FAQ: How to Travel Alone for the First Time
Not sure how to travel alone for the first time? Don’t worry. I was a beginner once, too. To this day, I still remember awful sick butterflies fluttering inside my stomach whenever I thought about my upcoming solo trip. Traveling solo is a huge opportunity, an incredible one, but it’s scary too.
My solo travel guide for beginners covers a ton of information for new travelers, but I wanted to create a post that specifically focuses on that epic (and terrifying) first trip alone. As travel bloggers, we’ve all been in your position, and now we want to help you. We believe you fully deserve an extraordinary first experience in a beautiful new destination. Let’s begin.
My first solo trip to Scotland changed my life. This blog – as well as my self-confidence – wouldn’t exist if I had never swallowed my anxiety and boarded that flight for Edinburgh. I still think about those memories whenever I’m going through a difficult patch in my life. Guys, I’m not kidding when I say your first solo trip will transform your entire world and even change your personality for the better.
But how do you do it? Go traveling alone? Good question. Let’s rock the logistics, shall we?
How to Travel Alone for the First Time
You do it.
Boom. Post done.
Okay, okay, you want a longer answer.
Honestly, the first thing you need to do is take the risk. Although it sounds silly, the universe has a way of catching us when we make big decisions, such as booking a ticket for one halfway across the globe. You need to have enough faith in yourself to take the plunge, so to speak. Believe you’ll be okay and go for it.
Remember, though, while faith in yourself is powerful, preparation is also essential for traveling alone for the first time. Do your research. Read plenty of blogs. Even look through Instagram at stunning locations. Look at the State Department’s travel alerts. Then make decisions regarding destinations, tours, accommodation, etc., and stick with them. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many options or you’ll never go anywhere.
And don’t give your mind a chance to “talk you out” of your trip.
Is Solo Travel Worth It?
Yeah yeah, again, you need a longer answer than that. I get it. Traveling is expensive and privilege. It’s a hassle to put big balances on your credit cards and to request time off work. But, if you can swing it, solo travel is absolutely worth your time and money, because the amount of personal growth is priceless. Your investment will be returned.
Think about it:
Solo travel builds your confidence.
Solo travel teaches you new skills.
Solo travel makes you more sociable.
Solo travel pushes you beyond your comfort zone.
Solo travel makes you realize you are enough.
Ultimately, by traveling alone, you’ll feel as if your fears no longer define you as a person. As a society, we’ve shunned quality time with ourselves. You’ll learn to fall in love with yourself as a solo travel, while seeing the world at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.
What Are Your Tips for Flying Alone?
Argh, planes are my favorite topic (if you’re scared to fly like me, check out my 43 tips for fearful flyers to get you off the ground). I’m guessing you’ll be going to an airport alone for the first time too, so these points can’t be avoided or skimmed over.
1. Arrive to the Airport Early
Don’t be late for your flight even if you’re the type of person who’s five minutes late for everything. Punctuality is a requirement for flying. As for specific times, you gotta arrive for a domestic flight at least two hours early and an international flight at least three hours early. More likely than not, you’ll have spare time on your hands to burn exploring duty free shopping, which is much better than running in a panic through the terminal to reach your gate. Arrive early.
2. Keep a Close Eye on the Departures Board
Gates unexpectedly change. It’s a pain in the ass, but true. So don’t fall asleep or throw on your headphones and completely zone out for an hour. You don’t want to miss your flight, because you weren’t paying attention. For example, I had to run across Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport due to a last minute gate change. It wasn’t fun. Don’t be me.
3. Don’t Leave Your Bags Unattended
Airport security doesn’t joke around about unattended bags. You need to keep all your belongings with you as a solo traveler. And, believe me, I know how much it sucks to lug suitcases and backpacks into a small bathroom stall. But, unless you make a friend in the terminal who will watch your things, you have no choice except to take everything with you.
4. Drink Plenty of Water (Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol)
Flights will dehydrate you so it’s important to drink plenty of water on board. You don’t have anyone reminding you either. Bring a bottle of water with you.
Loneliness when Traveling Alone for the First Time
This is a big topic that I think deserves its own post. A lot of solo travelers worry about loneliness. It’s a valid concern. I’m not gonna lie. Loneliness will hit you when you least expect it. For example, I traveled to Madrid on the heels of a breakup and while visiting the Reina Sofia, I was trapped inside a glass elevator with a lovey-dovey couple. Not fun. I was loooooonely, man, lonely.
However, know that any loneliness is temporary. You’ll eventually have a conversation with someone either at your hostel, a bar, or on a tour.
And know you’re breaking boundaries traveling alone. It’s incredible. Feel empowered, not lonely. This is an opportunity to connect with the most important person in your life: yourself.
The Best Solo Travel Websites
Luckily for you, there are plenty of resources explaining how to travel alone for the first time. I’ve written about some of my favorite websites in this post. I hope they help you!
Reddit has an entire subreddit dedicated to solo travelers! It’s a treasure trove of information. You’ll learn about your destination from other travelers who’ve already been in your shoes. Definitely worth your time. As a plug, I’ve even participated in a Q&A session on this Reddit if you want to read more advice on solo traveling!
The general travel reddit is has even more information available for solo travels. For instance, it’s a great place to post your itinerary and receive feedback. Do a search and see what topics have already been deeply covered.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook is another worthwhile source for planning your first solo trip. Plenty of travel groups are available for you to express your concerns as a new solo traveler. For example, “The Solo Female Travel Network” has over 200,000 members who will address any concerns you have about taking your first solo trip. Don’t overlook Facebook. Even if it’s not as “trendy” as Instagram, you can make great connections on the platform and feel more confident on your adventures around the world.
Lastly, couchsurfing is way more than just a way to find a free place to stay. In fact, if you’re using the resource for “free accommodation,” then you’re doing it wrong. More importantly, you can use couchsurfing as a tool to meet locals, expats, and other travelers for a meal or drink. I’ve met tons of cool people using this platform. It really is a blessing.
Be smart about who you talk to. Sadly, couchsurfing is a magnet for creeps. As a solo female traveler, I prefer to meet up and explore a new place with other women.
Other Tips for Traveling Alone for the First Time
1. Call Home Frequently
Calling home is very underrated. Reach out to family and friends, and tell them about all the cool things you saw/did on any given day. Hearing their words of encouragement will keep you going.
2. Buy Travel Insurance
Don’t leave home without purchasing travel insurance. I use World Nomads on all my trips and have never had a problem. Their prices are reasonable too. Make sure to buy a World Nomads plan for your first solo trip so your medical needs are fully covered overseas.
3. Eat Alone with Confidence
Argh, eating alone in public is one of my biggest travel fears, and it’s something I still struggle with. However remember no one really cares about you eating alone. Do you know any of these people? The wait staff? The diners? The bartenders? No? Then eat whatever you want and enjoy your meal!
If you’re super nervous about eating alone, then my suggestion is to make your big meal at lunchtime when locals are more likely to eat alone during their work day. You won’t stand out as much. Sitting at the bar is another great idea.
The Best Places to Travel Alone for the First Time
Hmmm, this is a tricky question, to be totally honest with you. I don’t think it’s possible to find an unbiased answer regarding the best places to travel alone for the first time.
However, let’s not kid ourselves. Some destinations are easier than others. For example, I loved Paris a lot, feeling absolutely smitten with the cafes, shops, and endless museums, but at the same time, I thought it was rougher than many other European capitals and I’m not sure if I’d recommend it as a first solo trip.
For a first solo trip, I personally think you should go somewhere such as Iceland or Scotland with fantastic tourist infrastructure, gorgeous scenery, and low crime rates.
Should I Take a Tour Traveling Alone for the First Time?
The answer to this question depends on what you’re comfortable with.
If you’re confident enough to go 100% independent on your first solo trip, then go for it. After all, there are some benefits to not taking a guided tour – such as you decide each location in your itinerary as well as how long you stay at each place.
However, there’s nothing wrong with booking a guided tour for your first solo trip. I think guided tours often get a bad rap for being too restrictive or expensive. I promise good companies exist, however. For example, I have used tour companies, such as G Adventures and Busabout, to orchestrate my trips, especially if the planning process drained me too much. I had a great time on all the solo trips I did with these companies. Plus it’s super easy to make new friends since everyone is in the same boat. Taking a group tour cuts waaaaay down on the loneliness factor that I talked about in this post.
Finally: Live Your Best Life for YOU
Time for some downer news. You’ll probably receive judgement from others for choosing to travel alone. Jetting to other countries isn’t not a common hobby especially in the United States. Keep in mind some of this judgement might not be malicious. You’ll receive worries that honestly come from a kind place. For instance, your closest friends and family may legitimately feel concern regarding your safety, in which case, it’s fine to have an open and honest conversation about your solo trip.
Yet, at the same time, don’t let any negativity drag you down or (even worse) deter you from achieving your dreams. You can’t control other people’s comments, but you can control your reaction to their criticism. Don’t take it to heart.
You are the priority in your life. Always. 100%.
Kindly acknowledge concerns and ignore anything downright hateful, but still do whatever you want, which includes booking your trip. Have a great time on your adventures. Discovering the world is one of life’s greatest pleasures. You’ll have an amazing time.
I hope I helped you learn how to travel alone for the first time. Where was your first solo trip? Are you planning on traveling alone for the first time? Share all your thoughts in the comments.
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