It's National Plan a Solo Vacation Day, and we're ready to celebrate.
One in four people planning a trip in 2018 said they will be going alone, according to a survey by Solo Traveler. And that demographic of self-reliant traveler is only growing. But, if you’re one of the many people boarding trains, planes, and automobiles over the next year to see the sights without a travel partner, it’s key to understand that there can be more than a few lonely days and nights along the way.
Sure, solo travel certainly comes with its perks. You can do everything on your own time, eat the meals you want to eat, see the sights you want to see, and you always get the good side of the bed. But when you travel alone it can also be difficult to connect with a location and its people as your innate shyness sets in. It’s all too easy to stay in, not speak to strangers, and just put on your headphones as you explore a new place. But there are ways to fight the urge to turn inward while traveling, and thanks to companies wanting to cater to this new class of traveler there are more tools than ever to help you have the best solo trip of your life.
Thanks to the simple fact that you live in 2018 you get to have a plethora of apps, sites, and accommodations at your disposal to help you both connect with locals all over the world and connect more deeply with new destinations. In honor of Plan A Solo Vacation Day (which is a real thing) here are a few tips and tricks to maximizing your travels.
Where to Stay With Locals
Digging into local culture means one of two things: living with them, or staying a while.
Living among locals is easier than ever thanks to sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, and Flipkey. There’s even a few options for people looking for more luxurious local digs like onefinestay, Oasis, and Sonder.
On sites like this, solo travelers can choose to book just a single room of an apartment or an entire home pretty much anywhere in the world. This way, they can stay with local families, enjoy a few moments with them, and get all the advice they’d ever need on what to do and see in their new home away from home. Typically, hosts will leave behind a binder full of goodies and tips to help would-be adventurers on their travels.
But, if it's a hotel you're truly seeking, you can always book a stay at one of the many long-term stay hotels popping up around the globe that typically come with a 24-hour concierge and a doorman. And these aren’t your grandma’s long-term hotels. Just look at spaces like the brand-new Wittenberg Hotel for inspiration.
The Wittenberg, and its soon-to-launch partner hotels across Europe, specialize in making guests comfortable for stays of a week or more. In fact, the hotel has a minimum seven-night stay. By staying this long you’ll have plenty of time to go out and hit every single neighborhood in the city of your choice.
The Wittenberg, for example, beyond its stylish decor, offers a full kitchen that will also help you save a few bucks on your travels as you can use it to cook a few of your meals instead of eating out. Guests also get access to a full gym, cleaning services, lounge areas, and office spaces.
What to Do With Locals
Make sure to take plenty of time to yourself during your solo journey. After all, these are the best self-discovery trips you can take. But, it’s also a great idea to try and spend a little time getting to know the community. And the absolute best way to do so is through things like Airbnb Experiences, WithLocals, and Vayable.
“Emmy and I are both very sociable people, and we love meeting others and talking, so we saw Airbnb Experiences as a great way to offer a service to travelers that is based on genuinely connecting with others through interests we are both passionate about and understand how to inform others in,” David Jo Bradley, a photographer in Amsterdam, told Travel + Leisure. Bradley is one of the dozens of locals in the city offering up unique experiences, including cooking, art, and crafting classes, to help people connect with others and the location.
For his experience David, who holds a PhD in photography, takes guests through a two-hour tour of Central Amsterdam. During the walk he not only explains the history of the neighborhoods, but he also shares more than a few useful photography tips to up your Instagram game. As for the type of traveler David sees most, he revealed “single traveling women in the 21-35 bracket make up the largest portion by a fairly large margin, followed by single traveling men of the same age range.” So not only will you learn from a local, but you could even connect with fellow solo travelers who are taking part in the experiences.
“Connection is the concept we've come to understand better with Experiences, so I hope that's the idea our guests take away with them,” David said. “Beyond the photographic elements and the knowledge we give about Amsterdam, for us the experiences have become about connecting with new people more often. Sounds a little corny, but that is genuinely what we love about hosting.”
Where to Eat With Locals
Like Airbnb Experiences there are a number of options for those looking to share a meal with locals, but perhaps the coolest is the new EatWith site.
Here, people can connect with locals who are willing to either host guests in their home for a meal, or host them for an entire cooking experience.
For example, in Brussels you could be lucky enough to learn how to make moules frites the right way in the home of Elsie Coenen.
There, you'll be walked through the entire preparation of the meal, from cleaning the mussels to cutting up the fries — and you will even help craft a few inventive mayonnaise concoctions.
Yes, you’ll put in the work to make your meal, but with that you’ll get to walk away with a hard-earned knowledge of local cuisine, and you’ll get to enjoy it over the cozy kitchen table of a local, perhaps even with a well-paired Belgian beer or two. If EatWith isn’t available in your location, you can always try similar services like Traveling Spoon and Meal Sharing, which are both available in hundreds of destinations worldwide.
Traveling the globe alone can be an exciting and scary process all at the same time. But, by simply trusting in the kindness and openness of strangers you may be able to turn this into an experience you truly weren’t expecting. At the very least you’ll gain a much deeper understanding of a location and its people than you would have otherwise.
For more tips on meeting people as a solo traveler check out our guide, and read up on every single item you absolutely must pack on your solo adventure before you leave.