Sunday, February 3, 2013

Great Ways To Make Your Solo Trip...FABULOUS!

Frigid temperatures have a way of transporting my mind to warmer climates and new adventures.  Give me a balmy cup of perfectly brewed tea and a good book, (sometimes of the travel variety) and I am well on my way to planning my next adventure.

Yes... I said MY NEXT ADVENTURE.  Most of my friends think that I am a bit looney for traveling solo, but I revel in the opportunity. After all, how often is it that you are truly given the opportunity to go and do whatever you want, whenever you choose. Although I know some who would disagree, taking advantage of the luxury of not having to consider another individual, in my opinion, is priceless. I understand that solo travel is not for everyone, but I find that it is the one time that I can be completely selfish and not have to worry about the whims of another....I'm taking sheer indulgence here.

"But aren't you afraid of traveling alone?" I am always asked.  The short answer is... NO!  I will admit, there are extra precautions that one (especially women) should take, but it's not a big enough concern to prevent me from traveling alone all together. Besides, if I had to wait for another partner to find the time, or the money, I may never have the opportunity. So with the help with my friends at Smarter Travel, we were able to come up with a list of ways to make the best of your solo trip...

Courtesy of Smarter Travel... 

Make Friends
Just because you're traveling alone doesn't mean you should be solo the entire trip. What's one of the best ways to socialize on the road? When you're dining alone, sit at the bar (or counter), where you'll have more opportunities to strike up a conversation than if you were sitting at a table. Chat up a waiter or bartender for tips on the best local sights, or converse with fellow diners/drinkers about the hip secret spots they've stumbled across so far. Use your transit time wisely, too, and chat up your seatmates if they're willing. If you want guaranteed companionship, joining a group tour, even if it's only for a few hours, can be a great way to meet people.  If tour buses and guides aren't your thing, consider signing up with Meetup (a website that lists gatherings for pretty much every interest in hundreds of cities) and attending an event full of like-minded people while you're on the road.

Avoid pricey hotel rooms for just one person and have a built-in way to meet people by staying at a hostel. Don't want to share a room on your solo trip? Many hostels have private rooms (some even en suite) that are still cheaper than a traditional hotel. Hostels usually offer plenty of common rooms (such as a kitchen and a TV room) where people congregate to meet fellow travelers. Most hostels organize daily activities (be it a movie night or a bar crawl), so you can find a good group to go out with. Or, check hostel message boards, where travelers often post if they're looking for people to travel with.

Indulge Yourself
Revel in the luxury of not having to please a travel partner (or a group of people). Spend the whole morning sleeping in your hotel bed, or wake up super early to hike somewhere in time to catch the sunrise—you're the only one making the decisions on this trip. Have an obscure hobby, interest, or taste in food? Go crazy and eat only at your favorite kinds of restaurants or spend your whole trip checking out the weird museums no one else likes—you won't be hearing any complaints or whining.

Stay Safe
Knowing that there is no one there to have your back is the most important thing that you can remember.  Do your research before you go so you know which areas are unsafe, which you should avoid after dark, what the common local scams are, etc. Be sure to let someone back home know your approximate schedule (in case you don't return on time), and use common sense when it comes to flashing valuables or going places with strangers.  In order to make the most out of your trip, be sure to stay safe—you don't want to waste time at the police station or embassy (or worse: in the hospital) after getting mugged.

Bring Good Reads
You might have a lot of alone time when traveling solo, so be sure that you have lots of reading material with you. Treat yourself to some books that you've been dying to read, and you'll always have a good (silent) companion with you when you're eating or on a long train ride by yourself. Plus, if you're traveling alone in a country where you don't speak the language, it can be very comforting to lose yourself in your native language after long being immersed in something you can't understand. Opting for a physical book can be a good conversation starter when strangers ask what you're reading, but e-books can save prime space in your luggage.

Avoid The Single Supplement
Unfortunately, solo travelers on many cruises and tours will get slammed by a "single supplement," punishing them for not sharing a room with a travel partner. Research tour companies before you book—some have an option that will let you sign up to be paired with another single traveler as roommates, so you can still get the cheaper rate. For cruises, look for ships that offer single rooms (supplement free) or for cruise lines running great deals that might be willing to waive the fee.

Get a Camera Extender
Traveling alone doesn't mean that you should be deprived of prime Facebook snaps of you posing in front of famous attractions. Get in the picture (without having to entrust your camera to a stranger) by using a camera extender, which you can use to take self-portraits. We like the GorillaPod line of portable mounts for cameras (and camera phones) that will let you take your photos, free of stranger arm contortions.

Don't forget, 2013 is the year that you begin to live your life with intentional purpose and passion.  There is an entire Earth filled with exploits and escapades expecting your stamp of approval.  So what the heck are you waiting for?