There’s something liberating about solo travel. There’s a sense of leaving behind all responsibility – if only for a few days. When you get right down to it, it’s the closest you can get to running away with the circus without – well, running away with the circus. You get away from work (unless you take some with you). You have a break from even the best relationships.
And once you’re at your destination, no one is making plans but you. Want to sleep till noon and stay out till 3? No one’s going to stop you. Want to get up early and be the first one through the gate at a popular attraction? No one will be there to groan when the alarm goes off at 5 am (or when you wake up at 4, too excited to sleep and worried that maybe you didn’t set the alarm).
The challenge to announce to friends and family
The challenge, though, is that people think it’s weird when you decide to opt for solo travel – especially the first time. Extroverts get questions like, “But won’t you feel like there’s no one to talk to?” Or concerned family members and friends go for a more well-meaning approach. They focus on things like, “Well, I know I could never stand to go to a restaurant or a movie or [insert destination] alone. I’d worry about what other people would think.”
In other words, if you’re not careful, others will make it hard to plan your trip. They’ll plant doubt based on their own experiences, fears, or uncertainties.
Of course, introverts don’t make out much better. Their friends have plenty of concerns too. “I’m sure you’re glad that you won’t have to talk to people for days, but are you sure it’s safe?” Sometimes, those friends and family members decide that it’s in your best interest if they come along too. Once again, it comes down to this: Other people get nervous for you. They let their concerns trump your desire for adventure (or relaxation, or just a change of pace). And if you let them, they’ll try to talk you out of doing the thing you want to do.
I enjoy solo travel. Sure, it can be lonely and weird at times. But thanks to those tiny computers we all keep in our pockets, we’re never too far away from family and friends. Reminders of our connections are just a few taps away. Likewise, if you’re looking for an out when friends and family get concerned? Again, a phone is a great tool. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to take the first steps and just book a solo trip.
Solo travel: Before you book, know yourself
It’s hard to stress this enough. But before you book solo travel, make sure you’re setting the stage for a great experience. For example, say you love the beach, but it bores your partner to tears. Let’s say, too, that your partner has always said they would love to do Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and you’ve never been so inclined. Booking a trip for yourself is about booking a trip that you’ll enjoy – because it’s just for you.
Don’t do it if you stress out about driving in strange places. Instead, book a trip that offers an airport to the hotel (and return trip) shuttle service. If you don’t want to upset your workout routine, make sure you book a trip to a hotel with fitness facilities – or pack what you need. If you can’t fathom eating in a restaurant yourself, choose a hotel with room service.
Solo travel: Consider what you like (and dislike) about travel generally
In other words, set yourself up for a successful trip. Just like knowing yourself and what matters to you is essential, knowing what recharges you will set you up for success. If you don’t like crowds, think about what you’ll need to do to manage them without the buffer of your family. Do you like being around adults and not worrying too much about watching your language? Don’t think that a kid-friendly resort will be fine because the price is great. In the end, it won’t be the right experience for you.
Solo travel: Keep your budget in mind
For many years, I didn’t travel much because there wasn’t the money for it. The first trip I took after the travel drought was with my partner. So was my second. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find an advantage to travelling alone even then. It’s that I knew there was a choice to make. And I knew that I didn’t want to be selfish.
In other words, if you only have cash for one trip together or one solo trip for the year, travel together. But if you can afford to travel on your own, don’t focus only on getting the lowest price possible. But don’t throw the budget out the window either. And even more than that, don’t choose your destination based on one cost alone. Flight trackers are great and can save you money. But what happens if you see a great deal on a flight to Vegas or Myrtle Beach and book it only to find there’s a convention in town and the hotels are all booked? What happens if you book a flight and hotel with great deals but then find that only luxury cars are available to rent? What happens if your only options for dinner are fast food or $100/plate restaurants?
Solo travel: There will always be a need for compromise
Yes, that’s right: You’ll need to compromise even when you’re on your own. So you didn’t think it would all be easy just because you were going by yourself?
You’ll spend some time thinking about where you want to go, how you travel, and what you can spend. The compromise comes in when you book the trip.
- Will you fly out after work on a Friday afternoon for a weekend getaway so that you can save the PTO for family travel later? Or will you take the day and have more time at your destination?
- Will you plan to take a cab or an Uber when you get there rather than renting a car?
- Will you stay in a luxury hotel with great reviews or a budget spot with a bed and a shower because you’re not planning to be in the room much anyway?
Understand your baseline needs and make sure they’re met. Of course, your budget matters, and comfort does, too – at least to a point. But when I’ve headed out on my own, the best trips have been when I’ve thought things through. Not so much that I’ve mapped out every detail, but enough that the pieces are in place.
Solo travel: Never compromise your safety
No one chooses to move to a bad neighbourhood because the rent’s lower as their first step for saving money. Sometimes they do it because they have to, but usually, they’ll skip dinners or movies out. This is important when it comes to solo travel. Male or female. It doesn’t matter. Your travel isn’t going to be rejuvenating if you’re not safe while doing it.
Read them. If you’re returning to places you’ve been before, think about how you felt while you were there. Think about things like “were the paths well lit at night?” Ask yourself how friendly the other people staying at a resort were. Did you feel your possessions were safe in the room or did you take your camera with you – even if you were just going to the end of the hall to get ice? The number one concern family and friends will have is for your safety. Naturally, this is a top priority for you.
Solo travel: Have a plan for staying in touch
Yes, you’re getting away. Yes, that means that you are taking a break from your routine. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits to a few check-in calls to let people know that you’re OK. Take a few minutes to let key people know that you landed without glitches or checked in at the hotel and everything is OK. A couple of quick texts give others peace of mind. It also sets the stage for letting them know they can contact you if necessary. By planning out how often you’ll be in touch, you get an added benefit: You’ll be able to not reply to every text (unless you want to). You won’t have random calls to ensure you’re OK and not lonely.
Nevertheless, people will worry. Having a plan to stay in touch while away makes it way easier to be on your own without feeling disconnected. And, if you’re leaving the country on your travels, this is critical. You want a huge data roaming bill because everyone wanted to make sure you weren’t lonely.
There isn’t much more to planning a solo trip. Know what you’re looking for. Let others know that you’re OK with travelling by yourself. Think about your budget and what you like. Look for a great deal – but keep in mind that sometimes the best price won’t be the best option. Safety matters.
The actual key when it comes to solo travel is simple. Take the time you need. Getaway and recharge. And don’t worry too much about the people who don’t get it. More than that, keep in mind that there are good and bad things when you travel on your own. Flight gets delayed? There’s no one you know right there to commiserate with. People aren’t used to seeing individuals in restaurants alone; be your own best company.
The simple reality is that solo travel not only gives you the chance to do what you want to do. It also gives you a chance to get grounded and learn a little more about yourself. So take a journal. Take a book you’ve been wanting to read for inspiration. Even if you’re nervous about travelling alone, you’ll find that there’s a lot of good to come from it. Go ahead. Get out there and see for yourself.