12 Essential Tips Every Solo Traveler Needs to Know

UPDATED: May 3, 2024
PUBLISHED: May 3, 2024
Young women on a boat in a the tropics using Solo travel tips

Solo travel can be a fantastic way to broaden your horizons. It means you can choose when and where you go, when to take a break or when to follow an adventure without consulting anyone else.

Still, it can have a few downsides, like being responsible for every decision and solving every problem without input from others. Keep reading for our best solo travel tips, whether you’re learning how to travel solo for the first time or you’re a seasoned traveler. 

1. Bring a first-aid kit

Part of solo travel is being responsible for all of your bags, which means you generally want to pack as lightly as possible. However, whether you bring one pair of shoes or two, don’t forget to include a basic first-aid kit in your gear. 

You can buy a small travel kit that doesn’t take up much room and includes at least some of the following:

  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Antacids
  • Antihistamines
  • Tweezers
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • A small assortment of bandages
  • A roll of gauze
  • Medical tape
  • A basic thermometer
  • Cold medications
  • Any prescription drugs you take regularly
  • A couple of electrolyte tablets or powders
  • Sunscreen 
  • Tampons or pads

Adjust the items in your first-aid kit if you’re hiking or going to a particularly hot or cold location.

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2. Use the cloud

Scan or take photos of your flight and hotel confirmations, credit card and insurance cards, and any other documents that might be useful. Keep these documents in the cloud and on your phone to easily access them from the road. Use a password-protected folder and share access with your emergency contact or a close friend or family member so they can assist if needed.

If you’re solo traveling internationally, follow this tip: Upload copies of your passport and visa, confirmation documents, travel insurance paperwork and a rough itinerary outline. While you’ll need your physical passport to fly home, having a photo or scan of your passport on your phone can help you when filling out paperwork or if you need to provide identification but don’t want to hand over your original documents. 

3. Put your phone down

Taking pictures while you travel is important and a great way to remember your adventures once you’re back home. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time focusing on the perfect selfie that you miss everything around you. You’ll want to take a few shots of that fantastic sunrise or as you wander a local market, but after that, put the phone down and immerse yourself in the experience of traveling on your own.

4. Pack a sheet and pillowcase

Consider packing a flat sheet and an empty pillowcase in your suitcase. A sheet has multiple uses, including covering up questionable bedding, being a light blanket, or even being a towel if needed. A familiar pillowcase can bring comfort if you’re homesick, or it can be filled with clothes to make an extra pillow or backrest.

5. Plan, but don’t fill every second

Part of the joy of travel is going with the flow and seeing where fate leads, but it can help to have a little structure to your days. Plan to do one or two structured activities daily, like a tour or class, but don’t overbook yourself. Leave room for visiting cafes or restaurants, exploring an unexpected shop, or meeting new people you want to spend time with.

6. Join a group

To get the most out of your time traveling, consider joining a tour group, especially if you are traveling solo internationally for the first time. You can join a single tour group for the length of your trip or string together multiple or partial-day tours with specific themes, like touring museums or going on food or neighborhood walking tours.

While the freedom to explore independently is invaluable, meeting people with similar interests while traveling can help reduce loneliness. Going with a group often means you get more in-depth knowledge than trying to tour historic sites alone, and tour guides usually have suggestions for other local sites or restaurants worth checking out. 

7. Find firsthand reviews

Learning how to travel solo often means thoroughly researching the hotels or attractions you plan to visit. While travel sites and magazines can be helpful, some of your research should include reading firsthand reviews from travelers who have recently visited your destination. 

If you know someone who has been where you’re going, ask them for recommendations and for guidance on anything they would avoid on future trips. Consider joining online travel groups and seek out expats who might currently live where you’re planning to be for their solo travel tips.

8. Put safety first

Being a solo traveler means being aware of your surroundings, especially in a different country. Pay attention to solo travel safety tips including: 

Situational awareness:

  • Research your accommodations and surrounding neighborhoods for safety considerations, including local scams.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings whenever you are out and about.
  • Pay extra attention when you’re out at night or drinking.

Keeping your belongings safe:

  • Invest in a travel wallet to keep your passport, ID, cash and credit cards close to you, but separate from your main bag or backpack.
  • Pack a doorstop or a portable door lock for a low-tech way to help ensure the security of your hotel or hostel room while you sleep. 

Finding your way: 

  • Download a local map to your phone, and keep a paper map available in your day pack with your hotel location marked for easy orientation.
  • Arrange transportation to and from the airport beforehand and ask for confirmation of the driver’s name and for a vehicle description before you get into a car.

Digital security:

  • Limit social media posts while you’re out of town to avoid telling criminals your home is uninhabited and to ensure you’re not giving away your exact location.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with a friend or family member.

9. Use travel insurance

If you’re traveling internationally, consider purchasing travel insurance to help you get home if something unexpected happens. Many credit cards offer travel insurance coverage, or you can use a travel insurance comparison site to help you find the best policy. 

While available plans differ, make sure you have coverage for nonrefundable fees and deposits, medical expenses, lost, damaged or stolen baggage, and options to get you home in an emergency. You may also want to consider adding liability coverage in case you cause damage to a rental car or someone’s personal property while you’re in another country. 

10. Learn some of the local language

Part of being a responsible traveler is participating in the local customs and traditions of the place you’re visiting. One of the easiest ways to do this is to practice speaking some of the local language in a low-stakes environment. 

Learn local greetings, how to say please and thank you, and how to order common food items, like coffee and tea. Even if you get it wrong or your pronunciation is off, most locals will appreciate that you tried and will generally offer assistance.

11. Learn to say no

Part of traveling on your own is learning how to say no. While you want to experience as much as possible, remember to listen to your gut if you receive an invitation that makes you uncomfortable or if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, like going off alone with someone to an unfamiliar area.

Practice saying no in the local dialect and pay attention to nonverbal gestures that mean no locally (like shaking your head or using certain hand gestures). Research local police or help services, and store those numbers in your phone for easy access. You can also ask the front desk at your hotel or hostel for assistance. 

12. Embrace your interests

When you travel solo, you can truly invest in yourself and your interests. Remember, you get to decide what you do and don’t explore at any given destination. If you love books, checking out a local library or bookstore can be a thrilling adventure. If you’re a foodie, dining at a fabulous restaurant and exploring the local culinary scene can be an enriching experience. 

Plan your trip based on your interests and needs. Solo travel can be intimidating and even a little lonely, but exploring the world on your terms can lead to growth and confidence that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Photo By Peera_stockfoto/Shutterstock.com