I travel by myself 95% of the time. I love it. Absolutely love it. I'm a person who likes their alone time (craves it actually) and doesn't mind doing things solo. I really enjoy being able to dictate my own agenda, schedule, and budget. And amount of sleep. I need a lot of sleep. So I thought I would share a few of my best tips for traveling on your own:
1. Save money on a hotel and use Airbnb instead: if you're not familiar, Airbnb is a website where you can rent a place to stay from a host. You can select to have the entire place all to yourself, to rent just a room in someone's home, or share a room. It's always cheaper than renting a hotel room and you'll have access to a kitchen if you want to save money on eating out or are nervous about dining alone. So if you're traveling solo and need to save a little money on lodging, especially when you'll be spending most of your time exploring and only using your room to sleep in, Airbnb is awesome. I've also seen the most amazing places that friends have rented - there are very cool homes ready for you to stay in.
2. Spend money to get a data plan for your phone: if you're traveling Internationally go to your wireless provider and have them add on a data plan to your phone. Trust me, it's worth the extra $30. I don't carry maps, mainly because I loathe looking like a tourist. Having a data plan that you can use for emergencies will make you feel much better about navigating around a new city on your own. Even if it's just to turn on the data for a second to location your position on the Google map. (FYI: T Mobile users how have the option to do an unlimited International data plan - which I think is awesome!)
3. Eat at the bar: this is one thing I look forward to when I'm traveling by myself. I take a seat up at the bar and make new friends. I've got the numbers in my phone of bartenders in all my favorite cities. If you're friendly and a good customer, they will take care of you. Not only will they give you recommendations of where else to check out, they will probably put you in contact with someone that works there who will in turn take care of you. Make friends with the people sitting next to you. If you're at a restaurant you like, ask them for suggestions of local places similar to the one you're at. You're sure to walk away with a list of places to check out.
4. It's ok to tell a lie: there are some places you travel where the men are just more aggressive (Italy, I'm talkin' about you.) I'm not saying they're unfriendly, they're just extremely persistent. It's ok to lie to them to make them go away. Tell them you're staying at a nearby hotel and walk into the lobby until they pass. Tell them you have a boyfriend who is in a business meeting and joining you in an hour. Tell them you don't speak their lanuage and walk away. It's ok.
5. Be an early bird: when I travel by myself I will go out for dinner and then go back to where I'm staying. I've made it a habit of never going out late at night by myself. I don't need to go to the bar or the clubs, I'd rather be tucked into my bed at 10pm reading or on my computer. I feel like going out late by myself is just looking for trouble. Not once in my many years of traveling have I ever thought "Man, I really wish I would've checked out that bar at midnight." (Note that in some countries like Spain, dinner gets started later and places don't open until later in the night. Choose somewhere close to your hotel or make sure you'll be able to easily get a cab at the end of your meal.)
6. Only use ATMs outside of the building: this might sound backward to you but it's for the best. Always use the machines that are accessible from the street and during the daytime when there are people around. Never go into the lobby of a bank when it's closed by yourself. Someone could very easily let themselves into the lobby to steal your money and nobody else would even know you're in there. Be safe.
7. Post where you're traveling on Facebook: I like to do this for a couple reasons. One is that you never know who might happen to be in the same city at the same time or who has a friend there they'd like to introduce you to. Connections can easily be made through FB and you might find yourself a great tour guide. It's also good that people know where you are just in case there is some kind of emergency. (Am I worried that someone will notice I'm traveling and my home is unoccupied and will then break in? No. Someone could watch me leave the house for ten minutes and break in then. Why over worry?)
8. Ask a stranger to take your photo: I have absolutely no shame about this one. I want pictures of me in the places I visit. My arm can only stretch so far for a selfie and that often crops out what's around me, which makes it completely moot. Just ask. I will survey the crowd before choosing. If there's a couple attempting a selfie, offer to take it for them then ask for the return favor. Older adults sometimes aren't as comfortable with working a camera or phone, I'll look for someone about my age. A teenager will probably be a pro with a camera phone. And Asians. They typically a good bet.
Traveling by yourself can be so amazingly rewarding. And you'll be able to stop to snap as many photos as you want without someone getting impatient. My number one tip is to go for it! You just might get addicted.