Families flock to water parks and couples seek out luxurious destinations, but single folks sometimes get left in the dust. Taking a trip to visit siblings or crashing on a friend’s coach might be fun from time to time, but there’s no reason anyone should miss out on a stellar trip just because they don’t have a partner. Going solo might actually be more fun.
Traveling as an individual means you have a lot more flexibility in terms of plans. It might be inconsiderate to pick a flight that leaves at 5:15 a.m. to save on airfare when going with a pal, but traveling by yourself opens you up to a lot of possibilities. You’re also 100% in charge of the schedule. That means there’s no need to suffer through a museum that makes you want to pull your hair out when you’d rather go for a relaxing boat ride. Nothing planned yet? Travel + Leisure has a great list of its favorite countries for traveling alone to give you some inspiration.
As wonderful as all that freedom is, individual travelers need to be a lot more savvy. If you aren’t careful, you can get mugged, or worse. But don’t fear — we’ve compiled some great tips to help keep you safe on vacation. Read up and get ready for one of the best trips you’ll ever take.
1. Research ahead of time
It’s likely that you’ve already read plenty about whichever location you chose, but be sure to go deeper than just information about sites you want to see and hotels in the area. Don’t immediately book a room just because it’s a great deal.
It could be in a rough neighborhood, or there could be some sort of national unrest if you’re headed out of the country. Condé Nast Traveler recommends downloading the Smart Traveler app for your phone. It’s a program designed by the U.S. Department of State that will notify you of any emergencies and features regularly updated travel warnings. There are also a number of other helpful apps you might want to consider.
If you’re checking out an entirely new location, it’s not a bad idea to look into criminal activity as well. Derek E. Baron, a travel blogger, tells CBS Chicago that the website Plansify.com is a great resource for finding out about criminal activity from fellow travelers. Like-minded adventurers are going to have the most accurate and reliable information about what the area is really like.
And just because you’re in an unfamiliar city or country does not mean you should assume your regular clothes are most appropriate. Find out about customs and dress before you head out. Independent Traveler says, “Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry.” The same goes for obvious tourist attire.
2. Stay connected
While it’s tempting to completely unplug when enjoying a relaxing trip, it’s not the smartest idea for individuals. Emergencies happen. You could lose your luggage or get robbed, so having phone and internet access is key. AARP Travel recommends you check with your phone service provider before leaving to make sure you’ll be able to get service. If it’s too much of a hassle, renting or purchasing a temporary phone while away is a smart choice.
Social media is another great way to stay in touch while traveling. A few photo uploads and messages to friends keeps them aware of your activities. Many locations have a wide array of internet cafes to meet your needs, but be aware of what type of information you’re sharing. Nomadic Matt warns public internet often isn’t secure, meaning your personal information could be stolen. That’s not that big of a deal when it comes to Facebook or Instagram, but banking information is a completely different story.
3. Let others know your itinerary
This, of course, means you should have an itinerary. While it might seem juvenile to plan out your whole day, it’ll save you a lot of headache if something goes wrong. USA Today recommends providing friends and family with your day’s schedule and setting up regular times to check in. And don’t forget to provide them with the address of your accommodations.
It’s not a bad idea to let some people around you know of your plans either. AARP Travel suggests you keep a concierge or innkeeper updated on your schedule just in case. It might sound like overkill, but things do go wrong. As an added precaution, U.S. News and World Report suggests registering your itinerary with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. In the event of major disasters or political unrest, it provides embassies a way to contact you.
4. Be independent
While it might sound confusing to suggest self-reliance, you can’t bank on strangers’ trustworthiness. Doing your research ahead of time will help, but you should also arm yourself with some basic tools to help you get around. Rick Steves’ Europe says it’s a good idea to keep money, a guidebook, a map, and a phrase book with you at all times.
Just be smart about when you pull out those tools. Unfolding a massive map on a busy street while nervously glancing around is definitely not a good idea. If you do find yourself lost, don’t just ask a random person on the street. Reader’s Digest says it’s always a better idea to enter a business to ask for directions. Basically, try not to look like a tourist.
5. Limit alcohol consumption
Letting loose might be appealing when traveling, especially if work has been particularly stressful. This is one instance where the rules of travel differ for single people, though. Getting drunk when you’re alone just isn’t a good idea. Condé Nast Traveler reveals some developing countries might mix toxic substances into some of their liquors. And whatever you do, never leave a drink unattended.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any tasty beverages, though. Just know your limits and make smart choices about when you’ve had enough.
6. Don’t carry all of your personal items
Just because you traveled light and have the ability to carry your license, passport, multiple credit cards, and cash with you at once doesn’t mean you should. TechRepublic points out keeping everything in one purse or wallet means it can all get stolen if someone robs you. While it might seem like a pain, utilizing multiple storage locations for your personal items is the best plan.
USA Today recommends keeping money in under-clothing storage like specialized bras and money belts. The story also says it’s a good idea to keep small bills and limit the amount of items you carry in your wallet. And actually use the hotel room safe. It’s a good idea to keep larger amounts of money and your passport under lock and key.
7. Learn emergency numbers in advance
It’s better to plan for the worst and have a smooth trip than plan for a smooth trip and have the worst happen. Nomadic Matt suggests you look up the local emergency contact information before you depart, or immediately after you arrive. You probably won’t need it, but you might.
8. Learn some basic self-defense
Frequently, an assailant is only after money and other valuables. According to The Washington Post, letting the mugger take your purse or wallet is the safest option. It’s probably not your natural reaction, so try to maintain a clear head if someone grabs for your stuff.
In the worst case scenario, you may have to defend yourself. Lifehacker shares a tutorial for some basic moves that anyone can use. But keep in mind, these are for life-threatening emergencies only. If it’s a matter of losing a couple of hundred dollars, take the hit to your wallet.