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Solo Travel Tips for the Lady-Boss You Are

Key Takeaways

  • Plan ahead but stay flexible.
  • Be aware and trust your gut to stay safe.
  • Travel light and efficiently.
  • Set up travel notifications with your debit and credit cards.

Katie McCurry | Citizens Bank Contributor

Traveling alone has the potential to intimidate even the most confident of lady bosses, but I am here to tell you: GIRL, you cannot let this keep you from experiencing this wide-open world. Yes, it’s true: I used to let safety concerns and the thought of being lonely hold me back. But after countless solo trips for both work and play, I’ve found that with a little planning and the right resources, you too can nail how to travel alone and love it. Let’s go!

Plan ahead, but stay flexible

Regardless of why you’re traveling — whether it’s a work conference or a much needed vacation — having a plan in place will give you confidence about traveling solo. That being said, while planning will help you feel like a mighty lioness, there is power in leaving your options open. I try to have my first couple of days well planned (hotel, restaurant choices, and experiences) and then leave my options open to peruse local Airbnb rentals or check out suggestions from locals.

  • Instagram for inspiration: When thumbing through my feed I’ll stumble across my friends’ travel photos and ultimately have adventure envy. If they’ve tagged their locales, I pop their posts into my “travel inspo” collection. When I’m deciding where to explore next, I go here first. If I’m traveling for work, I use Instagram to discover the places locals love. Since these posts may come from unknown users, I follow up with a quick search of user reviews on Google or Yelp to make sure I’ve found legit spots to visit.
  • Deeper dive: While I look at well-known travel guides like WikiTravel and TripAdvisor to plan longer excursions, I have to say my number one resource to research destinations is to crowdsource on social media. Facebook is a great tool because you can ask your trusted friends for recommendations and get in-depth explanations of what to do and why. There are also travel-related Facebook groups to ask more experienced travelers questions. One I found is Girls LOVE Travel (698,460 members strong!). There are so many options out there; my advice is to join a group that aligns with your priorities and mindset, and to always protect your private information by not giving out specifics about your own travel plans.

Tech on the go

Before I go anywhere, domestic or international, I make sure to look up each destination on my Google Maps app and download the offline map of each destination. This makes getting around so much easier, faster, and more reliable since no Wi-Fi is needed to access the maps.

If my plans are flexible, I like to peruse Airbnb or Hotel Tonight for more exclusive deals on lodging as well as opportunities to meet more locals.

Unless I’m on a road trip, I usually fly or take a train to my destination. Recently, Lyft partnered with Delta so riders can earn Skymiles while using Lyft services. I now take advantage of this rideshare whenever possible so I can earn more miles. I recommend scouring your own transportation apps to see if partnerships exist that allow you to make the most of your trips.

Safety precautions

One of the biggest obstacles to traveling solo was knowing whether or not I could stay safe as a female traveler. Well, fear not. I found that the following tips can help you feel empowered while traveling solo — not only on vacation, but also trying new experiences in your hometown.

  • Be aware. It’s easy to get lost in an app (ahem, Instagrammers, I see you) but you shouldn’t give all of your attention to your devices. While walking alone, stay off devices to keep senses on-point. It’s also a good idea to carry a safety mechanism like mace, a whistle, or this cute — yet stabby — cat ear keychain. Your inner Girl Scout will rejoice its multi-functionality: it’s a self-defense tool, screwdriver, and beer opener all in one!
  • Trust your instincts. If I could give just one piece of advice, it would be to trust your gut. It’s ok to politely decline an invitation from newly found friends if you think something sounds unsafe. This also means not having one too many drinks at the local pub. Knowing your limits with alcohol will help you listen to your inner voice. And you know what they say about a woman’s intuition: trust it.

via GIPHY

Day-of travel tips

Rolling a large carry-on while lugging a full travel backpack on the cobbled streets of Rome in the heat of August was a very hard lesson to learn. I will argue that sometimes it’s hard to pack light and efficiently — what if I need heels for X, and what if I can’t decide between outfits for Z. The actual answers to these questions are: you won’t and you shouldn’t have to. To help, I’ve pulled together a few helpful hints on packing more efficiently:

  1. Make sure you have all of your travel documents. This is first and foremost — you really can’t get anywhere without these. I once read that you should take pictures and store them in the cloud for safe keeping, which I plan to try out on my next international excursion. I do keep all hard copies in the front pocket of my carry-on. It helps to even have a document organizer; the one I chose here could even double as a clutch for a night out. These documents could include your passport, driver’s license, flight information, and hotel or rental car confirmations.
  2. The clothes you travel in can double as outfit options during your trip. Not only can they make traveling more comfortable, they can create different outfit options during your trip. My favorites include:
    1. Leggings: They are oh so comfy, stylish, and can double as a workout option or an outfit layering piece for later in your trip.
    2. Blarf: The blanket-scarf is your neck accessory, over-the-shoulder nighttime wrap, and a blanket for the cold plane all in one. I’ve even used one as a pillow on long flights. It’s a godsend and I will never travel without one.
    3. Booties: The all-weather, dress up or dress down shoe. As a double bonus, they’re easy to slip on and off in the airport security line. Shoes take up the most room when packing so I advise wearing the bulkier booties and packing sandals and flats.
  3. Your luggage can save you. Well, maybe not literally, but with smart tech luggage options, you can not only lock your items away but also have a handy second charger for your tech gear. My favorite is the bigger carry-on from Away that has both locking capabilities and a removable battery charger. Many times this built-in charger has saved my nearly dead phone!

My worst travel nightmare can help you succeed

One of my worst travel experiences happened because I didn’t properly notify my bank and credit card company that I was traveling internationally. It was maybe a case of everything bad that could happen did, but it left me feeling very much out of luck.

I traveled to the Bahamas for a conference and was lucky to have most of my expenses taken care of in advance. What I did not plan for was getting my phone stolen and then not being able to use my debit or credit cards because I didn’t receive the notifications sent by my bank. I was in a cab on my way to the airport and put in a situation that no woman wants to be in while traveling alone. In order to avoid this crazy mix of unfortunate events, always make sure that you:

  1. Notify your bank and credit cards of your travel dates and destination(s). Some banks say this isn’t needed anymore, but the caveat is that they are able to contact you in the event of out-of-the-ordinary charges. What if you’re unable to take a call? I suggest making sure you notify any institution you plan to use to be on the safe side.
  2. Carry a little bit of local cash, whether traveling domestically or internationally. I normally hate to carry cash, but when traveling I’ve found that I may need to hail a taxi rather than taking a ride-share because that option isn’t available or — let’s face it — my phone was stolen. Be sure to keep your cash safe at all times.
  3. Cushion for the unexpected. When I went down to the Bahamas I was not expecting my phone to be stolen — who would? An emergency savings fund is a good idea and can help if the unexpected should occur.

One is not the loneliest number

Finally, I want to address the elephant in the room: those who think, and maybe fear, how lonely solo travel might be. I had the same thoughts, so you’re not alone (pun intended). Solo travel gives you the benefit of independence as well as a chance to meet new people you may not have been able to while traveling with friends or family. I know the introverts reading this are skeptical, but it’s as easy as striking up a conversation with your seat mate on the plane, asking the server at the corner cafe about local attractions, or simply saying hi to people also taking in the art exhibit, concert, or outdoor festival you’re attending. The power of being able to make decisions about what’s on your itinerary each day is priceless; you won’t look at solo travel the same after your first go.

What to remember

Traveling solo can be life changing, not challenging. With a little planning and the right tools, you can enjoy new experiences and adventures. So, ladies (or gents), jump in and take the leap. Use Instagram to get going and start visualizing your first solo trip; then take the next step of setting up travel. You can always change your mind; taking the first step is usually the hardest part.

Happy adventuring, chica!

More information

Planning a solo trip? Opening a separate savings account made it easier for me to set aside money for my excursions. Learn how you can do the same by clicking here, calling 1-877-360-2472, or visiting your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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