Traveling alone as a woman often gets questioned, as if you need a good reason to be doing so. And maybe you do have a good reason: perhaps you’re recently widowed or divorced, or you’re an empty nester whose partner either can’t or won’t travel with you. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of visiting somewhere, but you can’t find anyone who can do it with you. It can seem awfully daunting to embark on a journey to the unknown. The rewards, though, can be innumerable.
Traveling solo builds confidence, establishes a sense of independence, and allows you to learn about the world and yourself at any age. Being a woman can add different risks to any journey — just one of the many unfairnesses we suffer as a member of the other sex — but that doesn’t mean we should never try. Here are some tips to help you on your first/next solo trip.
Fight the Fear
Maybe you’re worried that traveling alone can make you a target, or perhaps your friends and family are telling you that you’re being irresponsible by going out into this big and scary world on your own. Maybe your own inner-voice is holding you back with visions of worst-case scenarios. Happily, more and more women are realizing that, while safety is always something to take seriously, worrying about potential issues should not stop them from traveling on their own.
A Booking.com survey found that 65% of US women are taking vacations without their partner. In a poll conducted in a Facebook group called the Solo Travel Society — which has over 230,000 fans, 63% of which are women — almost half of the respondents stated that they prefer traveling solo because they wanted “freedom, independence, and the chance to craft their own perfect itinerary.” Twenty-two percent said that they were no longer “willing to wait around for others,” which really resonated with this female traveler.
The demographics for women who want to travel solo are wide ranging: some are college-age explorers, recent widows and divorcees, while other women are just realizing that if they don’t go ahead and travel now, they likely won’t ever do it. Sometimes bringing a friend along can be cost-prohibitive, or maybe your idea of a good time doesn’t align with anyone else’s. Whatever your reasons, here’s how to embrace the solo travel bug.
How to prepare for your solo trip
The number one tip for traveling solo is to be amply prepared. Thoroughly research the place that you want to go, and we don’t mean just which restaurants are highly rated (although that’s never a bad idea.)
- Thoroughly vet any place you plan to stay. Read the reviews for any AirBnB, hotels, or rentals, as well as any touristy group activity you hope to partake in. What are people saying about the location of the hotel or rental? One place to not cut corners is where you plan on sleeping.
- Research safety risks. By understanding what kind of dangers you might face (as a woman or in general), you can make better plans to mitigate them. One way to get the real scoop is to join online groups whose purpose is to make information like this easier to get. The Solo Travel Society we mentioned above is a great place to start, but many others are worth checking out too, such as Solo Female Travelers Club. They offer a Safety Index that is remarkably detailed, and is collated from women travelers as well as respected third party sites.
- Create a detailed itinerary. This is important, because it allows you to know exactly where you’re staying and how you’ll travel ahead of time, which will prevent any anxiety of having to do that while you’re there. Also, you can share this with anyone at home, in case of emergency and to alleviate any worries they might have. That said, don’t be afraid to be flexible. You could arrive at your destination and not like where your lodging is located. It’s a good idea to have back-ups in mind.
- Get inspired. Solo Traveler is a fantastic blog run by two women who have made it their life’s mission to encourage fellow older women to embrace the joys of solo adventures. If you follow their website or others like it, you can get great advice about where to go, what to see, and any things that you might want to avoid.
- Pack light. By traveling alone, there’s no need to dress to impress! Bring outfits that are practical for the weather, activities, and local norms. Ideally, it is helpful to pack things that can be hand washed in the hotel room, if necessary, so they can be reworn. By having less to keep track of (and lug around) you can travel more easily and confidently.
While You’re There…
Here are a few things to keep in mind for safety’s sake when traveling solo, as well as to make the most out of your journey, once you’ve decided where you’re going.
- Keep your documentation safe at all times. Passports, travel tickets, cards, cash and other important documents should be kept either on your body in a hidden, secure pouch, or in a safe where you are staying. It’s a good idea to keep copies — ideally in an email or something online that you know you can access — and give one to a trusted contact. Only carry the originals when necessary.
- Don’t overshare. It’s a great idea to talk to people while you’re traveling. You can make travel friends, meet locals to get the best scoop, and make fascinating connections. But don’t share too many personal details, particularly your accommodations or the fact that you are solo. Staying vague about travel plans can help prevent you from being victimized.
- Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get turned around in a foreign place, and if you’re alone you can’t count on someone else knowing where to go. It’s also important to try not to look as if you’re lost, as that can attract unwanted attention. If you need help, approach a source that seems trustworthy, particularly another woman if possible.
- Travel during the day, when possible. Nighttime is when women are most vulnerable, so it’s a good idea to plan your travel during the day. If overnight travel is necessary, make sure you have safe accommodations that can and properly secured.
- Try to blend in. Try not to scream “I’m an American tourist!!” with sartorial choices. Adhere to local customs, as much as possible. This is a respectful way to travel in general, but it also prevents getting targeted by unsavory characters.
- Join groups when uncomfortable: If you ever feel uneasy, such as when you’re walking home at night, try to either join with a group or walk closely to other people. “Safety in numbers” is a saying for a reason.
Traveling Solo Doesn’t Always Mean “Alone”
If all of these tips seem overwhelming, one way to ease into traveling solo is to start by traveling with a group. Joining a women-only tour group could be a great way to embark on a journey, because it would allow for a great deal of independence without truly being alone. And in a worst-case scenario, you could end up making new travel friends.