Pre-flight preparations for solo travel

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Maiden Voyage.

My dad used to say “don’t wait until you sh*t to find toilet paper”. As crude as that sounds, it was one of the wisest thing he’s ever said to me. I would carry those words with me through my years, and I’ve never found myself without toilet paper, ever. However his advice never quite carried through to other aspects of my life, such as traveling. There’s been countless times where I’ve left for an adventure only to forget something important. Preparation for solo travel is not a whole lot different from any other travel, with the exception of a couple of extra precautions.

As a solo traveler, one of the key things is mobility. This would translate to smart packing, and traveling light as I’m my own pack mule, and there’s no one to rescue me if something goes wrong. In addition with Murphy’s law in play, any mishaps and inconveniences are amplified when traveling alone. When packing, it’d be smart to pack efficiently and choose items that serve more than one purpose. At the end of the day, I’ll need to be able to lug that 68L backpack around (yeah … I got a little overzealous when choosing the backpack capacity).

Apparel

Regardless of the time of the year, Thailand is known for one type of climate — hot. It would stand to reason that I’d pack mostly loose fitting cotton t-shirts. For a 10 day trip (3 of which would consist of me spending time with a monk) I opted to pack the following:

  • 5 x cotton t-shirts
  • 5 x boxers
  • 2 x utility shorts
  • 1 x jean pants
  • 1 x utility pants
  • 1 x swim trunks
  • 1 x trekking shoes
  • 1 x brown shoes
  • 1 x button down shirt

From my list above, you’ll see that a bulk of my clothing consists of cotton t-shirts. Why cotton you ask? Because Thailand is notorious for being insanely hot during the day and you’re bound to sweat. Cotton helps with the moisture wicking and should keep me relatively comfy throughout the day. As most of my trip will consist of street exploration, I didn’t have a legitimate need to dress up much, hence I only brought 1 pair of jeans, button down shirt, and brown shoes for that one night where I might want to look a little better dressed.

My plan is to use a laundromat or the washer/dryer of wherever I choose to stay at for the night.

First-aid and Safety

Traveling abroad, especially when you’re alone, requires one to take extra precautions. While healthcare in Thailand is generally quite good and caters adequately to Westerners, it is prudent to pack a few first-aid items.

In my first aid kit I packed:

  • Imodium
  • Dramamine
  • Ibuprofen
  • Neosporin
  • Contact lens solution
  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Liquid bandage

Those of you who know me know that I’ve previously been in the military and law enforcement. I tend to pack my med-kit with some rather SHTF items. I had to resist the urge to pack QuikClot and a tourniquet, seeing how my chances of getting shot at in Thailand is relatively slim. Travel smart and light right?

Creature Comforts

Let’s be honest here… when traveling overseas, it’s normal to want some creature comforts. While I don’t intend to spend a whole lot of time in the hostel, it’d still be nice to have certain useful items.

  • Wet wipes (just trust me … you’ll thank me later)
  • Mobile device chargers and travel adapters for them
  • Camera and spare batteries and SD cards
  • MacBook Pro / iPad … I’m still trying to decide on one
  • Headphones (AirPods)
  • Travel journal & pens
  • Chapstick (I exclusively use Portland Bee Balm)
  • Waterproof bags (handy for tickets, paperwork, passport, etc)
  • Hydro Flask (leave it empty until you’re done with TSA)
  • Any books you’re going to read
  • Toiletries in TSA approved containers

Essentials

I try to get my required travel documents ready well ahead of time, so that there’s less panic when it comes down to crunch time. The following items are stored in a zippered water-proof bag. While most of these items can be readily accessed from your phone, bear in mind that Murphy might be feeling the need to mess with your travel plans.

  • Passport / visa (when staying for less than 30 days, a visa is not needed in Thailand)
  • Tickets / boarding passes
  • Lodging information
  • Emergency contacts

STEP

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (or STEP) is a voluntary notification service that allows travelers who’re US citizens to enroll our trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Why do this you ask? In the event of impending civil unrest, natural disasters, or family emergency, the embassy would be able to reach out to you.

I get the sentiment that some folks have about not wanting the government poking around, but this just falls under the common sense category. Why would you want to travel to a foreign country and not have Uncle Sam shaking fist watch your back? Do it!

Final words

Keep your wallet in the front pocket. While Thailand is a relatively safe country, any metropolis is bound to have its fair share of pickpockets. Never carry around large amounts of cash. I usually carry a decoy wallet with small amounts of cash and useless cards.

What’s next?

As I progress through the trip preparation, I’ll keep adding articles on how I pack, what I pack, and what it all looks like.

Series Navigation<< Reflections on the walkaboutHow I pack my backpack for an extended trip >>
Matt

Matt

Traveler, blogger, photographer and all-out badass. I'm absolutely passionate about travel, coffee, and definitely food. I spend most of my time parking at coffee shops working on projects, planning future adventures, and writing. Sometimes I write music too.

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