12 mistakes to avoid if you’re a disaster traveling alone

by Laura Vilaça

I am a disaster traveling alone. I’ve been avoiding this confirmation because of my self esteem as an independent-grow-modern-woman, but facts keep proving me otherwise. Not even a year ago, I ‘forgot’ my checked luggage at the airport and happily went all the way home, only to realize – three hours later – that I had to go back 30 mins by bus to get it. It was a big red suitcase, almost my size. I kid you not.

76 x 31 x 43 cm. Sadly enough, not a sexual reference.

76 x 31 x 43 cm. Sadly enough, not a sexual reference.

Last week, more proof. I managed to get stuck for 6h at a free way on a shuttle bus trip that should’ve lasted 50 minutes. A huge accident was impeding traffic, along with a deactivation of a II World War bomb. I lost my flight and spend the day of my birthday on a fucking bus with strangers. Not my fault, fair enough, but these things keep happening only to me. Nevertheless, eager to forget the pain of the bus seats, I rebooked my flight for the day after on a different airport. I took the metro this time and the airport was just 15 minutes from my house. I relax, take my time because ‘it’s so close’ and get to the airport 10 minutes too late to be able to check in. I cried and I cried and I cried, but Scandinavian efficiency did not bound to my pleas. It was time to learn a lesson.

And I did. With the help of my friends, who enjoy these stories way too much but are tired of my disastrous relation with traveling, I made a list for all those out there who are exactly like me: D.W.T.A.s (Dangers While Traveling Alone). Enjoy and LEARN.

1. Not planning your luggage
Do you really need to check something or could you survive only with hand luggage and save some money? Choose what you REALLY need for the amount of days traveling and pack accordingly to the weather and the circumstances. Toothpaste, make up, razors, lotion and all that crap can be bought once you’re at the destination.

2. Packing unessential stuff on the hand luggage.
If you are traveling with both hand and checked luggage, don’t think of hand luggage as space for more cute stuff. It is a place of strategy: in case your checked baggage gets lost, you should always have a fresh t-shirt, underwear, documentation, chargers, etc. All the basics you can’t buy immediately at the destination should travel with you.


3. Not exchanging money before leaving
Fees at home are always less expensive then those at the destination, where people in desperation for local money will pay whatever crazy fee they’re proposed. Be smart and plan a reasonable yet comfortable amount of money to carry with you. Also, check if your bank charges you for taking out money at the destination country. Make sure you won’t get penniless while alone and – maybe, because I know you – without a phone to ask for a transfer.

4. Not checking if your phone has a plan that works on other countries
Make sure your roaming service is active, otherwise you may find yourself contact less. And believe me: it’s not as ‘fun’ and ‘wild’ as one may think.


5. Not paying attention to user comments before booking a hostel/couchsurf host
‘Good location’ and ‘price’ should not stand alone in the moment of decision for accommodation. Not only in hostels, but specially when couchsurfing, user comments play a big part. Camy Roch can tell you why.

6. Not making a list of things you need for traveling
Write the goddamn list and CHECK IF YOU HAVE THOSE ITEMS ON YOU before leaving the house: ID/passport, tickets, travel plan, money, chargers, etc. Don’t attempt a marathon of taxi/bus/metro while carrying luggage. Not all transport drivers put your rush in front of their lives – again: trust me on this one.

7. Not being sure where the stop of the transportation to the airport actually is
Running around 500 metros like a mad person at 6am with a backpack on your shoulders and a desperate look doesn’t look pretty and takes years out of you.

8. Not checking the traffic beforehand
If you’re going to the airport either by shuttle bus or by car, the five minutes spent checking the traffic situation may be a life – and ass pain – saver. Explanation already given. Will not relive the pain.


9. Going to the airport without A LOT of time in advance
Think you should always plan your timing to get to the airport allowing yourself enough time to get a second metro, bus, or whatever is taking you there and still be on time.

10. Being sleepy can be a good thing
Falling a sleep on the plane or while waiting will make time go faster. However, do watch out: check when your stop/time limit is and set an alarm. If you’re a deep sleeper, though, go for caffeine, caffeine, caffeine instead of sleepy bliss. Also, a friendly advice: make sure you’re sleepy because of ‘natural circumstances’, not because of a hangover. There was a plane almost leaving from Krakow without me and three other notable master students because of a very difficult night out. Trust me: no one enjoys morning jogging with a hangover.

Hilarious... Until it happens to you.

Hilarious… Until it happens to you.

11. Not being able to keep yourself entertained – while still managing to be alert
Boredom and frustration are the worst enemies of concentration, which you do need when traveling – specially alone. So get a good book, download a really cool game for your phone (KEEP THE PHONE CHARGER WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES), etc. You can also buy some alcohol duty free and enjoy it with moderation. Staring at people trying to figure why they are together and where they’re going, discovering which two people walking around the airport could be doppelgangers, or such tricks are other type of games that may also help. In short, do whatever floats your boat – but don’t over do it. You’re not at an amusement park, you’re proving the point that YOU. CAN. TRAVEL. ALONE.

12. Forgotten luggage at the airport?
Write a mark with a pen on your hand and try to avoid it. If it happens, though… just go get that shit as soon as possible, you brain dead. And make me proud. No more D.W.T.A.s.

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3 thoughts on “12 mistakes to avoid if you’re a disaster traveling alone

  1. Pingback: Aaaaaand… this was 2013! | We should name this soon

  2. kinda falls into the money before leaving category, but if you get a shiny new international debit card before leaving that is your only source of money it’s a good idea to remember the pin number first….

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