7 Top Tips for Every First-Time Solo Traveler
“Riding Solo” is a multimedia guide about how to live fearlessly in your own company. Whether you’re at a small event or traveling the globe, this series shares honest stories from real women learning to explore the world as their own plus-one. Experience the full package here.
Ready to visit a dreamy, off-the-radar destination but can’t find any friends with enough vacation time to come along? Don’t let that stop you! Though traveling alone can seem super scary, venturing off for the solo adventure of your dreams can be a life-changing experience you’ll treasure forever. We caught up with jet-setter Sher from Sher She Goes to score some tips that’ll make you feel ultra-confident as you get ready to plan your itinerary and hit the road, rails, or concourse. Scroll on for Sher’s seven secrets!
1. Snap up a biz card from your hotel. “Sometimes I actually forget where I’m staying or my phone dies,” Sher admits, “and the worst feeling is not knowing exactly how to get home when you’re alone!” To avoid an anxiety-inducing scenario, she recommends grabbing a business card from wherever you’re staying. If your accommodations don’t have one available, write down the address before you leave. Sher also advises that you should make sure you have important location info in both English and the local language. “This makes it so much easier to ask a local — or even to hand over to a cab driver — so that you make it back in one piece!”
2. Never look at a map in public. Offline maps are often seen as the way to go when it comes to exploring abroad. Sher agrees: “I always download an offline map of a place on my phone before I get to my destination, because WiFi or data can be spotty, and Google Maps files can be pretty big.” She reveals that she brings a physical copy of a map with her too, but she never pulls it out in public for safety reasons. “If I feel myself getting lost, I duck into a coffee shop or convenience store to re-route myself. Standing on a street corner [looking lost] can make you a target for scammers,” she warns.
3. Scan your important docs. In addition to making sure you bring your passport (if leaving the US), a secondary form of identification, and a health insurance card, Sher suggests scanning or photographing your docs and keeping a copy both on your phone and in cloud storage you can easily access. She tells us that she gives digital copies to her mom too, which could be a serious lifesaver in an emergency.
4. Get an early start. “For sightseeing and getting around, it’s much more comfortable to do it during daylight hours,” Sher reminds us. Even better? “As a bonus, the earlier you get up, the less crowded it will be! If you’re traveling between places, try to always time your arrival in the next city before the sun sets, so you’re not finding your way to a hotel in an unfamiliar destination at night.” Solid advice.
5. Dress for your destination. Packing light is one way to avoid extra stress while traveling solo and trying to hold your phone, follow directions, and juggle your luggage. Another good trick for keeping things running smoothly is to brush up on local culture and customs to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb. “I also run a quick search online for ‘what to wear in X’ or ‘X packing checklist’ to see if there is anything I need to be aware of in terms of dress or things I should bring that aren’t readily available where I’m going.” Case in point? Sher tells us that certain countries don’t carry things like tampons.
6. Put safety first. Experiencing nightlife abroad can be an amazing adventure, but it definitely requires you to be a little bit more cautious than you might be at home. Sher says that while she isn’t a huge fan of hitting up hotspots in places she doesn’t know well, you can do some research to scope out safe places that serve as social gathering spots. “I stayed at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and it is the spot for solo travelers! It’s lively, always buzzing, and, best of all, safe. The hostel actually organized a pub crawl one night.”
7. Use social media to check in. While super-exciting, solo travel can get lonely from time to time — especially when there’s no one to share the special moments and jaw-dropping sights with. Sher tells us she keeps connected by posting on social media and reading comments from friends and fam. “Sometimes, people will reminisce about their own travels and have suggestions for local spots or restaurants to check out, which is an unexpected bonus,” she points out. Your posts can help ease worries for people who love you too. “I find that Facebook and Instagram posts can show that you’re safe. My mom loves seeing how I’ve spent each day, especially when I’m visiting a place that makes it hard to call.” Awww.
Want to learn more about doing things solo? Explore our new multimedia package “Riding Solo”. And remember to share any solo adventures with us using the hashtag #RidingSolo!
(Photos via Getty)