Travel professionals share advice for solo travelers and i definitely take notes

I know I’m not the only one patiently waiting for the day when we can all travel again without a care in the world.

We all miss traveling, don’t we? The pandemic has turned travel upside down, to say the least, and I know I’m not the only one patiently waiting for the day when we can all adventure carefree again. Until then, I will continue to plan and look forward to my next solo trip.

Young traveler sitting in a van looking at a map

Many people love solo travel because it allows them to make the most of their downtime. If they can create their own itinerary and follow their own plans, they don’t have to argue with their fellow travelers.

You may also already be thinking about traveling alone for the first time. But maybe you’ve traveled alone before and want to make your next trip even better. In any case, here are the most helpful tips from five professionals who have traveled alone a lot.

Woman sitting on train looking at her cell phone

But first, here’s the expert:inside:

Joel Balsam: A freelance travel writer who has written for National Geographic, BBC Travel and Thrillist and contributed to numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks.

Lyn Hughes: Founding editor of Wanderlust travel magazine and website, and author of Wanderlust: How to Travel Solo.

Kaitlyn McInnis: A freelance travel writer who has contributed to Travel + Leisure, Robb Report and The Points Guy.

Tracey Nesbitt: Writer and editor of Solo Traveler, a website for those who enjoy traveling alone.

Janice Waugh: Founder and Editor of Solo Traveler.

Here are her top tips and tricks for solo travelers:

1. If you’re traveling alone for the first time, start small.

If you’re not sure about traveling alone, start with a short trip close to home to see how you like it. Before you embark on a longer or international adventure.

It’s okay to take small steps. "Just drive 100 kilometers down the road to another city," says Janice Waugh. "Learn how to deal with regional transportation. Figure out how to find a restaurant on your own. Eat dinner alone. Explore things of this nature, but definitely start small at first". Waugh says it’s important to learn how to navigate and feel comfortable while traveling solo.

2. Take advantage of organized tours.

If you’re apprehensive about traveling alone, consider an organized tour for at least part of your trip.

"Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to travel completely independently," says Lyn Hughes. A tour can be a great introduction to travel, even if it’s just an introduction to the country.

"When I first came to Thailand in my 20s, I joined a small group and participated in a mountain hike that way," Hughes explains. "After that I stayed longer and explored things on my own. I spent the first two weeks in a group with other people, which gave me confidence and helped me make new friends as well as acclimatize. This gave me the confidence to strike out on my own."Use an organized tour as a starting point to learn about the lay of the land and then start your own independent adventure.

3. Do your research before you travel.

If you are traveling in a group, there is usually a:n friend:in or relative who will be happy to take care of the planning. But when you travel alone, it’s all up to you. Make sure you do your research before you leave so you don’t feel overwhelmed or completely lost at your destination either.

You don’t have to plan everything in advance, of course. "It’s really all about staying in the right area, and that’s something you have to research beforehand," says Joel Balsam. "I think it’s good to have a guide with you if you’re going to be traveling a lot. This is a good source for recommendations. Especially if you don’t have internet all the time."

4. Spend some time acclimatizing after you arrive.

Arriving in a foreign country alone can be confusing. So plan thoroughly for the first day or two at your destination.

"You’re at your most vulnerable in the first 24 hours, and that can be pretty daunting when you’re traveling for the first time," Hughes explains. "Make sure you have booked accommodation for the first night and also know how to get from the airport to the accommodation." If you take a little time to acclimate, you’ll feel calm and at ease. Then you’re ready to tackle the rest of the trip.

5. Consider accommodations that are more social than a traditional hotel.

Choose lodging where it’s easier to meet other people, Hughes recommends. That means you should avoid big hotels or Airbnbs where you’ll be alone. Instead, pull up hostels, bed and breakfasts, or bed& Breakfasts to consider.

"It can be a bit lonely traveling somewhere and spending most of your time alone in a room. It’s great to be somewhere you can meet people. Many solo travelers say the hardest part is finding a way to pass the time in the evening, Hughes says. But if you’re staying in a hostel, for example, you can meet fellow travelers with whom you can go out to eat or explore the local nightlife.

6. Take a class in an area that interests you.

If you’re tired of doing everything on your own when you travel, you should take a class, says Janice Waugh. She thinks cooking classes are a particularly good way to meet people. "If you attend a cooking class in the afternoon, you’ll probably end up eating the food you prepared together."There are so many websites that make it easy for you to find different classes and activities at your destination, for example Airbnb experiences, Get Your Guide or Viator, just to name a few.

7. You can go online to meet locals or interact with the community.

If you’re traveling alone and want to meet people, try meeting locals and looking for activities online. Hughes recommends the website MeetUp.com. "There you can find people to go jogging with or join a photography club, etc. This can be a really good way to meet locals."

While it’s fun to meet fellow travelers, Hughes says meeting and interacting with locals can be even more enjoyable and special, helping to create travel memories.

Joel Balsam also suggests joining Facebook groups to find a sense of community. "Go on Facebook and search for ‘experts in this place’ or ‘digital nomads in this place,’" he says.

8. Plan just enough, but don’t overdo it.

Tracey Nesbitt says that while it’s good to know what you want to do on your trip, it’s also important to leave some time for flexibility. You should not plan every minute of every day. "Leave room for serendipity," she says. "Leave behind your preconceived notions about what your first trip should be like." A much better approach, Nesbitt says, is to "experience each moment as it actually unfolds." There’s no shame in taking a day off to regroup if you feel overwhelmed. Everything looks so much better right away when you’re rested and relaxed".

9. Take some time to relax and reflect.

When you travel alone, you take in a lot. Kaitlyn McInnis says it’s important to take time, even during an adventure, to process what you’ve experienced. "Take time to reflect on everything you’ve experienced throughout the days – keep a journal or talk on the phone via FaceTime with friend:s back home," she says.

10. Force yourself to strike up conversations with new people.

Not everyone is an extrovert by nature, but traveling alone is even more rewarding when you get involved with new people. So Balsam advises solo travelers to be brave and strike up a conversation with people they meet on their travels, because it could lead to surprising new discoveries.

"I could walk into a bar or restaurant and turn to the table next to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m traveling here. What do you like to do? What is your favorite place in the city? What can you recommend here?’" This kind of interaction can make you a travel pro and lead to great new discoveries.

11. Be smart, but not paranoid about your safety.

Travelers alone can feel more insecure than those traveling in a group. While it’s important to be mindful of your own safety and well-being, Hughes advises not to overdo it.

For example, ask the staff of your hotel or hostel if there are areas of the city you should avoid. "Other than that, it’s a matter of using common sense, just as you would at home. Would you go home alone at night into a dark alleyway? No, you wouldn’t, so don’t do that when you’re traveling," she says.

12. Finally, travel with confidence.

"I think the key to comfortable solo travel is confidence," says McInnis. "It can feel a little strange to have a glass of wine alone or reserve a table for one, but once you get past that feeling, traveling alone and spending time with yourself becomes a meditative experience. Don’t worry about standing out as a solo traveler. Do what you want, try new experiences and have fun. All the adventures will be that much more rewarding.

Have you ever traveled alone? Tell us your best tips and advice for others who want to take the plunge.

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