Solo Traveling 101: What to know before you go

Do you find the idea of traveling on your own daunting? Are you nervous about going somewhere unfamiliar on your own? Do you want to travel but don’t have anyone to travel with? I’ve been in your shoes. I know how you feel. I also got past it and have been happily solo traveling for over 15 years. Here are some tips on what to expect when solo traveling.

Find a destination – Start Locally

Sounds simple but start small. Look for a destination you can easily travel to on a weekend. You don’t have to go to a foreign country on your first solo trip. This not only will compound your nervousness but if you’re not comfortable on your own you could potentially lock yourself in your hotel room and waste your vacation. Instead, take a little solo trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go to close to home. If you live in New York, take a weekend by yourself to Philly or DC. If you live in London, head to Bath or York. Taking a small trip on your own will help set you up for success on future extended travels.

Pack light

When I travel I have one rule, “If you can’t lift it, you shouldn’t be taking it.” You want to make sure you have full control over all of your luggage and personal items. How can you do that if you have a carry-on, checked luggage and a personal item? Save yourself the grief and additional costs and pack light. No matter if you’re a fashionista or a minimalist one carry-on and one personal item is really all you need.

Many times as a solo traveler I have had to make my way to the hotel from the airport as we all do, but unless you’re staying at the airport you’re going to have to take some type of transportation. Imagine how much of an inconvenience it will be to have to lift a heavy suitcase onto a bus or train and then have to lift it again onto the luggage rack. Save your body and pack light. You’ll be glad you did.

Arrive during the day

If you’re going somewhere new try to arrive during the day. Yes, that flight that gets you in at midnight might save you $20 dollars but it may also put you in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Public transportation is less frequent at night so if you don’t already have pre-arranged transportation you might be pressed to find a way to your accommodations and arrive much later than expected.

If you arrive during the day, not only will there be more transportation options but you’ll have the opportunity to see where you are. You’ll also be able to get in some sightseeing instead of having a wasted travel day.

Have a game plan

Traveling solo means that you’re on your own. I know it sounds scary but doesn’t have to be. Have a loose idea of what you want to do. You don’t have to plan everything down to the second. Make sure you know how to get from point A to B. Keep the address of your accommodations with you in case you need to tell an Uber or taxi driver where you’re going. Know in advance how to get from the airport to where you’re staying.

Try to stay in an area where it’s easy to walk to attractions, historical sites, and places you want to visit. Make your trip as easy for you as possible. The better you’re prepared the more you can just enjoy your trip. Some apps that I use for planning are Rome2Rio, TripScout, CultureTrip, and Citymapper.

Be ORGANIZED!

 

This is extremely important for the solo traveler. Knowing where all of your important items are will save you from looking like a bumbling tourist. Nothing says target like a person frantically searching their bags for something they swore they packed. If you’re spending time looking for something, that’s the attention that is not being paid to your other items. Keep all of your important items in a place that’s safe and easy for you to access. If you need to pull out your passport, make sure to put it back in the same place so you know where it is.

Invest in packing cubes. They are a lifesaver. Not only do they keep your clothes neat but it keeps your bag organized. If you pack all of your shirts in one, then you only have to pull out that cube to find a shirt to wear. You don’t have to up-end your whole bag to find the item you were looking for. The more organized you are the less time you’ll spend on your trip looking for something and making yourself crazy.

Blend in

Spend some time researching the culture of where you’re going. If you look more like a local and less like a tourist you’re less likely to be the target of pickpockets. Researching the culture gives you insight into the customs and dress of the region. For example, if you decide to go to Italy in the summer, pack light fabrics. Italians do not wear shorts no matter the temperature, instead, they opt for loose-fitting light fabrics which will keep them cool and covered.

Sit at the bar if possible

Eating alone, some people like it, others don’t. When I travel I always sit at the bar if it’s available. It’s a great way to interact with the locals. Bartenders are typically willing to chat so although you don’t have a dining companion you won’t be alone either. Talking to the bartender also affords you the opportunity to pick their brains. They live in the city you’re visiting. Who better to ask for advice on what to do and where to eat?

Be Aware

Look the reality is you’re traveling on your own. If you get too drunk, who’s going to help you get home? Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t take that short cut down that alley at 10 pm because your GPS tells you it’s the quickest route. Don’t accept a ride from someone who doesn’t have a marked professional vehicle like a taxi or a Lyft driver. If you take Uber or Lyft make sure that the information provided on the app matches the driver and his/her vehicle, otherwise don’t get in. Use your common sense. If you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it on vacation.

Do what you want

One of the greatest things about solo traveling is that you can do what you want when you want. There’s a lot of freedom in solo traveling. If you had plans to go to the museum but decide to go rafting instead, you can. You don’t have to ask anyone what they want to do because you’re on your own.

Yes, solo traveling can be daunting but it is also liberating. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself, the real you because you’re doing things you want to do. Take the plunge. Start off small and once you’ve traveled on your own successfully expand.

Check back for weekly tips and tricks on solo traveling. Until next time.

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