Independent traveling is a thing that, on one level, I did plenty of. Being an only child living in a relatively remote northern Saskatchewan community meant that participating in any mildly interesting (and also legal) activity required at least a 2 hour drive to the south. As such, it was commonplace for teenage me to drive the 3+ hours to Saskatoon for the weekend to visit friends and go to my favourite bookstore.
I also moved away to university where I knew absolutely zero people, and traveled to and from home entirely by myself. I flew from Abbotsford or Vancouver to Saskatoon at least a few times a year (which is, by the way, enough to make flying feel like taking the bus by the time you’re in your late 20s).
Since getting married, almost all of the traveling I have done has been with my husband. And, because Graeme is a fairly experienced traveler who enjoys planning, I haven’t had to do much of the grunt work.
When I was planning to go to Texas for my dear friend’s wedding, I realized that it would be my first solo trip outside of Canada. As it turns out, I actually quite enjoy independent traveling… with, of course, a few specifications.
That said, here’s how I (budget) traveled, safely and comfortably, for a weekend in Texas:
- Booked accommodations through Airbnb. I booked my trip last-minute (the result of my lackadaisical attitude towards responsibility, and my budget uncertainties post-living in Zimbabwe), so I couldn’t get the hotel discount offered to wedding guests. I had success with Airbnb in South Africa, so I figured it was worth a shot. I limited my options to those that a) were reasonably close to the reception venue, b) had a large number of reviews, and c) were hosted by a woman. My accommodations were awesome, as was my host and the other guest in the house. A big win, even beyond saving me hundreds of dollars.
- Rented a car with a GPS. The only time I’ve ever used a GPS was when Graeme and I were unexpectedly renting a car and driving through the night from Newark to Ottawa. And, although I certainly could have planned (and printed off) detailed instructions for all the places I wanted/needed to drive, I couldn’t imagine myself driving and navigating at the same time. Although GPS added a fair amount to my rental car costs, it was 100% worth it for the sake of enjoying my time in Texas. (As an aside, I rented my car through Alamo; they have awesome last-minute deals!)
- Kept my activities to a minimum. Although I could have traveled to nearby Austin (and I nearly did in the name of Friday Night Lights), I opted to limit my tourism to San Antonio and visit the Alamo and the River Walk, as suggested by a friend from the southern US. Both are easy to get to, free to visit, and can be enjoyed in a relatively short time frame. Predictably, I also went to Half Price Books and Barnes & Noble (conveniently in the same shopping complex). Seeing bookstores is something that makes me feel immediately at home.
- Planned ahead for possible complications. This is something you should do no matter how many people you’re traveling with. I made sure that my husband had a detailed email of all the locations I’d be staying at or visiting, and gave him contact information for my Airbnb host and my local friend. I also withdrew some American cash and notified my bank of my travel plans so my cards wouldn’t be cancelled.
Anyone have thoughts (or, better yet, experiences) on solo traveling?
As you can tell, I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to this sort of thing!