotels & Hostels
There are as many hotel booking sites as there are for flights, but these are our favorite.
Booking a hotel can sometimes be a really time consuming effort. You want to find the right location, the right hotel, and then pick the most appropriate room type and rate.
Comparing apples to apples is not that easy and I find this part of travel planning a real art. I have booked more than 2,000 hotel nights over the last 15 years of travel. Here are some of my best hotel booking tips to help you plan your trip.
Tips for booking hotels and hostels
- Search in incognito mode so that your data isn’t tracked. Hotels (and all other travel companies) will track what you do online via your browser cookies, and if they see you are really interested in a hotel or destination (because you have been searching for it a lot) they will increase the prices. Searching with an incognito browser will avoid that.
- Start with the aggregators and comparison websites, but check the hotel websites directly to find out if there are any deals or added benefits for booking with them directly. Hotels have to pay a really hefty commission to third party booking sites like Booking.com, so they prefer you to book direct. They are often not allowed to charge less on their website than on the third party (this is often part of Booking.com contracts), but can provide benefits like complimentary breakfast, room upgrades or credit, so always check the hotel’s website before booking.
- Consider changing hotels to get the best nightly rate. Most travelers prefer to stick to one hotel only and minimise movement to make the most of their stay, but if you’re happy to move around in favor of saving money, it does pay to consider this. Booking sites will show you the average nightly rate when you book more than one night, but sometimes an average $200 hotel could be $100 on the first night and $300 on the second. So, find out the nightly rates and consider moving to a different hotel on the second night. Sure, it’s a pain, but it might make the difference between being able to afford a holiday.
- Eat breakfast like a local instead of paying the high price of a hotel breakfast, especially in places like Italy or Spain where there is a cafe at every corner and you can have a delicious breakfast for 5 EUR. Many high end hotels can charge up to $50 for their breakfast buffet and this is one part of the hotel experience that is notoriously overpriced.
- Signup to hotel and search engine loyalty programs. Although it may seem counter intuitive because it goes against the wisdom of point no 1 above, it does pay off in the long run to sign up to many different loyalty programs – even if you won’t be returning! Almost all hotels (and most booking sites) offer members-only deals. Hotel loyalty programs will give you complimentary breakfast, upgrades, gift and other perks, while search engines often have deals, coupons and points that you can redeem. Enrol especially with Expedia and Booking.com which both have special members-only rates, and Hotels.com which gives you a free night for every 10 you book. I accumulated 10 free nights last year alone by using Hotels.com whenever possible.
- Book early, this is an obvious travel planning tip, but do that even if you are not sure you will actually go on the trip, using refundable rates like the ones offered on Booking.com. This way you can guarantee a cheaper rate, and if your travel plans do change, or don’t materialize, you can just cancel. I always hold various reservations for many hotels, though just be sure to set calendar reminders to cancel them close to the cancellation policy to make sure you don’t get charged if your plans change.
- Check last minute deals, but only after you have secured a good refundable rate so you are covered. Hotels don’t always have cheap last minute rates but there are specific sites for this such as LastMinute or HotelTonight. Before going on the trip, check these sites and decide if you stick to your original reservation or book a last minute deal.
- Look at deals sites like Groupon to score deals but make sure you read the fine print. This is incredibly important as some Groupon deals are only available for a limited date range, or cannot be cancelled once booked.
- Get alerts from the hotel you want to book in case the price drops via KAYAK. Just like with flights, KAYAK also have this option for hotels.
- Risk it with a mystery hotel by booking through sites like Hotwire where the specific hotel is only revealed after you book. You can pick the area so you know you will be in a safe and convenient place. Rates for this type of deal are dirt cheap – often you can find a 5 star hotel for $50. The hotels that participate do this to protect their brand, and fill empty rooms as the deals are not publicly available and are usually last minute.
- Check out alternative and free accommodation options (see next sections), yes, it is possible to stay for free! We’ve listed all the options for this in the upcoming headings.
- Validate any hidden charges such as resort fees (in destinations like the Caribbean, Hawaii or Las Vegas) or tourism taxes that need to be paid at the property. Tourism taxes are the same for all hotels at a destination and resort taxes could be applicable even if you don’t plan to use the facilities.
Our favorite hotel and hostel booking sites
There are many hotel booking sites but the below are the most reputable, and the sites we always use ourselves: they are reliable, they have good loyalty programs, rarely do they not have the cheapest rates, and they are easy to use. Make sure to download their apps to your phone too, so you can easily use them while traveling (notably, phone apps allow you to pull up your existing reservations on the go too).
HotelsCombined is a great site to compare prices across almost all other booking sites. Once you’ve completed your search through HotelsCombined, you then book directly via the booking site, ie. you’ll be redirected through to Booking.com or whichever site you choose.
We recommend starting your hotel booking here, and then checking other sites.
If you’re looking to book a hostel instead of a hotel, HostelWorld is the most comprehensive hostel research portals with lots of options in most countries.
Pretty much every hostel out there will be available on HostelWorld which means you can compare and read reviews for almost every place.
We love that most hotels on Booking provide refundable rates so you are protected in case of last minute changes.
Hotels.com is a fantastic site to book hotels because of its appealing loyalty program that gives you a free night for every 10 nights you book.
However, they often have a more limited list of hotels available so the one you want might not always be there.
Alternative Accommodation Options
Don’t limit yourself to hotels or hostels; there are lots of other accommodation options out there!
While travel accommodation used to be limited to hotels, these days there are a huge range of other options. Don’t limit your travel planning efforts, and also consider villas, home stays, and even home swaps.
Airbnb is one of the most popular accommodation platforms to book a room. It lets you “live like a local” and save money because you’re staying in an individual’s home, instead of a hotel. If you’re traveling alone you can make sure you book with a female host, and can also have a temporary local host to tell you more about the local culture.
You can also book an entire house or villa. This is particularly convenient and affordable if you are traveling with a family, with friends, or if you want your own space because you are staying at a location for a longer period of time. You can book directly with the host via platforms like Airbnb, or use villa agents that specialize in this.
Last but not least, one of the most appealing ways to travel the world if you own a house back home, is to swap it with other travelers. If you have watched the Rom-Com The Holiday you will know what we mean!
Home swaps have become incredibly popular, and allow you to live like a local while saving money, as most swaps are usually free. You do need to pay for the annual membership to home swapping sites (or use Facebook groups, as outlined in our tips below). Obviously too, your travel plans need to align with those with whom you are swapping your home, unless you have a vacation house to swap with.
Tips for booking alternative accommodation
If you have never stayed in anything other than a hotel, you should read our travel planning tips for alternative accommodation options below. Let’s start with tips for booking a whole house/villa:
- Use an Airbnb coupon code to save $25-$50 on your first booking (depending on currency and location). If you are traveling with someone who hasn’t used Airbnb before, get him/her to start an account so you get the coupon as well. If you are using a different site to Airbnb, find out if they have a referral program (many do), and ask friends or family if anyone has a code, or Google it.
- While on the subject of of Airbnb, look out for Super Hosts. It’s so hard to keep this elite status on Airbnb, that you know you are in good hands with your booking. Super Hosts need to have a high booking rate, highly satisfied guests, and keep their property to high standards, so there really is a difference (Mar has been a Super Host on Airbnb for 5 years now).
- If you’re booking a villa via an agent, ask them to help you narrow down the search. Finding a suitable villa can be a really time consuming effort, so get help from the experts to filter based on price, occupancy, location and amenities. Agents should know properties well, so get them to help you with details such as accessibility, child safety, room sizes, etc. They can also validate details with the villa owner for you.
- Buy travel insurance that covers you in case of unexpected emergencies or cancellations such as Insuremytrip. Our travel planning section on insurance is further below.
- If you are visiting in the low season, reach out to the host or owner to ask for a special offer, especially if you know the destination is very quiet at that time. Worst case, they say no. It never hurts to ask the question politely.
- Make sure you understand the cancellation policy as many rental rates are non-refundable and even those which are refundable, may not return you 100% of the cost as the agency could keep a part as an administrative fee.
- Run a reverse search for the villa/house on Google photos to find out if a flat/house is for rent on a different platform at a lower rate. Some platforms have lower commissions for guests than Airbnb, or the owner could have their own website and take direct bookings. To do that, download the house/villa image or take a screenshot and upload it to Google Images. This can also help you find reviews on other platforms.
- Arrange your arrival a few days ahead of your departure to make sure someone will be at the house when you arrive, or so that you know how to get in. Validate the local contact’s mobile number, provide your flight details in case of delays, and make sure you are clear about how to arrive at the house. Ask the host for the best/most efficient/cheapest way to get there, after-all, they know best.
- If you know you’re going to arrive before check in time, or plan on departing after, ask for places to leave your luggage. If there is no other guest before or after your stay, the host may allow you to check in early/check out late. Ask nicely, and respect that they may say no.
- Check if toiletries will be available as they are not always included (ie. toilet paper, soap, shampoo, etc), and validate other elements like bedsheets, linens, towels, etc.
- Consider renting a car, especially if you are staying longer at the destination. The villa/flat owner might be able to advise cheaper ways to find a local car for rent without the airport fees, and they might be able to help to have it dropped at the property for you.
- Clarify the maximum occupancy and bedding arrangement. Many properties have sofa beds so you can fit more people and drop the per person price while some might say sleeps 4 but actually has only one bedroom and the other two guests sleep in a sofa bed.
- Make the most of all the perks. Villas and other alternative forms of accommodation might have cooks and staff available, already included within your costs, for instance chefs who will do your groceries and cooking, which saves you money. There is oftentimes a charge for this service, though some places do include it in the rate. Some villas come with butlers or have staff that are also yoga teachers, massage therapists, etc. So take advantage!
- Agree to an itemised inventory of the things in the house so you know what is for the taking vs. what belongs to the host. For example, is the nice bottle of wine in the cellar for you or does it belong to the owner?
- Never suggest taking the transaction off Airbnb or similar platform to save the commission. Airbnb charges guests a 10% commission, so it is tempting to try to transact outside the platform, but hosts have no incentive to do that as their commission is only 2-3% and offers them lots of guarantees. By trying this, you risk being reported by the host and it makes you look a bit “dodgy”. Trust me, I have been a host on Airbnb for 5 years.
- Read in between the lines of the reviews. There is no incentive on Airbnb to leave a genuine review unless you had a terrible experience, so it is unlikely you will get anything from reading the property/host reviews. Read between the lines; if a guest said the flat was minimalistic maybe they meant it had only the basics, and if they said it was in a lively area maybe they meant it was noisy. If a place has hosted lots of guests but has very few reviews, reconsider it.
- Use a safe payment method like Paypal or credit cards rather than wiring money, which gives you no recourse in case of any issues like double-bookings or scams.
- If you are booking a villa without any staff, make sure the villa tour shows you how to make everything work and that you test it before the host leaves, from the TV to the internet and everything in between. And get an emergency contact number.
When booking a room in a shared house:
- Always make sure you are clear about the type of room you are booking as sometimes the same flat may have more than one room for rent and they could be very different.
- Discuss the use of shared facilities like washing machines, kitchens and bathrooms, and clarify if you will have access to cleaning products.
- Confirm your room can be locked and bring a door stopper for extra safety.
- Report any issues as soon as they arise so action can be taken. If anything is off, if the listing is not as expected or there are any issues, talk to the host first. It could be a misunderstanding, but if you get nowhere, report it straightaway so action and solutions can be provided.
- Ask the host for recommendations and local deals, after all, this is why you are booking a local experience, and you could discover amazing local cafes, events and coupons.
Travel planning tips for home swaps:
- Discuss possible costs such as who settles what bills (like utilities), and what happens if there is excessive usage (eg. AC in a summer destination or land line phone calls).
- Be clear on expectations: are there pets, plants or gardens to take care of and what is expected?
- Join home swapping groups on Facebook which are free, but beware as they offer no safety or guarantees. It’s important to be sure that they are reliable, so do your homework and ask questions to the other party until you are comfortable and sure your expectations will be met.
- If your property is of higher value than what you are receiving (eg. exchanging a small flat for a beach house), consider asking for additional perks like the use of a car.
- Be sure to agree upfront on the “what ifs”. What happens in case you break something, or you stain the white sofa, or something stops working. Added bonus if you can write down an itemised inventory so the person can go through it when they arrive and sign it, and you should do the same for them.
Our favorite alternative accommodation sites
This is a travel space with many players, but the below are the most reputable and well known sites.
Airbnb is a popular site for finding rooms in shared flats or entire flats/houses to rent from individuals.
It is also a great place to find local and unique experiences around the world.
Use this link to create your profile and get $35 off your first booking.
Villa / home rentals
Booking.com has a very large selection of houses, flats, B&B’s and small guest houses that are particularly great for families or groups of friends.
Villa finder has a huge selection of villas in Asia, and Home Away is another treasure trove.
Love Home Swap
Love Home Swap is one of the longest running, best established home swap sites.
There is a membership fee starting at $11 a month to join, but this comes with a degree of peace of mind as you can read reviews from previous swaps and know the person is serious and experienced.
If you have ever been to Puerto Vallarta or Hawaii you will have seen how popular time sharing is.
What you may not know is that you don’t have to own to reap the benefits, SellMyTimeShareNow lets you book unused time share flats for a vacation at a discount.
Yes, it IS possible to get free accommodation, especially if you are traveling long term. Here’s how.
If you’re traveling slowly and for longer periods of time, you can definitely find ways to sleep for free. This is absolutely possible if you have a skill, or even just a pair of hands, to trade in exchange for your bed, and you can plan your trip out in advance.
By offering to volunteer or work in exchange for lodging (and maybe food) at businesses, farms or even as an au pair; by taking care of someone’s pet or home while they are away; or simply because of the goodness of someone else’s heart (yes, there are lots of kind and generous people out there!).
Work exchange programs are essentially volunteer stints where you give your time and effort for a cultural exchange, a learning experience (growing tomatoes anyone?) and lodging. Often times, you will also get food and other perks, and sometimes there could be small stipends (cash).
Home or pet sitting is exactly that, you are simply taking care of someone’s home or pets while they are away, and this could mean watering plants, mowing the lawn, or cuddling with furry friends. It can also mean being woken up in the middle of the night by a nocturnal cat, scared dog, or talking parrot!
The most mainstream platform for free hosting is Couchsurfing; the company has been around for a really long time, and puts travelers in touch with local hosts for free accommodation and cultural exchanges. I hosted a girl from Venezuela in Singapore in 2011 and we are still friends today.
Tips for making the most of your free accommodation
There are many different ways to get free lodging, but the best tip we can give you is to be prepared, and know what you are getting yourself into so there are no surprises down the road. Here are our tips for volunteering and work exchange programs.
If you would like to learn more about this particular way of traveling, watch our free live session with Claire Sturzaker. Claire gave an incredibly detailed hour long talk about WorkAway and other similar programs you can join to exchange volunteering work for accommodation and/or meals.
- Read hosts profiles carefully and connect with them, there needs to be a good vibe between you.
- Make sure your profile is detailed and up to date with lots of photos.
- Send personalised emails to the hosts you contact. State your experience (if any) and your goals with the exchange.
- Be clear upfront about work expectations on skills and type of work, especially if the task you are supposed to do requires physical work. Are you going to be trained? Will you get the right gear? What will the weather be like? Will you work outside or inside?
- Clarify working hours and days. Most of these volunteering programs will require you to work for around half a day, as the point is to explore the area, but make sure this is clear.
- Find out the living conditions in advance. It is common for accommodation in farms and hostels to be shared dormitory style, so you should know how much privacy you will have and how many others there will be before you arrive. Check if there will be internet, what kind of food will be provided and if you have dietary restrictions, be upfront about this.
- Learn about the environment. Farms tend to be in the countryside, but will there be other volunteers? Who will you work with? How far is the nearest town? This could also be a great opportunity to meet people, locals or travelers.
- Take safety precautions, especially if traveling alone. You should make sure that someone always knows where you are and how to reach you, and carry padlocks for your belongings.
Travel planning tips for pet and house sitting:
- If you are serious about pet/house sitting, join a house sitting site (we have listed the best sites below). These are well worth it and you will most likely find a house sit sooner or later. Start with the less popular destinations (TrustedHouseSitters will tell you how many people applied to each) and build your profile with good reviews.
- Join free Facebook groups for pet and home sitting, especially those in your destination, as a lot of connections are made informally on those channels based on recommendations. Just search on Facebook and make sure your personal profile has a public area that shows your experience in this.
- You can also create a dedicated social media profile for your pet/house sitting to show photos and build credibility, unless your main feed already has that. The stronger your credentials the more likely you are to get a sit.
- If you can, try to meet the owner (and / or pet) in person before they leave for vacation. Arriving a day in advance of your house-sit is worthwhile for being able to connect with them and their pet, so that you can understand all the details and get instructions in person on how everything works.
- Clarify all the basics that are important to you. Ask about noise in the area (is the house near traffic or loud roosters – true story from one of my experiences), about the neighbours (do they party until late or blast music early morning), check the sleeping arrangement (what room/bed will they assign, are there black out curtains) and connectivity (is there internet and/or TV service at the house, does the electricity ever go off). If you are staying for long, ask about cleaning.
- Agree on the requirements in detail and writing. How much and how often the pet needs to eat or be taken out, what care is required, if and how often does the owner want to receive updates on the pet (some owners are demanding and want daily videos). Check if the animals require any special care (ie. do they have any illness or specific eating habits).
- Discuss payment if the pet/s require a lot of care and attention and this translates into significant time investment. Typically, house-sitting is a barter exchange, however for more specialized house-sits you might expect some additional contribution per day. For example, a friend of mine is paid up to $100 a day when there are several pets or they are demanding (ie. having to be manually fed or medicated several times a day).
Our favorite alternative accommodation sites
Here are all the most commonly used sites for volunteering abroad and house/pet sitting. Be sure to check them out as you are planning your trip.
Work exchange programs
Here are the best platforms for this:
- HelpX has a bit of a clunky and old-looking site, but it is packed with volunteering opportunities especially in Australia and New Zealand where they started.
- Workaway is the largest and best known of all the work exchange platforms. Here you can also find house and pet sitting opportunities.
- WWOOF focuses on farm work in organic farms, it is particularly big in Europe, South Asia, Australia and the US.
House Sitting sites
Trusted House Sitters is the most well-established and reputable site to find house sitting opportunities. Annual membership starts at $120 and both sitter and owner pay it so you know everyone is serious and the review system works.
House Carers is slightly cheaper and less popular but particularly good for Australia where it started.
Most countries will have local Facebook groups or even apps for house sits, so get in touch with locals and ask around.
Couchsurfing is a much loved resource for travelers looking to connect with local hosts and stay there for a short period of time for free.
Hosts offer their couches (sometimes proper beds) to travelers in exchange for cultural interaction. You can also signup to offer yours.
Even if you do not stay with a host, Couchsurfing has a great Hangout section for meet-ups when traveling.
For when you just want to book a flight and hotel deal, and have the rest of the planning done for you.
Many travelers prefer booking trips independently, but a good holiday package can offer generous discounts, and is worth considering when travel planning.
Tips for finding great holiday packages
Travel planning can be made extra great if you score a deal but it can also be a massive waste of time if you go down the rabbit hole of offers and end up booking something thinking you are getting a discount only to realise you aren’t. Here are some of our tips:
- Use incognito tabs. Yes, this trick also works for deal sites, in the same way we’ve discussed above for both flights and hotels.
- Set up for alerts from deals sites (or sign up to their email lists) so you receive notifications when certain destinations in your bucket list are on sale.
- Sign up for membership deal sites which offer discounts and added perks like upgrades, meals, transportation, etc. On most of them, you can book now and schedule the trip later. For example, on Luxury Escapes there are often amazing deals for new hotel openings and 5* hotels even in dream destinations like the Maldives or Fiji.
- Read the fine print, always. Make sure that there are no hidden costs like resort fees or mandatory breakfast costs, or that there are no extra baggage costs for checking-in.
- Travel in the shoulder season to snap better deals, but make sure you are not being too smart; shoulder is not the same as low season. Sometimes, when a deal is too good to be true, it usually is. For instance, make sure you don’t book a vacation in the Caribbean hurricane season or to Bali in the pouring rainy season. This tip works for all travel bookings but is particularly important on deals where you might be tempted to fall for a great deal you could regret later.
The best sites to find holiday packages and deals
There are many travel and vacation deal sites but below are the sites that we use, the most popular, and the most recommended. If you use any other, leave a comment at the end of this post – we’re always excited to hear about new deals sites!
Expedia is one of the most popular booking sites for hotels, flights and packages and the most reputable.
The best part is their Deals section where you can find last minute hotel, flight or package deals with heavy discounts.
Southwest also has exclusive deals which are worthwhile, remember that their deals are not listed on third party booking sites, so you need to check directly.
Travel search engines
KAYAK has great flight + hotel deals on their site you can check out. The best part is that you will be able to see them all and maybe be inspired by a place you did not think about before.
CheapOAir is another search engine for flights and hotels but it also has a bundle section with flight + hotel that often has great deals.
Groupon often has amazing travel packages and other offers at heavily discounted prices.
It’s important to read the details of the offer (and restrictions) fully, to ensure there are no hidden charges you are not aware of. Sometimes, their offers are great but require that you share accommodation with someone, so these are not solo travel friendly.
Flash deal sites
Luxury escapes focuses on high-end hotels and resorts in Asia and the Pacific and also offers flight+hotel packages. Discounts can be 30%+ and you have flexibility with the booking dates.
Secret Escapes is UK based and strongest in Europe with offers in the Americas and Africa too.
Voyage Prive is also UK based, with a large portfolio.
Getting to and from your destination is one of the most important parts of travel planning. These are our favorite tools to organize your transport from A to B.
Getting around can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare, and some trips require a lot of ground transportation to get around cities.
Maybe you prefer to drive and plan your own road trip, in which case you want your own car, or maybe you will make use of the train and public transportation. Either way, this is the best travel planning place to find everything about getting around a destination.
Tips for booking ground transportation
This is sometimes the least transparent and most complicated part of organising a trip, so here are some of our expert travel planning tips for getting around:
- For planning road trips, nothing beats the Roadtrippers app. It not only allows you to add up to 150 way points but it is filled with points of interest you can add, hotels, petrol stations, rest stops, and more. We use the premium version at $29.99 a year. Get $5 OFF if you use this link and coupon code BTR5QTP.
- Use resource sites like Rome2Rio or even Google Maps to find public and private transportation options, and then book directly with the providers. Or simply ask your hotel or host, as they will know the best and most efficient, convenient or cheapest way to get to and from the airport.
- Ask other travelers or locals. We cannot stress this enough! What may seem daunting and complex in an online search could be really easy if you know the right website. For example, in Spain buses are not a very common mode of transportation, but there are lots of smaller villages only connected by private bus operators that locals would know about. Facebook groups like Solo Female Travelers are a great place to ask.
- Organise your airport pick up ahead of time or make sure you know where you are going and how to get there by public transportation. This will make sure the trip is less stressful and also safer. You can use sites like GetYourGuide for an airport pick up, ask your hotel, or book with airport transfer services.
- Look for free airport bus services offered to hotels near the airport or into town. Many airports offer this service either free of charge or for a nominal amount. In the US, you will be expected to tip the driver even if the ride is free so make sure you have local cash.
- When on a road trip, use the best map app in the country. In some countries, Google Maps is outdated and can take you down too narrow a street or a road that might be one way (eg. in Albania or Kosovo). Waze crowdsources the latest updates on road blocks, construction or diversions, and is particularly useful in case of special events that might close some roads, like Semana Santa (Easter) in Central America.
- Download offline maps so you can use them even if you don’t have internet. But bear in mind, offline maps do not have information on businesses so you won’t be able to find a shop or restaurant.
- Use overnight bus services to cover long distances and save on accommodation and transport. If you don’t sleep well seated, look for buses with reclining seats (popular in Europe and Southeast Asia) and read reviews to make sure you know how the itinerary will work (eg. will there be stops for food or to go to the bathroom).
- Always keep your valuables between your legs and if you are unsure of those around you or plan to sleep, consider locking your bag or holding it on your lap.
- Make it a work day. If you are a digital nomad, take buses with WiFi to cover long distances and save on flight costs while getting work done (but remember your anti-nausea pills if you are prone to getting car sick).
- On long journeys, bring a scarf to cover your face and keep warm.
The best sites to find transportation
There is an infinite amount of websites for booking transportation, most of which are local and specific to each country. However, below are some of the globally present sites we always return to and have used many times.
Bookaway is a great transportation portal to find ways to get around by bus, boat, train, etc. in Asia, and then to book your ticket online.
Big Bus Tours is a great hop-on / hop-off bus company present in all main cities. They have onboard guides and WiFi.
GetYourGuide sells hop-on / hop-off bus tickets in many cities and lists airport pick up services and private drivers.
Finding a route
Rome2Rio has been around for the longest time and it helps you find ways to get from A to B. You will then have to find the site to book the ticket but the portal is comprehensive and provides lots of alternatives.
Google Maps is a lifesaver for finding your way around a city both on foot as well as on taxi or public transportation and you can download offline maps.
Waze is a good alternative to Google Maps for updated info on road conditions and works better in some countries.
We love solo road trips, and RentalCars.com is the largest aggregator of car rental sites. You can compare prices of most car rental companies and then book.
Train travel is one of our favorite ways to get around, especially throughout Europe and in some parts of Asia like Japan. Use these sites to plan your train journeys.
I love train travel, the idea of sitting on a comfortable window seat and watching the landscapes go by is both soothing and mesmerizing.
Some parts of the world, like Europe, are fantastically explored by train and there are euro train tickets that make it easy and affordable to cross borders within the extended European Union.
Tips for booking train tickets
Train travel is fantastic, efficient and sometimes a major cost saving measure when planning a trip. Here are our tips to make it even better.
- Take overnight trains to save on accommodation and flights. Additionally, train stations are usually in the city center so taking a train instead of a flight will also save you on transport to the airport.
- Understand how much luggage you can bring onboard and whether there is extra cost to do so. Even on some of the most expensive and luxurious trains, space in your private cabin is very limited and you might have to store your luggage away. Make sure you carry your valuables and what you will need for the journey in your handbag.
- Book a window seat so you are disturbed less and can have better views. You will also be able to rest your head on the window. Beware that most trains will have the AC/heater conducts by the window so the temperature can be different.
- Always keep your valuables between your legs and if you are unsure of those around you or plan to sleep, consider locking your bag or holding it on your lap. For larger luggage pieces that you need to store in storage compartments, consider locking them around a pole if you can’t keep an eye on them through the journey.
- Arrive early, especially for long distance train journeys that might require you to check in ahead of time. If the seats are not numbered, this will also help you get better seats.
- Bring enough snacks and water, especially if the journey is long. There may be a restaurant car or cafeterias but you may not like what’s on sale or it may be overpriced. On my 24h train to Tibet I was faced with unintelligible Chinese food menus in the restaurant car that not even Google translate could understand. I later realised I had eaten chicken feet, a local delicacy. In some trains (eg. the Trans-Siberian), bringing your own cup is also recommended so you can get free hot water for your tea bags.
- Bring a scarf to cover your face and keep warm.
The best sites to find and book train tickets
Like with other ground transportation options, train tickets are often available to be booked through local sites only. However, some websites allow you to book cross-country train tickets that are also a great way to save on travel.
Europe, Japan and Canada all have wonderful train systems and easy to use online sites. Here are some of the most useful tools and websites for booking train travel.
The man on seat 61
Don’t be thrown off by the look of this website, it is an absolute goldmine of information about getting around the world by train.
There is no other resource that comes close to the details on train types, schedules, experiences, etc. that you will find here.
Trains in Europe
Traveling around Europe by train is easy, convenient and cheap.
Japan Rail Pass
Traveling in Japan can most affordably be done by train and the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) comes in handy and allows you to save A LOT.
There are 6 types of tickets you can get depending on your itinerary.
We highly recommend it for travel outside the big cities.
We’re all for solo travel, but some trips are better with a group. These are the most trusted tour companies used by us personally, and members of our community.
We love traveling solo (duh!) but there are some destinations or times when it just makes sense to join a group tour, whether to feel safer, because it is more convenient, or because you want to meet people.
Group tours also make travel planning a breeze since everything is done for you, and who doesn’t want to kick back, relax and enjoy the journey?! For this purpose, we have put together a list of the best female-only tour companies.
Tips for booking a group tour
Booking a group tour is an art, so we have compiled some tips to help you out:
- Book with a reputable company that has the financial foundation to fulfil its commitments. Even the largest travel companies can eventually fail.
- Always look at the deals page to find last minute discounts. Usually, these still give you at least a month to prepare and you could save up to 35% with companies like G Adventures on dream trips like safaris. Find out when they publish the deals and keep an eye on them.
- Check if they offer “single pairing”, a useful option many tour companies (Intrepid, G Adventures, Contiki) offer to pair you with another female solo traveler to share a room and avoid single supplements if you are traveling alone.
- Understand what to expect. Will the tour allow you to walk around a city or will you just see it from the other side of bus window? Do you have free time to explore on your own? What languages (and how) will the guides deliver their explanations in (eg. are there umbrellas and headsets involved)? Will you be taken to mandatory shopping stops?
- Check deal sites like Groupon, always a good source of tour offers and discounts, but be sure to read the fine print for single supplements (most tours on sale are for two people and display the price per person) or mandatory shopping stops that earn guides and tour companies commissions and offset cheaper tour prices, don’t be tricked.
- Pick a style that works for you. There is nothing worse than being on an active tour you can’t keep up with or wanting to go on adventures with a group that just wants to head back to the hotel as soon as possible every time. Most tour companies offer trips based on a travel style so read the details to find the one that best suits what you want.
- Pick the right age group. Similar to the style, companies like Intrepid of G Adventures have trips designed for under 30 with budget in mind, Contiki is entirely devoted to fun youth travel and STA specializes in student travel.
- Travel with a company that matches your values not just your wallet. This may be counter intuitive to finding a good deal but when you are spending a big chunk of money on a tour you want to know the company shares your values on sustainability, responsible travel and impact. For example, we prefer G Adventures because they genuinely do good and align with our values. All their tours are rated based on the impact they have on the local communities and how much of what you pay stays in the country. We want to know that our money does good. This is particularly important in destinations where animal tourism is popular and you might find yourself supporting a practice you disagree with. You can watch an entire live session we did live with G Adventures Community Manager Evie who walks us through the things they actually do to make sure they have a positive impact.
- Research and read as many reviews as possible of the company and of the specific tour. Google beyond the tour company website.
- Ask for instalment plans which may not be widely publicised.
- Make sure you understand the refund policy should an emergency arise. If there is anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s the importance of knowing what could happen when the unexpected happens.
- Find out special rates for extensions. In case you arrive earlier or depart later, the tour company might have access to discounted rates.
- Read the fine print to calculate all the possible extra costs not included in the tour. Understand the meal inclusions (and ask how much you would spend for the meals that are not included), extra transportation costs or optional activities that may not be included in the price of the tour and find out the start and end times and how they match your flight timings.
The best sites to find and book group tours
With the amount of group tour companies and options available online it is difficult to know which company and tour is the best one for you, and which you will enjoy more. But we’ve done the work for you – here are the most reputable and widely used tour companies.
G Adventures is our favorite tour company. They are 40 years old, are privately owned and have over 1,600 different types of tours. Meg met her husband on a G Adventure tour!
We love their obsession with having a positive impact in the community and the many projects they do around sustainable travel.
They also offer options to share a room so you avoid single supplements.
Intrepid is another great company recommended by many of our community members.
They have a wide range of tour options to many destinations and offer options for solo travelers to share a room so you don’t pay single supplements.
Contiki offers tours targeted at a younger demographic with affordable options and larger groups.
They are well established in Europe and our community members love them for their fun and party atmosphere.
Meg took her first solo trip to Europe with Contiki.
Bus About works a bit differently from other tour companies because it acts like a hop-on / hop-off service in Europe so you follow an itinerary by bus and have free time at each destination to do what you want.
You will meet other likeminded travelers and could end up exploring one of the stops with them.
They also offer optional discounted excursions.
Tickets for Tours and Attractions
For when you want to join a day tour to meet other travelers & locals, learn a new skill, or visit a hard-to-reach place, these are the ticket portals we recommend.
Even when you travel independently, chances are you’ll be buying tickets for attractions or might want to join day trips to places that are more conveniently done on a tour. We have booked many day tours across the world from Mexico to Sicily and Tokyo.
Joining day tours is one of the most popular travel planning tips shared by our Solo Female Travel Community for meeting people and staying safe, when the place you want to visit is hard to get to or a bit off the beaten path.
Tips for booking tickets for attractions and day tours
We like the ease and convenience that the tours and attractions aggregators give, and you can find a long list of options for similar tours, compare prices and inclusions, and pick just the right one for you. You can then use the app to have it all under the same place and not need to print anything.
We have booked hundreds, if not thousands, of tours and tickets over the years and here are some of our best tips.
- Shop around, we cannot stress this enough, look, compare and contrast to find the right tour for you. Yes, this is a time consuming task, but it will be worth it when you go on a tour that is exactly what you want.
- Read reviews not just on the tour site but also online. Tour aggregators like GetYourGuide will list the provider so you can Google them and find reviews outside of their website, for example on TripAdvisor or on Trust Pilot. This will give you a good sense for the tour, who goes and what to expect.
- Shop around on the ground. If you are in a touristy destination you will find lots of local tour companies, so stop by and ask for prices. As an extra bonus of this method, you might score attractive discounts for last minute availability. However if the tickets you want do commonly sell out, we recommend booking them online, in advance.
- Make the most of city cards that offer discounts to attractions, museums and transportation, as they are usually a very good deal. That said, you do need to make the most of them to get good value, so if you are not planning to visit a lot of attractions, they can become quite an expensive idea.
- Plan your trip around free entry. Most museums and many attractions in major tourist destinations have free entry on certain days (eg. Sunday) and hours (7-9pm), so map them out and plan your days accordingly.
- Bring your student card if you’re still in school, as discounts are offered to students around the world. The ISIC Card is the most mainstream and recognized International Student identiy Card.
- Look for bundle tours that include more than one attraction and which might be cheaper than two separate tours, although bear in mind the time at each attraction will be shortened.
- Go premium and/or private if you are really interested in a topic. Mar prefers to book private guides and has always loved Context Travel for the incredibly knowledgeable guides, especially on cultural tours. The Art historian who took her to The Vatican was a walking encyclopedia and the Urban PhD in Tokyo gave her insights into the country’s past and historical sites in Asakusa that she would have never found online. They are more expensive but are worth every penny.
- Always buy tickets for popular attractions ahead of time. For example, if you don’t book tickets for Paris’ Eiffel Tower or Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia ahead of time you will not be able to visit them in the peak season as they are regularly fully booked.
- Consider buying skip the line tickets for popular attractions so that you don’t have to queue. Nobody wants to waste their holiday time queuing up to enter a packed attraction. These are more expensive, but once again, well worth it.
- Book exclusive early-hour tickets for the best photos. Ever wondered how Instagrammers manage to take photos of famous landmarks and attractions without he crowds? They go early before tourists arrive. Many popular attractions will sell a few tickets for entry before regular opening hours. For example, Casa Batllo in Barcelona opens at 8am for a select few every day.
- Look at the busy times for popular attractions on Google Maps so you can plan your itinerary accordingly. Google gives you details on the “popular hours” for most places so you can avoid the crowds.
- Book cooking or market tours to enjoy a tour and a meal and save on food costs. Usually, there will be more food than you can possibly eat and you can get enough for breakfast and lunch while also enjoying a great experience.
- Look for coupon sites that might give discounts for some of the popular sites. In some cities, these coupon books are for sale at kiosks and newspaper agents. Groupon is another great place to find discounted day trips.
The best sites to book tours and activities
Besides local tour and attraction websites, below are the sites we use. We love these platforms because they have a huge list of alternatives, or because they provide specialist tours that are just a notch above the rest.
Tours and activities
GetYourGuide is one of the most respected global tours & activities booking sites. We love that most of the tours can be refunded within 24h and that their app is really user friendly.
In Asia, you will find a great deal of options on Klook.
Airbnb Experiences are a great way to connect with locals for unique experiences found nowhere else.
Expert culture tours
Context Travel is the site to book premium tours with expert guides who are historians, PhDs, engineers, chefs, etc. and have in-depth knowledge about specific topics.
Get an Art Historian to show you the Vatican before it opens to the public, an actor to talk about Shakespeare and The Globe or a famous chef to take you on a market and street food tour.
Most of their tours are either private or have less than 6 guests.
Food & cooking tours
Cookly has a long list of hands-on small-group cooking classes with locals from across the world so you can learn to make everything from pasta or tacos.
Instead of booking a food tour with a large company, Cookly puts locals in touch with travelers.
Travel Insurance, Visas and Passports
Better safe than sorry, especially if you are alone. Never, ever, ever leave home without proper travel insurance.
You should never, ever, ever leave the house without travel insurance. If anything happened to you, you could easily end up bankrupt or not get the help you need. It’s simply not worth it, and this is one of the most important parts of travel planning.
Tips for finding great travel insurance
Here are our travel planning tips for finding the right travel insurance for your trip.
- Compare, compare, compare. Check prices for the specific coverage, the destination, length and activities you plan to do and see which insurance is best for you. SafetyWing is a very affordable option for Digital Nomads with monthly payments starting at just $37. World Nomads is the preferred and most popular affordable travel insurance. But there are other companies like Cigna, Allianz or Bupa which offer premium coverage for annual health and travel insurance. Mar has used all three in the last 15 years as an expat (each employer used a different one) and can testify to their solvency, reputation and reliability. Travelex is the best insurance provider in Australia.
- Buy insurance as close to the travel date as possible but before leaving your home country. If your travel plans change you may not get your insurance fee back and there are no discounts or benefits from buying ahead of time. BUT, if your travel insurance covers you for cancellations and emergencies on the travel itself, buy it as soon as your bookings become non-refundable so you are covered.
- Make sure you read the fine print and you know what you are covered for and what not, pay special attention to the co-pays/excesses or other hidden charges. Is the medication included as well? Are you covered in case of credit card theft? Is international evacuation included in case adequate care is not available where you are?
- Understand how the claims process works. Do you need to ask for previous approval for certain treatments or tests? Are you able to get the insurance company to pay the hospital bill directly or is it all on claim basis? If anything happened to you the hospital bill for theatre and hospitalisation could run in the 1,000s. Mar’s hospital bill in South Africa for a broken arm and operation amounted to $20,000. Of course though, she had insurance.
- Add specific coverage for extreme sports or activities like kite surfing, skiing, diving, etc. If you plan to do any, not all plans include these seemingly popular activities.
- Make sure you are covered in all countries you plan to visit. It is common for many annual travel and health insurance policies not to cover the US or countries in conflict, so double-check before buying it. The same applies for specific circumstances like acts of terrorism or force majeur like earthquakes.
- If you travel enough, consider buying annual insurance instead of trip insurance. SafetyWing has monthly subscriptions which you can choose to set to auto renew.
- Look at family travel plans that cover everyone and would even cover you if you travel alone. These plans can sometimes be more affordable.
- Validate if your travel insurance covers your gear such as cameras or phones. Some offer this option, but it is not always included. Likewise, decide if you want travel insurance that also covers you in cases of delays or cancelled travel plans.
- Make sure you have all insurance contact numbers handy, and carry a card with these details which is easily available in your wallet/purse.
- Check the free coverage that your credit card might provide. Some premium cards like Amex include trip insurance in case of lost luggage or delays.
Tips for getting visa and managing your passport
- Always triple check the visa requirements from various sources in case information is not updated with the latest requirements.
- Ask Facebook groups to validate instructions and paperwork required from other travelers who have recently applied in your same circumstances.
- Use third party visa handling services such as iVisa especially if you need to prepare lots of documentation for the application (eg. US visa) or if the embassy is not in your country of residence, so you don’t have to worry about it. These companies are able to give advice to ensure a positive outcome.
- Make sure your passport has the right validity. Most countries require your passport to have a validity of at least 6 months from the day of entry or departure to be able to enter.
- Make sure your passport has at least two empty pages, this is an almost universal requirement from countries around the world.
- If you are running out of pages and you can’t easily get a new passport or additional pages, you could ask the immigration officers to stamp on specific gaps in used pages so that you optimise space, Mar used to stick post-its on the fully empty pages to make sure officers would not stamp there and she could keep them empty for as long as there was empty space in other pages.
- Confirm if the valid visa you have in an old passport will remain valid should you renew it, as many countries maintain visa validity for as long as the passport. For instance, if your passport just runs out of pages, your visa will still probably be valid, but if the passport expires so does the visa.
The best travel insurance and visa processing sites
These are the most reputable and used travel insurance websites the community and travelers around the world use.
World Nomads is one of the most affordable and widely used travel insurance companies.
Travelex tops the customer reviews in Australia.
SafetyWing is the right option for those looking to travel long-term. Their insurance programs work on a monthly basis and are designed for nomads.
You can pick your coverage and duration and set up monthly payment methods so you never forget.
Applying for visas can be time consuming and painful at times which is why sometimes it is just more convenient to engage a service to help you process them.
Insure My trip
Insure My Trip allows you to compare travel insurance plans across providers depending on the coverage you want. It works like HotelsCombined or KAYAK but for insurance.
Stay Connected (Internet)
Nothing is more important than staying connected when you are traveling solo … this is how it’s done.
Having internet is one of the wisest and most important ways to stay safe and connected when traveling.
You can go from WiFi hot spot to WiFi hot spot, but this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get online when you need to, so we prefer to carry a global WiFi router or buy local SIM cards wherever we go, even though that is not always easy (eg. in India, getting a local SIM card is cumbersome).
Even when you have internet, you need to consider that, in some countries, internet access is restricted. For example, in China or Turkmenistan services like Facebook (including Whatsapp and Instagram) or any of Google’s products (Maps, Gmail) are banned.
The only way to guarantee free internet access wherever you are, and to bypass country censorship and firewalls is by using a VPN (virtual private network).
Tips for staying connected
We have already hinted at some of the tips above, but below are some additional things to consider when travel planning to ensure you are connected and reachable.
- Get a VPN if you are going to a country where restrictions apply (we recommend Express VPN). In China, most social and online services we might use in the West to stay connected do not work. There are less obvious restrictions, such as voice over IP calls (like Whatsapp or Skype) being banned in the Middle East (don’t plan on voice calling your family from Dubai airport).
- Get a global WiFi router so you are connected from the get go. You can buy or rent a device and buy a data plan depending on how often and for what you will use it. Bear in mind that most providers will throttle your speed after you reach a certain daily amount (eg. 500MB) so make sure to go on the regular WiFi whenever possible (ie. when at the hotel, etc.).
- If you don’t have a global WiFi router, buy a local SIM card at the airport. Most countries will have telecom stores at the arrivals hall that sell traveler SIM cards with data or voice and data packages.
- Ensure your phone is unlocked so you can use it with a local SIM card. You can verify this with your telecom operator. Better yet, use a double SIM phone like the Samsung Galaxy so you can still receive calls on your home number.
- If you are traveling in Europe, check the roaming agreements, most of the EU is connected without roaming fees so once you have a SIM card from one country you can use it in any other EU country at the same home rates (but validate that you will be able to recharge the balance locally). Many US mobile plans might have global data packages you can activate before leaving the US.
- Download specific apps. For example, in China, most payments are made electronically using WeChat and that is also the app used for instant messaging. Likewise, instead of Uber there is Didi and instead of Google Maps there is Baidu Maps, so consider downloading them before traveling.
- Make sure you pack the right adaptor. International adaptors are great because they tend to cover all countries but double check the one you have will work in the country you are visiting as there are some exceptions to the global adaptors. For example, South Africa has a unique plug and Canada/US may require power convertors not just adaptors.
The best sites to stay connected
There are a few companies providing internet access but the below are the most reputable and well known, they are also the ones we use.
TEP (Travel WiFi and TEP WiFi) is a portable WiFi device you can travel with so you have internet at all times. They provide international internet connectivity via global portable WiFi hotspots, and you can rent and pick up from airports around the world before your trip or buy.
Express VPN is the one we have used successfully in several destinations (China, Middle East, Turkmenistan) and can recommend.
You can use this link to try it for 30 days, money back guaranteed.
SkyRoam was the original global WiFi router. They sell routers with daily 24h rates or monthly subscription plans in 130 countries. You can also use it as a power bank.
Staying safe is the number 1 priority of all solo female travelers. Here are the best tools and services to use … tried and tested by our community.
Safety is the number 1 most important aspect of travel planning for solo female travelers, so we have written several resources on the topic. Below you can find some tips and resources to get you started.
Tips for staying safe when traveling solo
We could give you many tips for staying safe when traveling solo, but below are some of the most important.
- Most crimes are crimes of opportunity, so it’s important to blend in, respect the local culture and not to draw attention to yourself so you minimise the risk of anything happening. This includes not wearing expensive clothes or jewelry and not flashing cameras, smartphones or wallets.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be observant so you can detect when something is out of the ordinary and can act accordingly.
- Follow your instincts. When something is too good to be true, it probably is, and if your gut feel tells you something is not right, get out of the situation if possible.
- Wear cross-body, anti-slash bags such as those by Pacsafe, that you can actually see in front of you to avoid pick pocketing.
- Stay connected and know all local emergency numbers. Share your location with friends and family back home and advise them if you are getting into a risky situation.
- Know where you are going, be it when you land at the airport or when you go out exploring, so you avoid getting lost.
- Use safe services such as Uber instead of flagging street taxis.
- Lock your belongings in shared accommodations and public transportation.
- Have your valuables on your lap or between your legs and always keep a line of sight when in public transport.
- Follow the same advice you would follow back home to stay safe.
- Research the local crime statistics and safety from reputable sites instead of taking anecdotal (good or bad) evidence from friends and family. Not all crime is the same and not all crime affects travelers the same way.
- If you are going to stay in a country for a long time, register with your embassy for safety, security and to stay up to date in case of emergencies.
Read more about safety: - How to keep your passport safe when traveling - What to have in your first aid kit - Hotel safety tips
The best sites to stay safe
There are many things you can do to stay safe when traveling but there are also some services like the ones below, which can help.
RedZone highlights safety zones and safety driving directions so you are aware of crime statistics in an area (only US).
Tripwhistle gives you emergency numbers in almost all countries in the world (only for Apple for now).
Noonlight alerts emergency services that you are in need and can be synched with other serves like Tinder and Uber (only US for now).
MayDaySafety allows you to literally send a MayDay call when you are in danger, to loved ones of your choosing just by pressing a button.
Use resources available to make a decision on safety for each country and prepare for it.
The World Bank has a useful gender portal where you can find a host of data points (female violence, rape, etc.).
UNICEF has a gender equality resource center.
International SOS (a travel insurance and evacuation company) has a handy map which assesses the risk level by city/country.
Learn a language
One of the best ways to connect with the locals and immerse yourself in the culture of a place is by learning the language. These are the most popular apps.
Learning a language is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and also making the most of a trip. It is also incredibly valuable when visiting a destination where English is not widely spoken.
Why not start planning your trip early and learn some words in the local language in advance? Before you get started we recommend joining our official sub group Solo Female Travelers – Language Exchange where you can connect with other women interested in language learning, improve upon your language skills, and find other like minded female travelers to practice with.
Tips for choosing a language learning app
There are lots of language apps and we have written an entire article comparing the best language learning apps so you can decide which one is best for you. Below are some times to bear in mind when choosing the best one for you.
- Ask friends and family who already use some of the services to explain to you what they like and dislike of the app they use. Or, ask women within our language learning sub group.
- Combine more than one service so you learn by following different methodologies. Each of the language apps follows their own methodology for teaching a language. For instance, Duolingo gamifies the experience and focuses on teaching you a number of words while Rosetta Stone is more focused on teaching you basic grammar. Tandem is focused on speaking a language. Mondly us a more rounded app to use. By using more than one at the same time you can fast-track your learning and master more than one aspect of learning a language.
- Try them out first before committing. Most of the apps offer a few days of free usage before you need to start paying, focus on making the most of each app during the free trial to see which one is best for you. My boyfriend used them all before deciding to go with Mondly and Duolingo.
- Consider upgrading to paid plans to remove distractions like ads. While a free service like Duolingo is tempting, as you progress, the in-app ads increase and get longer making the learning experience more difficult and distracting you from the actual learning, consider upgrading to the paid service (less than $10 a month) to make the most of it, it is worth it.
- Find a buddy to learn with you so you can practice, share the experience and compete! Duolingo will allow you to compete on progress with friends to make it fun and keep you engaged. A little competition never killed nobody and it will give you an extra incentive to stay accountable. You can easily find a buddy via our Language Exchange sub group.
- Download the Google translate app so you can always communicate: it is a great app for even translating menus in languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet like Chinese, Russian or Japanese by simply pointing the camera at the text. Mar has had several conversations with Chinese taxi drivers using Google translate which reads out what you want to say in the local language.
The best sites to learn a language
Learning a language can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences and if you ever visited a place you spoke the language, you will know that making an effort is always appreciated.
Make learning a language part of your travel planning process and we guarantee it’ll make your travels so much better!
One of the oldest language learning providers, I still remember their CDs on sale at the airport in Dubai circa 2006.
Rosetta Stone is well-established and respected and offers any language combination you can think of, they even focus on preserving endangered languages.
This is not a free service but rather for those who are serious about learning a language.
Desktop and app.
Mondly is one of the most innovative language apps in the world, and has been named best app by Facebook and Apple and use very advanced AI technology to give you a virtual teacher.
There are 41 languages to learn from your native language (not just English).
The chatbot is impressive and can correct your pronunciation and hold a conversation, which is remarkable.
BONUS: Our community (that is YOU) get 96% off when using this link. That mean for $80 you get lifetime access to ALL the 41 languages.
Probably the opposite of Rosetta Stone, Duolingo tries to make learning a language fun and instead of focusing on grammar; it gets you started on speaking and reading straightaway on the app.
We like that they have gamified the experience so you can compete against friends to accumulate badges.
You can use it for free but pay just $6 to remove the ads. Only app available.
Babbel is another oldie but a goodie for those who are committed to learning a language. It is quite strong on the speaking part and while it is not free they often run promotions.
Desktop and app. Try it for $50 for 6 months.
Online learning is one of the best ways to travel from home or to learn a new skill that might become a new career and allow you to travel and work.
There are many online courses that you can take to learn a new skill that might help you travel longer or work online.
You can learn a new profession and change careers for one that requires or allows you to travel, such as becoming an English teacher online or abroad, start your own online business so you can work online and remotely, or even find a job in travel.
Tips for learning a new skill online
- Take advantage of free online courses. You will find lots of website with free online courses available. These sites are legitimate and will indeed let you take their amazing courses. So what’s the catch? You can’t print a certificate of completion so they are not useful if you want to add this to your CV or use it in a work visa application as you won’t be able to prove it.
- Read reviews, read reviews, read reviews. You should always read reviews of the course you are about to purchase. Read them from the platform that is offered on and also online by simply Googling the name of the course or the teacher. Unfortunately there are a lot of scams and sub-par courses, so unless the course is from a well-known and reputable institution, you should make sure it is reliable and of high quality. This way you can also make sure the course is at the level you are (aka beginner if you are starting or advanced if you are already familiar with the topic).
The best sites for online courses
There are many ways to learn a new skill but no matter where you are, online courses are one of the most flexible ways, you learn at your own pace from wherever you are. Here are the most recommended and popular sites to learn a skill online.
Udemy is the world’s largest selection of courses. You can choose from over 100,000 online video courses with new additions published every month.
There’s a lifetime access option to courses on Udemy’s website and app, courses are taught by industry experts, and you can find video courses on pretty much any topic.
Coursera allows you to learn skills from the world’s top universities: they collaborate with 200+ leading universities and companies, from Duke University to Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, and offer courses, certificates, and degrees.
Learn skills like business analytics, graphic design, or Python, in high-demand fields like IT, AI and cloud engineering, with on-demand training and development programs.
Teaching English is one of the most popular jobs for those who want to live abroad (teaching English abroad) or work online (teaching English online) and most of the time you will need a TEFL certification for this.
TEFL Course has a wide array of courses you can signup for to get your certification and offers you online courses, in-class courses and even advanced courses for specialisations like Business English or teaching adults.
Having a loooong bucket list doesn’t mean that our wanderlust is satiated! We always look for inspiration as part of our travel planning process.
Travel planning starts with deciding where to go, and for that, we all need inspiration!
We find travel inspiration from a wide range of sites, from vlogs and YouTube videos to blogs and podcasts. We also read lots of books and get inspired to go visit countries through their stories.
The best sites to find inspiration
Here is our selection of resources to fill your bucket list.
Books & Magazines
Have you ever read a novel that inspired you to visit a place? Do you love to read glossy travel magazines?
Here are some of the favorite travel books as recommended by the community:
You can also listen to audio versions of many of the books above on Audiobooks.
Vlogs & YouTube
Do you love binge watching travel videos as much as we do? Check these channels:
- Hey Nadine, Backpacking Bananas, Where’s Poppy, Living on a One Way, Sassy Funke for solo female travel
- Susi Cruz for van life
- Sorelle Amore for female empowerment & photography
- Chasing a Plate for foodies
- Vagabrothers for cool dude travel
- The Budgeteers for travel on $1,000
- Journal of Vagabonds for lesser known destinations and slow travel
- Kara and Nate couple travel
Blogs & Websites
Who doesn’t feel inspired reading other blogs?! We can get behind that! Here are our recommendations:
- Travel groups on Facebook such as Solo Female Travelers
- Mapping Megan for adventure and travel tips
- Once in a Lifetime Journey for luxury and unusual destinations
- Roads & Kingdoms owned by the late Anthony Bourdain touches on culture like no other site
- Borders of Adventure Becki explores lesser known places ethically
- Migrationology for real foodies
Podcasts are a pretty great way to stay entertained and learn something new while on the road, just download a few before you hit the road and listen whenever:
- The Happiness Lab is an amazing podcast to understand the science behind happiness born out of a Yale class, a good foundation for solo traveling
- Endless Honeymoon for love and relationship stories
- The Big Travel interviews people on books & travel
Miss anything? Here’s the quick nav: Flights I Hotels | Home Rental & Swap | Work Exchange | Holiday Packages | Transport | Trains | Tours | Activities & Tickets | Insurance | Safety | Internet | Languages | Courses | Inspiration
Do you have any travel planning tips that we missed? We’re CONSTANTLY updating this guide, so please do email us with your favorite travel planning tricks!
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