Being alone doesn’t have to mean lonely. In fact, traveling solo is incredibly liberating and relaxing, for the most part. It allows you to experience the world YOUR way, without the filter or preconceptions of someone else. Solo travel allows you to learn about yourself in a way only rivaled by living by yourself in your 20s. Really, there aren’t many downsides, in my opinion. Paying for everything yourself and having to make all the decisions are the only drawbacks I can conjure.
Paying for everything isn’t that bad because you can decide where you want to save and where you want to splurge. For example, I don’t spend a lot on fine dining (at home or away) so I can splurge on things to do. I’ve had a few travel companions who had to eat 5-star at each meal, so our budget went there. Harumph!
Making all the decisions can get tiring, depending on your destination. For me, Japan was exhausting and every decision felt like the END OF THE WORLD! They weren’t and I’m fine, but I was so wiped out mentally that it would have been great to have an invested travel companion.
To help you get the most from your solo travel adventures, here are my personally tested and approved tips, in no particular order:
- Beware the single supplement. This is a surcharge added to rooms and some fares when you travel alone. A wretched example of this is a Viking River Cruises trip down the Danube. The single supplement (as of Monday, Jul 31) was 100% of the fare, making the trip $5500 for a small stateroom for 8 days. My mind was boggled. Why would I pay that when I could spend the same $5500 and go overland for twice that time and still maintain a decent level of accommodations? Due your homework and inquire about last-minute bookings to avoid it.
- Lock it up! If you are on a train spend extra for a private cabin with a locking door if you plan to travel overnight. It’s never a good idea to sleep around other people because it’s nigh on impossible to watch your gear and catch some Zs. If you are set on doing this, invest in a bag net like these. I swear by mine. Wrapped over your bag and locked to a seat rail, or yourself, is a great way to protect your belongings. As with most types of theft, if you make it challenging the thieves will move on to an easier target. Having your zippers locked and using a locking net are solid deterrents. On the note of theft and safety, NEVER struggle with a would-be thief. Your safety is not worth it. Let it go because you did get travel insurance, right?
- Eat alone in public. I don’t understand the reluctance of so many people to eat lone around other people. This is one of my favorite things to do because it lets me people watch. If you struggle with this, consider starting small and just having a coffee at an outdoor cafe. When you’ve worked up your confidence, enjoy an al fresco lunch and linger over dessert. If you are still worked up about this please remember that people are so self-absorbed, NO ONE will care about you eating alone. =)
- Suss out your lodging location. You’ve found an amazing deal on an Airbnb room in Athens and can’t wait to get there. Sadly, you didn’t research the locale and find out after you have arrived (and paid) that you are in the Omonoia area. Now you are stuck scurrying in and out of your lodging during daylight hours and wondering if you should chance a late night excursion to see the illuminated Acropolis. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
- Use common sense. If you don’t have gut instinct or common sense you probably shouldn’t be traveling alone. My grandmother always cautioned me to not borrow trouble. While her advice was more about my obstreperousness, it applies perfectly to travel. Things like the following are just a few of the things you should follow.
- Follow appropriate dress code by destination
- Staying sober
- Don’t get into a car with strangers (other than a medallioned cab or clearly labeled airport shuttle)
- Tell someone where you’ve gone and when you’ll be back
- Don’t flash cash or jewelry
Everyone has to start somewhere on their solo travel journey but honing your common sense before you go will make every trip better.
So, my lovelies I will leave you with these final instructions – research your destination, plan for the best, and prepare for the worst. Do this and I promise you will have an adventure that will only make you want more adventures!
If you ever need planning advice, drop me a line at JavaAndJunket@yahoo.com. I love to hear from new, or experienced, travelers and am always happy to offer advice. Happy travels!