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Single Travel: Essential Tips for Planning a Solo Trip

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by a traveling companion's prejudices, tastes, or preferences can be powerful. In addition, solo travel gives you a chance to indulge yourself fully.

Of course, traveling alone has its risks, such as safety concerns, loneliness, and the dreaded single supplement. But preparation and common sense can save money and get you through rough times.

Why Travel Alone?

Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-care; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you're feeling energetic. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs are all the more exciting. So do not worry that your insistence on trekking across town to a closed museum ruined your partner's day; it's your day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience.

Also, you can do precisely what you want—all the time. Always wanted to try surfing? Sign up for a class and go for it; there's no one sitting on the beach feeling bored while you have the time of your life. Have you no desire to see Niagara Falls? Just drive right by.

How to Travel Alone Safely

It's perhaps the solo or single Traveler's question: "Is solo travel safe?" Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals, scam artists, and simple health worries. But the saying "safety in numbers" isn't always true—a solo traveler can blend in more quickly than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure.

Here are a few safety tips for traveling alone:

Do your homework before you arrive. Know how long it takes and how much it costs to get to your hotel or the city center from the airport. Solo travelers are more likely to be "taken for a ride," so ask the taxi driver for an estimated fare before you leave. If it's considerably different from what you know is true, take another cab (or opt for rideshare instead).

Choose suitable accommodations. Book a hotel with a 24-hour front desk if you'll be arriving late so you don't end up sleeping in your car or worse.

Trust yourself. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it.

Carry suitable identification—in more than one place. For example, if you wear a money belt, use it for storage, not as a purse. Constantly reaching under your shirt for money draws attention and defeats the purpose. Instead, keep your passport, extra stores of cash, and other important documents tucked away, and use a theft-resistant bag or purse for carrying daily spending money.

Stick to open and public places, especially at night.

Exude confidence. Whether you're on the street at home or 7,000 miles away, walking confidently and with direction is an effective technique for deterring unwanted attention since appearing lost or confused can make you vulnerable. If you are lost, walk into a shop or restaurant and ask for directions.

Avoid appearing like a tourist. Ditch the Disney T-shirt, and don't walk around with your face in a guidebook.

Leave valuables at home. Don't draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry.

Lie a little. When asking for directions, don't let on that you are alone: "Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend."

Check your maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel/train/rental car/tourist office. A solo traveler who's too absorbed in their phone can be a mark for unpleasant types.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone, text, video chat, or email.

Register with the State Department. For U.S. citizens traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which could help the State Department assist you in an emergency. If you're from outside the States, see if your home country has a similar program.

Arrive during the day. Areas around bus and train stations can be scary and/or deserted, and small towns tend to shut down early. Arriving during the day means you'll be able to find a place to stay and get your bearings before dark.

Trust everyone and no one. One of the best reasons to travel alone is to meet new people, making you more vulnerable. It's okay to hang out, travel, and share with new friends, but you might not want to ask them to hold your money. Scam artists can often be the most charming companions you'll find; you want to be open-minded but keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety.

How to Travel Alone as a Woman

Though some tips apply to just about every solo Traveler, women traveling alone have safety concerns that most men don't have to face. Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself.

Exercise hotel safety. At check-in, consider asking for a room near the elevator so you won't need to walk down long, ill-lit hallways to reach your room. When filling out guest registration forms, consider using your first initial instead of your name, and skip the "Mrs./Miss/Mr." check box. Also, ensure the clerk writes down your room number instead of saying it out loud. This will prevent anyone in the vicinity from knowing where to find you later. Finally, consider packing a doorstop to wedge under the door if the lock is unreliable.

Dress to blend in. To avoid attracting unwanted attention, dress as conservatively as the women you see around you. This doesn't necessarily mean donning the traditional dress, but a good rule of thumb is to dress modestly. Think knee-length or longer skirts. Bare arms, shoulders, and legs are considered risqué in some countries, so research before you go and once you're there. Note which body parts the local women cover and do the same.

Know when to buddy up. Seeking out companionship can help you have a safer and more enjoyable experience. Smaller hotels and hostels are great places to find like-minded travelers to explore new places. And even when you can't find someone to buddy up with, there are often ways to associate yourself with others, so you'll be less likely to be bothered. For example, there are women-only sections in trains and women's waiting rooms at train stations in some countries. Sticking close to families on public transportation and in foreign public markets is another technique some women use.

Combat harassment. A repertoire of harassment deterrents can be as crucial to women travelers as a sturdy pair of shoes and a passport. Not engaging with people bothering you can make you a less attractive target. If you want to avoid being approached during lulls of inactivity, such as while waiting for a train, carry a novel or keep your eyes on your phone to make yourself look busy and involved.

If harassment escalates, making a scene can sometimes be effective. Many societies place a high premium on respecting social norms, so drawing attention to harassment loud and clear may solve the problem. The sentence "leave me alone" is handy to learn in the language of your destination.

Avoiding the Single Supplement

Frequent solo travelers are all too familiar with the single supplement, which tour operators and cruise lines often tack onto your bill to make up for the fact that they're not making money off a second occupant. The supplement can range anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, meaning that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner.

You can avoid it altogether by booking Lakay Experiences; we don't charge single supplements trips.

Tips for Solo Dining

Eating alone isn't so bad. However, many solo travelers (and frequent business travelers) hate dining alone, worried that they appear to like some worn-out Willy Loman of the road. The following tips can help you overcome the most unpleasant aspect of going it alone for many travelers.

Chat with the service people. Waiters and waitresses are some of the best local colors you'll find.

Choose the right eatery. Cafe or outdoor dining is often attractive to single travelers; sitting alone with a book in a cafe is more common than a table for one at a fancy restaurant. You can also opt for a counter seat or a seat at the bar. A restaurant booth can also provide some privacy.

Bring reading material. If you feel uneasy sitting alone and staring at your food, you can crack open a book, whip out your phone, or read a magazine.

Eat-in. If you don't want to endure another public meal alone, use room service or order carry-out from a nearby restaurant.

Eat well. Just because you're alone doesn't mean you shouldn't take time for sit-down meals, a leisurely cup of coffee, or a decadent dessert.

When You've Had Enough of Single Travel

The constant sensory input and vigilance of traveling alone can wear you down. So if you feel your attention or body flagging, feel free to back off your ambitious itinerary, slow the pace, and kick back for a bit.

When traveling abroad, seek out an ex-pat bar—locals will often know where these are—where you can hang out and speak your native tongue with fellow expatriates and travelers. When traveling in more familiar locales, a hot shower and a night in front of the tube in a nice hotel room can give you enough reprieve to send you out eagerly the following day.

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