Updated June 17, 2020.
This Travel Tip Tuesday I am sharing my secrets to travel like a solo professional! I asked for questions on my Facebook and Instagram accounts so I could know what people are worried about, curious about, or just need to know to travel solo for the first time (or 100th time). Solo travel is awesome and exciting, and no one should be afraid to take that first trip! Here’s everything you need to know.
This is by far the biggest concern I hear. My mom freaked out when I told her and my dad that I would be living in Japan by myself for three months in college. Other people who care about me sometimes voice their concerns about my safety (incidentally, these are always people who don’t travel at all). But let me just put you at ease. I’ve traveled solo in Turkey, Japan, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Qatar, and more, and I have never once felt threatened or afraid. This is not because I’m ignorant or oblivious, it’s my actual experience. Here are some things I do to stay safe when traveling solo:
- I don’t drink or do drugs so I never lose my self-control.
- I don’t go out after dark because I’m usually too tired from all I’ve done throughout the day, and let’s face it, nothing good happens at 2:00am.
- I do research on Pickpocket Tricks of the Trade and learn How to Outsmart the Pickpocket wherever I travel.
- I walk with purpose; you are less likely to be mugged or otherwise harmed if you look determined, busy, aware, etc.
All in the details: How to Travel Safely
Sometimes you just want to be around people. Sometimes it makes you feel safer, sometimes it makes you feel more at home in a new place, and sometimes you just need to feel less alone if only for an hour or so. There are lots of ways to combat loneliness when traveling solo!
- Stay in a bed and breakfast, Air BnB, or hostel: A traditional bed and breakfast will have someone living there who tidies up and make you breakfast, and sometimes the other guests will be chatty; some Air BnBs are simply a room in someone’s house, so the people living there can be companionable; and hostels are hotbeds for extroverts–they’re cheap, they’re cramped, they’re great for outgoing travelers of all ages!
- Take a tour. Whether it’s a bike tour, ghost tour, walking tour, hop-on hop-off bus tour, boat tour, etc., a tour will get you together with at least one person–your tour guide–but more likely you’ll be on these tours with lots of people who could become new friends!
- Get in touch with home. There’s no shame in getting in touch with family and friends back home. Tell them you miss them and tell them about all the fun they’re missing!
- Pray. When I was living in Japan in 2006, I sometimes felt lonely knowing I couldn’t really talk to anyone or even read something as basic as a road sign, so I prayed, sang church songs, and read my Bible a lot. My faith grew more than it ever had before, and now I’m a better person for having traveled solo!
- Get busy! There’s a lot to do, so keep yourself busy; you won’t have time to be lonely if you’re out doing things. It’s a great distraction!
The Brutal Truth: Confessions of a Solo Female Traveler
Finding Things to Do
So, what things can solo travelers do? Well, we can do most anything a couple or group can do! But our advantage as solo travelers is that we can choose without worrying about what anyone else wants to do!
- Wake up early and run or go for a walk. Find a great cafe for coffee and breakfast while you’re out, get the lay of the land, and make a plan for your day!
- Go on an excursion. Depending on where you are in the world, you can find guided tours to historic sites (think Pearl Harbor, Stonehenge, or Auschwitz), snorkeling trips, a luau, a lava boat tour, anything you think might be fun, will be fun!
- Tours. We addressed this in the section above. Join a free walking tour, a ghost tour, or a history tour; this is a great way to see what’s available and decide what you want to go back and see more of. It’s also good to figure out what you think you can skip in favor of doing something else.
- Explore. Go wander the historic streets because you never know what you’ll find. Bring a map (and know how to read it) so you don’t get lost, and enjoy the adventure! You never know what you might find.
Read on: Must-have Solo Travel Skills
This is one of those things people are convinced that they shouldn’t do alone: go out to eat. I don’t know where anyone gets it into their head that it’s weird to go out to eat on their own. You can get right in at a restaurant with no waiting, or you can get a whole table all to yourself! Here are some thoughts about why this is such an awesome part of solo travel:
- Eat whenever you want! Who cares if it’s 4:00pm? If you’re hungry, get your food and enjoy it.
- Eat what you want. So, you love sushi but no one else in your family or group of friends does? Here’s your chance! Always wanted to try Ethiopian food but never found anyone to go with you? Do it! Solo travel means you pick!
- Make friends with the waitstaff. They’re locals, so they’ll know the best places to go and the best things to do—make a new friend and get some suggestions from someone who knows the ropes!
- Get it to go. I actually love getting my food to go and eating in my room, not because I’m a dud, but because I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day, and there’s something fun and luxurious about eating in bed! Sometimes after I’ve been out in a city all day, All I want is to have some peace and quiet, which can’t be found in a restaurant.
Keep reading: How to Enjoy Dining Out Solo
I’ll be honest, there were times when I thought, “Gee, I sure wish I could split the bill for this meal/cab/room/etc. with someone!” But believe it or not, there are ways to save money traveling alone.
- Find accommodation for one. A smaller room with a twin bed comes with a smaller cost! Always change the number of people to “1” for your accommodation search. If you have “2” in the people per room section, the system won’t show you single rooms.
- Save half your lunch. Lunch at many restaurants is less expensive than supper but just as large. So if you can, save half your meal for supper (or even breakfast the next day).
- Choose accommodations that include breakfast. Fill up on breakfast so it will last you until mid- to late-afternoon! And maybe make a sandwich to take with you from the buffet.
- Be flexible. Flights are generally less expensive in the middle of the week instead of around the weekend, and hotels usually are, too. So be a little flexible with your travel dates while you can!
- Early bird special. I recently took a phenomenal sailing tour around Nantucket Harbor, and I saved $20 by going at 4:00pm instead of sunset! Sunsets on the beach are just as beautiful as sunsets on the water anyway.
Need more money saving tips? Check out my Saving and Money Page!
I’ve touched on accommodations above, but there are a few more things to keep in mind when finding solo accommodations:
- Check multiple sites. Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, bedandbreakfast.com, AirBnB, HomeAway, VRBO, and many other sites out there compare prices for you, so use those resources instead of doing all the research yourself.
- Space matters. Keep in mind that HomeAway, VRBO, and AirBnB can require that you rent a whole house–too much space for one person, and probably very expensive
- This bears repeating: Make sure you set your search to “1 room, 1 person;” sometimes the default setting is “1 room, 2 people,” and you will miss any single person accommodations (and probably spend more in the process)
- Location matters. If you save $20 per night by staying in a hotel “close to town” but you have to spend $30 round-trip for taxis or public transportation, you’re not saving any money, and you’re farther from the things you want to do! Don’t waste your money or your time.
- Get a visual. Always map your accommodations in relation to the city center of the city you’re visiting; the airport, ferry terminal, train station, or other transportation where you’ll be coming in; and the main sites you want to see. You’ll want to stay in a place that’s easy to get to and from on your travels!
Essential info: Your Ultimate Guide to Accommodations
and Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rentals
There are tons of resources out there for solo travelers these days. As a matter of fact, many resources can be right in the palm of your hand—in an app!
- Join a Facebook Group. You can find Facebook groups for anything these days! Find a few female travel groups and you’ll find a ready-made community there to answer questions and make conversation.
- Look at reviews. Whether they’re on Trip Advisor, Yelp, Hotels.com, Air BnB, HomeAway, or any similar website, there will be star ratings and reviews to help you make your best choice.
- Find a solo travel agency. Do a quick Internet search for “solo travel agency” if you’re still more comfortable traveling with a group or want someone else to do the legwork for you. There are companies out there that specialize in solo travel (and have contacts and experience to get you the best deals with reputable companies), and that specialize in putting a bunch of solo travelers together for tours so you can get a group rate!
Check out Apps for Savvy Travel for more!
Are you ready to set out on your own yet? Do you have more questions? Please comment below and I’ll do my best to address your concerns or questions!
As always, you can find all the solo travel tips you need on my dedicated Solo Travel Page!
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