Solo travel rocks, and we’re here to show how easy, awesome, and unforgettable hitting the road by yourself really is. Far from being a scary endeavor, solo travel is as empowering as it is exciting. It’s not just the cultures and customs you’ll discover — you’ll learn a whole lot about yourself along the way. Instead of staying home because you fear traveling by yourself just won’t be fun, these ten tips for solo travel can give you the confidence boost you might be looking for to make that first solo vacation memorable.
20 Tips for your first-time solo vacation… stay in the know
1. Safety first
One of the top concerns for people planning a solo trip is safety. While it definitely pays to be cautious, it shouldn’t stop you from heading off on your next adventure. Picking the right destination can make all the difference, with some places more suited to solo travel than others.
2. Go your own way
Everyone is different, so picking a trip tailored to your unique personality and interests will be the key to having a good time when traveling solo. To jump-start your solo adventure, here are the best cities for solo travel.’If you’re a sociable person, a bustling city like Hanoi, with its fantastic coffee-chilling culture is perfect to people watch, while undertakings like the Camino de Santiago offers the best of both worlds in terms of your own space and the chance to connect with others. Many people do it solo with headphones on and engage in camaraderie only when they have to or want to,’ travel blogger Úna-Minh Kavanagh says.
3. Learn the local language
It may sound obvious, but making the effort to learn a handful of phrases in the native tongue can make a huge difference in how you experience a country, especially when you don’t have anyone with you to lean on for translations.
‘Whenever I travel, I always make sure to at least learn how to say ‘Hello, thank you, excuse me, sorry and please’. It has opened up so many doors for me, and it shows locals that I am genuinely interested in learning about their culture,’ says Alberto Ruiz Gómez, who has traveled to 15 countries in Asia and the Middle East solo.
4. Know your budget.
It is best to plan your budget before you leave home. Having no money in your pocket and no way to get any is a problem for any traveler, but even more so when traveling solo. Asking strangers for help, sleeping on a bench or any number of last-ditch tactics may be doable when traveling with others; traveling solo, you definitely don’t want to be asking for free rides and crash pads with no one to watch your back.
‘I used to put a $100 bill under the sole of my shoe on all my trips; I used it only once, but man, did it save me’. Says ED HEWITT, a travel blogger.
5. Choose your Lodging to suite you
It seems that the most common advice you will find when researching solo travel online is to stay in a hostel or other communal living establishment, as these lend themselves to meeting people quickly and relatively easily. I agree to an extent, but also find value in the occasional more traditional lodging. These can offer a safe zone when needed, a bit more comfort when you are tired, and a place to unwind and desensitize from hard travels or constant sensory input. It can also be a more secure place to leave your belongings while you’re out exploring. What hostels and guesthouses are great for is meeting other folks doing the same thing that you are—true fellow travelers. But you don’t have to commit to them unrelentingly; your choice of lodging is just another tool in your solo traveler bag. When in need of comfort, safety, and convenience, choose a reputable hotel; when in need of companionship, think about hostels and other alternative lodging options.
6. Pack light
Pack light so that you can manage your luggage by yourself with ease. One carry-on, a suitcase or backpack, should suffice whether you’re out for one week or three.
7. Try to arrive during the day
Plan to arrive during daylight so you’re not trying to find your way through an unfamiliar city in the dark, especially while traveling alone.
8. Talk to the locals
Very often, the key to having a unique and unforgettable experience when taking any type of trip is the willingness to stray from the usual path and side-step the tourist spots. ‘My favorite thing is to sit at a bar in a restaurant where there are lots of locals and strike up a conversation with the bartender or staff. I ask for advice on what to see, and I usually get great inside tips. Passers-by chime in, and I’ve ended up traveling with locals in this way,’ food lover and cook Anna Rider says.
9. Store important items in one place
Always keep your most important items in the same place and have a simple check. For me, it’s a passport, wallet, camera, and phone. Those are the items I check when I feel the need.
10. Start Your Day Early
If the idea of pub crawling and going to nightclubs alone doesn’t sound appealing, be an early bird instead. There are plenty of opportunities to sightsee alone and be completely safe if you visit a large, bustling city. Getting up early also makes it easier to avoid the crowds at popular attractions once families and those night owls leave their hotel for the day
11. Always have the essentials
Carry the essentials with you when you head out for the day. Have the name of the place you’re staying on a piece of paper in the local language. Have a copy of your emergency contacts and your documents on you.
12. Don’t Over-schedule
Over-scheduling can be a trip killer under almost any conditions, but as a solo traveler, this can really leave you wrung out. You are responsible for all the planning, all the execution, and all the mundane and tedious tasks as well—finding a store to buy a razor and toothpaste, figuring out train schedules, searching for an ATM, waiting out a bout of traveler’s tummy. Even without considering these small hassles, the ability to go with the flow is part of the reason to travel alone, and over-scheduling can make that impossible.
13. Do Something You Normally Wouldn’t Do With Others
When traveling solo, you might be hesitant to try new things in case they don’t go as expected and you don’t have someone by your side. Instead, this can be a time to try something others in your normal travel party will not do. For example, you can spend all day touring an art museum when they would rather hang out on the beach, or vice versa. Maybe there’s something you can do alone that you can’t do if you bring the kids along. This trip can also be an excellent opportunity to cross an item off your bucket list.
14. Ask for advice
There are many ways to research an upcoming trip, and now, social media means it’s easier than ever to ask locals for advice on what’s best to see. We shared some of our travel mishaps, and if you don’t learn from our mistakes, maybe you’ll relate.
15. Go on organized tours
Break up long trips with organized tours. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll enjoy the company and a chance to let someone else take care of all the details.
16. Get off the beaten track
If you want to meet other travelers, go off the beaten path. Travelers that find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Plus, you will likely have something in common.
17. Sign up for courses
Definitely one of the top 10 tips for solo travelers: If you’re in one place for a while, connect with others by taking language or cooking classes. Whatever interests you. Also, visit the same café, fruit stall…every day and get to know the people.
18. Take a lot of pictures
Solo travel is a photography enthusiasts’ dream. With no plan or schedule, a day can easily be spent capturing shots of bustling side streets and beautiful landscapes. And when it comes to capturing a moment with yourself, sometimes it’s good to look beyond the selfie. You can go around with a tripod or simply ask someone to help you out.
19. Trust your gut
As is becoming clear, there are potential risks when traveling alone that might not be as prevalent when traveling with other people. A good rule of thumb: If your internal alarms are going off, listen to them
20. Have a Plan B
Having a fallback plan if things go sideways is a good idea in general, but an even better one when traveling alone. Most importantly, it can be helpful to have someone who knows where you are, where you are headed and what you are up to. Smartphones, email, and social media make this very easy to do today; leave some breadcrumbs as you go along to let folks know when to start worrying—and when just to be jealous at the great adventures you are having while they are stuck at home staring at Facebook.
You might dread your next solo trip. Don’t. It could really be one of the most enjoyable experiences you ever have. Sure, it’s fun to make memories with your friends and family, but, solo travelers have plenty of fun too, plus you get to discover things about yourself you formerly didn’t know. You just need to have a positive attitude, use this time to reflect and grow. And, it doesn’t hurt that technology has made the world a lot smaller than ever before.