Traveling solo often has a bad rap but it doesn’t have to! Solo travel provides freedom, builds your independence, and lets you get to know yourself better. Solo does not equal lonely in our books!
Solo travel can be liberating but there are some things you’ll want to be aware of if you do hit the road alone.
Best tips for traveling solo
1. Try group travel
An easy way to ease into solo travel is to join a group tour, so you can still make friends and have people on the same travel itinerary, but you’re not bound to the group. I always find people to hang out with on group trips and stay in touch with long after we head back to our respective homes.
Group travel is great as you can satisfy your social needs during meals, travel to other places, and on the local tours, but then you can easily sneak off for your own time exploring your destination. It’s a nice balance of your alone time with the fact that you have people to chat to when you want to.
Thinking of group travel? Check out our review of EF Go Ahead Tours, a group travel company we love!
2. Stay in hostels
Really want to do your own thing and go solo? No problem, you can still add that social aspect by staying in hostels or even couchsurfing if you’re so inclined. You can meet people from around the world in your room or common areas but then head out for the day unattached. Hostels are also great for your travel budget as many hotels price rooms at double occupancy and charge a single supplement if you’re traveling alone.
3. Invest in travel insurance
Though we’ve never had to use it, Rick and I always buy travel insurance for any big trip, as you just never know what can happen. This is even more important I think for solo travel as when stuff goes wrong, you’ll need to handle every aspect of it.
4. Share your travel itinerary and contact info with a friend or family member
Provide copies of your travel plans, hotel contact information, flights, and your international number (if you’re getting an international SIM card) to a friend or family member so they know where you should be and when. You should also leave a copy of your passport with a friend in case yours goes missing or is stolen.
On the flip side, keep a list of your emergency contacts on hand. Include your own information, numbers for friends and family, your travel insurance contact info, and any other important numbers, like credit card companies or the local embassy.
5. Join public tours
Another way to add some social interaction to your solo vacation is to join a public tour of the city you’re in. For about two hours or so, you can enjoy others’ company as you learn more about your travel destination, and you might even make a friend or two and go out for a drink or bite to eat after the tour!
6. Take a class or attend an event
Similar to public tours but a little more intimate you can join drop-in classes like cooking workshops, art classes, or even find a language immersion class! The language class is especially fun if you’ve been studying the language of the place you’re traveling to and you can practice with a local instead of repeating phrases back to your computer. Chances are good that others in the class will want to practice their English with you, so it’s a win-win!
A fun way to soak up the local culture and blend in with the crowd is to attend an event or festival! Many have food vendors, souvenir booths, and bars so you can meander while joining in on the fun.
7. Research your destinations thoroughly
Before heading off on your me time vacation, be sure to research your destination to understand how safe it is, cultural norms you should be aware of, any popular tourist scams to watch out for, as well as having the local emergency and police numbers in your phone.
Before you head out for the night, double check with the hotel concierge or staff about where you’re going and if it’s safe. Locals know best and can help you plan your outing and offer advice on what to do.
8. Be confident
Or, at least act confident. If it seems like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, you’ll be less of a target. Be alert and aware of your surroundings but in a casual manner. You’re strong and capable and a smart traveler. I always recommend learning a few basic phrases in the local language when you travel and this can help you appear more confident and like you’ve been here before and know the ropes. A simple “No, thanks,” in the local language can help you avoid tourist scams.
9. Be smart about booze
Know your limits and do not go past them. Always put your safety first and don’t become an easy target by getting wasted at the nearby wine bar. For sure you should enjoy your drinks but make sure you’re able to get back to your accommodation safely.
10. Bring things to do
Bring a good book, your iPad, or phone to dinner with you if you think you’ll get bored. I love having a good book – especially from the humor genre – to keep me company when dining alone. I hate the stigma of people judging others for eating alone and you shouldn’t feel any shame in it. Embrace it and enjoy your dining experience fully. Another option is to sit at a communal table or at the bar to chat with others. Or, book a dinner show at a theater or cabaret to combine dining with entertainment, and meet others at the shared seating!
11. Keep valuables on you
I tend to lock my passport up in the hotel room safe when I’m at my destination but if I’m traveling through the airports, I make sure to have my passport, cash, credit cards, phone, and all my valuables on me – whether that’s zipped up in my purse or in a money belt. If you ever need to ask a stranger to watch your bigger bags while using the bathroom, make sure to take your valuables with you.
12. Separate your cash stash
I always break up my cash into smaller increments and store it in different places when I travel, and I never carry more than a day’s worth of cash when we leave our hotel. Put some in your hotel room’s safe, roll some up in your socks, and put some in another backpack or purse. Make sure to lock your luggage when you leave your hotel and don’t leave money lying around.
13. Pack light
Since you don’t have to be responsible for anybody else’s crap, you can pack light and make it easy to get around as you travel solo. Make sure you can carry all of your belongings by yourself, up and down stairs, on and off the train, and hoisting it up into the overhead bin.
Want more packing tips? Check out how I packed for a two-week Europe trip in a carry-on!
14. Talk to friends and family back home
I always think of that episode of Friends when Joey gets homesick and an easy way to overcome this is to keep in touch with your family and friends back home! While it’s cute to send postcards, with convenient access to Wi-Fi at most hotels these days, you can easily email, text, or Facebook message people back home to feel less homesick.
15. Trust your instincts
If something feels off or not right, it probably isn’t. Always trust your instincts while traveling solo and do not put yourself in risky situations.
Traveling solo is an amazing adventure that’s completely on your terms. It opens you up to new experiences, inspires you to explore more, and is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about yourself. I hope these solo travel tips were helpful, but please let me know what else you would add to the list in the comments or on Twitter!