Let's be honest: not everyone is going to love solo travel. Some people are going to hate traveling alone–at least in the beginning.
There are lots of reasons for this but they don't all have to do with the solo part of travel. Not every destination is going to meet our expectations. Not every hotel or resort will be as good as it looks online. And sometimes, things just don't go according to plan.
What then? What do you do if you're not enjoying your trip? Here are some factors to consider, some common situations that are easily remedied, and some tips to help you salvage your trip.
Do You Really Hate Traveling Alone or Could It Be Something Else?
It's possible solo travel is not for you but it's also possible that there are other issues at play. Check in with yourself. What is really going on?
- Are you under the weather? Travel can take a toll on the body. From the dehydration that can come from air travel to jet lag (more on that below) to eating unfamiliar foods and from lack of sleep to drastic weather changes to hunger, there are all sorts of things that could be unsettling your system while also affecting your mood. Take care of yourself so you can focus on enjoying your journey.
- Not sure where to start? When arriving in a new destination it can be hard to choose from all the options for things to see and do. You want to see it all, but where to begin? Try a hop on-hop off bus tour. They are great for allowing you to get the lay of the land in a new city. They also require very little of you: just sit back; listen to the commentary, whether live or recorded; watch the city unfold in front of you; and make mental notes of places you will return to later to explore in depth.
- Could you be experiencing jet lag? Crossing time zones can wreak havoc on your system, and the more time zones crossed, the worse the potential impact. It's not just disrupted sleep patterns you may have to contend with but also trouble concentrating or staying alert, upset stomach, headache, fatigue, and just a general feeling of not being well. Go easy on yourself, check out our tips for dealing with jet lag, and things may look much brighter once you've adjusted to your new time zone.
- Are you worried that things are not going according to plan? I'm going to let you in on a secret; they often don't. And that's okay! Flexibility is key. If you have laid out a structured itinerary for your trip, try making space for spontaneity. Let go of some of your expectations and go with the flow, see what the day brings.
- Is it loneliness? It happens! Of course it does. Whether it's your first solo trip or your twenty-first, loneliness can creep up out of the blue. Maybe you need a moment to connect with someone at home, to make you feel less alone. Text a friend or set up a Zoom call with a family member–an encouraging one. Or put yourself in a position to meet new people. Taking a walking tour or a cooking class will introduce you to other travelers (maybe ones who are feeling as you are), new ideas, and people to share a meal or a coffee with. It might be just what you need! You may discover that you don't hate traveling alone at all. You'll find lots more tips in this article: How to Travel Alone Without Being Lonely: 10 Tips and 6 Short Stories.
- Overwhelmed? Not sure where to start? Although this can feel isolating in the moment, rest assured that this is very common, even for experienced solo travelers who love traveling alone. Ironically, I sometimes have trouble getting myself out of bed on the first day of a trip I have looked forward to for a long time. You want to make the most of it, experience every wonderful thing about a destination–it's almost like you're afraid you won't do it perfectly. I have found that the best solution to this is to throw yourself into something structured that gives you a time and place to be, where someone else will direct things and you can go with the flow. In my case, it is often a food walking tour. It gets me out onto the streets, I start to get a feel for the layout of the city, I meet other travelers, and I learn a lot about the culture through the history and anecdotes provided by the guide. By talking to the other travelers, you get ideas for things to see and do; you can pick the brain of the leader to get local recommendations; and your meals for the day are sorted, because after a food tour, I've never been able to eat for the rest of the day. Choose something you're passionate about and I guarantee it will shake you out of that initial frozen state and set you on a course to enjoy the rest of your trip.
If You Don't Like the Destination
Maybe the issue is less that you hate traveling alone and more the destination. No one is going to love every place they go. Here are some things you can do if you're just not feeling it.
- Be patient. Sometimes it just takes a little time to find your way into a destination. There's no obligation to hit the ground running as soon as you land. There is much to be said for sitting back and observing a new place for a while before plunging in.
- Conversely, act quickly. Now this may sound quite contrary to my first piece of advice but under certain circumstances it makes perfect sense. If you are a seasoned traveler and have a multicity itinerary, just move on. There's lots to see within any country as well as on every continent. If you you find yourself in a place that, for whatever reason, is not to your liking and you have the means (a car or rail pass) move on. Don't waste precious travel time in a place you don't like.
- Do some quick research. This is where those 10-Best lists can really come in handy. The Internet is full of posts offering the 10 best of this and the 10 best of that. Google the top things to do in your destination and you'll likely find something that catches your interest. Scroll to the top of this page and do a search on your destination to see if we or one of our readers has been there and made suggestions. Grab a local newspaper or entertainment publication and look for local events. I once saw a play at a community center in Belfast that rocketed me into what was happening around me and gave me a peak into local life. While big productions can also be wonderful, this really made an emotional connection to the destination for me.
- Get off the resort. If you're on a resort holiday for a little R & R, maybe you have found that the resort is not what was promised. Humidity in resort islands demands a lot of upkeep in resorts. If yours hasn’t been maintained as well as it should be, it can be a little depressing. Being surrounded by couples and families might make you feel like you hate traveling alone, but don't fret! Get off the resort and explore. People warned me that I would hate spending a week at a resort in Cancun, but I didn't have a chance to because I balanced relaxation with exploration. Here are some tips you may find useful, along with a list of resorts with minimal or no single supplements: Going to a Resort Alone: How to Enjoy an All-Inclusive Solo.
- Find what the locals love. Ask everyone you meet what they love about their home town, and what they love to do there. I once asked this question of a server at a cafe in Dublin and he took a break to sit down with me for ten minutes and recommend his favorite things to do in the city. He even circled them on a map for me! That's how I came to discover that the Museum of Literature Ireland is much more than just the exhibits. You can read more about that here: Solo in Dublin: A Fantastic Destination to Explore.
- Speak up. If there's a problem that can be addressed right away, speak up and ask for it to be fixed. Ask for a room away from that noisy party or reschedule your excursion for when you've recovered from jet lag. If a fix isn't possible but compensation is, do the leg work you need for that.
What If You Don't Like Solo Travel?
- Be patient. Again, patience helps. If this is your first time traveling solo you have to get used to being by yourself, to taking care of everything by yourself, eating alone, and more. It takes a little time to get used to that. You need enough time to get there, be excited, wonder what you were thinking going solo, and then come out on the other side – as you almost certainly will. With a bit of patience you will be able to relax into the solo experience. Read First Time Solo Travel: Tips for Newbies.
- Join a tour. It could be for a couple of hours or a few days–whatever suits you. You could take a different day tour every day, according to your interests. If you feel that you hate traveling alone but you're not ready to abandon it altogether, try going solo on a group tour for your next trip. We have so many options right here on our site, and the list is updated every month. And the best thing about this list? Each of the trips has from zero to a maximum 20% single supplement, a far cry from the typical double charge. Browse the full list on our deals page, search according to your specific criteria here, or sign up for our mailing list and we'll send it directly to your inbox as soon as it's updated each month.
- Ask for help. Reach out through your network and on social media for support. Connect with our Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Here's a post that was inspired by a reader who did just that: Feeling Overwhelmed? How to Conquer First-Day Solo Travel Anxiety.
- Know that you're not alone. Solo travel is many wonderful things. But it can also be challenging and difficult at times. Many people find solo travel a bit stressful but our community has shared their solutions. Here are some expert tips: Stress-Free Solo Travel: Advice from Experienced Travelers.