My first solo travel was some 10 years ago to Rishikesh and Haridwar. And since then most of my travels within India and abroad have been solo. The planning of all my trips- where to go, where to stay, the day to day itinerary have been researched and planned by me.
Since I have been asked many times on how I keep my costs so low in Europe and if I am not sacred to travel alone, here are the pointers on how I do it:
1. If I am going abroad, my research on the place I want to visit begins about 5 months in advance. Yes. 5 months. Thats when I zero down on the places.
2. My flight tickets are booked about 4- 3 months ago. That when the prices are quite low and you have many options to choose from. Earlier than that, though the prices may be low, the airline options are also not that many. My research on the best price are through Skyscanner, Kayak and Make My Trip.
3. Though the perfect time to visit Europe is May-August, I go in months of September- October or what is called the shoulder season. The weather is good, the places are not crowded, most of the sights are still open, not much waiting in ques to get in to see the attractions, you get good deals on hotels and AirBnbs, many times (like in Korcula, Croatia) I get the entire place to myself as there are no tourists at all. Plus you get to see the autumn colours.
4. If your itinerary is fixed, do not get the Eurorail pass. It is expensive. Instead book on the railway sites of the respective countries. Some countries like Germany have good deals for group travel and travel on weekends on their railways. Also, check out the private buses for travelling within cities or even within countries. Many times cheaper and faster than trains.
5. If I am going to a new city, I see that I land there during day time or atleast when there are 2-3 hours of daylight. This is so that I can find my AirBnb when there is still light. In the sparsely populated town of Europe this is especially important.
6. When booking hotels/AirBnbs, I always check the number of reviews and not just the rating. So the Airbnb has to have a high number of people who have stayed. Also, it should be walking distance from public transport and close to market/supermarket.
7. Since I prefer vegetarian food when travelling, a supermarket is my best friend for food. I stock up on juices, milk, veg burgers, fruits, pizzas, salad sandwich from the supermarkets. Most supermarket chains are open till late hours and is very cost effective. Also nothing like having a heavy breakfast before stepping out for a long day of sightseeing. Its a big advantage if your hotel or AirBnb includes breakfast.
8. The reason travelling to Europe is a pleasure because of the small towns and cities and the excellent public transport. Also most of the cities, you dont even need public transport. Cities like Amsterdam and Antwerp are very walkable.
8. Look out of the city transport and tourist passes. In many cities, you can travel unlimited on the metros, buses and rails on the daily passes. Very cost effective. Avoid taxis. They are expensive.
9. Cities like Amsterdam are quite expensive if you stay in the centre of the cities. Cheaper accommodation can be found in the suburbs within 15-20 minutes of a tram/metro ride.
10. Make google maps your best friend when using public transport and planning travel within the city.
11. Lastly, research, research and more research to get the most out of your travels.