Taking a solo trip can be a rewarding Grownup milestone. Blogger Carl Unger shares his recommendations on how to plan activities and excursions for the solo traveler.
Following my first experience traveling alone last spring (to Copenhagen), I cannot emphasize enough that a little preparation makes a huge difference. As a solo traveler, you are the sole decider; without some level of preparation, it’s easy for your trip to get bogged down by decisions, dilemmas, and unknowns. By planning in advance, you’ll spend less time puzzling over maps, guidebooks, and signs in foreign languages and more time doing what you actually came to do.
Solo Travel Step 1: Get Acclimated
About a week before my trip, I looked up all the basic information I’d need upon landing: Where to find the metro at the airport, which line to take, where I should disembark, and the route to my apartment. This is common sense stuff, but when traveling alone, it’s important to arrive with a clear sense of where you are and where you’re going.
I also got to know my neighborhood before departing by looking up its local markets, restaurants, bus stops, and landmarks. This helped me feel oriented when I arrived, since I was passing storefronts and streets I already “knew” from my research. As a solo traveler you’re reliant entirely on yourself, so confidence is key. Loading up on info beforehand can help you feel prepared to deal with any unforeseen happenings. (For me, this was realizing that I hadn’t packed my toothbrush. Fortunately, I knew there was a supermarket around the corner from my apartment rental.)
Solo Travel Step 2: Know Your Limits
I’m very comfortable by myself—in museums, coffee shops, parks, and just wandering a city. Where am I not comfortable alone? Restaurants, particularly nice ones. But a guy’s gotta eat, right? So before leaving, I researched both the dining culture and restaurants amenable to solo diners—namely those with bar seating and outdoor tables. Food halls and public markets are also great for solo travelers, thanks to their variety of dining options in a super casual, grab-and-go setting.
Solo Travel Step 3: Leave Room for Spontaneity
For my solo trip to Copenhagen, I used a “connect the dots” itinerary: I settled on one to two firm goals for each day, from specifics such as visiting a museum to general plans like checking out a particular neighborhood. I also read up on the general area surrounding those activities and identified other things I’d like—but didn’t need—to see. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but structuring my trip this way mean meant I never felt like I was rushing or (more importantly) lost.
This also left me with tons of flexibility for activities I might have otherwise missed, like a boat tour (it was leaving as I walked by, so I hopped on), a meandering bike ride, or even a long cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe. To me, much of the fun of any trip comes from unplanned detours, so balancing structure with freedom is key.
Solo Travel Step 4: Take Smart Precautions
It’s wise for solo travelers to take a few extra precautions, and it’s key to differentiate between being smart and being scared. Lean toward the former, and you (hopefully) won’t have to deal with the latter.
So, here are my tips for being smart while traveling alone:
Know where you can get Wi-Fi—If you’re traveling abroad and don’t purchase an international data plan, scope out coffee shops, public buildings, and other locations with free Wi-Fi. Use these hotspots to check your bank account, touch base with family or friends, or make calls with Skype or FaceTime.
Go light—Leave most of your valuable belongs at your hotel or rental, preferably in a safe. If you’re worried about pickpockets, your front pants pocket is generally safer than the back.
Be confident and cautious—Many people are trustworthy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, directions, etc. But remain conscious of your surroundings, wallet, and anything that seems off.
Don’t take silly risks—That pitch-black alleyway may be a shortcut back to your hotel, but come on. Staying safe while traveling alone is as much about common sense as anything else, so use it and avoid putting yourself in unnecessarily vulnerable situations.
Carl Unger is a writer living in Massachusetts.
Follow him on Instagram @cunger38.
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.
While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.