Learn how to travel alone and you'll open the door to one of life's most enriching experiences.
The majority of our readers are either Millennials or 50+. In both cases, they are living through life stages that involve making choices. They tend to be more independent than those in their middle adult years and less central to meeting the needs of others. This puts them in a position to truly explore who they are and make decisions about who they want to be.
One of the best ways to explore all your potential strengths, weaknesses, and options in life is to travel alone.
While this site has over 1,000 articles on the details of how to travel solo, here, in one place is the ultimate guide for those who want to travel alone and love it.
Make Life Better: Travel Alone
When you travel alone, you travel on your terms. You get to do what you want when you want. You can connect with people if you wish or avoid them completely if you want. Those are the obvious benefits for going solo as a traveler.
But there are so many benefits of solo travel that affect your whole life. The experience encourages you to stretch and grow as a person. Here's how.
- You gain confidence. When was the last time you were responsible for everything for more than a few days? Take on full responsibility for a week or more in an unfamiliar destination and you cannot help but gain confidence.
- You learn problem-solving skills. At home, we deal with problems based on previous experience because we are in our own milieu. Travel solo to a foreign destination and you are challenged to problem solve in a new way. You have to start with what you absolutely know. This is called first principles analysis. Watch here for how Elon Musk describes this type of problem solving.
- You become a better global citizen. There is no better way to become a conscientious global citizen than to travel the world and see how life works elsewhere. You'll gain a new appreciation for different value systems, economic challenges, and political roadblocks. You'll bring home valuable language, ideas, and understandings that you can share.
- Your compassionate side grows. The mere fact that you can afford to travel means that you are privileged. Living in a privileged bubble automatically limits understanding of others outside the bubble and constricts compassion. As you travel, you'll understand other people's positions and perspectives better and gain compassion.
- You learn to take smart risks. Risk-taking can be good and it can be bad. Traveling solo, you will take the occasional risk but it will/should be calculated. As you do so, you develop your confidence to take the occasional risk and your ability to take one safely.
- You are seen differently by friends and colleagues. There's nothing like traveling solo to cause people to look at you as adventurous, capable, independent, knowledgeable, and so much more.
- You understand yourself better. Strengths, weaknesses, interests, passions: these all become clear as you travel alone.
- You become a more interesting prospective employee. There are so many ways that this works. Here are two. Combine your ability to travel independently with past employment experience as a team player and you become a person who can play on a team or be a leader. The problem solving that you need to do as a solo traveler can be very valuable to an employer.
- Your independent experience opens entrepreneurial opportunities. Side hustles, freelance work, and small businesses are all started by people who are confident in their ability to act independently.
- You'll learn to depend on yourself rather than others. Community is very important but, sometimes, our community, family, and friends fail us or they really need us to step up. They need us to be strong. It is critical in life that we can depend on ourselves for what we need.
- Your palate will expand. It is such joy to discover different foods as we travel. It makes us more experimental eaters when at home.
- You learn that being lost is just the beginning of something new. Getting a bit lost as you travel solo is not a serious problem. In fact, there are occasions when I do so intentionally (safely) and often discover surprising aspects of my destination. Getting lost can also be one of those confidence builders as you navigate your way back home.
- Minimalism will become more natural. Traveling solo, you have to carry everything. I only own a carry-on bag. Packing as little as possible and living with those limitations for a few weeks truly shows you the potential of minimalism.
- You become more flexible. Not everything on a trip will go according to plan. When this happens, you, alone, must come up with the flexible solution.
- You learn to stay calm in difficult situations. Losing your cool gains you nothing when trying to address a problem. When you travel with a friend, sometimes it's one or the other of you that will stay calm and deal with the difficult situation. Travel alone, and you're the one to stay calm every time.
- You discover how to make what you want happen. As you take control of your trip you are also taking control of life. You make things happen on the road and you can make things happen at home.
- You learn to trust your gut. This is one of the most basic lessons that comes from solo travel. Without anyone else involved in decision-making, with all safety up to you, you learn to trust your gut.
- You become more decisive. Whether it's problem solving or making things happen, when you're alone you have to come up with a decision. It's great practice for everyday life.
- You learn patience. You especially learn to be patient with yourself. When you land in a new place it can take time to figure it out and get comfortable. The more often this happens, the more you realize you have to be patient with yourself.
- You become a more interesting person. All of this adds up to you becoming a more interesting person. How can you not be after all the experience you have as a solo traveler?
Resources for Planning Your Solo Trip
There are many things you can do before leaving to travel alone that will make your trip one that you love.
- Save up. Isn't it great to return from a trip and know that it's fully paid for rather than having to catch up financially after the fact? Save up for your trip before you go. Enjoy the delayed gratification. Then, you'll be ready to start saving for the next trip as soon as you return. Read How to Save Money for Travel.
- Know your budget. There are a few steps involved in planning your travel budget. Read: How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – on Any Budget.
- Decide on your destination. Maybe you have a dream destination or maybe you just need to get away and the destination doesn't matter that much. Here are some sources for your destination planning.
- Read Best Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers, updated annually, and Best Solo Travel Destinations: All Solo Traveler-Tested. If travel is the goal and the destination is secondary, check out these options.
- Take a tour. The Solo Travel Deals page has tours specifically for solo travelers. Read How to Choose a Tour. You might be surprised at the wide array of different tour options available today. Here's a breakdown: A Solo Holiday: When You Just Need a Break.
- Buy travel insurance. Think you don’t need it? Think again. If you don't buy travel insurance, you're responsible for anything that goes wrong, and all costs associated with it. If you have insurance, you can claim many expenses back. Read Going Alone? Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers. Here are a few claims I've made.
- I've had a pair of glasses replaced that were lost in the UK – $300.
- I had a crown fixed that had come off a tooth in Sydney – $272.
- I was refunded for a flight to Peru that I couldn’t take due to my mother’s ill health – $1,100.
- Book solo-friendly accommodation. Book a homestay, hotel, hostel, B&B, or small inn that is particularly good for solo travelers. Here's an overview of the Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
- Pack light. This is one of our most popular posts and one I go to when preparing for every trip: Bare Minimum Packing. If you're going someplace where you'll want to be a bit more fashionable, read: How to Plan Your Travel Wardrobe for Comfort and Style. Traveling in winter? Read Winter Solo Travel: Destinations, Planning, and Packing.
- If packing light is not an option, plan smart. Read Checked Baggage: Top Planning and Packing Tips.
- Protect your identity on the road. If you're going to be using public Wi-Fi on your travels or if you expect you'll need to do some online banking or use your credit card to book accommodation or make a purchase, it's advisable to use a VPN. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide.
- Plan a road trip well. Road trips are amongst my favorite solo trips. The freedom of turning this way or that, stopping at will, listening to local radio to get an understanding of the area, the scenery: the benefits are many and varied. Read A Road Trip Alone: Top 10 Tips to Prepare and How to Plan a Road Trip: Route Planning, Scheduling & Budgeting.
- Plan to protect you and your money. Travel is not quite what it was prior to the pandemic. Read Travel Planning 2021: Essential Information to Protect You & Your Money.
Travel Alone Tips: How to Love the Solo Travel Experience
For some people, enjoying the solo experience comes naturally. Others have to work at how to travel alone so that they fall in love with it.
- Visualize the trip you want. In our first section I wrote about doing what you want when you want. Start thinking about the opportunities that are present when you travel alone long before you leave. Is it down time you really want? Build that into the plan. Are you after a creative travel experience? Research the opportunities before you go and then dream on them until you get there.
- Learn to chat with strangers. Starting conversations with strangers can be a challenge, especially when you're an introvert like I am. However, these conversations can be trip-changing, if not life-changing. There are many skills that can be developed for this and, what I have certainly found, is that you are never to old to learn them.
- Tap the experience of the people you meet. As a solo traveler, you'll meet more travelers and locals than those who travel with a partner. Ask a traveler about the best thing they've done so far or a local for the best hidden gem restaurant in the area. The people you meet and the advice they offer will greatly enrich your trip.
- Don't over-plan. It is only by having extra time in your itinerary that you can spend a little more of it at the market, linger over a coffee on an outdoor café, or take that trip into the mountains you hadn't considered.
- Be flexible. When suggestions or opportunities arise from these chance encounters, be flexible enough to act on them. There are times when flexibility must reign and the schedule should be thrown away.
- Be patient. It can be difficult arriving in a new city alone. Take your time. Take a day to relax, watch the city function, and settle in. Read Tips for Solo Travel Confidence.
- Explore the city at different levels. In London, it's natural to take the Tube. However, riding on the top of a double-decker bus gives you another perspective on the city. But you still wouldn't want to miss the Tube as it's an experience unto itself. My point is, explore the city in as many ways as possible: on foot, by bicycle, via public transit. Take a taxi and talk to the driver. Rent a car and learn what it's like to park or drive on the opposite side of the road. Every mode of movement offers new perspectives.
- Take in local events. Whether it's a street festival or sporting event, these are opportunities to rub shoulders with locals, offering insight into the culture and, potentially, fun conversations.
- Be proactive if you’re unsure of yourself. Ask for help. Standing around looking dazed will not get you where you want to go and it may get you noticed by the wrong people. Go ahead, smile, and ask for help. It's one of the fundamentals of staying safe as you travel solo.
- Eat locally! There is nothing like exploring the local cuisine. It gives you a new way into your destination's culture, history, and geography. There is always a reason for a specific cuisine that can be explored through your taste buds and your mind. Here are Top Tips for Food and Wine Travel Planning.
- Shop where the locals shop. Are you into home renovations? Then a hardware store in another country could be quite interesting. Are you a foodie? Go to the grocery store or the street where all the specialty vendors are located. Are you into fashion or interior decorating? Again, explore (you don't have to buy) where the locals shop.
- Know which way is up. Study a map of your destination. Get to know it. Get a sense of direction using major landmarks like Central Park in New York City or the CN Tower in Toronto. This will help you explore cities happily, with greater confidence. Read How to Navigate a New City Solo.
- Find people who share your passion. Whether it's chess or poetry or badminton or books, there will be hubs or groups that share your passion at your destination. Google search or find them on meetup.com. What a great way to combine your love of travel with your love of other things.
- Take day tours and classes. When you punctuate your independent trip with city tours, cooking classes and the like, you build in ways to better experience your destination and spend some social time.
- Plan for great evenings out. Just because you're traveling solo doesn't mean you have to stay in at night with a book. There are many options for things to do in the evening. If you're in a country where you don't speak the language, music is a good bet. Read Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 17 Tips and What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone.
How to Meet People when You Travel Alone
As you travel solo you can have as much alone time as you want. But what many people don't realize is that you can have a lot of really social time as well.
The travel stories I tell most often are about the people I meet on my trips. It's rarely the iconic building I saw or the museum exhibit I took in that lingers strongly in my memories. It's the people who I met that stay with me the longest. I can go back to the 80s and tell you about people I have met traveling solo.
There was Cathy from Australia who I went to Budapest with while it was still part of the Soviet Union. I met her at a hostel. There is Ron, an incredibly positive person despite many challenges, who I met on an evening stroll of the harbour in Key West. I could go on. And I do, here.
So, how do you connect with people on your trip? Here are a few tips.
- Smile. It means the same things in every language. It means you are happy, friendly, approachable, kind. A smile opens many conversations.
- Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to communicate in the local language is always appreciated and often returned with an effort to communicate in your language. Given that English is often the second language that people learn, you will find many locals wanting to chat with you.
- Go to a local, independent coffee shop. Look for coffee shops with large communal tables or coffee bars along the window and sit near someone. I've often had great conversations with locals by positioning myself in this way.
- Stay at places that encourage talking. I think that hostels and B&Bs are the ideal accommodation for those who travel alone. With fewer guests and the proprietor often onsite, common rooms and communal dining rooms, they make for more opportunities to connect with others.
- Read a book that makes you laugh out loud. Take a book that makes you laugh out loud and hold it so that people can see that you are reading in English. This often attracts people for a brief chat. In Havana I was reading Happiness by Will Ferguson and it got me into a few conversations.
- Establish a routine. Visit the same café, fruit stall, or restaurant every day. You’ll get to know the people and they'll start to watching out for you. New friends are made this way.
- Take day tours. In Paris I met a woman on a free walking tour. It started to rain so we cut out and went for lunch together. Yes, meet people on tours and you might end up with a friend to enjoy a meal with or another day of exploring. Check out Global Greeters Network.
- Be curious. Ask questions and conversations begin.
- Go far off the beaten path. Travelers who find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Meet someone on a hike or in a specific museum and you already know that you have an interest in common.
Eat Alone and Enjoy It
While many people don't understand why, the fact remains, dinner can be one of the more difficult times for the solo traveler. Here's how to enjoy eating alone.
- Become a regular. Dine in the same place regularly and you'll become friendly with the staff. I'm not suggesting that you only go to one restaurant. After all, experiencing a culture's food requires variety. But, if you can, take one meal a day in the same spot and you'll find more than friends, you'll find a comfort zone.
- Take your restaurant meal at noon. Restaurants run by celebrity chefs are great attractions for some solo travelers. If you want to dine at a fine restaurant, consider doing so at noon. It's the same chef and quality of food but it's usually easier to get a reservation, the prices are typically lower, the lights are higher, and the crowd less romantic.
- Eat at the bar or a communal table. Sitting at a table alone leaves no opportunity for a solo traveler to be social. It can also feel like you have a spotlight on you. I ate at one restaurant that had a line of two-person tables down the middle. They were all empty except the one I was seated at. I really felt like I stuck out with all the couples and foursomes at tables around the perimeter. I have learned to speak up in such situations. More importantly, I've learned to scout restaurants that have a great bar or communal tables so that I can chat with others.
- Be obvious. Place your camera, travel guide, or map on the table, making it obvious that you're a tourist. Some people are concerned about looking like a tourist and therefore looking like a mark. In a restaurant there is a certain amount of safety. Yes, you should still be discerning in who you talk with but in most cases the person will be not only safe but also interesting.
- Take a book. This is a classic. A book will not only occupy you but also signal to other solos that you are there alone. You just might get a companion for the meal.
- For many more ideas read Eating Alone Is Easy When You Know How.
Getting Around a New City Solo
How you move in a city affects your enjoyment of it. Here are a few ideas for when you travel alone some place new.
- Get oriented. A Hop On, Hop Off tour is great if you’re short on time or want to get an overview of the city before you dig into its specifics.
- Walk! There is no better way to get to know a city and understand its culture than walking. It slows you down so that you can see the nuances of the society and understand how the city is designed.
- Take local transit. If you are going to a non-English-speaking country, research how the system works before you get there or ask at your hotel before you head out. Also, look for passes and special deals for tourists.
- Check for detailed information we have on getting around popular cities. These posts also give great budget information: London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney.
- Travel between destinations. Whether you choose the train, bus, or plane, live within the limits of a carry-on bag or backpack. You'll be happy you did as you manage to move around from destination to destination with greater ease.
- Tips for plane travel. Read How to Get Through an Airport Alone and Make Flying Easy: 32 Tips. Here are a few basics.
- Confirm that your flight is on schedule before leaving for the airport.
- Board as soon as you can so you have no trouble putting your carry-on luggage in an overhead compartment.
- At check-in, ask if the flight is ‘full’ or ‘light.’ If it’s light, you may be able to jockey for a better seat.
- If you have a connecting flight, get all the information you need before boarding your first flight to make the connection easily.
- Bring light snacks with you. If there’s turbulence there won’t be service during the flight. Ginger snaps are a good snack and they settle the stomach. Read: 6 Ways to Save at the Airport.
- Tips for a road trip. Read A Solo Road Trip: You Can Do It and It Will Be Fabulous!
What If You Don't Love Solo Travel?
Let's face it, not everyone likes the same thing. Some people will travel alone and, for one reason or another, not enjoy it.
The first thing I suggest is that you be patient. You're not going to find your solo travel groove on the first day of your first trip. You need to give yourself some time to settle into your destination and apply some of the many travel alone tips above.
If, then, you're still not loving it, read What If You Travel and You Don’t Love It? and the advice of other solo travelers in When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed: 43 Tips for Traveling Alone.