Are you tired of searching millions of posts just to plan your trip?
Let’s start with the basics: Health, Safety, Travel Planning, Travel Apps, Blogs and Communities.
This will get you started in the right direction in your travel planning process and foundation.
How to use:
- Start from the beginning and take it one step at a time.
- Skip around as needed.
- Go directly to a section.
- Refer a friend.
- Use this guide as a checklist.
Shall we begin?
Health abroad is just as important as health coverage in your own country. Not only do you need to protect yourself medically, but you’ll also need to prepare in case of an emergency.
This isn’t to jinx you because something IS going to happen. But, in case of sickness or death (yes, death), you are prepared and won’t have to pay out-of-pocket for expenses you didn’t plan for. Like paying $40,000 to have your body or a family member’s body sent back home.
Even before boarding your plane, you need to ask yourself: What vaccines or medicines will I need for my trip?
These resources specify, by country, what is required, recommended, and encouraged for you to take. Pay attention to the CDC’s travel health information. And, visit the Passport Health clinic for your vaccinations and GoodRx for prescription drugs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Use the CDC travel health resource to learn which travel vaccines or medicines you’ll need for your trip abroad.
Passport Health: Schedule an appointment at a local travel health clinic to get your required vaccinations before arrival in your destination.
GoodRx: Looking for the best prices on prescription drugs? With access of over 75,000 pharmacies, you can find coupons and discounts on medicines needed for your trips abroad.
“Is travel insurance worth it?“
Nah, I would respond.
But, seeing multiple accounts of people opting out of travel insurance and spending thousands on flight cancellations, ticket changes, medical bills, and sending the body of a loved one home, that has been my cue to be responsible.
Or rather, be better prepared.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially as a solo traveler.
How to Be Prepared
Invest in travel insurance. Purchase a plan per trip, annually, or whatever is suitable for you.
Some credit card companies offer travel insurance. Talk to a bank representative to ensure that they have appropriate travel coverage. If you don’t, compare plans with InsureMyTrip or use the resources below to find the best one for you.
Travel Insurance Master: Get access to reputable insurance providers! Search their site for the best insurance solution for you. You can also obtain a FREE quote!
World Nomads: Get insurance coverage while exploring the world. You don’t want to get caught up or risk being abroad in an emergency without some sort of protection.
Travel Medical Insurance: Search insurance options and purchase a plan that’s right for you when you travel. Don’t leave without protection.
InsureMyTrip: If you have a cancellation or interruption on your trip, you’d want to be protected and covered by insurance. Get a quote to compare your insurance needs and budget.
Health and safety are like fraternal twins. Two distinct topics that stem from the same concept of emergency preparedness.
There is no one without the other, so I included them together before we get into travel planning and resources.
Most times, we like to start the travel planning process before we gather background information about the destination itself. Usually, we delve into health and safety once we’ve secured our flights, booked our accommodations, and have applied for our visas (if applicable).
But, I believe travel safety shouldn’t be overlooked or left to the last minute to consider. Instead, health AND safety should be the first to review.
Advisory & Alerts
The US State Department’s travel advisory can determine whether we need to choose a completely different destination based on its recommendations, evaluations, and warnings. Reviewing security and medical alerts in a destination may also allow us to better understand the local conditions before we get there. No money lost or no trying to convince ourselves to go.
I encourage you to use the following safety sites, communities, and alerts to plan for your future trips.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: Register your trips online. Receive safety and emergency updates about your destination from the US Embassy.
US State Department Travel Advisory: If you want to know how safe a country is using the travel advisory for guidance. The description for each country details how to take precaution while traveling.
Depart Smart: Are you prepared when you travel abroad? Take the Travel Safety Training to ensure you are.
Your Local Fire Department: (Free Response Training/CERT Training) Interested in putting together an emergency or survival kit? Or, learning more about emergency preparedness? Seek professional help from your local fire department. They usually have free emergency response trainings during the week.
Travel Risk Map: At a glance, you can view the security risks, ranging from insignificant to extreme in the world. Like the Travel Advisory, you’ll be guided on how to assess whether to avoid specific countries. Included are medical and road safety assessments in each country.
Safe Travel USA: Road tripping around the US? Stay updated with road hazards, traffic, weather, and conditions that can affect your travel plans. Don’t hit the road without your handy, dandy road safety site.
MaidenVoyage: While it’s a network for professional businesswomen, the site features a list of certified female-friendly hotels and city guides.
Jozu For Women: A community of women dedicated to creating & maintaining a safe travel space for others. They provide safety tips, travel advice and network.
Wandersafe: This safety tool and app advises you in real-time what’s happening in your area. Periodically, there’ll be check-ins to ask: “Do you feel safe?”
Pathways to Safety International: If you are involved in interpersonal or gender-based violence abroad, Pathways offers 24/7 support and assistance regardless of where you are in the world.
A great COVID-19 resource is Kayak’s Travel Restriction Information Page. Country-specific regulations. andprotocols are updated every day so that you can make an informed decision about your travel plans and goals.
Planning made easy? Or at least simplified.
You won’t have to leave this page to plan your upcoming trip. Promise.
I’ve listed various sites that’ll allow you to plan for weather/seasons and your budget, purchase cheap flights, read reviews on hotels or restaurants, and get expert advice for your destination.
Listen, at least you don’t have to spend hours on google getting to these resources.
Around the World: Need to know when to go where? Don’t worry. Always know the best time of year to travel the world.
Seasons Around the World: If you’re conscious of the weather, then peek at the recommendations on where to go and when.
TripAdvisor: Why not rely on others’ opinions about a restaurant, hotel, tour company, etc? It’s useful. Especially now you can filter the reviews by traveler type (i.e. solo).
Scott’s Cheap Flights: (My fave!!) Get the cheapest flights to anywhere. Sign up for daily blasts and you just might catch a great deal. Hurry though. Those deals only last a few days.
Google Flights: I only search for flights using this tool. It’s simple, quick, and sometimes gives me the best rate compared to purchasing through a third-party company.
Google Trips: Manage your trip itinerary in one place. Plan a specific one for yourself or use the recommendations as you travel about. Isn’t Google the best?
TripSavvy: Experts share their perspective as a local on what’s happening in your destination. Unlike reviews from tourists, you get the in-country feedback and guidance on what to do, where to go, and how to spend your time while there.
Budget Your Trip: All you have to do is search for your destination and get an instant budget guide on what you can expect to spend. Because a budget is relative, you decide how your travel style (i.e. mid-range).
Timbuktu Travel: Sometimes you don’t want to do any planning. Just pick your destination and let someone else plan the trip for you. Search here to see which African countries you can go go through this company.
Social Impact Tourism or Volunteer Abroad
You may have a desire to help others, but that isn’t enough to benefit the communities worldwide. Your
Browse the best volunteer abroad programs below to see how you can assist local organizations. Don’t have the time to travel to the country? Volunteer online. You won’t even have to leave your home.
GivingWay: Want to dedicate your resources and skills to communities abroad? The platform connects prospective volunteers and organizations for free.
GoAbroad: Looking for meaningful travel experiences around the world? Find opportunities to work abroad, volunteer abroad, intern abroad, or study abroad.
Hands-On Institute: Work with various communities in Nepal. Passionate about women empowerment, civil rights, equality, education, sustainability? Plan your visit here.
Passport or Visa
We all ask this question: “Will I need a visa to travel to (insert country)?”
With sites like Travisa, you can
US passport holders can travel to 177 countries without filling out any visa paperwork before arrival. Yet, there are constant updates regulated by each country and new requirements to be fulfilled.
How do I apply for a visa/passport?
It doesn’t hurt to review the websites below for updated information. In case a change has been made during the travel planning stages, you can adjust appropriately.
For most countries, you’re not allowed to apply for the visa until you’re within a certain amount of time of your trip. Plan accordingly and don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Luckily, you can apply for a visa on arrival in some countries like Nepal. And, e-visas for places like India and Turkey.
Upon your return home, a new app, Mobile Passport expedites your way through US customs. But only at select airports and cruise ports.
Christmas has passed. So what? T
These items are my favorite because I enjoy being organized, prepared, and at peace when I’m traveling. I’m sure you do too.
And, as a solo traveler, look out for yourself, which is why having anti-theft items like a purse or a money belt are so worth it.
Also, will you need a travel adapter or converter? Don’t know. Power Plugs and Sockets of the World is a database with each type of power socket for every destination. While you’re shopping for these items (or creating your wishlist), don’t forget to add one to
Money & Currency
Before anything else is done, please call your bank now and inform them of your travel plans. If you bank with Wells Fargo, as I do, then you’re able to submit your travel plans online.
Log into your account. Click on ‘Travel Plans.’ Enter your trip details, then hit submit. Your bank (Wells Fargo at least) now knows which cards will be used and where.
No more blocked cards while traveling!
Now the second important question about money: “Should I convert money before or after I’ve arrived at my destination?”
While some may say have at least $200-$300 USD converted before you even touch down at the airport, others suggest converting currency at the airport. Even, withdrawing cash from an atm upon arrival.
Either way, decide which is the best option for you. Keep in mind, there will be different exchange rates and fees affiliated with each decision.
Maybe using plastic would provide you with the best exchange rate without all the fees. Or, if you prefer cash for those places that won’t accept cards.
To avoid any issues that can come up, check out the following money and currency resources:
Nerdwallet: If you don’t know which to choose: exchanging money before or after you arrive, read this for better insight.
Travelex : Rather have the local currency before you jet off? Order the currency online.
XE Currency: There’s no need to memorize the conversion rate in your local community.
Sidenote: Always have a backup plan. You could be at
Airport or Airline
Airports and airlines are as distinct as the countries they’re in. That is not a surprise but familiarity is comforting when sometimes you just want to know where the nearest lounge is or where to find a plug. Get all that and more with the following resources.
Seat Guru: Window or the aisle seat? No more guessing at which seat is the best. Get reviews and updates about seats on different aircraft carriers and more.
Flio: Never miss a flight with status updates or miss a call because of a dead battery. Always know what’s in and around the airport at all times.
Lounge Buddy: Have access to lounges in airports across the world. Just search using the web or app, purchase a pass, and enjoy the lounge and its amenities.
“How do I get past the language barrier?“
If you’re considering traveling to a country where the people speak little English or you can’t speak their language, here are a few resources and tips to help you feel more comfortable.
Duolingo: Before you leave for your trip, download this free resource assisting language learners through fun and interactive exercises.
Google Translate: You’ll have access to the app whether you have WiFi. So if you need to translate a sign, just hold your phone up, touch the screen, and it will be translated.
Google Pixel Buds: Even if you know the basics, you probably won’t be able to have a full conversation with someone. With these headphones, however, you’ll get a real-time translation.
Whether you download these apps or buy the headphones above, always learn some basics. Not only to make a purchase, order food items, or ask where something is, but also because it shows your appreciation for the local language.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone knows English or that they should. Getting around can be challenging especially in rural communities and countries with little access to the language.
So memorize, write or save these common phrases or words:
How Much (is it)
Travel Planning Apps
Clear off the space on your phone for some (maybe not all) of these apps. Depending on your trip and where you’re going, you might need these apps at different times.
What to do. What to see. Check
Afraid of flying. Check
There is an app for everything.
Note: Flush is not available in the US iTunes Store.
The first and last time I used my phone abroad, I racked up to $900 worth of roaming and data fees. Never again, Satan.
Cell phone providers have done much better since that time. They now offer specific international phone plans that reduce the cost of roaming, phone calls, and data usage.
While I am a firm believer in WiFi, below are some suggested ways to stay connected with your people back home. Unless you’re into
And if you need to call an international number, How To Call Abroad, helps you dial internationally with the correct country and area codes.
Besides your typical hotel search engines like Kayak, Hotels, Priceline or Expedia. These home-sharing networks are usually budget-friendly, affordable and offer unique experiences in your local destination.
Nomador: Become a house sitter for homeowners all around the world. It may include some small duties like watching their pets, sometimes in exchange for free accommodation.
Trusted Housesitters: Similar to Nomador, sign up to be a house sitter for individuals or families in destinations of your choice.
Blogs & Communities
Women Who Travel
Let’s be honest. Women are dominating the travel world and this domination is not slowing down anytime soon. So resources and stories for women by women are so important. Key information includes tips on safety, solo female travel, and travel advice. These are some of my favorite communities and blogs catered to women.
Like women, the black travel movement is a force in the travel industry. Communities have given black people the resources, tools, and support needed to see the world as all other groups do.
Personally, as a black woman, I seek help and advice from the following groups and online resources. Topics include traveling while black, safety tips and recommendations for black people.
If you have any recommendations, drop them in the comments!