Solo travel can be an incredible way to see the world or explore your home state. If you’re used to traveling with friends and family, the prospect of going unaccompanied may make you wonder whether you’ll get lonely or bored. But the vast majority of solo travelers say you’re in for an excellent adventure.
You’ll be able to go at your own pace and have full autonomy over the day’s activities. What’s more, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet new people — and maybe even experience some personal growth along the way. Solo travel can be a major confidence booster.
But everything rewarding does come with some risk, and solo travel is no different. It may require a different sort of planning and budgeting than you’re used to, so read on to learn:
• Tips for solo travelers
• How to afford a solo trip
• Solo travel safety advice
• Solo travel destinations
Is Solo Travel Fun?
First things first: Is traveling by yourself even any fun?
Depending on your personality, you might have an immediate gut reaction to this question. Maybe the phrase “table for one” makes you shudder. But maybe it sounds like a chance to eat in peace, while catching up on your favorite podcasts.
One thing is for certain: Many, many solo travelers have found their sojourns to be both fun and rewarding. That’s why books like Eat, Pray, Love exist.
You can find an abundance of solo travel blogs and social media accounts, all documenting adventures in the first-person singular to inspire you.
If you’re really curious, there are ways to get just a taste of solo travel: Try a group weekend tour, and then tack on a couple of days at your destination to explore solo.
However you plan your trip, consider these tactics for first-time solo travelers to help make your adventure smooth, safe, budget-smart, and altogether awesome.
Tips for a Successful Solo Vacation
Ready, set, travel: Here are some smart solo travel tips to help you prep for your adventure.
While spontaneity can be one of the most exciting parts of solo travel, in many cases, a little bit of planning goes a long way. Research multiple destinations and figure out the best time to book your travel. You might want to travel at a time other than high season to save some money and avoid the crowds. For instance, instead of going to Rome in July, how about September?
Also consider logistics, such as will you drive or fly to your destination? If the latter, will you need to rent a car or is there good public transportation or a shuttle available?
Think over your comfort level about being 100% solo. Would you like to sign up for some group experiences, like a guided tour of a historical area or a chocolate-making class? It can be wise to have a balance of time on your own and with others, especially if you are traveling alone for the first time.
Hack Your Travel Budget
There is one unavoidable downside to solo travel: You’re the only one paying for the trip. There’s no one else tagging along to split major costs like lodging or car rentals.
So try these strategies that can help reap travel savings:
• Drill down on finding good deals; there are tactics for saving money on hotels, or you might even look into housing swaps or pet-sitting opportunities at your destination to minimize that expense.
• If your trip involves flights, look into how to get cheap flights. You might book into or out of an airport that’s slightly farther away versus the closest, biggest one that most people use.
• Once you have an idea of the cost of your trip, divide that by the number of months you have to save, and start socking away money for your big adventure. Where to keep your travel fund? Look for a savings account that has a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) to help your money grow faster. You often find the best rates at online banks. Since they don’t have brick-and-mortar locations, they can pass those savings on to you.
• Work those rewards. See what points you might be able to use to lower costs and enjoy travel savings, or apply for a rewards credit card and start earning those benefits.
• If the burden of prepaying some of your solo vacation costs is looking like a roadblock to your getaway, you might also investigate book now, pay later travel deals. Just be cautious about putting too much of your solo travel costs on plastic. When “later” rolls around, you don’t want to end up with a hefty amount of debt.
Look into Tours
As mentioned above, you may want to join a group for some or all of your solo travel. There are many companies that specialize in tours for single people, whether you want to bike through England’s Lake District or eat every possible kind of cuisine to be found in New York City. You’ll also find tours that cater to specific audiences, such as women in their 20s traveling solo or people traveling with pets.
Or you might sign up for a few specific group outings to break up your solo time. That can be a guided museum tour or a hike. A little dose of togetherness can create a nice balance on an otherwise “just me” trip.
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Plan Ways to Fill Free Time
If you are traveling alone, you may want to think about what you can bring to fill some time on your own. Would a new mystery to read make dining alone more enjoyable? Are you the kind who’s happy with a sketch pad and some charcoal to draw what you see while you explore a new place? Or perhaps you want to give yourself a photography assignment, and document the beautiful flowers or cutest dogs you see while traveling solo.
How to Meet People When You Travel Alone
When you’ve made a flexible plan and your wallet is ready for the journey, think about how to strike up a friendly conversation in a new locale.
It doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are some tips for solo travelers:
Try a Tour Group
As mentioned above, whether you travel with a guide and group the whole time or find a brief tour along your journey, seeing your destination with other tourists — some of whom may also be solo — is a great way to meet people. After all, you obviously have similar interests.
Check Out Local Events and Meet-ups
Another solo travel tip is to use networking sites to find gatherings and experiences aligned with your interests. There’s Meetup (which offers a variety of activities and events), EatWith (to find a dining partner), and WithLocals (to enjoy an array of outings), among others.
Hang out at Public Spaces
Meeting people away from home works a lot like meeting people close to home: You’ve got to get out there. Spending time watching dogs play in the park, asking to join some people flinging a Frisbee around, or taking a seat at a cafe can lead to conversation while you’re a solo traveler.
One of the biggest things that keeps people away from solo travel is plain old fear — and not all of it is unfounded. What if something goes wrong on your trip and there’s no one there to help you out?
Here are some easy ways to mitigate your risks.
Carry Travel Insurance
From lost luggage to medical emergencies and everything in between, travel insurance can help keep you from financial disaster if things do go wrong on your trip.
Depending on the kind of plastic you carry, you might already have access to credit card travel insurance (or you may be able to apply for a credit card that offers it as a benefit). If not, investigate independent policies that can provide coverage.
Share Your Plans with Someone You Trust
It’s not that someone back home has to track your every move. However, making sure a trusted friend or relative knows where you’re staying, when you’re supposed to be back, and how to check in with you is good common sense. You may also want to make (and share with this person) an emergency plan: what you’ll do if you lose your passport, have your wallet stolen, or get lost, for example.
Don’t Broadcast Your Solo Status
This one may be especially relevant if you’re a solo female traveler. As you move through your trip, from checking into your lodging to chatting with people you might meet at a museum cafe or a bar, you don’t need to lead with the fact that you are traveling solo. Not everyone on the planet has the best intentions, and it’s wise to keep this information private.
Use Your Street Smarts
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you are in a safe bubble. Would you take a long, late-night walk in a neighborhood you don’t know when you are home? If your answer is no (and it probably is), then don’t do that while on your vacation.
Popular Destinations for Solo Travel
Much will depend on your personal travel style and interests, but consider the following:
• A major city like Paris, Rome, or New York: You’ll have loads of amazing architecture and museums to drink in, terrific shopping and dining, plus people-watching from whichever cafe you choose to linger at.
• A sunny, friendly town such as San Diego or Santa Fe. You’ll have beautiful landscapes to explore, as well as galleries and boutiques to visit. Or head to the Napa Valley for a wine-tasting tour.
• A natural paradise, whether that means Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, with its snorkeling and scuba opportunities for solo travelers, or Iceland, where many people speak English and you can explore hot springs and glaciers as part of a group, with a guide, or on your own. Perhaps you’ll even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
While solo travel might be challenging in some ways, it can be affordable, social, and safe — with the right planning. For many adventurers, going solo becomes their favorite form of travel. Even if you discover it’s not your cup of tea, you are likely to make some great memories and gain a measure of self-confidence.
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