How to Travel Alone

A successful solo adventure is all about staying safe and keeping an open mind.
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein 

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Traveling with friends and family can enhance your experience at any destination. You’ll have someone to share meals with, take pictures with and discuss ideas and questions about a particular place. But traveling alone has lots of its own advantages. You can customize your own trip, discover more about yourself and have time to ponder a new place without distraction.

How to enjoy a vacation alone is not as much of a mystery as you might think. Here are 11 ideas and tips for how to travel alone so that you can have the ideal solo experience. You may just like it enough to plan your own solo adventure more often than before.

11 tips for traveling alone

1. Control the itinerary

One of the most common complaints about traveling in a group (whether it’s friends, families with kids, couples or groups of colleagues) is that it is hard to decide what you want to do together. Everyone has an opinion, and some people may want to visit certain attractions that others are not as interested in seeing.

Often, travelers end up spending time doing things that they may not like just to appease other members of the group. If you are traveling solo, you control the schedule. You decide when to wake up and what you want to do. You decide when you want to eat or sleep, when to take a break and what to visit. It’s a liberating feeling that is one of the most compelling reasons for traveling by yourself.

2. Try new food

Where (and when) to eat can be a contentious point for people since everyone’s palate and appetite are different. Some people are more adventurous than others. When you’re traveling alone, you can sample new foods without someone else saying they want a burger instead. You can visit many different cafes or street food stands without having to get someone else’s opinion.

Walking through a local grocery store (a favorite activity of frequent international travelers) won’t receive any eye rolls either. You’ll get a look at local life, flavors unique to a destination and even the prices for certain items overseas.

3. Pack lighter

When you’re the only person to help carry bags and move between places, you’ll find that you will pack less. Plus, you won’t have to worry about someone seeing you wear the same thing twice. If you consider doing laundry while traveling, you can lighten the load even more.

If you're flying, you’ll need to keep carry-on and checked bag rules in mind. If your bag is overweight or you have too many bags, there is no one else to help spread the weight across other bags. There is one way to circumvent any extra charges: get a credit card that waives bag fees.

4. Immerse yourself in local culture

When traveling alone, you end up listening more than speaking.

When traveling with other people, you often find yourself discussing your own personal lives, speaking your own language and generally seeing the world through your own lens. But, when traveling alone, you end up listening more than speaking.

You hear local discussions, language and sounds. You can ponder regular life as it passes by rather than getting caught up in conversations from home that are irrelevant to the destination.

Once you find yourself traveling alone, you will see how this simple idea can have huge implications on how you view and experience a new place.

5. Meet new people

Traveling by yourself may lead you to be more outgoing toward meeting new people. Whether you are in a restaurant or bar, sitting on the bus or exploring a museum, it can be enlightening to chat with new people to learn about where they are from, what they think of a new place and what they do for a living.

More often than not, you’ll learn something and maybe even make a new friend. It can be helpful to get suggestions from other people about the place you are visiting since they may have ways to help save money or time when exploring. You might also learn about new places to visit. If you’re looking to save money by staying in a hostel, you’ll meet other solo travelers that may want to share tips or tag along for part of the itinerary.

6. Learn more about yourself

Solo travel can teach you a lot about yourself. It can stretch your limits of adventure, courage, risk-taking and even emotion.

You might just surprise yourself with what you’ll learn.

When traveling with other people you find yourself following more of a community mindset, but when you are in control of the itinerary, do what interests you. You might just surprise yourself with what you’ll learn.

7. Work up the courage to take calculated risks

One reason many people are afraid of traveling solo is that they worry about feeling unsafe or vulnerable. With no one looking out for you, you will find yourself taking more calculated risks with every decision. When with a group, it is easier to make risky decisions since you feel the safety of a group. On your own, you are more likely to think through the repercussions of everything you do.

8. Focus on your surroundings

When traveling solo, you become hyper-aware of your surroundings. This is great for understanding culture, but also for your own safety. You focus on who is walking behind you or near you. You’re more careful with your belongings. And you make decisions that take into account that you’re alone with no one to help you should you need it. That’s a skill that can serve you well at home, too.

9. Save money on certain extras

While traveling alone does not have the benefit of sharing the cost of accommodations or taxis, for example, it does mean that you may choose to dine out less in expensive restaurants in favor of more casual grab-and-go meals or cafes. These may even be tastier and more fun than a multicourse meal. Still, don’t be afraid to try a nice restaurant in a new place from time to time. Sit at the bar or bring a book. While it feels like everyone may be looking at you dining alone, most people are more focused on themselves.

Don’t forget that some hotels and cruise lines offer single accommodations that can help you shave some extra cost from the standard option. While these may be smaller than usual, it is a good way to save extra cash to spend elsewhere. Always ask if there is a discount for a single traveler.

10. Relax your mind

One of the best tips for traveling alone can be to pamper yourself and allow yourself to let go of the stressors from home, especially if you’re in a resort or beach destination. Bringing friends or family along can be fun, but it also makes it harder to cut the cord for a few days if what you’re looking for is a break from reality.

11. Build personal confidence

Once you take one solo trip, you’ll realize you can do a lot more things on your own, even beyond traveling. You have practiced problem-solving skills, weighed certain risky decisions and discovered that you can’t really truly immerse yourself in a place until you sit back and watch, listen and learn. Confidence can build from a successful track record of trying things that you may have thought you couldn’t do. Traveling alone is a great place to start.

The bottom line

It may seem daunting at first, but solo travel is both rewarding and fun if you are up for it. Even social butterflies can find the opportunity to make new friends and meet people when they travel. You will learn a lot about the world, other people's ways of life and most importantly, yourself.

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