This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.
Have you wondered about solo travel?
I began my journey toward traveling alone by first enjoying getaway weekends on my own in nearby cities. Then I branched out, traveling solo domestically to cities in the US.
I long held the dream, however, of traveling solo to Scotland and other international destinations. Last December, that dream became reality with a trip, on my own, to Edinburgh, Scotland.
If you’ve dreamed of such an adventure, check out these tips for international solo travel.
Tips for International Solo Travel
For a smooth international solo trip, save this post or jot down these tips. And although it’s not listed as a tip below, examine at your mindset first.
Some believe they could never travel alone, much less travel solo internationally. And if it’s not something you’d absolutely enjoy, don’t go. I believe there are so many wonderful reasons for experiencing at least one big solo adventure. However, this isn’t a “have to” experience. Solo travel falls into the “want to” category.
If it’s fear that holds you back though, or a feeling of incompetence, don’t let that stop you. Use these tips to create a trip you’ll never forget. You’ll not only have fun, you’ll come back different from the person who left. Solo travel allows us to see who we really are and how capable we are as well.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Before heading out on a solo international trip, plan. And then add to your plans. Do lots of research about your destination.
- What’s the weather like? Temperatures? Sunrise and sunset times?
- What clothes are appropriate for the season?
- What currency is used? How does it compare to the US dollar?
- Are there restaurants that fit your dietary needs? Make a list of them.
- Which accommodations work best for your needs? What location is best?
- What transportation do you require? Will you need a flight to get there? Should you rent a car, ride a bus or take a train once you arrive?
- Is the destination easily walkable?
- Are there activities you’ll enjoy there? Tours to book? Experiences to participate in? What do you MOST want to do while there? Make a list.
With your notes, you are ready to book flights, accommodations and a rental car, if needed.
Add to your planning notes to check your cell phone provider for an international plan. And contact your bank with your travel dates and locations so they won’t lock your account because of suspected fraud.
Finally, decide whether you can travel with a carryon, or if you need a larger suitcase. A practice packing before the trip can help you make decisions about what really needs to go!
Schedule Flights with Sufficient Layover Times
When scheduling flights to your international destination, make sure you have plenty of time during layovers for connecting flights. Allow at least an hour and a half for connections within the US. For the international flight, allow at least two to four hours. When traveling through huge airports, such as London Heathrow or JFK in New York, allow for extra time as well. You may need to move from terminal to terminal or take a shuttle to get to the proper gate.
You often go through security again, before boarding an international flight and customs when you arrive at your destination. And when you return to the US, you go through customs again. I never book a flight with a short layover times, to ensure I don’t miss a connecting flight.
Make sure your passport is with you at all times, along with your airline tickets. You can download scannable tickets on your phone or print out the tickets once you arrive at the airport.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Destination
Once you know where your accommodations are located, what restaurants you’d like to try and which activities you want to experience, turn to maps. Use Google maps or a paper version to really get to know the area you’ll be in.
This is important because even if the destination is a new one to you, studying maps, plotting out routes and locating sites of interests brings familiarity when you actually get there. You won’t be surprised to find the little shop you planned to walk to is 10 miles away. Instead, you’ll have an idea of the layout of the area and ways to get to where you want to go.
I use online maps. And I travel with a fold up map of the city I’m visiting. I’ll mark locations I want to visit, find the neighborhood grocery market and trace routes on the map. Every evening I study the map for the next day’s activities and plans. Plus I carry my travel notebook with me, with all my notes in it.
Book Activities in Advance
Before traveling, check to see if the activities and experiences you desire are available for booking online. This saves time and prevents disappointment.
I almost missed my beautiful afternoon tea experience in Edinburgh in December because I didn’t realize the restaurant would book up so far out. If an experience is important to you, do deep research on it and book accordingly.
Many locations offer history and ghost tours that can easily be booked online. And often pre-booked tours are cheaper when reserved and paid for in advance.
Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
While out exploring, stay aware of your surroundings at all times. However, keep fear in check. This tip isn’t meant as a warning. It’s more about raising your awareness.
Watch people. Stay near people, without necessarily joining their group. Don’t enter any area that looks or feels unsafe such as a dark alleyway. Use common sense. If something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, move away and talk to a person that appears safe. Ask for help. Join a group. Enter a restaurant or museum.
I’ve never felt unsafe on any of my travels and I explore a lot. I don’t travel to sit in a hotel room or apartment. And fear isn’t going to stop me from enjoying adventures. It won’t stop you either, if you don’t let it.
Don’t Dress Like a Tourist
While this tip may sound funny, the point is to not stand out. In some cities or areas, pickpockets or people trying to sell items look for the tourists, the ones with cameras around their necks or their phones tucked into a back pocket.
When doing your planning research, look at images or use Google. How do the locals dress? What is considered touristy in that destination?
During my first trip to Scotland, my cousin and I asked that question. Answer: white sneakers, camera around the neck, graphic t shirts, tie dyed anything and not dressing appropriately for the weather were all giveaways.
Conceal Your Phone, Cash, Cards
Again, so as not to draw unwanted attention to yourself, conceal your phone, cash and credit or debit card. Why tempt anyone to snatch what’s yours?
If the weather is cool or cold, it’s easy to wear a small crossbody purse or travel bag beneath your zipped up coat. Tuck your phone securely into an inside pocket. Leave important docs and your passport back in your hotel room.
In warmer weather, consider only carrying a card and your phone. There are travel belts that can be worn beneath a shirt. At the least, wear a small crossbody bag as they aren’t as easy to snatch.
Continue Your Health Practices
Don’t toss aside your usual health practices while traveling solo. This isn’t the time to throw your body out of alignment by changing your routines and your diet.
If you follow a particular diet, continue to do so. If you take supplements at home, bring them with you. And if you do yoga every morning, do so during your trip.
A healthy body will support you, energy wise, while you explore, have fun and walk miles and miles. Support it with your continued health practices.
Stay in Touch with Someone Back Home
Have a contact person back home, either a family member or friend, and stay in touch with him or her.
Before traveling give that designated person your flight info, the name of your accommodations plus a phone number for there and a general idea of your expected itinerary.
Check in at least once a day, to reassure him or her that you are fine and having so much fun, if fun is your goal! And send some photos too so that person can share in your joy.
Whatever your intention for your solo trip, do that. Have fun. Relax by a pool. Explore a city. Visit museums. Eat at different restaurants. Make unforgettable memories.
Remember why you chose to take this particular trip and do all the things you want to do so that you don’t take home any regrets. Buy the memento. Take more photos than you think you need. Stay open to possibilities and opportunities.
And remember to express gratitude for the adventure and thank yourself for your courage and boldness in going solo. You’ll discover that you are so capable.
Where to Next?
I hope these tips are helpful! They are born from my own experiences.
So where to next for a solo adventure, for me?
I have lots of solo trips I want to experience: ocean cruise, European river cruise, travel by rail across a country or a continent, historical cities in the US and many destinations I’d like to visit on my own.
Where to next, for you? Have you experienced a solo adventure yet? Do you want to?
If I can assist you, I’d love to! I’ve discovered that I REALLY love planning a dream trip and then experiencing it. So much so, in fact, that I recently became a travel agent so that I can help others plan their amazing trips.
Contact me if I can offer my expertise in helping you create that dream trip…solo, with family or friends or a group. Click my links below for more info.
Beyond the Open Door Travel website
Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.