Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Don’t let the lack of a travel companion keep you from missing out on an amazing experience.
For all sorts of reasons, you might be faced with the choice of traveling alone, or not traveling at all. Your partner, friends or family may not be able to take the same time off work, or maybe they’re just not as keen on the destination as you are. That shouldn’t mean you’re stuck at home.
I love traveling by myself and have had some fantastic experiences abroad all on my own. In fact, sometimes I actually prefer traveling alone to traveling with others.
Here are reasons I love traveling alone, as well as tips to help you plan your first solo trip.
Why you should consider a solo trip
Haven’t yet considered taking a trip alone? There are several reasons to do so.
First, you can have complete freedom and control to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Want to sleep in until noon, then order room service and binge-watch “Real Housewives” to relax? No problem. Want to be up at 6 a.m. to watch the sunrise during a peaceful run to a scenic lookout? You can do that, too. Love museums? Spend all day in one. Hate museums? Skip them completely.
Long story short: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want just because someone you’re traveling with wants to do it.
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Also, you’ll likely meet new people when traveling alone since you may be more open to conversations with strangers instead of only talking with the people in your travel group. I’ve also found that being the lone foreigner at a bar or cafe quickly leads to conversation.
On the practical side, solo trips cost less. Sure, you’re not splitting expenses, but you also have half the expenses in many cases. You may score amazing airfare rates or other travel deals if you only book for one person and have flexible dates. If you’re using points for your flight — especially in a premium cabin — it’s significantly easier to find one award seat than two or more.
Additionally, you may be surprised at your own capabilities after planning and navigating your first solo trip. You’ll naturally become a better decision-maker as you decide what to do each day, rather than relying on a travel companion to make choices for you.
There will be challenges
It won’t always be easy.
Traveling on your own isn’t perfect. You may become lonely if you are traveling for an extended period of time, especially at mealtimes. If you enjoy your own company, it may be easier. However, it might be difficult for someone who likes constantly being around others.
Dinnertime can be the hardest as that is when people are most likely to sit down for a meal rather than grab something on the run. Don’t feel self-conscious if you want to take a book or tablet to entertain you — remember, for business travelers eating dinner alone is a pretty normal part of the job and they manage fine.
It can become exhausting to make every single decision yourself. You must solve every problem from a simple “Where can I get a coffee?” to the more complicated “My flight is canceled and no one speaks English, how on earth do I get home?” If you’re an indecisive person, you may struggle with this.
Another downside might be if you have an amazing, unique experience, it may not feel so special if you have no one to share it and remember it with. For example, that terrifying theme park roller coaster that made you almost faint may not make as good a story if no one else was there.
Finally, even if you keep busy as a traveler, there’s often plenty of downtime while traveling. You may find you have almost too much free time, without the natural conversations with other travelers.
Related: The 6 best cruise lines for solo travelers
Best places for solo travel
For starters, if you can join a group tour, just about any destination can be suitable for solo travel.
I’m not talking about booking a half-day tour online for the next day and hoping the group will be friendly (or will have other solo travelers). These are multi-day tours where you travel together. I’ve made lifelong friends doing these tours where you are thrown together with complete strangers in an unusual setting.
Related: 9 destinations you can only visit on a tour
If you aren’t joining a tour, there are quite a few destinations suited to traveling alone.
Related: 8 tips on how to travel solo in retirement
Big cities that are easy to navigate with plenty to do
You’ll want to keep yourself busy if traveling alone in a city, so pick one with plenty to do. At the same time, if you have to do all the navigating yourself, aim for those cities where it’s relatively easy to get around.
London, Hong Kong, Dubai and New York City? Yes.
Relaxing beach destinations to switch off and unwind
Feeling burned out at home, pulling monster hours at work and dreaming of the day you can flop down somewhere sunny and recharge? After a few years of the work-from-home grind, you’re not alone.
You might struggle to find someone who can come with you, though, especially at short notice. Don’t be afraid to relax alone. You can lose yourself in a book, top up your tan and take an afternoon nap every day if you wish. You might find that a solo trip is more relaxing than a trip with your friends.
Personally, I love visiting the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca to do exactly that. I return home recharged and ready to dive back into normal life. No beach where you’re going? Book a fancy resort with a nice pool, order a cocktail, fire up a podcast and just chill.
Let’s be real: We all need a good self-care trip from time to time.
Destinations with great hostel and backpacker scenes
At my age (mid-30s), I personally feel a bit too old to sleep in a dorm with strangers. However, many hostels will have private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, which are like basic hotel rooms. Some of these are really nice too. For example, the Generator hostel chain in Europe and the U.S. has rooms that look similar to an Aloft or Moxy hotel.
The benefit is that they will likely be filled with people like you — fun, social travelers who are up for a chat and a laugh. There’s a good chance other solo travelers will be there, looking for someone to hang out with on their journey.
Places like Bali and Berlin are filled with hostels, while places like Kuwait and Casablanca, Morocco, are not. Do your research on the scene before booking the flight. Don’t be afraid of booking a private room in a hostel purely in the hope of meeting other travelers.
Consider cruising solo
Gene Sloan, TPG’s senior cruise and travel reporter, has sailed on more than 150 ships, so I asked him about cruising solo. He said:
“A cruise is a wonderful option for a solo traveler. A hallmark of cruising is that it is a very social type of travel, and solo travelers on cruises generally have no trouble mixing and mingling. Cruisers, in general, are very social people. In fact, many people cruise specifically to meet other people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting alone in a corner of a cruise ship lounge, minding my own business, when another passenger (or two, or five) stopped by and struck up a conversation.”
However, Gene notes that solo cruising can be expensive. He shares that the price for most cabins is based on two people occupying a cabin, so solo cruisers will often pay more on a per-person basis than two people occupying that same cabin. A growing number of lines have been adding cabins for one. Also, some higher-end lines offer special deals for solo travelers that bring down this extra cost, according to Gene.
If you can find a good deal, consider taking a solo cruise. Chances are you’ll make new friends and get some much-needed time away from life’s many stressors.
Related: Another major cruise line adds solo cabins for the first time — and they have balconies
What destinations aren’t suited to solo travelers?
Of course, there are some destinations that solo travelers should avoid, including:
- Super romantic destinations like Paris (the City of Love) or the Maldives, where you are likely to be surrounded by loved-up honeymooners.
- Family-friendly destinations and activities like theme parks and waterparks where you’ll probably stand in line most of the day with no one to talk to. Although not a theme park, Las Vegas isn’t really designed for solo travelers, either.
- Cities that are difficult to navigate on your own. If you don’t have a great grasp of Spanish, you might find Havana frustratingly difficult on your own. Moscow, Beijing and Cairo are wonderful on an organized tour, but may not be easy to do alone.
- A remote resort that’s difficult to leave, especially if it’s hard for you to relax alone for extended periods of time. However, if you enjoy your own company and love relaxing by doing nothing, this is a great option.
Solo travel tips
Once you pick a destination that matches your preferred travel style and is suitable for solo travel, here are some tips to help you prepare for your journey.
Research activities in the destination. A cooking class or food tour will help acclimate you to the local environment and possibly introduce you to other solo travelers with similar interests.
Seize the opportunity — to do what you want. This is the time to visit the museum you’ve always wanted to see or linger through a shopping district without a schedule. You only have yourself to focus on during this trip. It can be liberating to not worry about balancing a schedule with a partner or other family members.
Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member so they know your whereabouts. Also, make a plan to check in with them at certain times during your travels.
Consider your travel gear. You have to carry it all, so pack light. A fanny pack or sling can be a great addition to your travel gear for hands-free travel. It also keeps your valuables close.
Related: 6 solo travel mistakes to avoid on your first trip
Once you arrive at your destination, there are a few other things you can do to ensure a successful solo trip.
First, try and be more social and approachable. Avoid the temptation of putting on your headphones and gluing your eyes to your phone whenever you have a free moment. This is when staying at a hostel is beneficial — it’s nearly expected to talk with other travelers at the bar and in common areas. You may also want to search for places popular with travelers where it’s easy to strike up a conversation.
As discussed, mealtimes can be difficult when traveling alone. You might feel a bit self-conscious rocking up to a fancy restaurant and asking for a table for one. I’ve found I become the most bored when traveling alone during dinner because I have nothing to do beyond eating.
Don’t be afraid to take a book or an iPad with you for company. Alternatively, ask if you can be seated at the bar — some bartenders love a good chat, especially if the venue isn’t busy. Inquire about what their favorite drink to make is or ask for a recommendation for a local beer or cocktail.
I’ve enjoyed hotel breakfasts alone. It’s a good chance to catch up on the daily news and social media from back home, as well as plan the day ahead. For lunch, I usually grab something to take away that is easy to eat alone. Try not to hide away during dinner time and know this is likely to be, by far, the hardest part of your solo day.
Finally, push yourself outside your comfort zone.
If you’ve ever wanted to do an unusual activity but your family or friends didn’t want to do it with you, here’s your chance. Ever wanted to go to a risque burlesque show? Go for it. Always wanted to bungee jump but everyone else is too scared of heights? Now’s the time to do it alone.
I’ve enjoyed some fantastic solo vacations. For me, the freedom and flexibility to do whatever I want, whenever I want, cannot be underestimated. It’s a true holiday when I wake up at whatever time I want to and think, “What do I feel like doing today?”
If you want to travel but the only thing holding you back is someone to do it with, I would seriously consider going alone.
If you do, recognize there may be some times when you feel a little bored and devoid of conversation. However, treasure the benefits of traveling alone to compensate for the difficulties. Only do what you want to do and don’t worry about what anyone else is going to think. They’re not there to pass judgment. It’s your trip and you can do and be anything you want.
Now that’s a vacation.
Additional reporting by Becky Blaine.