Over breakfast in Ireland the other morning, two seasoned Irish women struck up a conversation with my husband and me. One asked why we were in Ireland, to which I responded that I had traveled alone several years ago in the country and brought back my husband this time for a jaunt. She mumbled something about traveling alone, and how it isn’t something you could do now because the world is dangerous. In an attempt to avoid a scene in the breakfast room, I gritted my teeth and kept my thoughts about how wrong she was about solo travel to myself.

Henry David Thoreau famously penned: The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait til that other is ready.

These words ring true for the solo traveler and my experiences traveling alone. I could have waited for someone to join me, but instead, I went when I was ready. On several solo trips, namely, one that took me across Ireland for a month, I lived and learned about traveling solo, making mistakes along the way. If I could do it all over again, I would still set out on my own, but avoid some of these mishaps. These words ring true for the solo traveler and my experiences traveling alone. I could have waited for someone to join me, but instead, I went when I was ready. On several solo trips, namely, one that took me across Ireland for a month, I lived and learned about solo travel mistakes along the way.

If I could do it all over again, I would still set out on my own, but avoid some of these mishaps.

Forgetting to Do Research on the Destination Before You Arrive

Woman Avoiding Solo Travel Mistakes by Researching Beforehand

Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to begin thinking about a trip itinerary. It’s best to start your research ahead of time, even as early as when you first book your non-stop flights to your destination of choice. When traveling alone, it’s particularly important that you have a plan in place. While you certainly want to allow for some spontaneity, it’s good to have basic knowledge about your destination. For example, knowing what areas to avoid at night can help you stay safe as a solo traveler. Be sure to research restaurants that are more friendly to solo travelers and ideas for maximizing your touring options. Some attractions are more suited than others for solo travelers. You won’t want to learn these lessons the hard way.

Staying in Quiet Towns

Especially in the case of my solo travels in Ireland, I made the mistake of staying in too many quiet towns. Everyone who has traveled solo will tell you it is a social experience, because, after all, it can be quite isolating if you don’t have opportunities to interact with others. My favorite experiences traveling alone always involved more lively places where I actually had people to interact with and attractions to see.

Never Eating at the Bar

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During many of my solo travels, I would try to eat early to avoid being stared at because I was alone. I would dine in empty restaurants, feasting on early bird specials. When I did brave the actual dinner hour at my destinations, I always found eating alone was not so scary, especially when I grabbed a seat at the bar. If you’re traveling solo, eating at bars can be a great way to socialize, learn something new about where you’re staying, and even have a little conversation with someone else over a meal. In hindsight, I wish I ate more meals during actual dinner hours and in bar scenarios where I could have more social interaction.

Arriving at a New Destination Under Stressful Circumstances

On my big solo trip to Ireland, I flew into Dublin and promptly rented a car to drive into the city. Having never driven on the other side of the road, this task proved especially stressful. With a GPS that couldn’t find a satellite signal, I roamed into Dublin blindly looking for my hotel. I ended up down a dead-end and narrow lane, nearly in tears and wishing I wasn’t alone. Everything turned out just fine in the end, but I wish I had eliminated the stresses on my first day of solo travel. I should have picked up the car a few days later after getting over jet lag and having a few days to get adjusted to life on the road alone. If you can, try to make your first few days of solo travel as relaxed as possible.

Related: Safety, Stress, and Savings: Tips for the Solo Traveler

Thinking Everyone is Out to Get You or Everyone is Your Best Friend

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When I traveled solo the first few times, I had a tendency to distrust anyone that wanted to talk to me. I was worried they had sinister intentions, especially in the first few days of traveling alone. As I got into the swing of things, I quickly realized that I could let down my guard a bit. The opposite can also be true of solo travel. You might go into it wide-eyed and overly trusting, heading off with a stranger after a five-minute conversation. Solo travel does require a delicate balance of trust and skepticism. Should you fall too far in either direction, you could find yourself in a very isolating or dangerous situation. Enjoy those conversations that spring up with locals and other travelers, but never agree to head off alone with someone you just met in a place that’s unfamiliar to you.

Failing to Splurge Once in Awhile

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Solo travel can be rewarding and empowering. For me, I always find this new sense of confidence when I travel alone. I figure out how to get from A to B, drive in foreign countries, and speak other languages. Then again, solo travel can wear on you over time. There can be a tendency to always feel the need to get up and go, to keep moving. While you might be traveling alone, it never hurts to splurge on some “me” time every once in a while. Ditch the hostel for a nice hotel some nights. Feast on a fancy meal or spend a day doing absolutely nothing.

Forgetting to Bring the Right Identification

Woman Avoids Solo Travel Mistakes by Bringing ID

One of the more common solo travel mistakes people make is forgetting to double-check the type of ID they need to bring. It’s always important to travel with the proper identification, especially when you’re traveling alone. It’s important for the authorities to have your contact information in case of any emergencies. It’s recommended to use a theft-resistant bag when touring busy areas. You should also take full advantage of any safe in your lodging accommodations. Having backup copies of important documents and pieces of identification will give you more peace of mind. Be sure to also keep copies of the essentials in your smartphone or another electronic device.

Not Taking the Time to Learn a Few Key Words in the Native Language

Young Woman Avoids Solo Travel Mistakes by Learning New Language

There’s no doubt that you put yourself in a more vulnerable position when traveling alone. You can protect yourself against some of this vulnerability by making the effort to learn a few keywords and phrases in the native language of your destination. Even knowing how to ask for directions or how to find a taxi can come in handy if you find yourself in a bind on your solo travel adventure. In addition, knowing a few phrases in the native language will make it easier for you to communicate with locals. This communication will help you make friends and get more out of your experience as a solo traveler.

Packing Too Much

Man Makes Solo Travel Mistakes Packing Too Much

When you’re traveling solo, you’ll need to manage your own luggage, sometimes without any help. Therefore, it’s crucial that you pack light and only bring along the essentials that you can easily handle. Packing light will give you more control over your trip experience. It will also give you more flexibility and the ability to be spontaneous on your travels. Since the ability to do your own thing is the best part about solo travel, you don’t want to be held back because of excessive luggage.

Not Sticking To A Realistic Budget

Elderly Woman Avoids Solo Travel Mistakes by Budgeting

Every successful trip starts with a realistic budget. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying more per person for your travels without a partner to split costs. This increased cost applies to a variety of trip elements, including hotel rooms, ground transportation, and more. Having a realistic budget in mind will ensure that you don’t get surprised with extra costs. One of the best parts of solo travel is being able to direct your travel budget to the parts of your trip that matter the most to you. If you’re a foodie, don’t be shy about splurging on great meals every night rather than directing those funds to parts of your trip that aren’t as impactful to you.

Have you traveled solo? What other solo travel mistakes would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments section.

2 Responses

  1. Lorin Wilson

    Great suggestions for one who has never traveled solo…but looking forward to it in 2022.

    Reply
  2. Angell

    I agree wholeheartedly with Henry Thoreau’s quote! Today there Air BNBs but I found Guest houses worked best for me since you stayed with “locals” who guided you through the “dos” and “don’ts”. Never rush to catch (or miss) any form of transportation, especially trains with connections. For women if you do eat at the Bar take the end seat and finally always have water with you when you start your day.

    Reply

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About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.