Updated June 17, 2020.
Any hobby or profession requires some skill, and travel is no different! There are certain skills you just need to have to travel safely and well, and you’ll definitely need all of these if you’re traveling solo. The good news is, it’s all learnable! Here are the skills you need, since no one else is there to do it for you!
Solo Skillset 1: How to Read a Map
Maybe your phone died. Maybe it got stolen. Maybe your phone’s GPS is having issues. Whatever the reason, you really NEED to know how to read a map! I know, I sound like an old person, but old people are wise, and the ability to read a map could literally save you time, save you money (whoops! That international data plan got expensive quickly!), and could actually save your life. Learn how to read a map!
Learn More: How to Read a Map
Solo Skillset 2: How to Pack Light
Guess who’s putting your luggage in that overhead bin: you. Guess who’s schlepping your stuff all over the globe: you. Guess whose responsibility it is to re-pack between accommodations and on your way back home: you! All solo travelers learn quickly just how important it is to pack light, and how unimportant it is to have a different outfit every day and all your hair styling tools and products on the road.
Solo Skillset 3: How to Go to the Restroom with Your Luggage
You can take my advice now or you can learn the hard way: how to tinkle with your luggage is not an optional skill! Airport restroom stalls are generally on the larger side to accommodate luggage, so you’ll be fine. I travel with a backpack strapped to my back and to my front, so I just keep them on me while I go (but watch out for those dangling straps!). However you pack, keep the bathroom situation in mind.
But why can’t I just ask some stranger to watch my stuff?
Why You Should Never Watch Someone Else’s Luggage
Solo Skillset 4: How to Enjoy Dining Out Solo
I’m always surprised when someone says they’re too scared to eat out solo. I mean, you clearly have the best date in the house: yourself! Odds are, no one is staring at you, but in the unlikely event that they are, they’re most likely looking in admiration! So sit at the bar (where you will probably be seated right away instead of waiting for a table), bring your phone or a notebook to plan your next days’ travels, or just relax and enjoy the experience! Leave your insecurities at the door.
Read more: How to Enjoy Dining Out Solo
Solo Skillset 5: How to Use Points and Miles
Travel gets expensive when you don’t have someone to split the cost with. I know! But you can still cash in on lots of travel going solo—and the added bonus is that you 100% get to decide where you want to go without pleasing anyone else! Start now playing the points and miles game. Sign up for frequent flier programs, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever fly them again. Sign up for hotel loyalty programs both directly with your hotel and the third party travel site you may have booked with. Get a credit card and responsibly start earning those points to redeem for travel! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you can totally make the points game work for you!
The Beginner’s Guide to Using Airline Miles
The Beginner’s Guide to Earning Credit Card Points
The Beginner’s Guide to Earning Hotel Rewards
Solo Skillset 6: How to Make Friends
Solo travel is great! But sometimes it’s also nice to make friends with locals or even fellow solo travelers! We can help each other feel less lonely, find our way, and learn from each other. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world in my travels. I had dinner in Poland with a girl my age from Australia who was an English teacher in Norway! I gave Pepto to a kind Canadian lady who needed a little something before a long bus ride in Morocco. And I made friends with a friend of a friend in Bratislava and even went to Bible study at her house with a bunch of other Slovakians! You never know who you’ll meet or how they’ll be able to help you—or you’ll be able to help them—along the way. Make friends!
Read on: 6 Solo Travel Experiences to Have
Solo Skillset 7: How to Take Solo Photos
In the age of Instagram, photos are no longer just memories we want to keep. It’s a business. And while I definitely have a Hate-need-hate relationship with social media, I LOVE taking photos! When I lived in Japan my mom was constantly asking for photos of me to see that I was ok. So I asked people to take photos of me for my mom. People were only too happy to help me out! But sometimes the photos were not what I wanted them to be, and sometimes they were incredibly blurry! So, if that’s not your cup of tea, get a small tripod and set up your own shots! Don’t let taking selfies become your only travel memories, but do take some pics for your mom!
Read on: Solo Travel Like a Pro
Solo Skillset 8: How to Travel Safely
Solo Travel is not a dangerous hobby, but there are definitely some common sense safety precautions to take everywhere in the world, including your home town. Take a self-defense class, bring a purse that zips closed, don’t take chances with drugs and alcohol, don’t get carried away in living up the nightlife, update your social media so people back home know you’re safe. Use common sense!
Read on: The Complete Guide to Travel Safety
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