*In tune to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" from Frozen.* It's a big step, but you can do it! Read on for tips to muster up the courage to take the leap!
Maybe your friend backed out last minute, and you can't get a refund. Maybe you're tired of waiting on others' schedules or finances to align. Maybe no one is interested in going where you want to go. Or maybe you just want to have some alone time or are inspired by seeing others do it. You've decided, for whatever reason, you want to take a solo trip! Congratulations!! Keep reading for how I eased into it, or skip to the tips!
Since 2020, I have personally noticed an uptick in the interest of travel (our 1.5 year long cabin fever might do it). I, now, follow many solo female travelers myself, including two in my own family - BaldGirlWillTravel and Lady JetSetter. It was seeing them do it that encouraged me to follow my shared passion for travel! My mother still thinks it's astonishing that I travel alone, but to me, I've been exposed to so many other Black women who do it, that it's not a big deal to me.
And THAT, is the importance of representation and exposure, but that's another topic.
I actually started solo traveling in June 2019 by booking a flight across the country to Portland, OR. I knew someone there, but spent majority of my time alone and stayed in my own Airbnb (a room in a home, to be precise). Here, I navigated the city via public transit, visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), took a day trip to a Multnomah Falls, went to three amazing botanical gardens, and even rented a car for a few hours to do goat yoga! My Airbnb hosts and I also did sushi dinner together on my last night.
In August 2020, I NEEDED to get out after months at home, so I did a solo weekend getaway to a town about three hours from home, Sea Isle City, NJ. I rented a car and stayed in a fantastic Airbnb in-law suite, complete with Himalayan salt candles, essential oil diffusers, and beach equipment. I had a ball skating on the boardwalk, relaxing on the beach, shopping at the Farmer's Market, having a lovely dinner, venturing to a winery in nearby Cape May, and deciding to parasail for the first time on my last day!
Ok, that's great for you, Britt, but what about ME? OK, here come the tips!
Getting Comfortable being SOLO
Try these steps to build up your confidence to travel solo:
In your town, go to dinner or movie by yourself! Get comfortable being alone.
Take a day trip to another town and just hang out - have lunch, go to the park, go to a spa.
Take an overnight or weekend trip a few hours away to a place that has something interesting you'd like to do - a festival, a national park or the beach, or popular tourist attractions.
Take a trip that requires flying (domestically). At least by staying in your own country, you are familiar with the language and laws. Also, you'll be surprised by all the beauty and fun you can have in your own backyard!
Now you want to take it international! Where should I go? What should I do? How will I get around? Think about these when planning:
Assign a purpose to your trip: Is it to relax and rejuvenate, to find adventure, to meet new people, to explore the culture?
Have a budget. Use the Google Explore feature, enter your origin city and potential dates (you can be specific or choose "one week in February" for example). This will show you potential trips.
Don't budget just based on flight! Take a look at the cost and type of accommodations and other living expenses, too! For example, my flight to Turks & Caicos was under $300, but every meal cost me $20-50. Excursions were $150+. Yikes!
Choose a place that speaks your language. You'll be less anxious, draw less attention to yourself, and are less likely to be taken advantage of.
Safety first! Research the culture - For me, I look at how Black people / women treated. I've heard things about places like Argentina or Egypt that make me not want to go alone. While some women have just fine experiences, I can save those for a later date with a travel companion or two.
Research the top things you want to do, mark the sites you want to see on Google Maps, and use this to help with picking a convenient hotel location. Don't make the mistake of finding a "sweet deal" only to realize you're actually spending more money and time commuting than you would have liked.
Check the weather! Remember that in the Southern Hemisphere, July is winter. Near the equator, be wary of hurricane/monsoon seasons! Cheap flights around a certain time of year is usually telling that the weather is not ideal. If you're ok with that, then book!
Bonus: Get a travel / airline credit card - one that has no foreign transaction fees and that collects points. Use this card for all your purchases / bills to rack up points! Most will have an annual fee which is made up for with certain perks like reimbursement for Global Entry, hotel credits, free checked bags, or airport lounge access.
Safety Items to Pack:
Passport / ID (but do NOT carry your passport around while on vacation)
PHOTO OF your passport in case it does get lost. Print it as well, and keep it in your suitcase.
Portable charger (and ITS charger, too!)
Cash - keep some in your hotel room
Theft-proof purse / backpack*
Carbon monoxide detector (yes, do it!)
*I'm not a paid sponsor, but I should be, dammit!
Once you arrive:
Share your itinerary and location with family and/or friends!
Don't tell people you are alone. Say your friends decided to stay in or to do something else for the day. Don't trust women anymore than men. They could be in cahoots! (Of course, use your judgment. I have met plenty of great people, and they, of course, figured out I was alone).
Especially women, be wary of going out at night and especially drinking or accepting drinks (DON'T). It's unfortunate we have to be on guard, but better safe than sorry!
Use a lock for your door (like the one I linked above).
Book tours and excursions with reputable companies - hotels will have partners, or sites like Viator or Trip Advisor work!
Have you traveled solo? Any other tips surprise you? Any more you would add to this list? Comment below!