I didn't get on my first flight until I was 21, so when I found myself on a flight to Chicago for my first solo trip, it was honestly scary. Fast forward five years, I am quick to hop on a plane alone and actually prefer it to larger group trips. My first solo trip was just a matter of me really wanting to visit Chicago and having no one else free to go with. I get a lot of anxiety when flying, so flying alone had never crossed my mind. But little did I know, that first trip would change who I was as a traveler forever. I loved Chicago, but most importantly, I loved the freedom I had to truly explore the city on my own terms because I didn't have to wait around for anyone.
I woke up when I felt like it, visited all of the places I was interested in, and ate only at places that caught my attention. I felt as safe walking down the street in downtown Chi as I do walking around the city in NY. That trip was the catalyst for my newly implemented motto of "Book now, ask later." Since then, I've gone as far as Hawaii, Houston, and Aruba all on my own. Hawaii and Aruba both pushed me to new levels and despite hearing the concern from others who couldn't believe I was going so far all alone, those have been some of my favorite trips to date. Every chance I get, I'm encouraging someone to take a trip alone when everyone flakes or they just really need some alone time.
I understand why some people are hesitant about taking that leap and traveling solo, so I asked some of my favorite travel influencers and bloggers about their own experiences with traveling alone and what advice they have for those looking to take that leap. See their tips below and start planning that first trip now!
Courtesy of Sabrina
"Traveling solo actually found me by way of a flaky travel partner! I had a trip planned with a friend who backed out at the last minute and I had two choices: cancel the trip or go alone. I wasn't going to lose all that money and time spent planning because of someone else. It was in that moment that I realized that I can experience the world with or without the company of another. Travel is my best friend!
"The most enjoyable thing about solo travel is being on your own schedule. When you're alone, the whole day is yours to seize, and in your own perfect fashion. Some days, I want to get up super early and explore, while other days, I want to pamper myself with a spa day. The choice is completely mine when I'm solo, and to be honest I love it that way! Solo travel can be a way to tap back into who you truly are and fortify the most important relationship you will ever have in your life: the relationship with yourself."
"Also, from what I've experienced and heard from others, safety is a huge concern when traveling alone; especially as a woman. To combat this, I just remain hyper-vigilant of my surroundings and always let someone from home know exactly where I am. I don't ever reveal too much about myself if I am speaking with someone I don't know. I am also super intuitive, and if something doesn't feel right, I remove myself from the situation as quickly and as subtly as possible.
"Also, whenever I travel solo, I never have an issue taking pictures. Most times people are ready and willing to help and (with a little guidance) the pictures come out beautifully! For example, when I traveled to Cartagena, I had a photographer approach me at the pool and we had an impromptu photoshoot! I always have my tripod on deck though, just in case I need an extra hand, so to speak."
Courtesy of Dominique
"Traveling solo to me is the most liberating thing anyone can do. I've learned so much about myself from just being with myself. I think the scariest part for a lot of people is just knowing that you are your own company. But what I've learned is that you gotta step out on faith and the things that scare you the most are the things that are going to be the most beneficial for you. I've faced my fears and done things that I said I would never do. People will try to discourage you, but don't listen to what people say, go ahead and see for yourself.
"So first thing, research, research, research! The customs, the culture of that country, etc., especially when it comes to dress code and things like that. The number one thing that I do is first enroll myself in the S.T.E.P. Program. S.T.E.P. stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and it's a free program that will register your trip with the U.S. Embassy in whatever country you're visiting. So then you'll get alerts about safety conditions, emergencies, natural disasters and things like that. This way you will be in the loop and also the embassy will know you are there and exactly who you are, and can provide support if you're in trouble. So that's my number one thing that I do once I book a trip.
"The other thing is that I try to pre-plan when I am solo. Pre-plan my taxi ride, my excursions, etc. because you don't want to be out there looking lost. This can make you an easy target anywhere. I liked to use Booking.com for my taxi rides. You can pre-plan every taxi ride and they will come and pick you up. If you say Tuesday I'm going to go jet skiing at this location, you go ahead and schedule it, and they'll pick you up at the time and bring you back. Everything is pre-planned."
"Another thing is that when you're doing solo travel, you're never really alone because you make so many connections along the way. You meet so many people and believe it or not, there are other solo travelers out there just like you, that you will find along the way. I met one of my best friends who is my best friend [to] this day, on a solo trip to St. Thomas. We both were on a solo trip and ended up on an excursion together. So you know, two young, black girls, just talking or whatever and it turns out she lived literally three blocks from my house. After that, it wasn't solo anymore; I was with her the whole time. She became my travel partner and we kind of just stayed with each other the whole trip. So I went solo and then ended up with a friend."
Courtesy of Gabby
"My biggest tip would be to start small. So try to warm yourself up, you know, don't feel pressured by society or social media. Don't do it for the 'gram. Do it for yourself. Start off by going to dinner by yourself once a week, or going to a movie by yourself. Just doing the small things and realizing that it's not scary. I definitely plan out a lot, at least outline a lot. But I leave the room to be flexible.
"Some things that I for sure do are ask around the Facebook groups and check out which parts of town are safe and which are not. I try to find at least one or two people on the ground. I'll ask on my social media for just one or two people who have been there before or live there, or are there right now. When I look at Airbnb, I usually try to go with a female owner or a female point of contact, just to ask the questions I really need to ask, like where can I buy tampons in Croatia."
"And here's the thing with safety. People will swear that everyone is following them. And everyone is like, stalking them. I'm like, you know, things do happen so definitely stay aware. But girl, if it's not happening in your home city every single day, it's definitely not going to happen abroad. And honestly, sometimes the cities abroad are safer. You're going to feel like people are staring at you. I felt people were like, 'Are you seriously by yourself?' 'Are you OK?' 'What's wrong with you?'. But you're going to get through that and be like, 'OK, that's a projection that they have and it has nothing to do with me. I'm enjoying myself and it's fine.' So once you warm up to that, I think that it will help you actually enjoy your solo trip.
"Women deserve to be selfish. And that's why I really hope more women solo travel. You get to wake up and do what you want to do all day long. You can cancel all your plans. You can rearrange them. You can meet other people or you can stay by yourself. I think it's such an empowering experience for women. And even though maybe on paper it's scary or just overwhelming to think about, when you actually take it step by step it's the best experience you could have. I think everyone should try at least once."
Courtesy of Ciara
"I took my first domestic solo trip to San Francisco and I took my second international solo trip to Costa Rica. I was tired of waiting for schedules, budgets, etc to align with family and friends. I knew I wanted travel to be a major part of my life, so I needed to take the leap to go - with or without anybody by my side. I enjoyed my own company and I wanted to further challenge myself to pursue my interests even if it meant I had to do so alone. This was critical to pursuing my version of a fulfilled life!
"My favorite adventure was my three-month solo backpacking trip after quitting my job. I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico and backpacked all the way down to Colombia over the course of three months. I learned Spanish, lived with strangers, tasted foods I'd never heard of, fell in love, etc."
"I always advise women to do their research and share their location with at least two other people. You should carry yourself with confidence, be strategic when selecting accommodation, and pack light as possible for convenience. Avoid sharing your location in real time and follow your intuition at all times!"
Courtesy of Devorah
"My first solo trip was to Peru in 2017. I found an insane flight deal from NYC to Peru for $389. Usually these flights are between $600-$700. When I reached out to who I normally travel with, none of them could make it due to scheduling conflicts, budget, etc. So I had a choice, do I give up this rare flight deal or swallow my fears and go? Luckily, I made the right choice. Statistically, you have a higher chance of being harmed in your home city/country than you are anywhere else. To shake the fear requires a mindset change. Instead of thinking about what can go wrong, do your research and follow procedures to avoid these things as best as possible.
"Stay in a busy tourist area to avoid feeling alone, book tours with reputable companies on Tripadvisor so you can meet like-minded people like yourself. I always check the reviews for any accommodation I stay in. I also make sure I do not arrive at night regardless of how cheap the flight is. It's not worth the risk of navigating to your accommodation at night while alone. Additionally, there are lots of resources on solo travel that have made my life easier. Pinterest has helped me a lot with planning and finding other female travelers who have shared their solo experiences."
"My favorite solo trip was to Mauritius in 2020. I wasn't planning on going but I was already in the Seychelles and found a round trip flight there for $400 (it's usually $800+ from NYC), so I went with 48 hours notice. Not much time to plan but I was able to wing it thanks to Pinterest and a great hotel staff. I rented a car and drove throughout the island. I almost didn't make it home because I loved it that much.
"Solitude is one of the best forms of self-care. There's no better feeling than taking some time (even if it's a weekend) to only focus on YOU and what you want. From someone who's now been to more than 10 countries solo, this freeing feeling will outweigh your fears."
Featured image courtesy of Sabrina @With.Love.Brina