How to plan your solo trip

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Two weeks ago, my mom went to Thailand for work. Even though I knew I’ll be by myself because of her busy schedule, I booked my flight and took on the self-challenge of travelling alone in the same country. I spent the mornings to early evenings at different places in the Land of Smiles. Around dinner time, I’d fetch my mom and be her tour guide. This is the short history of how I ticked off one item on my bucket list…

☑ Travel alone in another country

I know a lot of people also have that strong desire to travel (wanderlust ika nga) but have a lot of things going on at the back of their mind. Can I do it alone? Do I have resources? Is it safe? If you are exactly what I’m talking about, allow me to share some points to consider when it comes to planning your much-awaited trip. All of which are based on my personal experiences. Hopefully, after reading, your anxieties will be lessened and you’ll find yourself booking your next or first dream trip!

Save money 

With all your expenses at the moment, saving money is a hard thing to do. This is probably the number one hindrance to, first of all, just booking your flight. I can totally relate. Two years ago, I and my college friends Kiam, Tania and Rhea blindly booked a flight to South Korea. We were still in college at that time and as expected, we’ve got nothing in our bank accounts. In fact, I didn’t even have an account at that time (until now to be honest. Haha!).

These days, airfares are cheaper. There’s a seat sale almost every day and you can avail tickets 6 months to 1 year before your flight. That length of time is more than enough for you to save (especially if you are single and doesn’t have dependents). Of course, I haven’t forgotten that you have a LOT of expenses. The question is, how much and how many items in your expenses list are really intended for your needs? Skip drinking overpriced coffee, riding the taxi, calling, texting and surfing all day, eating at fancy restaurants or eating every hour (Insta-diet for you! Hitting two birds with one stone right here!) and buying expensive clothes and shoes. Set aside the money you would usually splurge on your luxuries. Aside from saving, you can also earn money. In my case, I sold different things, from wallets to shirts to ballers. I also had a part-time writing stint. There are lots of opportunities out there. Diskarte lang yan!

Remember this. Travelling may be a luxury but it’s the unique kind.

The memories/stories you take with you after every trip is more than worthy of every cent you restrained from spending.

Prepare your passport

Whether you believe you will travel soon or not, I advise that you apply for a passport NOW. Once a sudden opportunity to travel comes, it’s hard (and annoying!) to miss it especially when the reason is not having a passport. Also, that booklet will serve as your reminder to fulfill your dream of travelling. Visit the official website of Department of Foreign Affairs (Philippines) to schedule for the passport appointment.

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Your trip is a personal trip

Each country has famous tourist spots. Maximize your trip by searching the top places to go to. In Thailand, the Grand Palace is a “must-see” while in South Korea, it’s the Namsan Tower. When I made my Thailand itinerary, I took into consideration the top 10 attractions in Bangkok. These recommendations will make your trip easier but remember that it is most important to know your interest/s. Don’t go to a place just for the sake of seeing it and taking pictures. For example, the floating market is famous in Thailand but I didn’t go there because the tour takes about 5 hours and I’m just not interested. Instead, I used that time to visit an art center and a museum because I’m a fan of artworks and such.

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Consider your trip as your thesis 

Think of the days you spent in order to finish your thesis. Endless research and sleepless nights… quite stressing to reminisce about it, right? You should also let out that same passion when preparing for your trip. Different people have different kinds of approach when travelling abroad. In my case, I plan it in a very obsessive-compulsive manner. Given my limited time and resources, going to another place is not easy so as much as possible, I make sure that I don’t miss out on anything.

Here are specific factors to take note of:

    • Accommodation
      When you’re done booking your flight, the next thing to think of is where you will stay during your travel. If you have friends or relatives there, be confident to ask them if you can stay at their house. It will save you a lot of money (pang-shopping rin yan) plus they’ll probably tour you around. If you know no one, don’t worry because there are cheap accommodations for sure. I don’t recommend staying at a hotel because it is expensive and you’ll only stay there at night to sleep. A guesthouse is the better choice for me.
      Tip: book in advance to avail discount! Make sure to choose one that is near the subway/bus station. Travelmob has a lot of choices that you might want to check out.
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Khao San Road, Bangkok has lots of backpacker inns that are very affordable.
    • Food
      Don’t be afraid to eat street foods. Try out the dishes that the people in the country usually eat. It tastes authentic and costs cheaper too!
      Tip: Bring some snacks (crackers or canned sausage ftw). It will benefit you for worst case scenarios like being super hungry, no good food available or no money anymore (Don’t laugh! This can happen. Hahaha)!

      Trying out some street food in Seoul, South Korea!
      Trying out some street food in Seoul, South Korea!
    • Transportation
      Sometimes, the subway/bus fares will take a big portion of your pocket money. When writing your itinerary, make sure to familiarize yourself on the train stations and its nearby attractions to avoid unnecessary riding in a taxi or going back and forth different areas. Google maps will be your best friend, I tell you! It’s not always 100% accurate but it will show landmarks which will help you find your destination. Also, try walking around the city. You don’t only save but you also appreciate the place more.
      Tip: Buy or ask for a map the moment you land in another country.
    • Fees
      The entrance fee to parks, museums, temples, etc. can also be quite expensive. The key to spending less is by looking for discounts or booking your tickets in advance. In Lotte World, we were able to have discounts because we brought our passports and they had discounts for foreigners at that time. We also printed some vouchers from the official website to get discounts. You can also look for special events or holidays that offer free entrance fees. I wasn’t able to avail it because I was unaware but there was a free entrance to Museum Siam at the time I was in Bangkok because of the death anniversary of one of Thailand’s previous leader. Make sure to always bring an identification card or your passport (or a picture of your passport). Some tourist spots give as much as 50 percent off the entrance fee to tourists or students.
    • Tripod
      If you’re the shy type to ask strangers to take your picture or you just don’t trust their photography skills, the tripod will be your best friend. So thankful that  I borrowed my friend’s tripod or else, I wouldn’t have any decent picture during the trip at all. Another advantage is that people will actually make way for you to take your own picture when they hear the camera’s timer (as if it’s a bomb lol) or see me smiling to it. Don’t be too affected with the weird or amused stares. You can do it and you’ll be used to it. Hahaha!

      The power of tripod, yo!
      The power of tripod, yo!

After taking note of these, make sure to write the places, length of time for each place, possible expenses for food, transportation and entrance fees for each day. That way, you will have an estimate and control on the money you’ll be spending every day.

Be adventurous

Don’t be afraid of getting lost in another country because you already are!

There’s a need to be vigilant because there will be bad people for sure but don’t let this stop you from enjoying the place. Walk and observe the places and the people. Ride the bus or train.

Talk to people

The perk of travelling alone is that you are kind of “forced” to really talk to people. Since you are in an unfamiliar place, why not learn real stories from the people themselves? When we visited Lotte World in South Korea, we watched a Filipino band, Musimix and talked to them afterwards. I then discovered that the band appeared in Star King before! How cool is that? In Thailand, I also met a man who came all the way from Phuket to Bangkok to have his religious thanksgiving. Although we have different beliefs, it was good to hear stories from him about his big business (Yup! He’s so rich!!) and his daughter who just got married. I also enjoyed the stories from the tuk-tuk drivers. I had one not-so “forever-alone” day in Bangkok as well after spending the day with Lisa from Germany whom I met in a museum.

With Filipino band, Musimix, in Lotte World.
With Filipino band, Musimix, in Lotte World.

Dress up

I don’t know why but I’m more comfortable dressing up when I’m not in Manila. Maybe because I won’t understand what the people around me has to say when it comes to what I wear? Lol. Or maybe it’s the weather? Whatever it is, I encourage you to dress up when travelling so your pictures will be postcard-worthy! 🙂

*insert line from Taylor Swift's song here*
*insert line from Taylor Swift’s song here*

Aim for an epic adventure

Last but definitely not the least, have a mindset that your trip will be an epic one! I advised you to plan your trip very well but always be open to surprises. Don’t be too strict on your agenda or your budget. Don’t be grumpy. Smile! Ask people nicely and there will be a higher chance of them being nice to you as well. Set aside your worries and just take that leap of faith and travel!

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I’ll be writing and sharing more pictures from my Bangkok trip soon. Please stay tuned! Feel free to ask as well. I’ll do my best to answer. 🙂

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