Tips for Traveling Solo

How to stay safe and take advantage of everything that traveling alone has to offer.

Traveling alone can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You are free to follow your own whims, do exactly what you want to do, and build your confidence, all while seeing the world. That said, there’s definitely an intimidation factor before hitting the road on your own for the first time. And while a number of considerations and some helpful pre-planning can help ensure that you’re dialed and prepared to have a nice time, at some point you just have to commit and go for it wholeheartedly. 

Whether you’ve always wanted to go to Big Bend National Park and have never had anyone to go with, or you’ve been dreaming of backpacking across Europe on your own, the following tips can help you embark on that solo trip you’ve been thinking about, with all the helpful gear to have along for the ride. 

Do Your Homework 

Homework and having fun might seem like an impossible pairing, but a little bit of research and planning ahead of time can save you a lot of stress upon arrival at your destination. Research each location that you’re traveling and start to organize the basics: where you’ll stay (or what neighborhood); safe or fun neighborhoods; how the public transit works; how to get to town from the airport; where you can exchange money; and a handful of helpful phrases if you’re heading somewhere you don’t speak the language. This type of preparation is especially key for the anxious traveler; it’s also a great way to avoid the hassle of having to track down Wi-Fi so you can figure out logistics when you arrive. You won’t have another person with you to help tackle the planning, so being able to hit the ground running means you have more time to explore and less time wasted staring at your phone or hunting down information. Pro tip: Put all of this information in an offline Google Doc or write it down in a notebook, so you always have access to everything you need (like the address of the hotel to put on a customs form or give to a taxi driver). 

Pack Smart

Don’t overpack. You’ll have to single-handedly deal with all of your luggage and bags, so it’s nice to have just one lightweight bag and a small personal item that you can navigate crowded public transit or cobblestone roads or endless staircases. Go with either an ultralight rolling suitcase or a backpack duffel for ease, so you can always keep at least one hand free. A money belt will give you peace of mind, which is important because you only have yourself to rely on. Other key necessities: a portable power charger (a dead cellphone is no help to you), a first-aid kit (deal with your own small emergencies), a headlamp (you never know when you’ll need to navigate a dark hotel/hostel or street), a safety whistle (in case of emergency), and sleep gear so you’re rested and energized to make the most of your day. Bringing quick-dry and merino wool clothes will help increase the longevity of your wardrobe and keep you smelling better for longer. 

Tourist man looking at map to find directions walking in old streets of Portugal city.

Bring a Book

This is the ultimate solo travel tip: Bring a book or something to occupy yourself if you need to kill time. If the idea of going to dinner at a restaurant alone is excruciating to you or just sounds excruciatingly boring, a book can help you discover the pure joy of lingering over a meal and a good story at the same time (it just might become your new favorite hobby). If you’re a voracious reader, bring an e-book reader to take as many books with you as you want. 

Look for Opportunities to Connect

One big part of the joy of solo travel: who you meet along the way. People traveling alone are often perceived to be more approachable—use that to your advantage! Just because you’re traveling solo doesn’t mean you need to be alone the whole time. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and look for opportunities to meet and connect with others. Maybe that means staying in a hostel, going on a guided tour, or seeking out other solo travelers to join forces with and go exploring. In addition to connecting with locals and other travelers, make sure to stay connected to trusted friends or family back home and keep them in the loop with your travel plans so they can keep tabs on you. Bring a camera and start looking for ways to capture and connect with the places you visit—having one handy ensures you’ll have memories to bring home.  

Enjoy the Freedom 

If you’ve never experienced solo travel before, you’ll likely relish in how indulgent it feels. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, without ever having to consider someone else’s wants and needs, which provides the freedom and flexibility to create your ultimate vacation. Maybe your usual travel partner would rather skip the museums and avoid splurging on a fancy dinner, but that’s what you love to do. So, do it! Take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy not having to wait for your partner to wake up, pack up, or get ready in the morning. If you’re traveling internationally, consider getting a local SIM card upon arrival so you don’t have to rely on tracking down Wi-Fi all the time. This will help you feel even more free and unrestricted by bandwidth.

Be Safe

When traveling solo, you need to look after yourself. Ask your hotel or do research about safe and unsafe areas to walk alone during the day or at night. And when you walk, move with assuredness and confidence (even if you don’t feel that way). Distracted tourists with their faces in maps can attract unwanted negative attention from pickpockets (here’s where a money belt also comes in handy). If you’re a U.S. citizen, enter your information into the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before you leave. That way, government officials can better help you in case of an emergency. Otherwise, general street smarts and awareness will go a long way. As long as you’re paying attention, trusting your gut, and are mindful of your surroundings you’ll be totally fine. And don’t be afraid to pop into a store or ask a friendly stranger for help or information!  

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.