A travel girlie’s guide to a cute, yet affordable world
Jayde Atchison // Columnist
Starting in February 2022, I was privileged enough to be able to spend over 5 weeks outside Vancouver exploring different places around the world I had never seen before. I did a mix of travelling alone, with an acquaintance, and with two of my best friends. The experiences I gained helped me learn a lot about travelling on a budget, but not settling for less. I started truly travelling last winter when I was 29 and by that point I felt I had outgrown the hostel, shared bathroom life. That’s not to say that choice isn’t a valid and financially smart one, it’s just not the way I wanted to start off my travelling career.
The benefits of travelling with someone you know is that there’s safety in numbers – not just in the “we might not get kidnapped if there’s more than one of us” way, but in the “I don’t have to eat alone or feel friendless and awkward at a bar” way. You have a built-in buddy system that you can create inside jokes with, take photos of each other (that might even be flattering), and the instant lower prices of splitting accommodations in two. However, travelling with another person will never get you out of your comfort zone, or open up your possibilities quite like travelling alone will.
The top two things that stop people from travelling on their own are the cost of flights and the cost of accommodation. I know it might be tempting to hop on sites like Expedia and Cheapflights – the price seems too good to be true and it’s so easy to hit “confirm” and feel you’ve got everything sorted. However, when you book travel through a third party site, you run the risk of paying for a whole new itinerary or spending hours on the phone waiting for someone from the hotline to answer your cries of help.
What most travellers don’t know is that when you purchase a third party ticket, you lose the ability to change your flight times, you probably won’t get notified about any schedule changes or flight updates because the third party doesn’t pass on your email to the airline, and the tickets the site bought from the airline are typically the ones that don’t allow for any upgrades, seat changes, or free baggage. Even when you look at your crazyflytdealz receipt and see “paid for one bag”, you may have just been victim of paying too much outright, because that payment will not show up on WestJet’s reservation and you will be stuck paying once more.
I have seen travellers ahead of me in line being told their reservation was never purchased with the airline and when they’ve checked their bank statements, they realize they’ve been swindled by an anonymous company with spotty reviews. They end up paying double what they originally planned on a flight, or cancel their trip entirely. My recommendation is to always buy through the airline itself, to save yourself the hassle and cost of uncertainty – but if you’re truly enamoured by sites like Expedia, take some time out of your day to call the airline to confirm the reservation is up, your email is updated in their system and confirm what kind of ticket you have.
I took my first solo trip in February 2022, and found myself exploring Quebec City, Toronto and Niagara Falls. I had been on a plane by myself when I was a kid, flying to and from Calgary as an unaccompanied minor visiting my aunt and uncle each summer. Getting on the flight to Quebec City was the most liberating feeling I had in years. I only made plans two weeks in advance and I was ready to see what another side of Canada looked like. I booked my flights, hunted Airbnb for days to try and find something clean, close enough to walk to the activities I was most excited about, and most importantly, within my budget.
To help me decide what I was going to do while away, I took to social media a la Emily in Paris, asked friends, strangers and anyone in between what they thought the best parts of Quebec City and Toronto were. I compiled a list of the suggestions, chose the ones that piqued the most interest (and didn’t prematurely hurt my wallet) and made my own loose itinerary. My favourite thing about travelling alone is that I was able to spend five days of uninterrupted Jayde-esque fun. I didn’t have to compromise with anyone else that didn’t want to spend three hours looking at antique books and petting the bookshop cat. I got to try out a world that was entirely my own, and branch out to others on my own terms.
No matter where I have ended up in the last year, I have been able to grab the attention of someone in a shop, bar or simply walking down the street and spark a connection – when I wanted to. Travelling alone may seem scary if you’ve yet to do it, but it will open up a world you wish you had known about earlier. Like that TikTok sound suggests – money will come and go, but you’ll never be your age in a new city again. Get out there.