Solo travel has increased exponentially in the past couple of years - around 18% of all bookings worldwide are made by solo travelers. A third of Generation Z says they prefer to travel alone and 26% of millennial women have already taken at least one solo trip. If you are among the 25% of travelers thinking about taking a solo trip, here are some specific steps you can take to make that dream vacation as exciting and enjoyable as it can be!
While this guide is written for all women, Black, Indigenous, women of color, women with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community face additional challenges when traveling solo. In addition to this guide, check out these resources for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and travelers with physical disabilities.
If you stay in a hotel, consider leaving the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door at all times. Yes, even when you are not in the room. It is always much easier to ask for extra towels than report your valuable items, such as a laptop, tablet, or e-reader, stolen. Make sure you have backup copies of your passport and other important documents with you, saved to cloud storage, and with a trusted contact at home.
Always know where you are headed and walk with confidence. Even if you are not 100% sure, fake it till you make it, so you don’t catch the eye of a pickpocketer.
If you get lost, and you probably will at some point, try not to give it away. This is where having an active data plan comes in handy. Stop by the nearest coffee shop and take a break; open Google Maps and carefully study the map.
If for some reason Google Maps isn't working, ask around, but make sure that whoever is helping you knows you are meeting 'friends' at your final location. Never accept a car ride from a person you just met, no matter how nice and helpful they might seem.
It can be tempting to join a group, especially if it’s your first time traveling alone. Make sure you exercise caution while meeting new people. When alone, you can let your guard down and start trusting people too soon. People who befriend travelers and rob them after a couple of days prey on inexperienced solo travelers eager to meet someone.
Never tell people exactly where you are staying. Most people are just curious, but because your answers might be overheard by a wrong person, it’s best to keep it vague.
Most importantly, check-in with yourself a couple of times a day. While it might be tempting to pack a day full of adventures, it is best to organize your day around two activities or four attractions. Remember, you need to have the energy to act if you feel uncomfortable or threatened.
When traveling solo, you need your brain fully functional to stay alert. Alcohol dulls senses and slows down reaction time, which makes you vulnerable. This doesn’t mean you should avoid alcohol completely, but make sure you pace yourself. Drink slowly, have a glass of water in between, and eat beforehand or during.
Most importantly, always keep the drink in your sight and take drinks directly from the bartender. Depending on the circumstances, I sometimes drink only beer that has been opened in front of me. If you don't like beer, make friends with bartenders and staff. No one will go after a person everyone is talking to, rather they will opt for the quiet one nobody noticed.
Have at least one designated person (friends or family) who has a copy of your documents (passport, visa, travel insurance, credit cards, etc.) and rough itinerary (flight numbers, accommodation, and general schedule). Plan how and how often you will check-in and make sure you keep a consistent schedule. Keep in mind that traffickers will let you contact your family or friends, making them think everything is okay, so it's beneficial to agree on a code sentence that would signal your family or friends you are in trouble.
Traveling solo is one of the most liberating experiences. Even if you don't find it prophetic, it can be a great way to feed your intuition and instincts. With careful planning and common sense, there is no reason you can't have fun.
If there is one last piece of advice I can leave you with, that would be to try traveling solo at least once in your life. Don't be afraid! Go out there and explore the world on your terms.
Did you travel solo before? Where did you go? Tell us about your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org
Born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Selma is currently studying Business Administration and Global Studies at Hood College. While she was always passionate about traveling, she caught the travel bug through Semester at Sea, a study abroad program. So far, she has visited four continents and 30 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia.