When you think vacation and travel, your first thought is typically a group event, right? Or at the very least, a couple’s retreat.
But what about traveling solo? Who says you can’t have any fun visiting foreign destinations on your own? In fact, some might even say there are more benefits to trekking on your own.
Here are the best tips, tricks and tools of the trade for traveling alone.
Do your research
The biggest thing about traveling on your own is that you are responsible for everything. And that can seem like a lot, especially if you’re used to having someone else do the navigation or reservations. So, it’s important to make sure you’ve got all your t’s crossed and i’s dotted – everything from accommodations, food supply, navigation and everything in between. It’s also handy to have both a physical and soft copy of your itinerary, just in case you lose one or the other you’re still covered.
Make it your own
If there is a best thing about traveling alone, it’s that you can do whatever YOU want to do. When you travel in groups, you’re constantly having to bend to others’ requests. Avoiding coffee because Jake doesn’t drink coffee. Not going on a hike because Tina is tired. Missing out on a parade because Pete doesn’t like huge crowds … you get the familiar picture.
When you’re solo, you get to make the decisions and nobody's there to put a kink in your plans. So, if you want to go bungee jumping, make the plunge. Want to hike all day, aim for the summit. Want to complete a brewery tour, toss some back. It’s all you!
Meet and mingle
Traveling alone may be liberating but it can get lonely if you’re just by yourself the whole time. That’s why it’s important to meet other travelers (and natives) along your venture. The perfect way to do this is staying at a hostel, hitting up local pubs, going to events, etc. Meeting people who are sharing the same new experiences with you can make mingling easier than ever. So don’t be shy. Get out there and bump elbows with your fellow travelers.
Find some R&R
When you’re traveling on your own, it can feel like you’re constantly on the move. But it’s important to make sure you give yourself a little peace and time to rest throughout your journey. Hang poolside, be one with nature, sleep in for a day, etc. You’ve got plenty of time to see all the sights and sounds, make sure you’re investing a little of that time in yourself.
If you’re not an avid shutter enthusiast, now is the perfect time to become one. Without someone with you to be the designated photo taker, it’s up to you to fill that role and document your travels. So grab a decent camera (or your phone) and get to snapping notable moments throughout your trip – architecture, natural beauty, exotic foods, friendly natives and everything that you want to remember.
Make sure loved ones know where you are
You may be navigating a foreign land by yourself, but that doesn’t mean no one should know where you’re at. So, do yourself and your friends and family a favor by making a rough copy of your itinerary. This way, in case something happens (knock on wood), your loved ones will have an idea of where you are/what you are doing.
Don’t be afraid to tell white lies
Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you should be telling everyone you’re alone. That makes it easier for someone to take advantage of you. Instead, give the illusion that you’re meeting someone or with someone when asked by a stranger that you’re not sure about. For example, if you hop in a cab or Uber, say that you’re “meeting a friend for lunch” or that “your group is at the museum.”
Know your transportation
Being in a foreign country that you’re not used to navigating can be challenging by yourself. So know where you’re going and how to get there. If you’ve got a car rental, then have GPS to help you navigate or at least activate an international data plan on your phone. If you’re relying on public transportation to get around, then know the schedules and routes.
It’s one thing to look like a tourist in a group. It’s another thing to look like a tourist by yourself. Try blending in as much as you can by walking with confidence, sticking to safer places (especially at night) and don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing extravagant accessories or stirring up trouble. This includes divvying up your money supply. Try putting some in your wallet, some in your bag and some in a not-so-obvious location, i.e. sock or shoe (as an emergency fund).
Stay where there are stars
When you’re looking to book your accommodations, make sure you’re looking at places that have good ratings. The more stars the better. If you feel safe at night when you lay your head that will go a long way to enjoying your travels when you hop out of bed.
Expat bar hopping
If you’re abroad and feeling homesick (maybe you just need to hear your native tongue), then think about seeking out an expat bar. Most countries will have these and locals can help you find them. Maybe catching a baseball game on TV and drinking a pint of Budweiser is all that you need to put you at ease as you set out on your next solo adventure.
If you’re on the fence about traveling alone, hopefully this will urge you to make the solo plunge. With so much to see in the world and people to meet, it would be a shame if you passed up the opportunity just because you’d be traveling alone.