Packing your bags and heading to a new destination with a partner or group of friends can be a great way to get the most out of a trip, but it's not the only way you can see the world. Solo travel can provide an entirely different experience, allowing you to indulge your own interests and instincts while you're exploring. It can also be a great way to reconnect with yourself and make new friends along the way. But even seasoned travelers know that going it alone on a trip can provide different challenges and often requires a different type of planning to make sure you're not caught off guard. Read on to discover the secrets that experts say can make your solo traveling experience an unforgettable one.
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Pick the right destination for you.
Usually, there's never a particular reason to go on a solo trip. But while it may sound obvious, experts say it's important to be realistic about where you choose to go for safety's sake when traveling alone.
"I would recommend ensuring that you're visiting a country that has a track record of safety and a low crime rate," Louise Walker, managing editor of Aglaia Magazine, tells Best Life. "Unfortunately, there are some countries that simply are not safe or recommended for solo travel, especially female solo travelers. Carry out your research before you book and make a shortlist of countries and cities that are suitable for solo travel and ensure you get recommendations from friends who have already been."
Make a plan to check in with a trusted friend.
Having a travel companion can be helpful for splitting lodging costs or having someone to pass the time with while exploring. But the fact is that they also become your most immediate support system while on the road—especially if you're abroad. One of the most significant issues solo travelers face is ensuring someone can raise the alarm if something goes wrong. That's why experts say it's important to designate someone who can keep tabs on you from afar.
"Before you leave, pick someone you trust and make a plan to communicate on a regular basis over text, emails, or voice calls," Frank Harrison, regional security director of North America and the U.K. for World Travel Protection, tells Best Life. "Give your contact person your itinerary and make a point to check in regularly as you arrive at new destinations. If you don't check in at a planned time, this person should call the local authorities at your last known location."
He adds that you should also be prepared for all the unexpected bumps in the road: "To make sure you can always check in as planned, carry a small USB emergency mobile device battery recharger."
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Carefully consider your accommodations.
Choosing the right place to stay can be challenging on any trip to a new destination. But while convenience and comfort will always be a factor, traveling alone can make it especially important to consider your safety. Because of this, experts say you may want to budget to stay somewhere reputable and trustworthy.
"Pick a hotel or accommodation that's centrally located and in a well-lit area," says Jessica Parker, founder of Trip Whisperer. "You can gather this from reviews and based on 'top sights to see' are nearby or main transportation lines."
It might also be worth considering an option with a bit of extra built-in safety. "I am all about Airbnb, but you might want to pick a hotel or something with a reception that has someone keeping watch 24/7 when traveling alone. The peace of mind and reliability are worth it," she says.
There's also one surprising travel hack that experts swear by. "Stay at casino hotels," travel expert Leslie Carbone of Sancerres at Sunset tells Best Life. "Casinos are great for solo travelers: They're safe [because] cameras and security staff are everywhere. There's always something to do—bars and restaurants, spas and pools, and of course, the gaming action. And the rooms are often inexpensive or even comped—and not only for high rollers but sometimes just for using the casino brand's credit card."
Don't jam pack your schedule.
Traveling with friends and loved ones will always result in cherished memories and fantastic experiences. But solo travel remains popular because it allows for a special kind of introspection you can't get while on the road in groups. Experts say it's important not to lose sight of this when putting together your itinerary.
"Don't over-plan. It's important to have a general itinerary so that you make the most of your time wherever you're exploring and so that your loved ones always know where you are, but give yourself the flexibility to be in the moment!" says Allie Albanese, travel journalist and founder of Parched Around the World.
"If you're solely focused on sticking to an agenda and striking items off of your to-do list or must-have Instagram shots, you might miss the magic that comes from breathing in the beauty of the moment and fully being present with yourself," she points out. "Travel teaches us so much about culture and people and places and traditions, but solo travel teaches us who we are as individuals within those things. So allow time for unexpected conversations. Let yourself follow your own curiosity. Feel free to change your mind. Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing."
"The greatest part about traveling on your own is that it's up to you and you alone to decide what to do at any given time! So take advantage of that freedom and use it as an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better," she suggests. "You may be surprised at the transformation that occurs within you when you give into the moment and allow that special shift to happen!"
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Put your social media connections to good use.
Getting fed trusted travel recommendations almost always beats the advice of strangers you come across online or in books. Thankfully, social media has made it easier to reach out to people before your trip for tips and possibly even a temporary companion or guide.
"Facebook and LinkedIn aren't necessarily the hippest of the social media channels, but they both have search functions that allow you to find your contacts—and even contacts of your contacts—in a specific city," Lauren Gonzalez, principal of L&L Hospitality, tells Best Life. "Before you travel to a city on your own, check your networks because you might already know someone there. If not, maybe a close friend of yours does."
Just make sure you keep in mind that your schedules might not always sync up. "Do be respectful of these loose connections' time," she says. "A person in a major metropolis might have some fatigue when it comes to out-of-town drop-ins, but it doesn't hurt to at least ask for a couple of city-specific recommendations."
Heading someplace that's an entirely friend-free zone? You can also join a solo traveler Facebook group or subreddit to get pointers or arrange meetups during your trip.
Find group activities at your location.
Solo trips may start as a one-person affair, but nothing says you can't make friends along the way. In fact, experts say that linking up with other travelers when you arrive at your destination can be a great way to break up the trip with some socialization.
"I typically suggest that solo travelers link up with group tours. It's a great way to connect with other travelers in your area," Mandy Picchiottino, owner of travel planning company Land and See Tours, says. "Food tours are my favorite, along with pub crawls. You will meet a lot of other people with similar interests and who share your love of travel."
It can still work when costs matter. "If budget is a concern, you can link up with many free walking tours hosted all throughout the world. There is no cost to join the tour, but just leave a generous tip at the end. It's another great way to meet other people traveling just like you," she suggests.
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Try to cut down on screen time at least a little bit.
It's an understatement to say that smartphones have revolutionized the way we travel. The portable device in your pocket can help with navigation, translation, sending messages, and finding information no matter where you are. But while it's easy to appreciate all they can provide, being glued to your phone can take away from your trip in a big way.
"When you are traveling solo, it can be super tempting to always have your smartphone out. It can easily become something of a social safety blanket, a way to make ourselves feel comfortable in public situations," says Nate Hake, founder and CEO of Travel Lemming. "But your phone is also a barrier telling other people to stay away from you, which ends up leaving you more isolated. And it really distracts you from living in the moment and enjoying what is around you—which is kind of the whole point of traveling in the first place!"
Pick the right seat when you're out on the town.
For many travelers, the whole point of hitting the road is to enjoy new cuisines and get authentic dining experiences in new places. But for those traveling alone, it can also be an opportunity to get great advice. Experts also say you can save money if you plan your meals correctly.
"Dine during happy hour," Carbone suggests. "I love traveling solo, but I hate eating alone at a restaurant table. Sitting at the bar is a great opportunity to chat with other people. Happy-hour specials provide a chance to sample local food and drink favorites. And a good bartender can fill you in on the off-the-radar fun things to do in the area."
Have a backup plan for cash and cards.
Solo travel makes it a lot easier to follow your own schedule and make decisions in the moment, but it can also make things more difficult when something goes wrong. That's why experts suggest splitting up where you store the cash and cards you'll need throughout the course of the trip to help ensure that you don't end up in a mid-trip pinch.
"Consider having two wallets or purses to store your money: One is for going out, and the other is for storing money or cards that you keep safe in your accommodation," suggests Anna Krizova, travel blogger at Camino Adventures. "This is also excellent for staying within a budget."
Invest in some travel safety devices.
Most travel experts agree that you should only ever pack what you absolutely need on a trip. But for those hitting the road solo, a few extra items might make you feel safer while you're exploring.
"Use an AirTag in your personal bag," advises Kristin Lee, travel expert and author at Global Travel Escapades. "While most people know to use one in their checked luggage, I recommend putting one in your carry-on bag and personal bag. This adds an extra layer of security and allows for someone to immediately know your location, even if you get separated from your phone."
Others swear by another must-have device. "One of the easiest and most inexpensive safety tools for solo travelers is a portable door lock which can be placed on the door at your hotel, Airbnb, or apartment rental. Many rentals in vacation destinations do not have a deadbolt, which can be a safety threat for unwanted visitors and overnight intruders," Allison Sicking, a Mexico-based travel blogger at Viva La Travelista, tells Best Life.
"For peace of mind, purchase a portable door lock, which is a small metal insert that can be easily installed on the door to prevent unauthorized entry. This inexpensive and compact safety tool can be purchased on Amazon for less than $20," she says. "It's definitely worth the investment as it can be a real lifesaver and put your mind at ease when traveling alone to unfamiliar destinations."