If you are traveling alone, you need to do some deep research about the following;
What is the weather like at the time of year you are going? Will you need a coat, a swimsuit, raincoat? How do the people dress there? You want to be comfortable, but do not want to stand out. There are places, for instance, where even in hot weather, people are not expected to be seen on the streets wearing shorts.
What are the various means of transportation for this trip? Can you drive and, if you do, how long will it take and how many days of motel and meal bills will it take, making it possibly more costly than a flight directly to the location? Sometimes, you might want to make a circle trip and see things on the way to the destination and back. However, sometimes, it is more your goal to go directly to the one location. I flew to Seattle a couple of years ago from Illinois. I love car trips and especially love Amtrak. However, for this trip, I really only cared about seeing Seattle and it was much more inexpensive to fly there and back.
Remember that if you fly or take a train, you must also plan for transportation once you arrive at your destination. When I fly into Chicago, I take the GO Airport Express shuttle between my hotel and the airport. When I flew to Seattle, the best choice for me was the light rail system from the Seatac airport into Seattle and back. When I have traveled to Paris, I have tried a shuttle, a private car, and a taxi. The taxi was by far the best choice to and from the airport (although, I did know more about how to get to my hotel than my taxi driver did).
How will you get around once you arrive at your destination? Do you need to rent a car? If so, a reservation probably needs to be made far in advance. Does the city have a reliable public transportation system? If so, you can probably find many resources online that tell you how things work in that city. The New York subway system is very different from the Paris Metro. There are many good YouTube videos about different transit systems around the world that will show you exactly what to expect before you leave home. No reading you do will prepare you as much as actually seeing this system in process. This is a great confidence builder when going somewhere new on your own.
Remember that some modes of transportation require reservations far in advance. Some increase prices as you get closer to your choice of departure dates. Be sure and start scheduling early.
- Gathering information
Trip Advisor has a huge amount of information that can help you plan your trip. Their site covers lodging, restaurants, and what to do and see. Trip Advisor also has discussion forums for many cities in the world. On these sites, it is easy to ask questions about the place you are planning to visit. You will get responses from other travelers as well as from residents of that area. Getting involved in these discussions also relieves a lot of stress because you are getting advice from those who have been there before you or who live there. You will also see questions from others on the forum that you hadn’t thought to ask.
The big taxi strike of 2015 happened in Paris while I was there. During the strike, it was not possible to get to the airports to fly out. I connected to the Trip Advisor Paris forum and one of the Paris residents who traveled in the area every day, gave me updates and assured me the day before that he would check again so I would know if I could make my flight.
I always get at least one travel book for wherever I am headed. I have used Rick Steve’s books, Fodor, and Frommer as my first sources. There are many other reliable books out there. You need to look through the books and see which one offers the information you need in a format that feels good to you.
As you find internet links to places you want to go and things you want to see as you travel, always remember to bookmark these links on the computer you will be taking with you on the trip. When you read through travel books and find information that you want to have with you on the trip, photocopy the important pages to take with you. This helps tremendously with space and weight in your suitcase.
It is fun, once you decide on a destination, to start researching for things you want to do and places you want to eat. Make a list of these places and include addresses and phone numbers. However, be sure not to lock yourself into seeing everything on the list. These are ideas that you think (while sitting at home) would be interesting. Once you arrive at your destination, allow yourself to change your mind and go somewhere not on your list – just because it looks interesting. Remember, you are traveling solo. That means YOU get to choose.
Be sure to acquire a good street map of the places you plan on going. This needs to be a map that has big enough print for you to read easily, but small enough that you could open it in public to check on a location.
You will need subway maps or bus maps of cities where you think you might be using these forms of transportation. Many of these are available online to print on an 8.5 x 11 paper. Remember that for many big cities walking, taking city transportation, or a taxi may be easier than having a car in the city.