Are you considering a solo international trip? You’re not alone. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of single international travelers jumped from 15 to 24%, according to a 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study. What are some of the benefits to taking a trip unencumbered with a travel buddy or romantic partner?
Well, aside from your agenda being the only agenda in play, traveling alone can be an exhilarating way to get to know yourself, save money, meet people you’d otherwise not encounter and really experience a destination like a local. Here are a few tips to help make your solo international trip a treasured memory!
Bigger hotel chains are fine on occasion, but make smaller hotels your mainstay.
Safety concerns for single travelers can trick you into thinking that a large hotel is the best option but we urge you to open your mind to smaller family-run hotels, pensiones and even hostels. Big chain hotels tend to have more business travelers and families, who often keep more to themselves. Family-run establishments cater more to single travelers, often serving breakfast in communal areas, which can foster friendships and conversations for solo travelers. Lest you think hostels are for the youth market only, think again! Many hostels are located in interesting historic buildings and most offer extremely affordable single rooms if dorm dwelling is not your thing. The only real drawback to some hostels is that some enforce a strict curfew (since hostels are not hotels, they are not usually staffed 24 hours). If you’re out late and don’t make it back before curfew, you could find yourself without a bed for the night! As far as keeping your belongings safe? Even the smallest properties these days will have locking rooms or a place to keep your valuables while you’re out exploring during the day (usually a safe at reception).
On the other hand, sometimes you might want the relative comfort and seclusion that a larger hotel provides. Have you just arrived after traveling for 24 hours? Did you just come off a 6-day mountain trek? Are you in a city undergoing some unrest? In any of these situations, a larger hotel might be a welcome respite. And since you’re traveling alone, you’ve got the flexibility to stay wherever you like, even on a whim!
Leave your bling at home.
And your expensive camera equipment. And excess cash (unless you’re traveling somewhere like Cuba, where it’s a necessity). Basically, pack light across the board, especially if you’ve got a multiple destination trip ahead of you. You will pick up items along the way, and schlepping multiple bags across train stations, through airports and on cobblestones will quickly grow tiresome and downright exhausting. It can also make you a mark for local petty thieves. Someone alone dragging multiple bags probably has good loot to pilfer, and you’ll not be able to keep your eyes on all your stuff if you need a bathroom break or have to study timetables in transit stations. We recommend one small rolling bag or pack and a streamlined wardrobe.
Talk to strangers.
People are often nervous about traveling solo because of the fear of loneliness and isolation. You’ll find, however, once you take the plunge that the opposite to be much more prevalent. When you’re on your own, it’s a bit of a curiosity in most cultures around the world. People will reach out to you. They will start conversations. Take advantage of those situations to learn about a new culture, to develop friendships and to discover local favorites in dining and sightseeing. Americans tend to end conversations early, wanting to be respectful of other people’s time, but you’ll find in many situations that people are actually truly interested in getting to know you. Take your time.
Give yourself some downtime.
Look, one of the best parts about traveling alone is that your schedule is yours to determine and no one can question your plans! But many a novice solo traveler has fallen into the trap of overscheduling. When your time is yours and yours alone, it can be tempting to cram in too much. Remember that when you are traveling alone, you alone are responsible for logistics, from planning to execution. That can be tiring in and of itself. Make sure you schedule some café time so you can relax, read a good book, people watch and send a few postcards. Also, there’s a reason you’ chose to travel alone. Don’t shortchange your alone time. You need to recharge.
Flexibility may score you a great airfare.
Since you’re traveling alone, try not to get locked into your travel dates too early while being mindful of best times to buy depending on your destination. Airlines do offer sales and since you’re not dependent on someone else’s schedule, if you can keep your travel dates loose you might score a great deal closer to your general travel dates.
Follow your gut.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to collaborate and chat over every decision, traveling alone might be a real challenge for you. Many times you’re not going to have someone to spitball with on decisions. Solo travel is actually a fabulous time to get to know yourself and learn to make gut decisions fast. If a situation seems unsafe to you, it probably is. When your scheduled plans in Madrid start to sound a lot less interesting than the side trip to Seville a cute stranger mentioned last night, you can make that change to the schedule. It’s one of the ultimate perks of traveling alone. You can make decisions without consultation. The ultimate travel freedom!
A few other travel trends for 2016 you might want to read about include visits to our national parks, experiential travel, health & wellness holidays and quick trips rather than extended vacations. We’ll take a deeper dive into National Parks later in the month, Until then, happy travels!