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While it’s always fun to vacation with a partner or a group of friends, many single women today are opting to travel by themselves. In doing so, they’re realizing that it’s an experience like no other.
Women who travel solo can ensure they see the sights they want when they want to see them — without having to poll a group. Traveling solo is also a great way to feel in control, learn how to enjoy quality time with yourself, and relax on your own terms. But, it can be hard to talk yourself into a solo vacation without a little education on how to maximize your trip.
Here are some great tips for solo travelers who want to stop putting their lives on hold and see the world through their own eyes.
Even if you’re the type of person who likes to wing it, it’s still good to do some research ahead of time about the sites and attractions where you plan to visit. You don’t need to make a strict schedule, but you should jot down a few good ideas to start. Plans can also change at the last minute — maybe that museum you want to check out has odd hours, or bad weather temporarily postpones the vineyard tour you had your eye on.
Jot down a list filled with indoor and outdoor attractions you’d like to check out, even if you don’t plan on actually getting to them all during this particular visit. As you wander around, you might naturally add to that list, so don’t worry if you can only think of two or three things during your first draft.
As a travel article from Forbes once eloquently stated, “Packing light is the best gift you can give yourself. There is nothing more freeing than being able to deftly maneuver with everything you’ve brought with you.” It’s true, extra baggage can weigh you down and make certain stops on your trip more of a hassle. Our travel experts recommend pairing down your items to the essentials.
Consider leaving extra primping materials behind, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of outdoor hiking or swimming. Find versatile clothes that you can easily wash, and unless you’re traveling in colder months, leave heavy garments behind. The lighter you pack, the lighter you’ll feel.
Even if you’re traveling alone, you can still find excellent company with your fellow solo travelers. Websites such as GAFFL are known for connecting solo travelers with each other to help connect as friends or even to help share travel costs. After all, GAFFL does stand for “Get A Friend For Life.”
Logging in before your trip might take some of the fear out of travel, especially if this is your first solo trip. While the site was created for everyone, it particularly helps women traveling solo make friends who may turn into lifelong travel partners.
While traveling alone can be wonderful, it can also come with some safety risks — especially for women. It’s vital to be aware of your surroundings, and keep an eye out for people who might try to take advantage of the fact that you’re alone. Before going someplace new, try to familiarize yourself with a map of the area so you don’t look like a tourist. Keep any valuables at home and don’t flaunt anything that may make you a target for theft.
Also, if you’re traveling abroad, make sure you’re familiar with cultural norms, so you don’t stick out or offend locals with how you dress or present yourself. It’s always important to be respectful of other traditions, and learning about a country’s culture and boundaries will go a long way — and add to your experience.
You might think you’ll remember the trip perfectly, but memories can start to fade if you’ve crammed an overwhelming amount of attractions into your schedule. A journal will help you keep track of everything, even if you just jot down brief notes. There’s also no such thing as taking too many photos, so make sure you have a camera ready to help document your trip and ensure the memories last a lifetime.
While you will experience a lot of exciting points on the trip, you may also have some downtime. And there may be points in your travels when your internet connection isn’t quite as strong. It’s a good idea to bring a book you’ve always wanted to read to make up for lags. A book can really come in handy on public transportation as you’re traveling from point A to point B.
The best part about reading while on vacation is that the book itself will become part of your journey, so choose one that you’re sure to love.
While it’s good to act as if you know exactly where you’re going while out, it’s also important to take part in some activities meant for tourists. Consider signing up for walking tours, museum visits, and anything else that’ll help you learn more about the country or town you’re visiting.
Taking an interest in learning about a location’s rich history will only add to your experience. Before your travel begins, try to jot down information on local events, fairs, and even concerts that will take place during the time of your stay. These opportunities are also a great time to interact with locals.
It’s important to have your crucial documents on you or secured somewhere in your hotel room. If your room has a safe, use it while you’re out. If not, consider wearing a money belt under your clothes to conceal personal belongings.
You don’t want to be stranded without a passport if you’re overseas, so assuring it’s safe and not publicly displayed should be a top priority. Ensure items including money, your mobile device, and your room key aren’t hanging out of your back pocket where they can easily be snatched by someone who views you as a target.
If you don’t consider yourself much of a talker, let your vacation unleash a new side of you. Making small talk and conversation with the locals is a great way to enrich your travel experience. Locals will also have the best recommendations for where to go and what to eat. Most of the time, that stranger on the bus or at the coffee shop is a great source of expert sightseeing information.
If you’re traveling somewhere with a language barrier, try learning basic terms before you leave. A few key phrases and words can get you out of a pinch. Plus, knowing the language shows locals that you appreciate their culture — and don’t expect them to cater to yours. It’s also a good idea to find a translation program online, or through an app, just in case you get lost or need to ask a question more complex than: “Where’s the bathroom?”
Keeping in touch with family and friends is a good idea for many reasons. For one, it’s nice that they can keep tabs on you and know you’re safe. Second, it’s a great way to share your journey with them. If you send texts or call them while on vacation, they’ll experience the journey with you from a distance.
Sending a general itinerary before you leave is always a good idea. You should also tell them about any last-minute plans. While they don’t need to know about every decision you make, it’s important for them to at least have an idea of where you’re staying, how to contact you in case of an emergency, and your plans if you’re visiting multiple cities or countries.
While it might be a little scary to travel by yourself the first time, you’ll quickly realize the benefits and freedom it can bring — and perhaps you’ll prefer solo trips over traveling with a group. When you go solo, you have full control of what you do, what you eat, and who you visit. You can sleep in and take it easy for a full day and not worry about how it’ll affect anyone else’s schedule.
Best of all, you can see the sights on your own terms, and change the direction of your vacation how you see fit. Traveling solo may become your most cherished form of relaxation. And it’s something that more women should try — at least once.