I grew up in a family that was very accustomed to traveling and was raised with it as much a priority in life as food and shelter. At 15 years old, I was flying across the country by myself to visit family, and I embarked on my first solo trip to Iceland at only 17 years old.
That being said, you see how I can forget that many women are not raised with this experience or empowerment.
Many find the idea of solo travel overwhelming, uncomfortable, unsafe, and at the least, unfamiliar. And while there are a lot of logistical considerations to solo travel I truly believe the biggest battle is having the confidence to press that button and book the ticket to go.
So, from the mouth of an avid solo traveler, here are my best tips for gaining the confidence to travel alone.
1. Arm yourself with information.
I once heard a quote that’s rung true to me in so many aspects of life
“Anxiety is simply a knowledge gap that needs to be closed.”
In solo travel, you may be ruminating over the “what-ifs”. What if you get lost, what if you hate being alone, what if you get robbed, what if the worst happens, etc.
But we can’t live our lives in what-ifs! What if you regret traveling solo? Okay, but what if you love it? You never know until you go.
By doing your research via personal stories from friends, on travel blogs, Facebook travel groups, Reddit threads, and many other resources, there will be fewer unknowns and therefore less anxiety. Hearing that other normal women have traveled to these locations solo and survived, even thrived, will make you more confident to go too. The following are some statistics to help ease your fears as well:
- In the past 3 years, Google searches for advice for solo travel have risen by 40%. This means that more people are traveling solo and it’s safe and enjoyable enough that the trend is generally increasing. (source)
- A 2014 study showed that 72% of American women polled have traveled solo before (source), and 34% would do it again.
- I am a 23-year-old, 5’2″ black woman who travels solo and by being cautious and doing my research, have not had any dire safety instances during solo travel.(source)
Okay, that last one is not a real statistic but I hope I’m still a somewhat valid source. If I and these other average women have done it and loved it, you owe it to yourself to try it.
2. Start locally at first.
If you want to go on a solo trip, don’t feel pressured by social media to fly straight to the opposite end of the world.
Try a staycation in your country, state, or even town. With luxury accommodations like Airbnb, and Groupon experiences available, you can make a weekend in town feel like a weekend abroad very affordably.
Or just do a day trip and explore your own city by yourself! Make a local bucket list like I did and start checking things off. Here are some ideas to get your bucket list started:
- Restaurants you’ve always wanted to try (sit at the bar with a book, or with a notepad)
- Festivals and public events (look on sites like Meetup.com and local Facebook events)
- Walking tours
- Airbnb activities
- Groupon activities
- Free walking tour
- Look up the location in Instagram and go take photos where the most popular pics are
- Play the Anywhere Travel Guide game in every city
3. Plan ahead and know these safety tips.
Products and services to know
Planning ahead will not only give you peace of mind but actually keep you safe. Common things like registering your trip with the STEP Program, sharing your travel itinerary and documents with a close family member and friend, and looking up recent news events in the place your traveling to can keep you safe.
Also, become familiar with security features in apps like Uber and Lyft. Uber now has an emergency feature where you can contact the police or a family member discretely while still in the Uber. Considering downloading any of these 16 emergency apps too, just in case.
God, I truly hate the world we live in that we even have to give other women advice like this, yet here we are. Men, do better.
Never accept a drink from a person you don’t know, or if you do make sure you’re watching it be made. Even bar staff have been known to drug women. When in doubt, throw it out.
Wearing a fake wedding ring on the 2nd finger on your left hand can also deter some men from thinking you’re available—though not all men are astute enough to notice or respectful enough to care.
When people ask too many questions about your trip
Never tell anyone exactly where you’re staying. Give a general area, neighborhood, or street. If you call an Uber use the address of a nearby store or landmark. Always, always double-check the Uber drivers name and license plate before getting inside.
When in doubt or if you’re in an uncomfortable situation, lie your a** off. Tell people who ask that you’re here with your family, that your husband is waiting at the hotel, that you just got diagnosed with Hep C, it doesn’t matter. It’s worth a lie and an awkward apology later if it was unnecessary than to be stuck in a bad situation.
Protecting your identity/personal information
One of my favorite tips: get a Google Voice number. You choose a custom number so you can set the area code to wherever you like. Phone calls and texts can be routed to appear on your phone like normal (or you can choose to communicate only through the Google Voice app), but any texts or calls you make show up as the Google number.
I give this Google number out to anyone on my travels so they can reverse search me if I decide they’re a creep. I also use this for Tinder dates, but I digress.
4. Get a quality travel insurance policy.
Having the right travel insurance should take away any of your fears about losing your bag, missing your flight, breaking your arm, or most other travel logistical fails. A simple insurance policy of $20 yearly could save you thousands of dollars in inconveniences and damages.
If you’re looking for cheap international travel insurance that I personally have used for years, see my post outlining ISIC’s policies and benefits if you’re 16-30 years old and want some travel protection.
I also get travel insurance through my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
Having travel insurance can help soothe your solo travel worries, because if the worst case were to happen—your bag was stolen, passport got washed, credit cards swiped, bags get sent to Columbia instead of Colombia—you will eventually get every single penny back.
5. Pick the accommodation that’s best for you as a solo traveler.
Many people may suggest for solo women to stay in hostels or Couchsurfing accommodations.
Before you jump into anything I suggest you think about 1.) what type of trip you’re looking to have, and 2.) what type of traveler you are.
If you are:
- An extrovert
- If you’re looking to do a few group activities each day
- If you’d feel more comfortable around people for your first few nights
- If you have no itinerary and want an easy pool of people to ask for advice
- Like hustle, bustle, and commotion
- Don’t have many valuables in your bag
- If you’re on a tight budget
then I would suggest a private room in an Airbnb or a Couchsurfing arrangement (I only stay with women hosts, #SorryNotSorry). These options are very financially friendly and keep you in relatively close quarters with other travelers you could befriend if you choose to.
On the other hand, if you desire:
- A private space to call your own
- Quiet nights
- You travel with valuable items like laptops, DSLR cameras, more media tech
- You’re an introvert and need a private space to escape to after a day of travel
- You want a quiet, relaxing vacation
- You have dietary restrictions and need a private kitchen
The best perk of solo travel is the opportunity to be completely selfish. Do not listen to anyone in their suggestions on where/how you should choose your accommodations. Do what makes you comfortable and will make your trip the most enjoyable.
6. Join Facebook Groups and meet up with people so you aren’t truly solo (if you don’t want to be!).
Facebook groups like my Millennials on the Move or the hundreds of other travel groups like those here can be an invaluable resource.
Before I travel solo I’ll post in a few Facebook groups and ask if anyone local tips for a solo traveler visiting there. Often they’ll give me incredible first-hand advice that I can rely on, and more often than not they’ll invite me to hang out or even offer to host me! Again, I only meet up with fellow women. But I’ve met up with a lot of them and have so far only had amazing memories!
In this way, you can travel solo and be alone as much as you like, but you also have the option to hang with a friend or a group too.
Airbnb Experiences, MeetUps, Couch Surfing events, Facebook Events, are also easy ways to meet people when you travel solo. Or rock the old-fashioned way and strike up a conversation at a bar or in your hostel common room.Solo travel doesn’t have to be totally solo (if you don’t want it to be). Click To Tweet
7. Vent! Let out your emotions.
While solo travel is liberating, reflective, and exciting, the other side of the solo travel coin can be overwhelming, anxiety-riddling, tiring, and lonely—especially the first few trips.
I can’t encourage you enough to find a way to let all of these feelings out. Journal, vlog, call a friend, call your mom, or chat with other solo travelers about what you’re feeling. Just talking about it will help you process those wiley emotions, and some may even offer some great advice.
But when you’re traveling solo, the voice in your head is your ever-present companion. It can be a joy to learn more about yourself by being in your own company, but it can also make you go crazy. Let it out.
Save this article for all the nitty-gritty links and details…
But watch the YouTube version for a quick refresher!
BONUS TIP: Have fun! And sharing is caring.
Seriously, have a good time! Do the things you wanna do, when you wanna do them, in whatever outfit you want. Eat local cuisine for every meal, or try McDonalds in every country. Fake a British accent in Hawaii. Go to the frog museum your frog-hating boyfriend said he would never go to. Sleep in until noon. Explore the city at 5 AM and watch the sunrise.
This is the beauty of it all—you can do whatever the hell you want.
And I personally encourage you to share at least a little bit of your journey online, whether that’s a blog, vlog, Instagram post, or Tweet. Show those at home that you can do bad all by yourself, and maybe even inspire another woman to give it a go herself.
If you wait for friends, family, your boyfriend, your husband, your girlfriend from work to travel with you… you’ll never go.
Stop making the things you want from your life conditional on other people. Grab your coat, leave a note, pack light, and go!