Solo Travel Tips: How to Travel Alone and Love It

AAA Living’s Erin Perkins offers solo travel tips to help you adventure on your own terms.

I was excited and nervous as I entered the Japanese restaurant aboard my cruise ship. Because I was by myself and it was an intimate experience—with the chef performing knife tricks while whipping up delightful food and jokes—I was a bit shy around others at my table.

But then I met Lori and Mary, both on a girlfriends’ getaway. We chatted during the two-hour dinner and continued to hang out for the rest of the cruise—meeting up for a jazz concert and other meals. I felt just as satisfied connecting with these strangers as I did tackling new adventures by myself.

That’s the beauty of traveling solo: You can meet and enjoy other people, but you have complete freedom to choose where to go, what to see and when to see it. Whether you’re seeking solitude, aiming for self-discovery, looking to meet new people or just taking a short break from family, traveling alone could be just what you need. Here are my solo travel tips.

Be true to your wants

What are your expectations for your trip, and what do you want to get out of it? If you’re looking to meet people, seek out a destination known for its social culture—where it’s easy to strike up conversations with the locals—or tag along with a tour group. Want to take a cooking class from a chef at a AAA Diamond restaurant? Pick a destination known for its culinary charm. Being clear about what you want makes it easier for you to travel on your terms and find a location and activities that suit you.

I enjoy both social and solitary activities, and my solo Caribbean cruise allowed me to embrace both. I loved lounging by myself on Blue Lagoon Island in the Bahamas, but I also mingled with fellow travelers at the silent dance party. (Each partygoer wore a headset with its own playlist and danced—literally—to their own beat!)

“I took a three-day cruise to the Bahamas for my 50th birthday—I went by myself just to get away. It was a wonderful way to start my next 50 years! Everything was great!”

— Lisa Wilkins, AAA Member

Indulge in your favorite ‘alone’ activities

What do you enjoy doing on your own? I love to cook, so I jumped at the chance to take a sushi-making class on my cruise. I didn’t have to worry about anyone’s seafood allergies or lack of interest in sushi cuisine—it was all about me. Traveling solo is your opportunity to focus solely on what makes you happy. Perhaps you like hiking with nothing but your thoughts, trying a new recipe with tastes just for you, spending you-time at the spa, or celebrating a life milestone.

Consider the vibe of your destination

If you haven’t traveled alone often (perhaps you’re recently divorced or widowed) or if you’re just shy about a solo adventure, you may not desire a destination geared to couples or groups. If you want to stroll on the beach alone or splurge on a solo shopping trip, consider places where you can easily blend in rather than standing out at a spot swarming with honeymooners. During a trip to the city that never sleeps, I found a spot away from the crowd in Greenwich Village, an artists’ haven tucked away in Lower Manhattan. I indulged in shopping by myself and easily mixed with others observing artists and entertainers dance, sing and paint.

Try something new

Traveling alone means the schedule is yours to decide; no one can deter you from doing what you want. So pick activities that have always interested you: Sign up for a surf class, become a cheesemaker or spend the day roaming an ancient city. Nobody will be there to tell you it’s not on the itinerary.

For years, I wanted to try zip lining. I’m terrified of heights, but the idea of challenging my fear excited me—so I did it on my solo cruise. I thought I would back out as I stood 500 feet above the beaches of Labadee, Haiti. But I took a deep breath—making sure not to look directly down—and focused my attention on the breathtaking view ahead of me: sandy beaches, turquoise waters and ant-sized people on the beach. As I zipped along that 2,600-foot line at about 40 mph, I became my own personal hero, overcoming a longtime fear. My adrenaline was so high that I immediately went parasailing!

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Be friendly, but sensible

Traveling alone lets you connect with new people and make friends. But it can also make you vulnerable. Be wary of people who are too aggressive or arouse suspicion. Maintain a low profile. Familiarize yourself with the location and ask your hotel concierge to identify safe areas and those places that are less safe. Stick to public, well-lit areas; don’t flaunt money or expensive jewelry; give someone at home your itinerary; and consider travel insurance, which can be helpful if there’s an unexpected medical emergency.

Make new connections

You can easily make new friends by taking a walking tour, participating in a class or simply striking up a conversation. Tour groups and cruises offer plenty of ways to meet people. Once you befriend someone, you may have a friend for that day, who will take pictures of you; a friend for the rest of your trip, who will accompany you to shows or dinners; or even a future traveling companion for your next trip.

Also make friends with locals who can recommend places to eat, tell you about local traditions and even help keep you safe. When I went to Jamaica, our local tour guide warned us not to let “merchants” escort us anywhere alone because it could compromise our safety. When I was invited to a shop away from my tour group, I knew to say no.

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