Table for One: Tips for the Solo Traveler

I started solo traveling about 10 years ago. The very idea of it was overwhelming at first and I was sure it was beyond my abilities. I knew I had the passion and the will but wasn’t sure I had the skill.

I was wrong.

A decade later, I find that my solo travels are the ones that keep me the most grounded and connected to myself. And while every solo trip provides at least a handful of unexpected moments, I’ve learned a few things over the years that make every trip a bit easier.

 

  • Consider scheduling time with a travel consultant. A focused 30-60 minutes with a pro can help you design the perfect itinerary and be an excellent resource for any initial questions you may have.
  • Take a tour. It may seem counterintuitive to go with a group, but a tour provides the structure and logistics coordination that can make or break an experience. If you’re traveling solo for the first time, it’s a great way to start. If a fully guided tour is not for you, try some of the recommended city or walking tours found through your hotel, travel consultant, friends, or recommendations from locals. It will give you an opportunity to spend time with people plus add some great background history and insight.
  • Create at least a rough itinerary. While the idea of impulsive adventuring with no real plan may seem romantic and exciting, taking the time to outline where you want to be and when ensures you aren’t wasting precious hours in transit. Taking the 10:00 AM train to your next destination may sound way better than getting up for the 7:30 – until you realize it’s a 4-hour trip and by the time you get there, you’ve lost most of the day and precious time to explore. Don’t forget to sort out how you’ll get from the train station to your hotel and add that into your total travel time. Many a vacation day has been eaten up by poorly executed logistics.
  • Plan for 2-day stops whenever possible. It can be exhausting, and hard to truly relax, if you’re doing little more than traveling from one destination to the next and checking in/out of your hotel. It’s depressing to look back and think you spent your trip in an airport, train station, or hotel, forcing you to miss the sights because you arrived too late in the day (or have to leave too early in the morning) to do much of anything.
  • Push yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be extreme, just take one more step than you would if you were in your “real world”. The best travel stories start with, “I wouldn’t normally have done this, but I was on vacation…”
  • Pack light. You can do laundry on the road, and no one will care if they see the same shirt in multiple travel posts. You’ll be grateful when you’re not hauling overpacked suitcases through train stations and up flights of stairs.
  • Know that you will be overwhelmed at times. It’s normal. Allow yourself to feel it for a moment then pause, take a deep breath, and keep moving forward. Getting lost and turned around happens to everyone (even in the age of iPhones and map apps). Translating and interpreting signs (even when written in variations of English) can take a moment, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong. Ask questions, embrace the power of Google, and trust that you’ll figure it out. Who knows, you may discover something magical you wouldn’t have otherwise. Or you may just get stuck on a crappy street that adds nothing of value and lose a few minutes of your traveling time. Either way, you’ll be fine. Just keep moving forward.
  • Moments of loneliness are part of the game. Power through. Traveling solo has a multitude of benefits. There will inevitably be moments, though, when you wish you had someone to talk with or share an experience (and future memory). Stay present. Acknowledge the feelings, send messages to your people back home, then come back to your experience.

Solo travel is life changing. Take the time up front to do a bit of planning so you can truly enjoy your adventure.