This Travel Tip Tuesday I am sharing my secrets to travel solo like a solo travel pro! 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 the 100th time!). Solo travel is awesome and exciting, and no one should be afraid to take that first trip!
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 voice their concerns about my safety. But let me just put you at ease. I’ve traveled solo in Turkey, Japan, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and more, and I have never once felt threatened or afraid. This is not because I’m ignorant or not self-aware. Quite the contrary. 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
- I walk with purpose; you are less likely to be mugged or otherwise harmed if you look determined, busy, aware, etc.
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 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 to extroverts–they’re cheap, they’re cramped, they’re great for outgoing travelers of all ages, but especially 18-30 year olds
- Take a tour; whether it’s a bike tour, ghost tour, walking tour, hop-on hop-off bus tour, boat tour, etc., it 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 travel companions!
- Apps like Travello and Bungee Girl were created specifically to connect solo travelers around the world; check them out and make a new friend
- Call (or e-mail, or Skype, or WhatsApp, or Facebook, or Instagram, or Tweet, etc.) home; there’s no shame in getting in touch with family and friends back home; tell them you miss them and give them a glimpse at 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, and my faith grew more than it ever had before; 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
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; plan 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, Auschwitz, or a fjord cruise in Norway), snorkeling trips, a luau, a lava boat tour, anything you think would 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 get the lay of the land and decide what you want to go back and see more of and 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
This is one of those things people think they shouldn’t do alone: going 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 as long as you don’t mind eating at the bar, or you can get a whole table all to yourself! Here are some thoughts:
- Eat whenever you want; who cares if it’s 4:00pm? If you’re hungry, get your food and enjoy it
- Eat where you want; you love sushi but no one else in your family or group of friends does? Here’s your chance
- 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
- 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 “little kid-like” about eating in bed
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 there are ways to save money traveling alone.
- Find accommodation for one; a smaller room with a twin bed comes with a smaller cost
- Save half your lunch; lunch at many restaurants is less expensive than, but just as large as, supper. So if you can, save half your meal for supper (or even breakfast)
- Choose accommodations that include breakfast
- If that breakfast is a buffet, fill up and make a sandwich to take with you for later while you’re at it
- Be flexible; flights are generally less expensive in the middle of the week instead of around the weekend, and hotels usually are, too
- 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; earlier was also beautiful, and I could still see the sunset from land
I’ve touched on a few things about 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
- 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
- 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, you’re not saving any money, and you’re farther from the things you want to do
- 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; 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
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–on your phone in an app! Check out Apps for Savvy Travel.
- On Facebook, you can join a group called “Solo Travel Society” and even ask questions or get ideas for where to go and what to do as a solo traveler
- Still not ready to jump into planning a trip for yourself? Travel agencies are a great option; Travel Simplicity is a company that considers themselves “travel butlers” who take care of all the details for you; on my trip to the Galapagos a couple of years ago, I used Galapagos Alternative, whom I found on Trip Advisor; there are plenty of options out there specific to your needs and your destination, so just do a little Googling
- 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
- 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!
Still have some worries? Check out my solutions to common travel fears here: Travel Fears Debunked
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!