Top 9 Tried and Tested Tips for Traveling Solo
These road-tested tips will ensure your solo adventures are smooth, safe, and enjoyable.
by Locke Hughes
Even if you're happily single, let’s be honest: Scrolling through endless snapshots of happy couples on vacation can still sting.
Plus, thanks to Snapchat and Insta-stories, we get behind-the-scenes access into our friends’ (and even strangers’) romantic dinners in Paris, strolls on sunny beaches, and cozy campsite fires, whether we want to or not. All of it is enough to make make you feel like traveling sans a significant other would be lonely, lame, and maybe even kinda depressing.
But I beg to differ.
I’m a strong believer that the lack of a travel companion should never hold you back from going places you want to visit. As a 29-year-old single woman who’s currently self-employed, I recognize this is a perfect time in my life to explore the world, and I’m definitely not going to let my relationship status dictate when and where I should travel.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken solo trips to London, Norway, Utah, Las Vegas, New York, North Carolina, and California, usually for my work as freelance writer, but sometimes just for fun. And I’ve loved (mostly) every minute of it.
That’s not to say solo travel is always plush bathrobes, champagne flutes, and stunning sunsets. There are a few downsides and even dangers when you vacation alone, but the perks far outweigh the risks of not going at all, in my opinion. Below are a few things you should know before traveling alone to make the best of it, stay safe, and most importantly, have an absolute blast on your next solo journey.
1. Pack lightly. The prep begins before you even get to the airport. The last thing you want to do when you’re traveling alone is haul a mega-sized carry-on through multiple terminals or between hotels. Try to stick to a decent-sized (but not over-sized) carry-on suitcase and one personal bag or backpack.
Plus, you don’t need to pack a ton of clothes when you’re on your own. Wear the same dress to dinner every night if you want to — no one will know! Another pro tip: If you don’t have TSA pre-check, consider signing up — it’s a huge time- (and sanity-) saver at the airport.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for favors. One perk of being a solo traveler I’ve found is that you can often get freebies and favors from hotels and airlines. Befriend the front desk staff at your hotel and talk to your Uber drivers, and be nice — they can be your BFFs in a new town, giving you inside info and special treatment. In Utah, my Uber drive gave me a great tour of the town I was staying in, gratis. At a hotel in New York City, I got a complimentary glass of wine when I arrived and a late check-out time.
3. Opt for hotels, not Airbnbs. This is a personal preference, but staying in hotels feels much safer and costs about the same, if not less, than many Airbnbs. (Hint: Check the HotelTonight app for great deals!) Plus, as mentioned above, you can often luck out with a super friendly staff.
4. Walk as much as you can. I believe that your two feet are the best tour guide you can find. When I’m staying in a new place, one of the first things I do when I set my bags down is lace up my running shoes and head out for a long walk around town. It gives you a great lay of the land, some exercise, and the chance to discover some cute coffee shops and cafes you might not have found otherwise.
5. Listen to your instincts. If you’re a woman traveling alone, chances are high that guys are going hit on you. If you feel comfortable, great — flirt it up. Hey, maybe even log into Bumble to see who’s around for a drink or a coffee! But tune into your gut, and don’t go anywhere alone with a stranger. Also, use common sense and stay away from areas that seem unsafe, from unmarked side streets to dimly lit trails at dusk.
6. Talk to everyone you can. Solo travelers can’t be shy! When you strike up conversations with strangers (in safe places), I can almost guarantee you’ll meet some super interesting people on your solo travels. Say hello to your seatmate on the plane. (On a recent flight, I met a book agent who gave me amazing career advice.) Eat at the bar by yourself, and chat with other diners. In coffee shops, ask the person next to you in line for a lunch spot or hike they’d recommend.
7. Yep, you’re going to feel lonely. Real talk: You’re going to wish you had a companion at some points on your trip. You’ll wish you could rave about that amazing meal you just had, or the beautiful view from your hotel room window. You’ll wish you had someone to hold your coffee when you’re trying to snap a photo. I’m not going to lie: It’s not always easy traveling on your own! But in those times, technology can be your friend. I’m not saying you should live on Snapchat or Insta on your trip, but sharing a shot of something amazing you just saw with your followers can feel like the next best thing to sharing it in-person.
8. Your memories will feel more vibrant. On trips with friends or significant others, I always had a blast — but looking back, they are all kind of a blur. When I traveled on my own, however, I have crystal-clear memories of my experiences, with or without accompanying selfies. When you’re alone, there’s no one to distract you from the incredibly vivid colors of the sunset, or the peaceful sound of the waves crashing on the shore.
9. You can do it. And you’re braver than you think. The best part about traveling alone? Accomplishing a solo adventure might just give you the courage to do something even bolder in your everyday life, like going for that job you’re not sure you’re qualified for, or making the cross-country move you’ve been craving. And if you’re not ready to commit to a full solo vacation, start by taking a day trip alone, or eating at restaurants solo — smaller steps count too.