Tips For Taking Your First Solo Vacation
About the author: Andee is a recent college graduate from Arizona State University with a love of writing, the outdoors, and funky cafes. You can usually find her hiking or planning her next trip. She is passionate about traveling, frugal living, her family, and the perfect cup of coffee. Find her on Instagram as @andee_schmidt
In a way, solo travel is a metaphor for how you live your life. It tests your tenacity, resilience, and intuition in the face of adversity. It inspires you to reflect on your decisions, experiences, and character, fortifying your sense of self-awareness.
Perhaps most importantly, solo travel forces you to confront the unknown in a way that is often uncomfortable, challenging your preconceived notions about yourself, your culture, and your world. Here are some tips to make the most out of your first solo vacation:
Stay in the Zone
Know your comfort zone! Striking the balance between familiarity and adventure will not only help you make the most out of your experience, but it is also an essential safety measure. Here are some basics to keep in mind:
- Tell someone at home where you are going, and notify them when you’ve returned.
- If you plan to hike or backpack, research your route extensively and stay on heavily trafficked trails.
- Ask your hotel or hosts if you are unsure about transportation, directions, or safety of an activity.
- If you go out at night, drink responsibly and don’t tell any strangers where you are staying.
- Take time to relax to keep yourself clear-headed and your stress levels low.
Whether you’re in the planning stages or in the thick of it, trust your gut; if something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to go back, to change course, or to say no.
Before you’ve made any commitments, plan where you’d like to travel and create a budget. A great way to save is to apply for and use a credit card that rewards you with travel points or air miles!
Ensure you’ll have plenty of access to cash–or the local currency–and don’t just rely on plastic. ATMs and credit cards may not always be as reliable as they are at home. Similarly, you’ll want to contact your bank and let them know where you are traveling.
Take the time to make a detailed packing list, and whittle it down to the essentials. When you’re traveling on your own, lugging around a bunch of suitcases is not only stressful and exhausting, but it can also make you vulnerable to theft, or those trying to take advantage of tourists. Opt for pieces that leave you hands free and consider anti-theft bags or purses.
If you’re looking to fully embrace the adventure, get creative with your travel. Opt for Airbnb, bed and breakfasts, and hostels where you might meet people new people. This is a great way to travel solo, if you’re being safe about it.
Only stay in certified establishments with lots of positive customer reviews. Instead of taking cabs or ride sharing services, try your hand at public transit, rent a bike, or hike. Find out where the locals go to eat, or search for traveler meet ups, go on obscure tours, and always have plan a plan a, b, and c.
One of the most rewarding aspects of solo travel is navigating unfamiliar cultures. However, this can also be one of the most overwhelming aspects. Practicing mindfulness allows you to soak in the experiences and keep your anxiety down.
When you are mindful about your travel, you learn to become more mindful in your day to day life, particularly as you start to gain a critical understanding and awareness of the world. Not only will this enable you to forge lasting relationships with individuals abroad and at home, but may also give you a fresh perspective and appreciation for life itself.
Do Your Research
The most important step you can take is to do your homework ahead of time. That way, you’ll feel more prepared and confident when confronted with unfamiliar situations.
- Try to learn a few key phrases in the local language. In most cases, this is both a safety measure and a sign of respect.
- Learn the local gender norms and dress practices. For example, if you want to visit the Vatican, be prepared to dress modestly or you won’t be let in.
- Brush up on local customs. In some destinations, it is customary to tip and in others this can be considered insulting, either way you to be prepared.
- Research travel visas and obtain passport documents well in advance, as these can take time to process depending on your destination.
When in doubt, you can almost always ask, and listen with an open mind. It will never lead you astray.