What is solo travel? After 15 years of traveling solo, I've concluded that it is two things. Solo travel can be done independently or on a group tour. Essentially, solo travel is when you leave behind everyone you know and embark on a trip. Independent solo travel is when you plan and navigate the travel yourself. Group solo travel is when you join a tour or cruise alone. Both provide the unique experience of exploring the world without family and friends who have expectations of you. It's about discovering who you are when no one (that you know) is looking.
Traveling alone delivers access to the world in ways that other forms of travel don't. It is an essential mode of travel, at least some of the time.
However, not everyone takes to it naturally. Some worry about traveling solo. There are concerns around loneliness, safety, and more.
While we have hundreds of articles on the site that get into the details of how to travel solo, here, in one place, is the ultimate guide for those who want to travel alone. The tips in this post will help you have the best experience possible. They will help you travel alone and love it.
If you are traveling independently, read on.
If you plan to go on an organized tour, don't miss our page of tours with no or low single supplement. It's updated at least once a month and if you'd like to receive it via email you can sign up here.
Why You Will Love Solo Travel
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. Those are the obvious benefits for going solo as a traveler.
But there are many benefits of solo travel that affect your whole life. The experience encourages you to stretch and grow as a person. You gain confidence and get better at problem solving. You understand yourself better, become more independent, and become a more interesting person.
For more, read Why Travel Solo? 15 Reasons Going Alone Makes Travel Better. Now, let's get on to the ultimate solo travel guide.
Your Guide for Planning to Travel Alone
Planning a solo trip takes a bit of time and thought. To cover everything, this would be an extremely long article. Instead, I'm pointing you to some of the basic planning posts on Solo Traveler. There over 600 posts on Solo Traveler. This just takes you to the ones that cover the fundamentals.
- Solo Travel Planning Guide with Trends, a Checklist, and Insider Tips
- Solo Travel Safety: 50+ Proven Tips to Keep You Safe
- Carry-On Packing List That Makes Sense: Traveler Tested
- Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers
- A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers
- Eating Alone Is Easy When You Know How
Ultimate Tips to Travel Alone and Love It!
Let's get into the experience of traveling alone.
For some people, enjoying a solo trip comes naturally. Others have to work at how to travel alone. Most who do, fall in love with it. Here are a few things you can do to ensure a great solo adventure.
1. Visualize the trip you want. It's all about you.
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.
2. Gather firsthand knowledge before you go. Personal stories tell you more.
Talk to people who have already traveled to your destination. Doing this was so incredibly helpful when planning my trip to Patagonia. At the time, no amount of research helped me plan the logistics. Talking to people who had made a similar trip gave me insight into the travel options and tips on how to avoid the mistakes they had made. Use your social network to find people. Join online meetup groups based in your destination. Find expat groups at your destination. By talking to people you will learn more about things to do as well as things that are not really for you.
3. 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 one is never too old to learn them. In fact, it was only when traveling alone after my husband passed away that I learned how much I had grown and taken on the techniques of an extrovert. I learned that I could talk to strangers easily.
4. Tap the experience of the people you meet. Get current information.
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.
5. Be flexible with your plans. Opportunities arise!
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. I do this most often on road or rail trips.
6. Don't over-plan. You will absolutely need relaxing time.
Managing your travels yourself takes more energy than if you are with someone else. It is important to have extra time in your itinerary to wander a market leisurely, linger over a coffee at an outdoor café, or take that trip into the mountains you hadn't considered.
7. Be patient. Take time to settle in and learn how the city works.
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 Solo Travel Confidence: How to Be Strong, Capable, and Safe.
8. Explore your destination at different levels. Gain different perspectives.
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.
9. Take in local events. Get to know the daily life of a culture.
Whether it's a street festival or a sporting event, these are opportunities to rub shoulders with locals, offering insight into the culture and, potentially, fun conversations. Events made for tourism will not be as successful for this as events created by and for locals.
10. 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.
11. Eat locally! Discover the culture through food.
There is nothing like exploring the local cuisine. It gives you a new path into your destination's culture, history, and geography. There is always a reason, historical or geographic, for a specific cuisine that can be explored through your tastebuds and your mind.
12. 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.
13. Know which way is up. An old-school map is your friend.
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.
13. 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. Many destinations have an English bookstore which is typically a great resource for events you will want to attend. Google search or find them on meetup.com. What a great way to combine your love of travel with your love of other things.
14. Take day tours and classes.
There are many benefits to punctuating your independent trip with local tours such as cooking classes. You have new ways to better experience your destination, enjoy some social time (after all, solo travelers are not necessarily loners), and you get to take a break and let the tour company run the logistics and planning of the experience.
15. Have 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 What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone and How to Enjoy Going to a Bar Alone When You Travel.
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 Feeling Overwhelmed? How to Conquer First-Day Solo Travel Anxiety.
Round Out Your Guide to Solo Travel with These Resources
Here are a few posts to explore to help you plan your best solo trip.
- How to Save Money for Travel
- How to Plan Your Travel Budget: Luxury or Frugal
- Best Solo Travel Destinations: Real Solo Travelers Love These
- A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers
- Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers
- Feeling the Pinch? Solo Travelers Save Money at The Airport
- How to Get Through an Airport by Yourself with Ease
- Carry On Packing List That Makes Sense: Traveler Tested
- Checked Baggage: Top Planning and Packing Tips.
- Best VPN for Travel: What, Why, How & New Recommendations
- Road Trip Alone with Confidence: 10 Tips for a Great Trip