10 Mistakes You Might Make When Traveling Solo — and How to Avoid Them (Video)
Taking a solo vacation is a rite of passage for just about every serious traveler. Going it alone has become a badge of honor that globetrotters simply love to brag about — and with good reason. Daunting as it may be, solo trips can be rewarding, life-changing experiences. In fact, once you traverse the world alone, you’ll feel like you can accomplish anything.
But before you take off on that solo journey, there are a few things you should be wary of. Learn from our own misadventures and avoid these 10 common mistakes solo travelers make, so you can focus on all the good parts of your travels instead.
1. Staying in the Wrong Accommodations
When planning a solo vacation, it can be tempting to try and save a few bucks on hotels. Although sticking to a budget is a great idea (more on that later), your accommodations aren’t the place to skimp. As a solo traveler, you’ll want to pick a property that’s both comfortable and safe. Make sure any hotel you check into has a front desk with 24-hour security, and ensure that the room you book comes with a safe to store all your valuables. This doesn’t mean you need to only stay in super-expensive hotels, as hostels all over the world come with these perks, too.
2. Overpacking Your Suitcase
Going on a solo trip means you cannot count on any assistance with your luggage. This is when planning becomes key. Only bring what you need for a few days, and plot out exactly where you can do laundry along the way. You can always wash your clothes in the hotel sink in a pinch, or purchase extra underwear as you go.
3. Failing to Budget Correctly
Solo vacations don’t have to be expensive, but even the most frugal trips take a bit of financial planning. Before departing, take some time to look up exchange rates and menus at restaurants you want to dine in. This way, you can make an educated guess as to how much cash you’ll need on hand each day. Make sure to set aside enough for a small emergency fund as well.
4. Forgetting to Ask for Help
If you’re headstrong enough to travel the world alone, you may also be the type who refuses to ask for help from anyone (I’m guilty of this, too). But now is not the time to let your pride get the best of you. Prior to embarking on your trip, ask friends and family members who may have visited the same places for some recommendations. Also, peruse social media and see what others have done. Lastly, don’t forget to check government websites like the State Department to ensure there are no active travel advisories for your intended destinations.
5. Not Taking Safety Precautions
Speaking of those travel warnings, it’s important for solo travelers take their safety seriously. That means heeding the warnings, ensuring hotel safety, never giving private information to strangers, and doing a bit of research on which neighborhoods to avoid. Plus, for those who like to imbibe, try to keep any revelry to a two-drink maximum to ensure you always have your wits about you.
6. Being Unprepared for Emergencies
Accidents and unforeseen events can happen. That can be as small as a flight delay or as big as a broken bone or worse. Before heading out on a solo vacation, come up with an emergency plan so you’re well prepared. Write out a complete itinerary and share it with a few trusted people, purchase travel insurance to make sure you’re covered no matter what, and regularly check in with family and friends during your trip so they’re up-to-date on any changes. And, as a part of your plan, keep that emergency cash stashed somewhere safe in case you need it.
7. Scheduling Too Much for the Beginning or End of the Trip
It can be tempting to fill your first few days with nonstop activities. However, the first day or so of travel can be utterly exhausting, so it may be prudent to give yourself a bit of time to settle in and relax. The same goes for the end of your trip. Don’t try to cram everything in at once, as it will only disappoint you. And if you miss out on something, that’s alright, as you can use it as an excuse to return to the same destination in the future.
8. Having Too Many Expectations
It’s easy to get carried away in thinking that this will be your own personal version of "Eat, Pray, Love," or that each day of your trip will bring a new kind of joy. However, like in the rest of life, travel days can sometimes be euphoric, sometimes horrible, and sometimes just straight-up boring. Make sure to keep a level head about you and take each day as it comes. This way, you won’t be disappointed, but rather pleasantly surprised by the small joys.
9. Focusing Solely on Making New Friends
On a solo trip, it can be tempting to dive headfirst into new friendships, focusing on making connections with everyone you meet. That is all fine and dandy, but it’s also a good idea to spend some time alone. After all, this is your chance to get to know yourself. Read a book in the park, sit in a cafe for lunch, or see a museum without the company of anyone else. Mix in new friend time for sure, but become pals with yourself, too.
10. Taking the Whole “Solo” Part Too Seriously
On the flip side, it’s easy to take the “solo” part way too seriously and do everything by yourself. For some people, that may be best, but there are a number of excellent tour operators that cater to solo travelers. Companies like Intrepid Travel and Contiki offer tours all over the world for solo female travelers, young professionals, and other specialty groups. If you’re looking to go on a trip without anyone you know, but still want the comfort of a group, this is the option for you.