It’s common for those considering travelling on their own to worry about safety, and if they’ll be lonely, says travel writer Janice Waugh, creator of the blog Solo Traveler and author of The Solo Traveller’s Handbook. But it’s really not that difficult, and it’s definitely worth it, she says. “You really get to discover yourself; to figure out who you are when no one’s looking. And you build confidence in incredible ways.” She shares her top tips for newbies:
1. Stick within your comfort zone (for your first trip!)
Not sure where to head for your first solo trip? Start with a place where you speak the language, says Janice. “For a newbie, think close to home and experience what travel is by yourself before you have to navigate international airports and customs alone.” Consider taking a weekend road trip and checking into a quaint B&B or find a yoga or spa retreat near you.
2. Steer clear of the big hotel chains
Janice recommends staying at smaller, independent accommodations that cultivate a community culture. Book a room at a B&B or at a high-end hostel, she says. Or rent an apartment, so you’ll be in a neighbourhood, where you’ll frequent local businesses and shops. “You’ll go to the same green grocer every morning, the same bakery; you’ll sit down for coffee in the same place, and you’ll get to know people in the community,” she says. Check out Airbnb or Homeaway.ca for vacation rentals in your dream destination.
3. Socialize at supper
One of the most common concerns Janice hears is about mealtimes. But there are lots of things you can do to avoid uttering the words, “table for one.” Try eating at the bar, or pick up a guide book before you leave to scout out restaurants with communal tables. She also suggests looking for high-end or independent coffee shops with good menus, as they tend to be very social places.
4. Avoid the single supplement
Many companies charge a premium to singles for accommodation, tours or travel packages, as most rates are based on double occupancy. But the good news is the solo market is becoming stronger, so a number of companies are adjusting their business model to take advantage of it. “Some companies will pair you with someone of the same sex, and if they can’t, they’ll waive the supplement,” says Janice.
Look for companies and tour operators that specialize in solo or adventure travel, like Overseas Adventure Travel, G Travel, Intrepid Travel and SoloMate Travel. Or check out Janice’s site, Solo Traveler, which has a regular round-up of the best deals.
5. Do as the locals do
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, look into day tours and excursions, like a cooking class or a walking tour. Book an experience through Vayable, an online marketplace where locals offer tours to travellers, to meet people and get a genuine taste of your destination. Or log onto Meetup.com to find people with similar interests – groups do everything from practice French to play board games together.
Bonus: get confident!
Sometimes when people go out on their own at home, they feel awkward, says Janice. But when you’re travelling, it’s the opposite. “Know that when you meet people you are fascinating,” she says. “You are one heck of a gal to be doing this on your own – that’s how people feel about you!”