• corymagno

The Solo Act

There’s no wrong way to travel, the most important thing is that you do it.


Traveling solo sounds pretty intimidating and I must admit, the first time I decided to do it, I wasn’t quite sure if it would be something I'd enjoy.  But, sometimes when life gets in the way of your friends and family that you usually travel with, you can make the decision to wait for them, not travel or go it alone.  


For me, the thought of waiting or not traveling is far more scary than going on a trip by myself.  And with the flexibility I have in my schedule, most of my trips or at least parts of them are solo.  So, what is my process for planning a solo trip?


Well, obviously the first decision is where to go?  This is hard because I honestly want to visit everywhere in the world eventually and certain places I have been already that I loved, I want to go back and explore more.  So, when I start my initial search this is where I begin…  



What time of year am I going to be traveling?

I have yet to really plan a trip to anywhere cold.  Growing up and living in the midwest for the majority of my life has exposed me to enough cold weather for one lifetime.  So, depending on when I am traveling, i am looking for warm or at least mild weather.  


What routes allow me to use my upgrades

When I first started traveling, I always use to just search expedia, sky scanner or priceline and look for the cheapest flights.  Now that I travel between 150,000 and 200,000 miles a year it definitely makes more sense to have an airline loyalty.  Mine just so happens to be with United.  One of the benefits being that when you reach Premier 1k, they give you 8 global premier upgrades.  These allow me to purchase economy tickets and then use an upgrade.  The upgrade can be at the time of booking (takes some searching) or else you get put on the waitlist and hope it clears…   I have had several times where i used an upgrade but it didn’t clear, so I do lots of searching to see what routes are giving the instant upgrades.  Even if the route isn’t to my exact location, i try to figure out what part of the world I can get to using an upgrade.  For example, when I went to Sri Lanka, automatic upgrades weren’t available on the routes if I flew straight to Sri Lanka, but if flew to Singapore, the upgrade was instant.  Then I just booked flights from Singapore to Sri Lanka using whatever was cheapest.  This strategy is how I book all of my trips.  It is almost always cheaper and of course flying business class is much more comfortable than coach for the long parts of the trip.  


What is there for me to photograph

Ever since I went to my first Peter Lik gallery I wanted to get into photography.  For years I convinced myself it was too expensive and too much of a hassle so I never did.  This past year, I finally just said I don’t care and bought a beautiful Canon 6D Mark II and now have 5 lenses to go with it.  It’s definitely as expensive and inconvenient to lug around as i thought it would be, but it has opened up and deepened my love of travel so much more.  Now, my absolute favorite thing when I travel is trying to capture it.  For myself so that when I look back at it, I can remember those feelings, the smells, the beauty and what exactly it was that I was experiencing in that moment.  For others who either can’t travel or don’t travel, to show them just how beautiful the world is.  And of course… for social media.  A picture may be worth a thousand words but the experience is indescribable.  So, aside from trying to bring back my own memories, i want to help inspire people to create theirs.  



After I have found a good route with an instant upgrade to some reasonable or most likely warm weather that has ample opportunity for me to take some beautiful pictures, I start looking into more of the details of the trip.


Food and Accommodation

It is a good thing that I love to workout and be active on vacation because I love to eat as well.  Once I narrow in on my destinations i start to look up where I can get the best local food, where I can get the best atmosphere and where i can get the most unique experience.  I love to eat street food, although it doesn’t always love me back.  Tip: Always make sure you bring Imodium or something for your stomach incase the culture gets ya!  In my research of finding these places I rely a lot on visuals.  I look at pictures on yelp, TripAdvisor, other blogs, pinterest, pretty much anywhere that people give reviews.  

When looking for accommodation, it is kind of the same as my flight loyalties.  My first look is always for Marriott and SPG properties.  As long as they are in good locations, I don’t mind paying a little extra.  Especially because i know I will be upgraded and a lot of times there are perks that help me save money on food and drinks.  If the location isn’t in the area I want to be in then I usually go with Hotels.com because they have a rewards program as well.  My days of staying in 12 bed hostels and rundown motels to save a few extra dollars are long gone and with all of the options now for accommodations, unless you are on a really strict budget, it’s not necessary.  



Tours and Activities

As mentioned before, I love to be active and I love photographing everything and everyone.  A lot of times i get to a place to shoot the sunrise and then walk hours a day taking pictures with stops at cool looking coffee shops or places with great views and then eventually dinner somewhere I’ve researched.   I’ll throw in a tour every so often, really depending on the destination and if I think the tour will either be more efficient or better than exploring on my own.  It can also be a great way to meet people if that’s something you’re trying to accomplish on your trip.  While walking around anywhere, you’ll always find tours to book or you can always ask the accommodation you’re staying at.  Most importantly, do your research and know what you want to see before you go.  Even if you don’t have anything planned, at least know what you want to see.  


At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where you decide to travel and what you decide to do but that you get out and explore this beautiful world!  

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ABOUT ME

My name is John Toca. I'm a points and miles strategist based in Chicago, IL determined to find the best deals when it comes to anything travel related. In 2012, my first trip overseas changed me forever, and I've been on the move ever since. 

 

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