You know what I am good at?
- Making lists.
- Oversharing on Instagram.
- Wearing pink.
The list truly can go on and on. ;)
But you know what I am really BAD at?
- Remembering to post routinely on this blog.
As I was sitting on my couch tonight, researching hotels for my upcoming trip tp Spain... It hit me.
I NEVER WROTE A BLOG ON HOW TO SOLO TRAVEL?
I seriously am over here just truly letting my fellow travel lovers down. Goodness gracious, y'all. I need to set more alarms and Google calendar notifications - clearly.
But as promised, I am staying true to my word and finally writing this informative blog post in the hopes that by the time you finish reading, you take my advice...
& book the dang trip.
I promise it will absolutely change your life.
A GIRLS GUIDE TO SOLO TRAVEL: HOW TO + HELPFUL ADVICE
Let me first start off by saying... I have gone on ONE solo trip. I am by no means a pro, nor should I really be giving advice. But hey, I went to Portugal by myself with only 48 hours to get everything together for my solo adventure, and I not only survived... but I like, low key thrived?
So I guess I am kind of qualified to be writing this. Yeah??
If you are wanting to plan a trip by yourself or you really are DYING to go to your dream destination but no one will make the moves to go with you. Welp, I got you covered.
Here's my 10 recommendations when traveling alone... enjoy!
1. Multiple. Power. Banks.
I had THREE portable phone chargers with me at all times. Sounds a little psycho, I know. But! I was using my phone nonstop for my job (gotta capture alllll the content) and my battery would drain super quickly... especially because I would utilize my Google Maps to navigate everywhere I went.
I promise... You will not regret having a spare power bank or portable charger.
The last thing you want is to be out and about, and then BOOM! Your phone dies and you can't contact anyone or figure out how to get back to where you are staying.
This is the one I got from Amazon that I would charge nightly and it's small, won't weigh you down and will definitely come in clutch when you need it!
If you're me, you'll bring 3 of them. If you're normal, one will probably do the trick.
2. Don't overwhelm yourself.. pick your TOP 3 things you want to see/do.
When you're going to a new place, it's easy to get overwhelmed and also very stressed out because you want to see IT ALL! Trust me, as a 'Type A' spreadsheet loving, list maker... I get it.
But you don't want to be so caught up planning a jam packed schedule that you don't have time to simply enjoy? So my advice is to do your research ahead of time and PICK 3.
When I was in Lisbon, I knew there were 3-4 sights that I absolutely HAD to see. I penciled in one a day and then allowed the rest to be "me time" to explore and get lost in the city. Some of the best things I stumbled upon were things I didn't have planned!
3. Safety first! Always share your plan & location with family or friends.
If you listened to my recent podcast I did on FML Talk where I recounted my crazy solo adventure... you probably had a few WTF moments as you listened to me talk about my spontaneous dates with a couple European cuties. Look... let a girl live, okay. I promise I took the steps to always remain safe!
My tip: ALWAYS have your location turned on and shared on your phone. I made sure to share my location with my mom, dad, sister and a couple friends so they could always track my whereabouts. Also, it's smart to do morning and nightly check-ins. Each day I would shoot my parents a quick text with my agenda for the day and I would always send them a text when I got home each night.
Sounds silly, but little things like these are an easy way to stay safe and have people be able to check in from afar.
4. Pay for peace of mind.
Every other travel blog I read before my trip told me how easy and amazing public transportation in Europe was and blah, blah, blah.
Don't get me wrong... the subway and train system is GREAT. But you know what I learned while traveling solo?
Sometimes it's okay to simply PAY FOR YOUR PEACE OF MIND.
AKA.. I took a lot of ubers.
Yes, I had to budget a little more for that but to me it was worth it in some occasions when I really needed to get somewhere and I also wasn't confident about where I was going and how to catch multiple trains.
Would I have rather paid 3 euros to take a train? Sure. But could I take a DEEP BREATH and enjoy my day because I wasn't frantically trying to figure out the trains? ABSOLUTELY.
I think it depends on where you are going and how much time you have but man, an extra 10 bucks for an uber ride (where I could share my location with my family) to an unfamiliar destination was pretty clutch.
5. Join Facebook groups to meet fellow solo travelers!
When I first found out I was traveling solo, my dear friend Gabrielle told me to join a Facebook group called GLT (Girls Love Travel). Of course, I instantly requested to join the group and was so happy I did! There was SO much information and there's also sub groups that you can join to try and link up with other females who are also solo traveling in your area!
Even if you don't meet up with anyone, it's still a helpful tool to be able to post for tips, recommendations or advice - you won't feel nearly as alone!
Honestly, I learned there's a Facebook group for literally EVERYTHING so just be open to do some searching and who knows what you will find. But for my solo babes... definitely check out GLT.
...Or download Hinge like I did and you'll probably meet some cute boys. Look, I am just being honest here.
6. A tripod is your best friend.
Don't let being solo deter you from taking photos. If you know me... you know I absolutely believe in capturing EVERY moment. I promise you will not regret having a ton of videos and photos to look back on and reminisce.
I found that most people and tourists are more than happy to snap a photo if you ask them (just be polite and return the favor!) but if you are wanting your own *vision* and multiple angles, I definitely recommend bringing a little handy, dandy tripod! I would stick mine in my backpack where ever I went and put my phone on self timer mode. BOOM! Easy and you have content for your Instagram for days.
But this is one I recently found that is MUCH lighter and easy to travel with!
7. Always book things that are FULLY refundable and be flexible.
You never know when your plans will change... whether it be your dates changed, you picked a different location or you wanted to extend your trip. I PROMISE it is worth spending a little extra money to opt for a non refundable option for your hotels AND tours.
I met a fellow solo traveler when in Lisbon and he told me his rule of thumb when traveling is to only book the very first night at whatever hotel is staying at. From there, he sees if he likes it, if he vibes with the location or if he wants to bounce to the next stop early.
…I am a little TOO Type A for this, but it is always super beneficial to be flexible when traveling by yourself! My take away? Just make it refundable so you can cancel if you need to.
8. Utilize those travel points and travel credit cards.
If you don't have a travel credit card yet... GET ONE NOW! I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and it is seriously such a game changer when traveling. You get bonus points for signing up and spending a certain amount (this deal varies but you can always find something good) and then you can collect and use those points to redeem for different hotels, flights, rental cars, etc!
When I was in Lisbon, I ended up staying FOR FREE for my last 3 nights because I used my points to book my hotel (which BTW, it was a really nice hotel!)
By utilizing credit cards, travel points and even flight miles... you can really travel on a budget. I mean, who doesn't want to travel the world and save money while doing so?! COME ON, FOLKS.
9. Do your research and pick your destinations wisely!
I think one of the main reasons I felt so comfortable in Lisbon by myself was because of all the reviews + blogs I had read online that said how incredibly safe Portugal is.
Seriously... I cannot second that statement enough.
IT IS SO SAFE. And the people are so kind and welcoming. I never felt out of place or uncomfortable!
I definitely recommend doing your research beforehand to make sure the destination you're going to is 1) safe 2) known for solo traveling.
If you don't know where to start and don't feel like taking this necessary step... Just go to Portugal. Trust me. You won't regret it.
10. Always ask a local for advice.
Speaking of how friendly everyone in Portugal was...
Talk to the locals and ask for their advice when you travel! They truly know best.
If you want to find AUTHENTIC cuisine or tips on the BEST hidden gems, you absolutely want to talk to someone who has lived in the area for awhile. Trust me, I love TripAdvisor as much as the next person... but there's something way more special about taking the advice from a local. Plus, it's a great way to strike up conversation and potentially make a new friend!
My favorite thing to do in Portugal was stumble upon a restaurant and not even look at the menu, but instead as the server what their favorite dishes were! It was thrilling and I ate some of the tastiest dishes I have ever had that I definitely would not have ordered on my own. (I did get served a whole squid though.. head and 8 little legs and all LOL. But it was delicious!)
11. Bring a book and a journal.
One thing I did every single night was jot down my thoughts in my journal. This really helped me reflect on what I was learning while being by myself, but it also helped me remember what I did, where I went that I loved and who I met along the way. I'll never forget my plane ride home. I was crying (happy and sad tears) while flipping through my journal and reading all the crazy stories I had written. I just felt SO proud of myself?! I cannot imagine not having my journal with me and I am so happy those memories can live on those pages for me to always look back on.
Besides a journal... A BOOK! You never know when you will have some down time and cracking open a good book is the perfect way to soothe yourself if you are feeling a bit of social anxiety. I remember my first day in Lagos. I went to the beach by myself and INSTANTLY got overwhelmed with all the people and I felt like everyone was staring at me because I was by myself. Luckily, I had a book with me so I plopped down and read some chapters and was able to occupy my brain a bit until I felt more comfortable to walk around and meet people.
...Then I wandered to the bar and found Florin (My cute Portuguese paddle board tour guide). It all worked out LOL.
12. Put out good energy and it will come back to you.
Smile. Be friendly. Return favors. Just genuinely be a good person and not an asshole?!
I promise people will pick up on that and you will easily make friends.
Remember... Your VIBE attracts your TRIBE.
13. Pay attention to hotel reviews and locations.
Okay, I cannot recommend this one enough.
Hotels can be so deceiving online and photos often look wayyyy better than they do in person. I would recommend always reading the comments from previous guests. I often found that hotels with lower stars (2 or 3) got WAY better reviews than 5 star, expensive hotels!
Also, pay attention to the LOCATION. When you are traveling solo, you want to be close to the "town" or the action - or so I found. My biggest mistake in Lagos was not researching more about the location of the hotel. All I paid attention to was the insane views and gorgeous beach in front... I didn't realize it was a 20 minute uber into town each day! Whoops. Lesson learned.
14. Leave your nice bags, shoes & jewelry at home.
I promise you don't need your Louis Vuitton bag and Gucci sandals.
I brought a 20 dollar crossbody bag from Zara and it was the best decision. I didn't have to worry about it being a target when I was wandering around and I didn't have to worry about any of my nicer, more expensive items in the hotel room (my biggest fear is getting robbed, truly).
Bring items that are durable, comfortable and inexpensive. That way if you do happen to lose anything, it won't be the end of the world and ruin your trip.
15. Get out of your dang HEAD.
When traveling alone, I feel like it's easy to get "self conscious" and feel like all eyes are on you because you are eating dinner by yourself or going on a tour alone.
I PROMISE NO ONE IS REALLY PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU.
Get out of your silly little head and enjoy your time solo. And when you want to meet someone... just say HI. You never know where that one little word will take you, who you will meet and the amazing friends that will come into your life.
Take it from me... Hi Marco, Florin, Angelique, Eric, Julian, Chris, and Leo!
Anytime I felt myself getting awkward or not wanting to talk to the person next to me at a bar... I would FORCE myself to get out of my comfort zone and just say hello. And every single time, I was welcomed with great conversation and a new pal and I am so happy I did.
Solo travel is a great way to practice and perfect your people skills, you just have to be confident and know that the worst thing that will happen is they don't say anything back to you and you move on with your day, knowing you will absolutely never see them again!
16. Find comfort in the quiet.
I am a rather extroverted person, so I often felt like I needed to fill my days in Portugal with as many people, conversations and adventure as I could because I hate the idea of "sitting still" and wasting my day. Let me tell you though... that gets TIRING.
Prioritize some time to just enjoy the peace and quiet. Before you know it, your trip will be over and you will be back in the hustle and bustle of your life... so enjoy something as simple as sitting outside of a coffee shop for an hour or two and just people watching by yourself.
No phone, no entertainment, just YOU.
17. Send a copy of your passport to someone you know and always keep a copy of it with you.
Before I left, I sent over a copy of my passport to my mom. This was her idea, so I really can't take all of the credit, and at first I thought it was so silly. Like, hello! I am a 28 year old grown woman?!
But if you think about it... it's always better safe than sorry! If your passport and wallet happened to get stolen, it's smart to have a couple backup options JUST IN CASE you need to prove your identity in order to get back home. You never know.
18. Enjoy the moment and try to get off your phone.
This. Was. So. Hard. For. Me.
I was so used to having my phone constantly in my hand... checking emails, answering texts, responding to DMs. WHEW.
Finally, I decided to have a game plan. I would take photos and videos throughout my day, but I wouldn't post until I got home to my hotel at night. That way I could be present(ish)
during the day and actually enjoy my time without the constant pressure to post or answer to the dings & notifications.
Plus, it'll help save your battery
19. Strike up meaningful conversation and actually make a plan.
Say you meet a fellow solo traveler at a coffee shop? Don't just say hi and move on with your day. Follow through with that conversation and actually make a plan!
This is not me saying go to their hotel at night or anything sketchy like that LOL. I watch too many true crime shows for that, y'all.
But what I am saying is invite them on the tour you are planning! Or ask if there's any sights they're wanting to see! This is a great way to actually create a genuine friendship and it's just way more fun to get to adventure around with another human.
Example: I met my friend Eric in a bar because we were the only two people alone at the bar. I had to leave to go to dinner but before I left, I got his info and we made a plan to go tour the monastery together the next day. And now we still stay in touch and I have a lifelong friend... crazy how that works!
20. Have the time of your life.
Solo traveling is fun and spontaneous and scary and challenging and truly life changing - if you fully embrace it. The second you step outside of your comfort zone is when truly you grow as a person... and don't we all want that in life?
My best piece of advice would be to just roll with the punches and enjoy every single second. The good, the bad, the chaotic & the crazy. If you are a planner like I am, it's easy to get upset when things don't go EXACTLY according to plan - like when you had a whole free private yacht to yourself and it got canceled because of the wind. Yeah. True story.
Instead, just look at everything as a learning experience and be open to spontaneity. Your trip doesn't need to be epic and grandiose in order for you to have an absolutely amazing time. I truly believe when you solo travel, the universe places certain people and certain situations in front of you to truly help you change, heal and grow as a person. So just open your eyes and heart and EMBRACE IT, BABY!
Can you all tell that my trip to Portugal really did change my life?
I could go on and on but instead I am just going to end with...
TAKE THE TRIP.
You only get one life so you better start living.