Traveling alone has a lot of perks, from meeting new people to changing your mind on a whim.
Would you like to go on a trip with someone you know intimately, do exactly what you want, and never once have to share your dessert? “More people are traveling on their own,” says AAA Travel’s Doreen Loofburrow, “and not just because their friends and family can’t join them.” Here’s how to make the most of going it alone.
Do your homework
You won’t have friends to watch your bags or help with navigation, so make your first night’s reservation ahead of time and know how you will get to the hotel. Map out your itinerary at home, then make sure this info is easily accessible on the road. Also tell your bank and your credit card company where you’re going to prevent fraud alerts that could block access to funds.
Put lines in the water
Before leaving, ask friends and colleagues for online introductions to people they know in your destination. These connections can pay off handsomely and help ease loneliness. Or join a small group tour or themed cruise. “You’ll inevitably wind up meeting travelers with similar interests,” Loofburrow says, “but you can break away when you want time on your own.”
Be present where you are
Once you’ve embarked, set aside your electronic devices and engage with your surroundings. Walk or take public transportation. Delve into themes that pique your interest—from indigenous art to cocktail culture. Keep a journal to explore how these experiences are changing and inspiring you.
Meet people on your terms
Have as much or as little contact with others as you want. Become a regular at a coffeehouse and exchange tips with locals and fellow travelers. Sit at the communal table at dinnertime. Ask someone to take your picture. Go on a walking tour and chat with your guide. “When you’re on your own, it’s amazing how people will reach out to you,” Loofburrow observes. “It’s a great way to really immerse yourself in a place.”
Follow your heart
If you want to linger in the café for an hour, do it. The museum is boring? Leave. “Take advantage of the flexibility,” Loofburrow says. “If you’re not having fun, do something different. One of the best things about traveling alone is the freedom to change your plans on a whim.”
This article was first published in July 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.