Traveling Alone For The First Time: 21 Pro Tips For Solo Travel Newbies 12 893

solo travel

When you think of solo travel, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s “how the heck am I supposed to enjoy my first solo trip?” Being alone has a negative connotation, and this may carry over to the concept of traveling alone for the first time. solo travel

I want to help change those perceptions and encourage people of all ages, budgets, and abilities to try traveling alone, because solo travel has been one of my greatest teachers and I personally think it’s an invaluable tool when it comes to empowering yourself and developing as a person.

There are always plenty of things to remember to do before, during, and after your travels. When you’re traveling solo, all of those responsibilities usually fall to you – but before you start hyperventilating into a paper bag about being a lone traveler, take a few minutes and read through the following tips from seasoned solo travel experts (be sure to pin it for reference later if you’re still in the trip planning stages). solo travel

My hope is that having some advice and encouragement from pro travelers will give you the confidence you need to step out on your own and explore the world, whether or not you have a travel companion by your side!

Prioritize Your Safety And Health By Planning Ahead

solo travel

As a solo traveler embarking on your first trip alone, safety is of the utmost importance. Once you’ve set your rough itinerary, focus on the pre-trip steps you should take to ensure you stay healthy and safe during your travels. Nothing puts a damper on – or sometimes, an end to – time abroad faster than a medical or personal security issue.

There are important safeguards to put in place for every trip:

  • At least six months (if possible) before your departure. Consult your physician or a travel clinic about vaccinations and medications recommended for your destination
  • Ensure you have travel medical insurance in place for the entire duration of your trip, including travel days
  • Purchase a compact first aid kit and add your prescription medications (in their original bottles), a copy of your prescriptions, and any over-the-counter medications you think you may need (re-hydration salts, a fever reducer and Imodium, at a minimum)
  • Select a money belt or hidden pocket in which to keep cash you’re not using that day
    • debit/credit cards
    • passport and photo ID
    • a contact card listing your name and the name, phone number and email address of your emergency contact at home
    • your travel insurance policy number and emergency telephone number
Traveling Alone

Then, research the risks associated with how and where you’re traveling, and take the precautions you feel are reasonable. The CDC country-specific information site is a great, searchable-by-country resource for both health and personal security risks.  solo travel

Some of the more common precautions include:

  • Bringing a luggage lock and, if you’re staying in a hostel, a lock for your locker.
  • Traveling to a destination where a lot of petty theft is reported? You may wish to carry an anti-theft day bag and/or an anti theft camera bag.
  • Won’t be able to drink the tap water? Consider bringing a filtering bottle to ensure you’re never without drinkable water.

Pre-trip safety measures won’t just protect you during your trip; they’ll also help reduce your anxiety about your trip, freeing you to focus on the unforgettable. Wonderful experience of your first solo journey!

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How To Enjoy Dining Alone As A Solo Traveler

solo travel

Perhaps one of the most awkward things about traveling solo is meal time. Eating is such a communal activity, and when not traveling solo it is often a time to recount the day’s adventures and plan for tomorrow’s with a travel companion. solo travel

What happens when it’s time to eat and you’re solo, though? While you may relish the opportunity to sit with your own thoughts and truly savor the flavors of your meal, it’s also normal to feel out of place.

The fix? Prepare.

Bring something to do, like a book to read or a journal to write in. You can also look for places to eat that offer views and request to be seated near a window if possible. This way, you can look out and admire the city you’ve come to visit while you eat.

On that note, time your meals to avoid peak mealtime rushes. Your request for specific seating is more likely to be honored when the restaurant isn’t buzzing with large groups.

Another tip? If you drink, consider ordering a glass of beer or wine. Or a cocktail to help you relax and enjoy your meal. Be careful not to overdo it as you are alone, after all, and safety matters! But a glass of wine may be just what you need to stop focusing on the fact that you are dining solo and start enjoying people-watching those around you instead.

Always Trust Your Instincts

solo travel

When you travel solo, the biggest challenge you may face throughout your trip is making decisions. There is nobody to guide you. There is nobody with whom you get a chance to discuss the way forward with and arrive at a decision. The lack of security offered by a co-traveler might bother you if you let it.

How then should you stay safe and move onward with your trip without feeling lost or overwhelmed? The answer to that is to trust your instinct, no matter what. Even if it means missing out on all the fun, being a “bore” and occasionally not making the most of your freedom by going home early or skipping out on an activity that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Your instinct, your gut, your inner voice – whatever you call it – it should be that constant. Reliable friend on your solo trip. solo travel

As a solo traveler, you will be approached by a number of strangers. You will also be faced with a number of questions like which road to take, which train to you board. Which restaurant to eat at, whom to share a seat with on a bus, what hour to head back to your hotel, etc.

But it’s your instinct that will answer these questions for you and navigate you in the right direction. You just have to trust it. Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on all the fun this way.

You will still make some incredible friends and create some memorable experiences for yourself but trusting your instincts will definitely protect you from running into trouble. 

Know Your Route Before You Land

solo travel

The first time you travel solo, it stands to reason that you’re going to be a bit nervous about it. Especially if you’re going somewhere completely unfamiliar to you. Also, solo travelers tend to be higher targets for theft, scams. And other unsavory experiences that we’d all rather keep out of our travel repertoire. 

So, the best favor you can do yourself the first time you take a solo travel trip is to pre-book your first night of accommodation (preferably at least a few nights), and research how to get from the airport to your accommodation.

This way, when you arrive to the airport, jet lagged and wide-eyed at the change of scenery, you won’t look too lost! You can walk with purpose towards the taxi stand/bus stop/train station, and avoid the prying eyes of people searching for lost travelers to prey on. 

You will also circumvent any costly disasters of bad timing or lack of options. I once arrived in Madrid thinking I would find a train to the city from the airport, only to realize that the last train had already left!

This was an expensive mistake, and had I known that there were no more trains, I could have booked a shuttle in advance and saved a ton of cash over the last-minute taxi I hopped into. While this isn’t a catastrophic mistake per se, it’s not a nice way to start off your first solo trip. Go easy on yourself! Be prepared. 

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12 Comments

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