Planning a Safe and Independent Trip Overseas

I found a love of travel when I joined Witte Travel & Tours. Before then, I never thought much of traveling and now 16 years later, I have just completed my first independent adventure overseas. And you know what? I will travel overseas alone again in a heartbeat. Do I like to travel with others? Sure I do; however, I also find solo travel to be very freeing. As a woman, I never felt unsafe during any of my travels and that was due to my well-planned trip and tips I always use.

For me, the key to a well-planned and safe trip is to use all resources available. And in my experience, using a travel professional is truly invaluable. They have the knowledge and experience to ensure that your itinerary as well as accommodations and transportation options will work for you. They will listen to what you want and then research all of the almost limitless choices to find what works best for you.

A few key questions to ask yourself during the planning stages:

  • Airlines: What is the best schedule based on the time of year I’m traveling?
  • Transportation: Do you want to travel by train or drive between destinations?  Do you want to use public transportation almost exclusively in your target cities or will you use hop-on /hop-off tours?
  • Hotels: Do you want to be in city center, close to the train station, or close to a public transportation stop? What is most important – budget or location?
  • Sightseeing: Do you want to visit multiple museums or just exterior visits (so hop-on hop-off tour may be an option)? Are half-day or day trips via a motorcoach company or independent day trips via public transportation wanted?

After I had an idea on what I wanted to see, I got invaluable information from the staff at Witte in deciding all items mentioned above. I had originally gotten a hotel near the train station in Munich, however, changed it after one of my co-workers saw the location and alerted me it wouldn’t be the best area for a solo person. None of that information was mentioned on Trip Advisor, so I appreciated the information in order to change my hotel to a safer area knowing I was traveling alone.

My tips for staying safe while in Europe:

  1. Walk with purpose, even when you are lost. Always be mindful of where you are and who is around you.
  2. Do NOT be distracted with scenes that are being made around you. It could be a setup for pick pockets.
  3. Pick a hotel in a safe neighborhood close to transportation. While city center seems enticing, there are times when staying outside the center makes more sense. Look at the destination you want to stay at and plan from there. Be open to staying farther out.
  4. Keep extra money and credit cards in a money belt. Only have enough money that you need for the day easily available. Men, be sure to keep your wallet in your front pocket.
  5. Take along copies of your passport in case yours gets stolen.
  6. Currency: If you need to get currency from Banks/ATMs while abroad, be sure you are in a well-lit and safe area and that you protect the screen from being viewed by anyone around. Do not keep cash in easy view.

Planning my trip overseas

When planning a trip overseas, a few questions to consider:

Where do you want to go?

Do you want to visit one or more cities in the same country or perhaps multiple countries? If you aren’t quite sure, start a list of what you’ve always wanted to see.

When I was planning my recent trip to Europe, knew I wanted to travel to Germany next; however, the cities to visit were up-in-the-air. When you think of Germany, what comes to mind? For me, it used to be Oktoberfest in Munich, the history of the Nazi’s, or the romantic Rhine River. There is so much more to Germany and I knew I wanted to visit the beauty and uniqueness of this amazing country.
Street and Gate in Rothenburg

Do you want to travel independently or would you prefer to join a tour?

Myself on Marienbrucke bridge with NeuschansteinNow that I had my general destination, I had to decide if I would travel with a group or on my own. If you are wondering if you should travel with a group, the easiest way to decide is to consider if you feel comfortable traveling on your own or if you prefer to be  a part of a group. Also, would you be comfortable navigating around on your own or prefer for someone else to be in charge? I have actually traveled with one of our Witte signature tours, the Netherlands Waterway Cruise, and loved it. I was part of a group, but at the same time there was free time to investigate the areas visited on my own if I so chose. This time around, I decided to travel with a co-worker on an independent trip.

What resources to use for a fun and successful trip?

Would you use the Internet, buy a book on traveling to the country chosen, or contact a travel agency?

For me, the next step is to talk to the professionals. I always encourage family and friends to contact a travel agency to help them plan their trip…whether you join a group or go it alone, using an expert ensures you will have all of the information needed to make the best decision possible.

Hohenschwangau with village and lake

Tracy, my colleague and I talked to our German expert in the Witte Tours group department to help us with our itinerary. We gave her our general ideas on the cities we wanted to visit and what we wanted to accomplish. She knew we’d be traveling via train from city to city vs. renting a car. Knowing all of this, she helped us decide on a “home base” that would help us get around most efficiently. She also helped us narrow down the cities we should visit based on the time and goals we had for our trip.

I have planned vacations using just the Internet and find using an agent is so worth it. They have the knowledge, resources, and experience to plan an independent trip or book a group tour that will fit your needs to a tee.

Do you need travel insurance?

Cologne Cathedral-CloseupFor me, I always get the insurance whether I’m traveling independently or on a group tour. The reason is simple, if something happens and I can’t go on the trip for a covered reason, I won’t lose the money that the trip cost. OR, what happens if your flight gets cancelled, luggage lost, you get sick on the trip, etc? You have invested in this trip, it only makes sense to protect this investment.