How To Travel Solo: A Comprehensive Guide
The world is full of fascinating things to see and do. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to wait until you have a friend or family member who wants to travel with you. In that case, you shouldn’t let the lack of company hold you back. Instead, fly solo and satisfy your travel bucket list !
We’ll give an overview of some helpful solo travel tips that will keep you safe, save your money and make the entire trip go more smoothly as you learn how to solo travel.
Choosing the Destination
Choose your destination based on the fact that you've decided to travel solo. Traveling solo gives you certain freedoms that you might not have if you were with a partner or children. A train trip through Europe is easier when you’re the only one choosing where to get off and back on, and how long to stay in each city. Try to open up the possibilities by broadening your search and thinking back to places that you wanted to explore when you were younger.
Factors to Consider When Traveling Solo
At the same time, be realistic about your options. Some factors to consider are:
- Fitness level: A trek along the Great Wall of China requires walking as long as three or four miles on hilly terrain, while a beach vacation in Australia requires little more than a quick jaunt from your vehicle.
- Tolerance for spontaneity: If you thrive on the unexpected, developing and off-the-beaten-path countries will invigorate you, but if you prefer order and schedules, you might want to stick to larger cities.
- Need for connection: Is this a working vacation? If so, you’ll want to go someplace where the internet is reliable.
- Currency conversion: Budget is always a factor. Consider how far your local currency will go in each country you’re considering.
- Climate: Are you prepared to spend time in sweltering heat or frigid climes? Research the local temperatures and weather patterns for your intended destination.
- Safety: The U.S. Department of State updates its travel advisory site on a daily basis, or as needed. It pays to know which countries are safe for U.S. tourists and which to stay away from.
- Language: If you aren’t multilingual, you’ll want to go where locals speak at least a little English, just to get you started and help you feel comfortable.
- Friendliness: Research how receptive the destination is to tourists, especially solo travelers. Some countries are more receptive to solo women travelers than others.
- Availability: Are there plenty of hotel or Airbnb options where you’re thinking of going? Make sure there isn’t a huge event that coincides with your travel dates, where all the accommodations are booked.
Researching Solo Travel Locations
Creating a detailed itinerary is helpful to avoid wasting precious vacation time or wandering around and trying to figure out what to do next. Make a list of must-see attractions and activities. Include their opening and closing times, as well as their less busy times, if possible. Next to each, write down the entrance fee and expected wait times. Popular attractions often publish information like less busy times in order to modulate the flow of traffic. Look on venue websites for discounts, coupons and deals . You could save a significant amount of money by downloading travel apps where exclusive discounts may be offered.
Budgeting and Accommodation Arrangements
For each place where you plan to stop, determine how much you’re willing to spend on food, shopping, and accommodation and add it to your budget. Reserve accommodations ahead of time so you have an exact address to go to when you arrive. This is especially important if you plan to attend popular events such as Oktoberfest or Pride events, when accommodations get booked quickly.
Booking Transportation While Traveling Solo
Determine the best way to get to your destination, whether it’s flying, driving, or another mode of transportation. You can research a variety of economy fares online .
When vacation time is limited, it’s usually best to maximize time by driving to the airport and flying to the destination. The simplest option is to utilize a parking and shuttle service. Let The Parking Spot park your vehicle, while you get checked in and boarded on your flight.
Consider transportation options at the destination. If you’re staying at a major hotel or resort, they will likely have a free shuttle to pick you up from the airport. But renting a car gives you more freedom to explore. Then, when it’s time to fly home, you can drop the car at the airport again and hop on your plane.
Solo Travel Packing Essentials
Packing efficiently is a skill that you can improve with some simple packing tips. Pack lightly because you will likely want to purchase some items when you arrive. Pack clothing that’s suitable for the destination’s climate, not the temperature where you’re departing from. If you’re going to a colder climate that necessitates bulkier apparel, check out these tips for packing for cold weather.
If you’re traveling someplace where you need special gear, weigh the options of bringing your own vs. renting equipment. For instance, if you have special gear, such as prescription dive goggles for snorkeling, bring those. But snorkels and fins are readily available for rent in places where these activities are popular. Golf resorts typically have rentals available, but if you have a deep personal relationship with your clubs consider shipping them ahead of time. You could always buy a seat for your clubs, but then you are no longer traveling solo; and it’s also weird.
Traveling solo means you need to be extra vigilant because no one else is there to look out for you. Check the travel advisories before choosing your destination to be sure it’s safe for tourists. Disruptive political upheavals are more common in other countries and these can pose a threat to visitors.
Once you’re there, pay attention to the local news as much as possible. Online resources for destination safety information can be translated to your language with browser extensions available in Safari and Chrome. Ask Airbnb hosts and hotel reception staff to keep you informed about breaking news that’s important to your safety.
Choosing Safe Accommodations
Before booking accommodations, read online reviews. In particular, pay attention to reviewers who also traveled solo. Review safety features like deadbolts, carbon monoxide detectors, motion sensor lighting, and security gates.
Informing Trusted Individuals When Traveling Solo
Traveling solo comes with a sense of freedom that is rare. It can feel liberating to be someplace where no one knows where you are in the world, no one can tell you where to go or what they think of your plans.
At the same time, it’s risky to travel without informing anyone of your whereabouts. To stay safe, share your travel plans with a trusted friend or family member. Just a quick email, while you’re traveling, is enough. One or two lines saying that you’re going to a certain beach, or going on a guided tour of the local museums is sufficient.
A trusted friend or family member will appreciate knowing where you are so that they can send help if it’s needed.
On your end, be sure to provide emergency contact information to your airline, hotel, Airbnb or other accommodation host. Keep an emergency contact card in your wallet, along with a list of any known allergies. Make an emergency contact on your phone with the same information.
Important Documents to Pack for Travel:
Depending upon where you travel, you’ll want to pack your passport and visa documentation , as well as proof of any required vaccinations prior to departure. Make photocopies of everything and mail or email them to a friend or family member at home. If you lose your papers, you can ask your friend to provide the details of the documents so you can pass it along to the relevant authorities.
Keep a second copy of these documents in a separate location on your person. When you go on day excursions, carry the copies rather than the originals. Keep the originals in your accommodation or in a safe with the hotel reception desk.
Consider buying travel insurance, particularly the kind that refunds you if an excursion, flight, or other plan is canceled for reasons beyond your control, such as becoming ill. This means that if you get sick and have to postpone your plans, you can get a refund or credit for your purchase. Keep travel insurance documents easily accessible so you know exactly where they are when you need to file a claim.
Carry your driver's license or ID card in a secure location, such as your wallet, as well as your driver’s insurance ID. Many countries allow you to drive a rental car on a U.S. license, but you need to have the original license to present.
If you do get sick while abroad, you’ll want to have your health insurance information with you so you don’t have to foot the bill out of your vacation funds. Carry a list of any prescription meds taken, as well as the list of medications you’re allergic to. If you receive a prescription in a foreign country, contact your personal physician’s office at home to make sure it won’t negatively interact with anything you’re already taking.
Solo Travel Security and Safety Suggestions:
Situational awareness is very important when traveling solo. Stay aware of your surroundings, and avoid isolated or unsafe areas. Avoid venturing out at night unless you’re with a group of people. Trust your instincts and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Be sure to follow local laws regarding alcohol consumption, and avoid drinking to the point of inebriation.
Don’t tell strangers that you’re traveling all alone. If someone asks, give the impression that someone knows where you are at all times, or that someone is expecting you back in your hotel room.
Utilizing Secure Transportation
One can always opt for reputable taxi services or ride-share apps that have good reviews in the country where you’re traveling. Research local regulations regarding taxis. In some countries, legal taxi drivers must wear uniforms or emblems so they can be easily identified as such. Hiring private guides and drivers. You can find these on apps like Tripadvisor or from recommendations from your hotel.
Public transportation can be a great way to economize while abroad. However, just like at home, the situation can change after dark. Only take subways, buses, and trams during the daytime hours, when there are many other people around.
When walking, follow the main routes. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts or routes that take you inside tunnels or beneath overpasses.
Protecting Personal Belongings
Use secure luggage and locks to keep your possessions secure while in transit. Take a photo of your packed suitcase before you leave so you have proof of what was inside if you need to make an insurance claim.
Avoid packing valuables in checked luggage. If you must bring valuables, keep them on your person or in carry-on luggage where you can keep an eye on them. Many travel accessories make this easier.
Don’t wear expensive jewelry in plain sight. Keep your expensive phone inside a case that doesn’t attract attention, and avoid using it out on the street where someone could easily grab it.
Keep your wallet inside a fanny pack or a zippered pocket on the front of your body, not the back. It’s too easy for a person to slip something out of your backpack where you can’t see what they’re doing.
Keep an emergency supply of currency inside your sock or elsewhere on your body. If you get mugged, you’ll have enough to get back to your accommodation and get help.
Additional Solo Travel Points:
As a tourist, you’re representing your home country. Treat locals in your visiting country with the same sensitivity and respect that you would hope to receive from others back home. Before you go, research local customs and etiquette so you don’t accidentally offend your hosts, new friends, and acquaintances you meet along the way.
Customs vary significantly from country to country, and it pays to know what’s expected. In particular, understand the tipping custom, so you aren’t tipping unnecessarily. In some countries, tipping isn’t expected; in others, it’s an insult.
Dress according to local custom, and not what you may be used to back home. Be mindful of cultural differences and the presence of families with young children in places where scant clothing might be worn at home, especially on beaches. The best way is to see what the locals are wearing in your age bracket and dress similarly.
Communication and Language Barriers
When traveling abroad, it’s more than likely you’ll encounter language barriers. Most people will appreciate your efforts to learn even a little bit of their language, as it will be seen as a sign of respect. Choose some basic phrases to learn in the local language.
In other situations, you may find that a translation app or pocket dictionary comes in handy. This will help you to translate what others are trying to communicate to you since they’ll be using a vocabulary that far exceeds your basic understanding.
Use body language and gestures to help with communication. A friendly smile and a shrug can easily convey that you don’t understand what is being said so that a local person can better assist you.
In other countries, solo dining is much more common. Don’t be shy about arriving solo at a restaurant or cafe; otherwise, you might miss out on interesting cultural experiences. Some countries have tables specially reserved for solo travelers, where you can converse with like-minded people.
In a situation where you’re dining alone, keep an eye on your drink and food. Don’t leave these unattended while you use the restroom. Also, don’t entrust anyone with the care of your backpack or purse, even for a moment, no matter how friendly and trusting they may seem.
Make a point of eating healthy while traveling. There may be uncommon ingredients that could upset your digestive system, so don't hesitate to ask your waiter what's in a particular dish.
Dining solo is a great way to meet fellow travelers. It can be fun to spend an afternoon with another solo traveler and visit some places together. Just be cautious about letting down your guard too much. Remember that you don’t know the other person, and keep things polite but separate.
Are You Ready To Solo Travel?
Solo traveling is a unique experience that everyone should try at least once. No matter what age you are, or where you decide to visit, there are things you’ll discover about the world and about yourself during solo travel that you’ll never learn otherwise.
Keep the tips mentioned in your mind as you prepare for your trip and travel to your destination. Staying safe and healthy while traveling solo is the most important part, so you can return home and plan your next solo adventure.
Make things easy on yourself whenever you fly by taking advantage of the services of The Parking Spot, so you can reserve a parking spot and have your vehicle ready for your return!