Traveling solo can be a bit intimidating. Aside from the stigma attached to going on a vacation all by your lonesome, being in a strange land with no support system can be a wee bit anxiety-inducing. On the flip side, however, traveling solo can be incredibly liberating. When you’re traveling alone, there is no waiting for a lagging spouse, partner, child, parent or friend… there is no compromising where to go or what to see. Vacationland is yours for the taking to explore and experience and make your own. Actually, traveling solo is pretty darn awesome! It’s something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Here are some handy tips for independent travelers to ensure that everything goes right on the road and nothing goes wrong!
- Bring Cash. This is especially important if you’re going somewhere that has foreign currency. Modern society is so reliant on credit cards and things like Apple Pay but the reality is, not every place is guaranteed to take electronic payment. Also, technology is fragile. Ever watch Mr. Robot? Whose to say that some brilliant hacker can’t destroy the world financial system rendering our credit and debit cards useless? Most banks will order foreign currency in advance so come prepared! You can always pick up some cash at the airport.
- Bring a Backup Phone Charger. We as a society have become so reliant on our smart phones but depending on the amount of usage and apps, an average phone charged doesn’t last all that long, especially when you’re Google Mapping, taking pics and sharing on social media. Bring a pocket charger and a usb cable with you at all times to make sure you’re never stuck in a strange land with no juice.
- The Concierge is Your Friend. The hotel concierge is there to advise you and help you get around. Don’t be afraid to tell the concierge what you enjoy doing and see if he has any tips on things you might appreciate. The concierge usually has a plethora of materials from city maps to brochures. Use this major resource to help you acclimate to your vacation environment.
- Bring a sling bag or a backpack. While a Pilates instructor would not concur the benefits of a backpack or a shoulder bag, it is a necessity when exploring a new city solo. After all, it’s not like you can give your bag to a travel companion to hold while you take a picture or drink from a water bottle. Shoulder bags and backpacks offer solo travelers the freedom to explore with free hands.
- Dress comfortably and conveniently. Pockets are your friend. If the climate is warm, wear shorts that have side pockets. These are perfect for storing room keys and phones. If it’s cool, get a jacket with pockets-galore (those inside pockets and Napoleon pockets are especially handy!). Comfortable shoes are essential. Sneakers made for walking are a necessity and find a pair of nylon socks that wick away moisture to avoid blisters. Stay away from cotton!
- Bring a paper map. This comes back to the don’t be too reliant on technology argument. iPhones are awesome but if you can’t get a signal, Google Maps is pretty useless. Nothing beats a good old fashion map of the city you are exploring. Transit maps are also a necessity! Being trapped underground clueless as to how to get to your destination can quickly deflate any sense of fun. Make sure this doesn’t happen. Any transit station or guidebook will have a map or you can visit your friendly concierge!
- Have a plan but don’t be married to it. Someone once said that the magic happens outside of your comfort zone and there really is no better time to be outside of your comfort zone than when in a foreign land. If something crosses your path that seems interesting, run with it…. you may have a worthy experience or engagement that gives you a lovely taste of the destination’s culture. On the same note, always be on guard (see #9)
- Get a commuter card. Most metropolitan cities will have a transit card with unlimited use of the railways and bus routes for a designated period. This is not only the most cost-effective way of getting around a large city but it gives you the freedom and flexibility to truly explore the region like a local.
- Try not to walk around with “tourist” stamped on your forehead. While it’s great to engage with the locals, it is always smart to be cautious wherever you are, whether it’s in your own backyard or in a foreign land. Keep your cash tucked away, try to fit in and pretend you know where you’re going even if you don’t. And in the event, you really are lost and need direction, go into a cafe or shop and ask one of the employees.
- Leave the passport in your hotel safe. Your passport is your ticket home. Without it, you could be stuck in a strange land reliant on the embassy to replace your passport. Scan a picture of your passport and keep that on you at all times and leave your passport locked away securely in the hotel safe.
Nothing beats the freedom of traveling solo but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’d prefer to travel with others, consider a guided group tour. These all-inclusive options usually have pretty robust itineraries and a tour guide to keep you in check. Whatever your preference, don’t let traveling solo prevent you from satiating your wanderlust. Get out there and experience more!