By K.J. Matthews, Editor-in-Chief
The days of being frowned upon for traveling alone are, thankfully, behind us. The number of solo travelers has increased, according to a recent VISA Global Intentions Study. Twenty-four percent of leisure travelers vacationed alone last year, compared to 15-percent in 2013.
There are benefits to traveling light, such as doing what you want, when you want.
Here are 13 things to make flying solo more safe and fun:
OK, we might get some blowback on this one. But, here’s the deal. Staying at a hotel with staff, guests, and security might be safer than staying all by yourself in a vacation rental. A vacation is supposed to be a time when you relax and have fun. If you have to be extra vigilant about your surroundings all the time, then, guess what? Having fun will take a backseat. Having a concierge, front desk staff, hotel security, and other visitors around might help you sleep better and focus all your energy on sightseeing, and not that noise in the middle of the night.
It might sound crazy, but unless you want strangers to bother you – put a ring on it. It just takes the pressure off and it keeps people from making unwanted passes or harassing you. No better way to ruin a relaxing time at the pool than getting ogled and talked to by someone trying to hook up with you. If you’re single and want to meet someone, then by all means, take off the ring when you spot someone attractive. But, better to have it and just take it off, than to not have it at all.
Talk about fun. From dance classes to city group tours to cooking lessons, there’s a lot to do. And, thanks to the good ol’ Internet, you can plan and pay for it ahead of time. Mixing up your “alone” time with group activities can bring balance and more “joie de vivre.” We’ve already covered the best and most inexpensive places to book vacation activities online. There is a lot to sort through, so give yourself plenty of time.
This app reminds us of Tinder, but it’s for solo female travelers. It’s the first women-only travel app that lets you connect with other solo females who are visiting the same destination and share the same interests. You enter vacation dates and times, and swipe right or left to choose a travel buddy. Once you choose someone, reach out to make plans to hang out. It’s the solution to combatting loneliness on long “solo-cations.” Tourlina promises to verify and screen all of its users, who are ages 20 to 50.
These three organizations will help you meet more people in one day than you meet in your hometown in one year. InterNations is essentially a place for international expats to feel more at home. It’s an organization that has chapters in more than 300 cities worldwide. These local chapters host parties, networking events, and other activities for people who just moved to town. And, although you’re not technically relocating, it’s still a great idea to sign up to see if anything is happening during your visit. Meetup and MEETin cater to local residents. Meetup (which has more than 20 million members in 180 countries) requires registration, and combines your zip code with your particular interest. While MEETin (which has 90,000 members and dozens of chapters) organizes parties and events to help people make friends. Signing up for one, or all three groups, is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people while you are in town. Who knows, you find another wanderluster like yourself.
It never hurts to introduce yourself via email or a call. It’s a way to get a little personal attention once you arrive from the hotel staff and concierge. They’ll come in handy when you need to know the best way to get dinner reservations at a Michelin-starred restaurant or find the least crowded tour to take of well-known tourist attractions.
If you’re staying in a room that has windows or sliding glass doors, the thought of someone breaking into your hotel room might be a concern. We know that crime can happen anywhere, anytime. But, staying on a higher floor may lower your risk of being burglarized and give you extra peace of mind. Criminals may be much more likely to target guest rooms on the ground floor, than higher floors. If possible, put in your request when you make your reservations.
Some cities have lower crime rates and excellent taxi-cab service. But, when traveling alone at night, it’s good to write down the cab number AND take a smartphone photo, before you get inside. Most of the time our experiences are enjoyable and safe. But, sometimes, you might encounter a problem. If that happens, it’s a good idea to have as many details as possible about the cab and the driver. Better safe than sorry.
If we had to choose the most important thing to do on this list, this would be it. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is for citizens and nationals of the U.S. and, since you’re a female traveling alone, then this is a no-brainer. Log onto www.step.state.gov to enter your trip location, dates, passport number, and contact information. Once you’re signed up, the free service alerts the foreign embassy and/or consulate of your trip. If political unrest or any other emergency happens while you’re on vacation, officials will contact you and your family. It’s your first line of defense, if trouble happens abroad.
This is a simple one, but often, we have so much going on we forget. A paper copy of your hotel address and phone number can come in handy if you have a cab driver who doesn’t speak your language. You’ll have the address ready and won’t have to deal with language barriers. Making copies of your passport is also smart in case you lose it. It’s also a great idea to put a copy of your passport inside each piece of luggage just in case your luggage is lost, delayed, or the attached tag comes off.
You might be doing this already, but here’s another friendly reminder. Download your boarding passes, city maps, and public transportation schedules before you leave. It’s easier to do it at home where the Wi-Fi is free or cheaper. No need to rack up international fees for web browsing and data usage. You want to have everything you need on your phone the moment you land.
Yeah, we know this is right up there with “Didn’t your mom tell you not to talk to strangers?” But, sometimes we are enjoying ourselves so much that we forget this cardinal rule. Strangers don’t need to know if you are alone or not. In fact, when you’re in a taxi alone, it’s a great idea to mention that friends are waiting for you or pretend you are texting or talking to them letting them know you are your way. This requires a little acting on your part, but you can do it!
Depending on your destination, public transportation might not be the safest way to get around at night. You’ll have to consider the neighborhood. Yes, it’s more expensive than taking a bus or a train or the subway, but you can’t put a price on safety. Deciding whether or not to walk around at night, alone in a new city can be decided once you feel things out. And, if for no other reason, taking a taxi will be easier on your feet. You won’t have to walk long distances in high-heels to that bar or nightclub.