Travel Experts Are Sharing Their Best Advice For Anyone Thinking Of Vacationing Alone, And These Tips Make All The Difference

·8 min read

We all miss traveling, right? The pandemic has thrown traveling for a loop — to say the very least — and I know I'm not alone in patiently waiting for the day when we can all adventure again without worry. Until then, I'll continue to plan and look forward to my next solo trip.

Traveler man waits train on railway platform.

Many people love solo travel because it allows them to get the most out their time away. When you can make your own itinerary and follow your own plans, there's no need to negotiate with your fellow travelers.

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Maybe you're thinking of taking your first solo trip. Or perhaps you've traveled alone before but want to make the next experience even better. In any case, here are the top tips from five professionals who have traveled extensively on their own.

A woman looking out of a train window.

But first, let's meet the experts:

• Joel Balsam, a freelance travel writer who has written for National Geographic, BBC Travel, Thrillist, and contributed to numerous Lonely Planet guides.

Lyn Hughes, founding editor of travel magazine and website Wanderlust, and author of Wanderlust: How to Travel Solo.

• Kaitlyn McInnis, a freelance travel writer who has contributed to Travel + Leisure, Robb Report, and The Points Guy.

• Tracey Nesbitt, writer and editor for Solo Traveler, a site for those who are passionate about traveling alone.

• Janice Waugh, founder and publisher of Solo Traveler.

So without further ado, here are their essential tips and tricks for traveling alone:

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1.If you're new to traveling solo, start small.

A woman walking on a quiet street.

If you're unsure about traveling alone, start with a short trip somewhere close to home to see how you like it before diving into a longer or international adventure.

It's OK to take baby steps. "Go down the road 100 kilometers to another town," says Janice Waugh. Learn how to use their transit system, figure out how to find a restaurant by yourself, have dinner on your own, and explore that type of thing, but definitely start small." According to Waugh, it's important to learn your comfort level and skill level navigating solo travel situations.

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2.Take advantage of organized tours.

A group of adults hiking in the mountains.

If you're feeling apprehensive about traveling alone, you might want to consider joining an organized tour, at least for a portion of your trip.

"Traveling solo doesn't mean you have to go completely independently, " says Lyn Hughes. A tour can be a great way to begin traveling, even if it's just your introduction to the country.

"When I first went to Thailand in my 20s, I joined a small group tour and did a group hill trek," Hughs explains. "But then I actually stayed on and did some exploring on my own. I'd spent the first two weeks in a group with other people, which gave me confidence, helped me make new friends and acclimatized me. It gave me the confidence to go off on my own." Use an organized tour as a jumping off point to learn the lay of the land and then begin your own independent adventure.

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3.Do your research before you go.

Someone looking at a map with a coffee in hand.

When you're traveling in a group, there's usually one friend or relative who loves to do the planning. But when you're alone, all that planning falls on you. Make sure to do the research before you leave so that you don't feel overwhelmed or totally lost once you arrive at your destination.

You don't have to have everything planned out. "It's really just about staying in the right neighborhood. And that's something you're going to have to research beforehand," says Joel Balsam. "I think it's good to have a guidebook a lot of the time you're traveling. It's a fun way to get recommendations, especially if you don't have Internet all the time."

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4.When you arrive, spend some time getting acclimatized.

Taxi car with checkered sign on city street in evening.

Arriving overseas alone can be disorienting, so be thorough in your planning for the first day or two in your destination.

"In the very first 24 hours, you are at your most vulnerable state, and it can be quite daunting if it's your first time away," suggests Hughes. "Make sure that you have booked the first night's accommodation and know how you're getting from the airport to where you're staying," she says. Allowing yourself a little time to acclimate will make you feel calm, collected, and ready to tackle the rest of your trip.

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5.Consider staying somewhere more social than a traditional hotel.

A group of women walking past a hostel at sunset.

Choose accommodation where it's easier to meet other people, recommends Hughes. This means avoiding big hotels or AirBNBs where you'll be alone. Instead, consider hostels, guesthouses, or bed and breakfasts.

"It can be a bit miserable to be traveling somewhere and to spend most of your time in a room on your own. It's great if you can be somewhere where you'll meet people." Many solo travelers say the hardest thing is finding ways to occupy their time in the evenings, Hughes says. But staying at a place like a hostel, for example, you can meet fellow travelers who you can go to dinner with or explore the local nightlife.

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6.Take a class in a subject that interests you.

People taking a cooking class.

If you're tired of doing things alone while traveling, take a class, says Janice Waugh. She suggests that cooking classes especially can be great for meeting people. "If you take an afternoon cooking course, you'll probably end up eating the food that you made communally." There are so many websites that make it easy to browse through different classes and activities in your destination such as Airbnb experiences, Get Your Guide, or Viator, for starters.

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7.Consider going online to meet locals or interact with the community.

The MeetUp.com welcome screen.

If you're traveling solo and want to meet people, try meeting locals and finding activities online. Hughes highly recommends the website MeetUp.com. "You can find people to go jogging with or join a photography club, etc... it can be a really good way to meet locals."

While meeting fellow travelers is fun, Hughes says that meeting and interacting with locals can be even more enjoyable, special, and instrumental in creating travel memories.

Joel Balsam also suggests joining Facebook groups to find a sense of community. "You can go on Facebook and search for 'expats in this place' or 'digital nomads in this place,." he says.

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8.Plan just enough, but don't overdo it.

A woman bike riding on a quiet street.

Tracey Nesbitt says that while it's good to know what you want to do on your trip, it's also important to leave some time for flexibility. You don't want to plan out every minute of every day. "Leave room for serendipity," she says. "Let go of preconceived ideas of how your first trip 'should' be. A much better method, according to Nesbitt, is to "be present for every moment as it actually unfolds. There is no shame in taking a day off to regroup if you feel overwhelmed. Everything looks better when you’re rested and relaxed."

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9.Take some time to chill and reflect.

A woman in an orange hoodie sits on a bench in a public square.

When you're traveling alone, you're taking a lot in. So even when you're busy on an adventure, Kaitlyn McInnis says it's important to carve out some time to let your experiences sink in. "Take time to reflect on everything you've experienced each day — keep a journal, or FaceTime with friends at home," she says.

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10.Push yourself to make conversation with new people.

People clinking drinks at a bar.

Not everyone is extroverted by nature, but solo travel is even more rewarding when you allow yourself to interact with new people. Balsam urges solo travelers to be bold and strike up a conversations with people they encounter on their travels because it might yield some surprising new discoveries.

"I could go to a bar or a restaurant and turn to the table beside me and say, 'Hey, I'm traveling here. What do you like to do? What's your favorite place in the city? What would you recommend?'" These sort of interactions can make you more of a travel expert and lead to great new discoveries.

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11.Be smart but not paranoid about your safety.

A dark alley at night with only dim lighting.

Solo travelers may feel more insecure than those traveling in a group. And while it's important to be aware, alert, and paying attention to your safety and wellbeing, Hughes advises against going overboard.

For instance, she says, ask the staff at your hotel or hostel if there are any areas in town to avoid. "But other than that, it's just about using common sense like you would at home. Would you go down a dark alley at home on your own late at night? No, you wouldn't, so don't do that when you're away, either," she cautions."

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12.And finally, travel with confidence.

A woman buttering bread at a table.

"I think the key to making solo travel enjoyable is all about being confident," says McInnis. "It can feel a little weird grabbing a glass of wine alone or booking a table for one, but once you get over that feeling, traveling alone and spending time with yourself becomes a meditative experience." Don't worry about standing out as a solo traveler. Do what you want, try new experiences, and enjoy yourself. And all of your adventures will be all the more rewarding for it.

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Have you traveled alone? Tell us your best tips and bits of advice for others thinking of taking the plunge.