As a solo traveller or a solo planner, making sure you’re organised is really important before, and during your travels! Sure, being spontaneous and taking things as they come is part of travel, but this doesn’t mean you are disorganised! I’ve been planning my trips on my own for many years now, whether they’ve been solo or with others, and I’d like to share with you some quick travel tips that I use on every trip!

Without further ado, I’ve put together a list of 10 things I do to make sure everything runs smoothly.

1. Keep your documents with you

This may sound obvious, but there are some documents that you just cannot afford to lose or forget at home:

  • Passport
  • Visa documents
  • Driver’s license – especially if you’re renting a car, I forgot this once and they would not release the car under my name!

If there are electronic versions of these then keep a backup somewhere secure on the cloud. And whatever you do, do not store them in the seatback pocket on the aircraft in front of you. Once you are done with them, put it back securely in your carry-on bag. As an airline pilot, I’ve come across many situations where passengers have either left their passports on board or in the hold baggage, which has caused inconvenience both to them and the airline!

Always keep your important documents stored securely on your carry-on and keep them accessible to you.

If you forget your toothbrush or clothes, you can always buy those at your destination. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated if you misplace or forget these items!

2. Organise your email

Most of our travel confirmations or booking information now comes in through to our email inboxes. Therefore, it’s important it’s all organised and doesn’t get lost in the plethora of emails we receive every day. I like using Gmail, so I like to label every email I get for a particular trip with a unique label that connects a particular email to a particular trip. This way, you can select a label and every email connected to it will be displayed and it will avoid “misplacing” emails.

Look at the google guide here on how to create labels.

3. Check-in Online

Do most of us check-in online these days? I do, but I can’t speak for everyone. What I can say though is that checking in online can save a lot of time at the airport, and in fact, save you penalties. Low-cost airlines such as EasyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair will charge a fee for checking in at the airport. In addition, many airlines now offer a mobile boarding pass facility, which negates the need to print anything out. This way you can happily have your boarding pass on your phone and skip the check-in queue and go straight to the gate via security, or just drop the bag off at the bag-drop facility if you must check a bag in!

You can even receive your boarding pass on your smartwatch now.

4. Use a packing checklist

Have you ever realised that you’ve forgotten an item or forgotten to do something when you’ve got to your destination? Most of you will have answered “yes”, including myself. Since I started using a packing checklist, it’s drastically reduced the chances of this happening.

So what is a packing checklist? Essentially it’s just a list of items that you will need during your travels that you’ve prepared earlier. This is so that you can go through this list and check all the essential items are packed. Different destinations will require different items, so I have a “master” packing checklist that includes everything. For each trip, I will highlight the relevant items from the master list and then before I close my suitcase up, I’ll check the contents against this list.

If you want to see an example of one, I’ll make a separate post soon on this soon.

5. Pack light!

The more you take, the more you have to track, hold and take care of. I’ve been travelling for years with carry-on luggage only. This means I don’t have to wait to collect my luggage at the destination and there’s no chance of it getting lost either! I’ve even managed to travel an entire month with carry-on luggage. How? Take washing powder with you!

However, there will be times that the gate agents choose to place your bag into the hold because there’s not enough space in the cabin. I recommend that when you do pack your case you keep items that you wouldn’t want to be put into the hold with your case accessible, so you can easily take them out.

6. Use Google Maps

Google Maps is amazing. It has a nifty feature that lets you tag places with labels. For example, “want to go” is labelled with a green flag. I label all the places that I intend on visiting or interested in with a green flag and once I’ve been there and provided I think it’s worth noting down, I transform the green flag to a “star” label. This is really useful in future in case you want to re-visit a place or you want to recommend a place to someone.

Green flags are places I want to go and starred points are places I’ve visited and would recommend!

Furthermore, if you know that you won’t have internet access at your destination, Google Maps allows you to download a particular area of the map for offline viewing!

7. Do not over-plan

This may sound like I’m contradicting myself, but it’s important to strike a balance between not planning and over-planning. There have been many times where I’ve planned to go to the beach on a particular day and it’s been raining all day, and now I’m scrambling to find something else to do without much of an alternative plan. If you’re too rigid with your itinerary, you will end up wasting time or miss an opportunity to be more spontaneous and explore a place that a local has recommended, which wasn’t on your agenda at all but sounds interesting.

If you go back to my recommendation to use Google Maps and keep a list of places you want to visit or activities to do on the map, then you can almost plan the day on the fly and be more flexible. Flexibility is key when travelling!

8. Ask the locals

Don’t be afraid to interact with and ask locals, as long as it is safe to do so. Quite often the best places I’ve eaten at or visited have been recommended by locals and wasn’t in any guide book! The locals know where they live best and the guide book may be out of date by the time you visit your destination or just be pointing to a tourist trap! For example, recently, when I was walking around the markets in Dominica, I got a local tip on a restaurant, which wasn’t even on google maps or any guide books and it was one of the best (and cheapest) meals I had on the island! Ultimately, this supports your planning and you may even receive tips on when best to visit a place or how to get there.

Don’t be afraid to interact with locals – they know their local area well!

Bear in mind that this may not necessarily be for when you’ve arrived at the destination. You can still interact with locals online through forums or websites such as couchsurfing.com.

9. Use your credit cards

This is largely dependent on where you live and what financial services are available. However, if you live in the UK, I can recommend the Halifax Clarity credit card and the Natwest credit card.

Both cards offer no foreign exchange transaction fees when making card transactions abroad. Furthermore, the Halifax Clarity card also charges you a very small to zero interest on cash withdrawals at the ATM. I tend to immediately pay off anything I’ve withdrawn using my Halifax app, so I attract no interest at all. However, bear in mind that the ATMs themselves may charge a fee. Nevertheless, I’ve found that is the cheapest and most convenient way of foreign exchange.

Having said this it’s always worth carrying some cash on you in your local currency just in case you have an issue with your cards. I always carry both credit cards with me in case one doesn’t work and some cash!

I’d like to note that I do not receive any financial reward from recommending these cards – I use these and it is a personal recommendation.

10. Have a coffee (or another beverage)

I used to rush out of the airport as soon as I arrived, and I found myself just stressed as a result. Unless you have an appointment or a tour booked and need to get to your hotel asap, have you considered going to a coffee shop and just have a relaxing coffee before you head out to your hotel? I normally find that between my last meal on the aircraft and getting to the hotel, there’s been significant time between meals.

How can you resist a bit of coffee and sugar to give you a boost before you exit the airport?!

Next time you eventually pop out into arrivals, head to the coffee shop and relax for 30 minutes. It normally gives me time to not only replenish myself physically but also mentally and plan my day and catch up with things I didn’t have time for during my travels.

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