I have known Janice, the Solo Traveler, since I first started my blog. I finally got to meet her briefly at a conference and then recently spent a weekend with her and other travel bloggers at the Tres Rios Resort in Mexico. Since the first article of hers I read, I have been constantly impressed with her ability to make an intimidating subject, solo travel, accessible for people of all ages and at all stations in life. The fact that she is a charming and funny person makes it even more enjoyable to feature this guest post she was gracious enough to write.
How to Travel Solo
It’s only when a person plans their first solo adventure that they realize how different it might be from traveling with a friend or partner. There’s more to think about. You are totally responsible for all the details. Safety is a somewhat greater concern. And then, if you want to take a tour, you discover that they actually penalize you for traveling solo.
All these points make solo travel sound terrible. But the truth is quite the opposite. Before I give you a few tips on how to travel solo, I must pause and tell you how great it is.
The Benefits of Solo Travel
While there are challenges to solo travel, it also offers many, many benefits.
- You never need to compromise as a solo traveler. There’s no one to drag you places you’re not interested in and no one to hold you back from places you want to go. It’s all about you.
- Locals are more inclined to chat with a solo traveler than a couple because they don’t feel that they’re interfering. What a great opportunity.
- You’re also a bit of a curiosity as a solo traveler. This attracts the attention of locals who tend to go out of their way to ensure that you have a good time.
- You can stop and read, write, listen to music, dream… whatever you want, whenever you want.
- You will learn more about yourself as a solo traveler. It’s interesting to discover who you are when those who define you every day are not around.
- You can focus more on the destination, culture, history… than you can with a companion.
From all this, you discover yourself as you discover the world.
Sold on Solo? Safety First
Safety is your number one priority as a solo traveler. Your person is of prime importance. After that worry about your money and documents. Your possessions come last.
- #1 safety rule: public is always safer than private. Don’t go with people you don’t know.
- #2 safety rule: trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, get out of it.
- Also, be organized. There’s no one following you to pick up a passport or boarding pass that you’ve left behind. A place for everything and everything in its place makes life as a solo traveler much easier.
- Keep important information to yourself. Where you are staying is no one’s business but your own.
- Be aware of your TQ – your travel quotient. Are you a seasoned traveler? Then head off on your own. Is this new to you? Go on a tour or build in a few excursions to help you along.
Tours & Excursions– beating the single supplement
Yes, tour companies prefer couples over singles. It’s part of their business model. So solo travelers must be creative to beat the single supplement. It’s not easy and not always possible but here are some tips to make it happen.
- If you have time, set up a Google Alert for “single supplement waived” and the destination of your choice. If one is mentioned on the web, you’ll receive an email on it. You success rate will depend on where and when you want to go.
- Booking at the last minute can be advantageous. If a tour/cruise/resort is not sold out, they may be willing to negotiate the single supplement. It never hurts to ask.
- Some tour companies offer the service of pairing you up with another single of the same sex so that you can avoid the single supplement. You can ask your agent if this is a possibility.
- You can look for your own travel partner through friends, Facebook, etc. Remember, you don’t have to be best friends on the trip. You just need to share a room. But still, be picky. You don’t want to compromise and ruin your trip.
- Sometimes last minute deals are so great that you don’t mind the supplement. It may be insulting but if it’s still a good deal, go for it.
- Find out what time of year is a great time to visit your destination but not high season. This is called the shoulder season. At this time you have a better chance that the package will not be sold out and the operator will be willing to negotiate on the supplement
- Keep on an Eye on Solo Traveler’s Solo Travel Deals page: I try to keep this page current with solo travel deals I find online. I hope it is of help.
Have a Great Time
- Be open to the possibilities. Ask questions. Be curious. Chat with people.
- Visit the same coffee shop, restaurant, grocery store regularly. You’ll get to know them and they’ll adopt you.
- Choose restaurants with a bar and eat at it. Make friends with people just by asking them to pass the salt.
- Ask locals what you should do in their city to discover the hidden gems.
- Be prepared to drop your list of things to do for the great opportunities that present themselves along the way.
- Take time for yourself. Observe how you are when no one’s looking.