Alone on an adventure: Planning a solo trip on a budget

#Managing your money

Tools and strategies for a budget-friendly vacation

The hustle of daily life – work, chores, family obligations – can be overwhelming. If you crave some time alone in today’s fast-paced world, solo travel might be just the thing you need. 

What better way to spend quality time with yourself than by combining rejuvenation with exploration?

Whether you’re an experienced solo traveler or trying it for the first time, equip yourself with the right tools and strategies to help get the most out of your adventure.

Before you leave

Solo travel needs careful planning. While the elements of traveling are the same as if you had company, now you need to personalize them.

Backpack: Your backpack is probably the single most important luggage you’ll carry. Size and capacity are the obvious things to consider, but also look for a bag that’s made of water-resistant material in case you end up in the middle of a downpour. Lockable zippers add a layer of safety and multiple compartments allow you to distribute your packed items over smaller sections. Padded shoulder straps help ease the pressure on your shoulders and lower back.

Travel gear and accessories: Pack not only light, but also right. Think foldable – from blankets to jackets and bags – for easier and lighter packing. A few recommended items include:

  • Money belt: Pick one that comes with multiple pockets and has room for your passport, train tickets and local currencies.
  • Headlamp: Power outages are common in many countries and you don’t want to be left in the dark in a strange place. Headlamps are an inexpensive and hands-free accessory whether you’re travelling through a desert at night or looking around for essential items during a power cut.
  • Passport photos: You could need your photo for things like getting a new travel pass made or for a clearance form. Keeping a few extra passport size photos with you makes it that much easier.
  • Personalized first aid kit: Carry your own first aid kit with general items like -- sterile gauze pads, adhesive tapes and bandages, antiseptic wipes and soap – plus items you specifically need.

You might also need travel vaccinations depending on your destination. These can be costly if your current insurance doesn’t cover them. The Government of Canada website has an excellent resource to see what kinds of vaccines are needed by country.

Linked closely to this is health insurance. The coverage provided by provincial health insurance is limited when you travel outside Canada, and if you ever need hospitalization, your out-of-pocket cost could be steep.

Visas to other countries: If you’re a Canadian resident with a Canadian passport or Permanent Resident certificate, consider traveling to a country where you don't need a visa Opens a new website in a new window.

Airfare: It can pay off if you plan early and are flexible with your travel schedule. Booking tickets on certain days of the week or off-season can be cheaper.

Travel insurance: Travel insurance can be even more important when traveling solo. You want to prepare yourself for all the nasty unknowns that can threaten to ruin your trip. Travel insurance may protect you against robbery, flight cancellations and missed trips, climate-related damage in your destination (think hurricanes or cyclones), terrorist strikes and even lost or delayed baggage and lost passports.

Equip yourself with the right tools and strategies to get the most out of your solo adventure.
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While travelling

Apps for daily budgeting:

  • Tripcoin, a travel budgeting app (free for iOS), works with or without the Internet. It gives you a snapshot of all your expenses for the day and shows you which category of spending is depleting your wallet the fastest. Tripcoin also supports more than 200 currencies and converts between them automatically using current market exchange rates.
  • Trabee Pocket is another app (free for iOS and Android) which lets you categorize your expenses as cash or credit, annotate your expenses with notes and images, and create travel expense reports.

More ways to enjoy your solo trip on a budget:

  1. Connect with the wider travel community: Take advantage of the experience of other travellers on Tripadvisor and other travel-sharing sites to post your questions and learn about topics from people who have been there and done it before you.
  2. Save on accommodation: Consider hospitality exchanges through websites like Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders and Hospitality Club; staying in hostels or monasteries; doing home exchanges with travellers from your destination; short-term rentals (cheaper than hotels). Also check for single-person deals on Airbnb.
  3. Eat healthy and cheap: Save on costs by cooking your own meals instead of eating out.
  4. Get around the smarter way: Get public transit passes and take walking tours – culinary or literary – to make the most of your journey without substantially thinning your wallet.
  5. Choose free entertainment: Look for open bazaars, art galleries and musical shows, which you can enjoy without spending a lot of money.

Planning ahead for your solo adventure and arming yourself with relevant knowledge and tools can make it less challenging and more fun. Talk to an advisor to make sure your travel plans and budget suit your current financial situation.