People always say… you need to travel alone at least once in your life. This month, we’ve partnered with Travelocity Gnational Gnomad, Pattie Cordova of the lifestyle blog, Living Mi Vida Loca, to share her favorite tips that will make solo travel not quite so intimidating to first-timers.
Traveling on your own is a fun and inspiring way to get to know your own limits. About 75% of my travel is solo, but I’ll admit, when I first started traveling by myself it was a scary experience. After conquering my fears, I can now confidently say: it was worth it! Whether you’re traveling for work or for fun, here are 18 tips that will help make your next solo adventure go smoothly.
What to Pack
Money belts are your key to peace of mind. It’s more secure than a travel wallet, and I never travel without one. A money belt is a small, zippered fabric pouch that fastens around the waist under your pants or skirt. You wear it completely hidden from sight, under your clothes. I carry my credit and debit cards, a stash of emergency cash, and my passport in my money belt. When I’m back at the hotel, the entire belt goes into the safe.
For those wanting to document your trip with amazing photos, a tripod is a must have. Tripods will help you avoid the blur and mishaps of out of focus or unsteady shots. There are basic tripods that are inexpensive and fit perfectly into a travel backpack. I recommend carrying a digital timer remote set to take photos every second. It eliminates constantly having to run back and forth just to get a couple of different angles.
Using a selfie stick may look silly but they are still incredibly useful for taking pictures on your own! Plus, you can snag one at a local dollar store and it works perfectly for incredibly cheap. By extending the range between the camera and yourself, you’ll be able to come home with some flattering close-ups.
A good book can always fill the void of not having a travel companion to speak to. When I travel solo, I take my e-reader along. It saves space and weight in my carry-on bag, plus I can load up on as many books and magazines as I want.
Travel sized first aid kit
Always keep a compact first aid kit handy, especially as a solo traveler. You never know when you’ll need it! Make sure to carry all the needed medications and prescriptions to avoid any uncertainty. Customize your first aid kit, since only you know what you might need the most. I also pack daily multivitamins to help keep my immune system up when traveling.
Portable battery charger with built-in charging cords for phone
Small enough to fit in your backpack, a portable external battery with built-in charging cords for your phone is pretty much your most important gadget. It’s your life-saver; you cannot afford to leave it behind. When you are traveling and sightseeing, chances are you’ll be taking pictures and using more data than you normally do, which can leave your battery dry, especially if you’re going to be staying connected through social media.
Always Be Prepared
Use social media for travel ideas
Explore Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. These platforms are a great tool for trip planning, as well as finding new discoveries once you’re there. If you find yourself with some extra time and looking for something nearby to explore, search your destination’s hashtags and location tags on Instagram. You can get tons of ideas of what other people are doing and plan your outings accordingly. This will also ensure that you have that “must have” pic during your travels.
Taking care of your travel documents
It’s always a good idea to ensure that someone back home has copies of your passport, identification card, and names and numbers to all of your destination points. In general, you should never carry your social security card or even your passport in your wallet because you could get it stolen, lose it, or any number of things. It’s best to leave your passport in your hotel and just carry a copy of it instead.
Avoid getting lost
You’re lost and don’t know how to make it to your destination. Best thing to do? Have your backup plan with you. Know how you’ll get from point A to point B and how much you anticipate it costing you (based on what others have paid). Though I’m often a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of girl, when traveling to countries where there is a limited amount of people who speak English, I often find myself over-preparing with a map, some verbiage I’ve written down where it says where I’m going and a few extra dollars to tip whomever is helping me. Getting a little lost in a city is okay, especially when there’s plenty of daylight and beauty surrounds you. Getting a lot of lost is not a good idea, but if you over-prepare you’ll be good to go!
Check in with someone at home
Whenever I travel, I always email a copy of my passport, driver’s license and itinerary with hotel information with someone at home usually, the Hubster. Included in my email, is the address and contact information for any hotels I’ll be staying at, along with transportation departure and arrival times. When traveling to multiple locations, I also schedule to check-in with my Hubster so that he can expect to hear from me at a certain time.
Ride sharing apps (LYFT/Uber)
Ridesharing is a service that arranges one-time shared rides on very short notice, usually arranged through a smartphone app, enabling riders to simply press a button and get paired with a driver, who then comes and picks you up. You can use the Send ETA feature to allow someone to track your ride in real time and make sure you arrived safely to your destination. An added bonus is that it’s much more affordable than a taxi cab!
Pay for peace of mind
You know that old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is? Well apply that to your travels and don’t look for the most affordable escape, or trip into town, or city tour. Safety must come first when traveling solo and while most deals are probably fine, it’s best to always go with reputable companies whenever possible. Talk to some friends who have traveled to your destination beforehand and see which companies they recommend.
Fake it ’til you make it
There’s a lot to be said for acting like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t). Walk confidently and don’t make it obvious that you’re nervous, lost or by yourself. And don’t draw attention to yourself as a tourist. Trust me, you got this!
Get Out There and Meet People
Make new friends
You’ll no doubt find that you’re not the only one traveling solo through your destination. Sometimes there are group message boards either on Couchsurfing or Facebook where you can connect with other like-minded travelers. Go in there and mention your plans and see if there are others who are also passing through. If you’re open to lodging, consider staying at a hostel where others there will also be solo travelers. Making group plans to go out on excursions is the single fastest way to bond.
Attend happy hour or hotel Manager’s receptions
Depending on what hotel you stay at, some chains offer happy hour and host Manager’s receptions. You can share your experiences, receive and offer travel advice or get the scoop on the local hang out spots. And the best part, you can enjoy complimentary appetizers, drinks, snacks all while mingling and meeting other travelers. One of the best things about solo travel is that you are almost forced to socialize with people that normally you might not.
Find excuses to start up a conversation
Ask for recommendations. It’s the best way to break the ice when you want to start up a convo with someone you don’t know. When you’re out and about and need directions somewhere, take a few extra minutes and ask the person for restaurant recommendations, or places nearby you have to visit. When you run into other travelers, ask about where they’ve been, what they’ve done so far and what they loved the most. They may even be headed to the same places on your list. Soon enough, you might find yourself with a new friend.
Learn to Embrace the Alone Time
I like to create a customized playlist that has all of my favorite songs that remind me of home and my loved ones. I play it a few times before my trip. So later when I start missing the Hubster and chiclets, I can listen to my playlist and it makes me feel more connected to home. It’s nice to travel alone, but sometimes you need just a little something familiar to make you feel complete.
Dining by yourself
Learn to be comfortable asking for a table for one. When possible, get a table with a view so you can people watch. Go ahead and play that playlist that we talked about before, or catch up on some reading material. And hey – why not order dessert too? Dining alone means never having to share your food, and taking all the time in the world to devour each bite.
A day of relaxation
Do absolutely NOTHING. Some days you’ll find yourself emotionally and physically exhausted. Take a day to reflect on the experiences and adventures you’ve had. Don’t worry about doing something every day if you’re tired or suddenly experience anxiety. Stay in your hotel room, order room service and watch movies all day and give yourself time to recharge your batteries so you can continue on your solo adventure.
Once you get the hang of it, traveling alone will be a breeze!
Pattie Cordova is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.