Thinking about going on a solo travel trip? Here my top tips and hacks to prepare you for your trip and make for a great first solo adventure!
There are generally 4 questions I get from people when they hear me talk about one of my solo travel trips. They go a little something like this:
1. Why Travel Solo?
- Well first off, you get to go where you want. No one else is making you do something you don’t want to do!
- Maybe your friends and family can’t take the time off. Don’t miss the opportunity because someone won’t go with you.
- Or… Maybe you just need some down time! And that’s perfectly OK.
- My favorite reason is that you tend to meet more people when you are traveling alone, and you won’t likely be traveling alone for long. When you travel with someone else, you are less likely to talk to strangers at a café or strike up a conversation with someone on a tour. I met someone I dated for a couple years on The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria. You just never know whom you will meet.
- I find my senses are always heightened when traveling solo. I hear more, see more, taste more and I am more aware of things around me. Heightened senses lead to heightened experiences, and I’ve had some of my best experiences traveling solo.
2. Tips for Traveling Solo?
- Pack light. Bring only what you need. You don’t have anyone to watch your luggage while you go to the bathroom. The more gear you have, and the more cumbersome you are, the more you become a target for theft.
- Make sure to use luggage that keeps at least 1 hand free, like a backpack. (Here’s the one I use). You’ll need that extra hand for things like your phone with GPS.
- Pack more of the essentials and worry less about your clothing. When traveling alone, you’ll need to have everything yourself from Band-Aids and ibuprofen to an umbrella and snacks.
- Make sure to leave some of your itinerary open and fluid. The tighter your schedule, the more stressed you are, and the more chance there are for mistakes and mishaps. Besides, you never know who you might meet, and you never know where you might end up. My story: I was traveling alone through Egypt, and I met two Australian girls on a felucca trip. Well, one fell in love with the felucca caption (they are now married with kids), and the other needed a new travel buddy. I became that travel buddy, and together, we learned to dive in Dahab, saw the tombs in Luxor by donkey and also spent 2 weeks in Israel.
3. What safety measures should I take?
- Act confident and smile. Happy, confident people don’t looked stressed and are less likely to be a target. Stay alert, and aware of your surroundings, and be careful about drinking too much, or partying too much. When traveling solo, you want to keep your wits about you.
- Look like a local. When traveling solo, it’s more important to blend in with the crowd; downplay your clothing and take extra care to respect the culture by dressing as the people do in that country. I’m not saying ditch your cut offs for a burka, but don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Expert tip: And you girls will love this; buy shoes from the country you are visiting.
- Don’t carry all your money and passport with you, and if you are moving locations, spread your money and credit cards among all your luggage. By doing this, if you get robbed, it’s less likely you will lose everything.
- Make sure you have an in case of emergency person in your phone. If something happens to you, and you don’t have any ID on you,
- Put your itinerary in a google doc along with a copy of your passport and copies of your credit cards. Make sure to include hotel phone numbers in your itinerary. Share this google doc with your in case of emergency contact and trusted friends or family.
- If you ever feel uncomfortable, step into a store, and ask for help. Do not risk your personal safety. Also, if you ever get mugged, let them have your bag; again, it’s not worth your personal safety. And remember, you won’t be carrying all your money and credit cards with you.
- Don’t arrive too late in the evening to your new location when traveling solo. It’s best to arrive during daylight hours as it’s easier on you, less expensive than after hours arrivals, and you are less likely to run across bad people.
To sum up safety as a solo traveler, just be smart about what you are doing. Keep a good head on your shoulders, and pay attention to your surroundings. I’ve traveled to more than 35 countries solo, and have rarely had a concern.
4. How do you meet people while traveling solo?
- Think differently about your accommodations when traveling solo; make sure to book accommodations where you will meet people. I find Airbnb’s the loneliest and the most difficult to maneuver when traveling solo. I personally prefer B&B’s and smaller with community breakfasts. Another great option is hostels. I personally choose private rooms in more expensive hostels, as I’m no longer a 20 year old backpacker. My story: I met a grandfather & granddaughter traveling through Thailand for her graduation gift at breakfast one morning, and we spent the next 2 days together seeing the sights of Bangkok from crazy food stalls to Patpong… (that’s a whole other story!)
- Great ways to meet people include grocery stores, especially little markets near the tourism hubs of cities. Try street markets or food trailers that have seating, and ask to join a stranger at a picnic table. I also love to eat at restaurant bars instead of sitting solo at a table. Some cultures think it’s a bit strange for a woman to eat at a restaurant bar alone, but hey, respect their opinion, and ask for the bar seat anyway. Put yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to meet people.
- Start your travels with an organized tour. You’re likely to meet some other amazing solo travelers who might want to join forces after the tour. (link vespa tour video/article)
- I almost always book a food & wine tour my first night in a new country/city. Breaking bread is the best way to meet new people, and you always meet interesting fun people on food & wine tours. (pick on in ibiza)
Final words of wisdom
The more you travel alone, the better you get. Give yourself some grace, and take it easy on yourself. You will get lost, you will make mistakes; traveling solo takes practice. Remember, like anything else mastery takes 10,000 hours, but oh what fun you will have becoming a master of traveling solo.
Have more questions for my Q & A series? Leave them in the comments below!
Explore, have a blast and enjoy the ride!