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Not everyone will have a baptism by fire to solo travel like I did. I was abandoned in Paris by my (former) friend at Valentine’s Day and chose to explore the city on my own until my flight home. This was in the time before the internet and smart phones. My passion for independent travel has grown since then and now, over forty countries later, I can’t imagine my life without travel. Having the freedom to experience the world my way has definitely created amazing memories, stories and helped me learn about my strengths and weaknesses. Solo travel also allows you to reset your mind, body and spirit and escape the daily drama of your home/work bubble. With the flexibility to sleep in, stay up late and eat cake for dinner, Traveling Solo is all about what you need and what you want at a point in time to make you happy with yourself and the world.
If you want to get started on your first solo travels either local or abroad (good for you!) here are my tips for traveling solo.
1. Start at Home
Go to the movies, dinner, theatre, etc. on your own. If you are ok with that, then you’ve passed the first hurdle. Many people don’t travel solo because they are afraid what other people will think of them. This isn’t about them – it’s about you! What do you want? Want to eat? Go dine alone! Want to see a Broadway show? I’ve had great luck finding one seat last minute. You need to stop the inner voice from saying the negative solo things it does.
2. Talk to yourself
Understand what you like and/or need. Be honest.
a. Do you need to be around people? If so, a cruise (studio cabin on NCL is an option) or group tour may be best (note: single supplements are generally 150%-200% of advertised price).
b. If you are ok to be alone, then consider planning a trip that fits your style best.
i. Talk to a travel agent to help match you with the right destination. Virtuoso travel advisors have access to added hotel bonuses that are great for solo travelers (full disclosure: I’m a Virtuoso travel advisor)
ii. Research travel blogs of solo travelers (there are so many to choose from – backpacker, budget, luxury, points, single parents, traveling aunts/uncles, foodies, adventure, etc.) to spark interest in a destination
3. Day Tours
Day tours are a great way to experience the city and meet other people. Free walking tours, pay what you want tours, bike tours to explore the city and countryside, feed your inner foodie, jump on an adventure tour or just get on the bus and go! There is a tour for most interests and if you can’t find it, then consider hiring a local private guide to put together a bespoke itinerary for you to do exactly what you want.
4. Airport transfers are solo budget busters
Plan ahead and be realistic. Can you carry your luggage up and down flights of stairs (in London for example) of the public subway/bus? If not, reserve an airport shuttle or private car transport.
5. Safety costs are ok to bust your budget
If you feel safer in a tax or hire car instead of public transit then ask the hotel to arrange transit. Do you know the local language? Do you know where to direct the taxi you flagged down? Having a travel agent or hotel arrange transit to lessen the stress of a new city is worth the additional cost in my opinion
6. Research, Research, Research
Either do it yourself (the average person views more than twenty websites to plan their vacation) or outsource this to a trusted travel agent (planning fees are usually $250+). The more you know the better you can make informed decisions and plan a realistic budget.
7. Stay in a centrally located hotel/lodging
It might cost more but less transit time as you can walk to a variety of sites. The worse thing to do is save money on that budget hotel, hostel or AirBnb only to find out it is far away from the destination and there are no restaurants or neighborhood to enjoy in the area. I’ve read many stories online about solo travelers stranded in suburbs as they don’t have a rental car or the public transit hours are not good.
8. Look at your interests to help you find a good vacation fit.
a. Do you like Yoga? There are women’s only yoga trips.
b. Like to Hike, Rock Climb or Kayak? There are many adventure tour groups to join.
c. Love film like me? Go to a film festival locally or abroad (The Toronto International Film Festival is easy to attend).
d. Music fan? There are theme cruises for 80’s music, country music, Latin music and so much more!
e. Sports fan? Join your local team at their away games or join a sports cruise to golf the greens in Scotland or watch the Grand Prix in Monaco.
9. Don’t be limited
Dont be limited to destinations that your friends and family have done, stretch your imagination, stretch your limits and pick a place that speaks to you.
10. Have Fun
Take Photos, Relax, Enjoy! This is your vacation, do it your way!
Photo Credit: Suzanne Wolko
Suzanne was abandoned in Paris at Valentine’s Day by a (former) friend and became a solo traveler back before the internet and smart phones. Forced to figure it out on her own, her independent travel passion (addiction) was born and now more than forty countries later she continues to search for a new adventure to use all of her vacation days. Using airline miles and hotel points, she has traveled around the world in luxury for less and used the savings to splurge on private guides, boutique hotels, wine and chocolate. She started her travel blog, PhilaTravelGirl – Flying by the Seat of My Points, in 2013 to share her experiences after two amazing journeys to Easter Island and Africa (Safari) on award tickets. In 2014, Sue became the “best Aunt in the world” when she took her oldest niece to London & Paris (two of her favorite cities) to educate her in becoming a world citizen.
In 2015, Sue’s life took a twist when her job ended and rather than sulk, she jumped on a transatlantic cruise to Barcelona and traveled in Europe for three months before beginning a new job search and wallowing in expensive chocolate. During this time and with over twenty years as a Finance & Global Business Travel Manager for Financial Services firms, she embarked on a new adventure as a Luxury Travel Advisor at Arden Road Travel to help others plan their dream trips. Her next adventure is taking her Mom on her first European trip to Paris & London – flying in Business & First Class using points.