Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10 Tips for Travelling Solo


Holiday for One

You need not be an intrepid traveller to enjoy taking a vacation solo, nor do you need be part of a group tour to discover all the cool and exciting experiences that this great big planet has to offer. Regardless of gender, anyone can vacation alone and really enjoy it—in fact, sometimes even more so than when being tied to someone else’s agenda. You just need to follow some basic guidelines. So, gather your sense of adventure, and take that solo holiday!

1. Do Your Homework
Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to preview a potential destination. But remember, official tourism websites have an objective to paint only the rosiest of pictures to attract visitors. If you want the real lowdown, a great source of information online is forums like Traveltalkonline. These are the best spots to receive in-depth information from locals about safety and culture, as well as to have your questions and concerns answered in an unbiased manner.

2. Stay Connected
Look for warnings about destinations you are about to visit by checking with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website. At this site, you can also officially register that you are travelling abroad so the government can contact you should alerts escalate or if a crisis arises at home. You should also research reliable hotspots like Internet caf├ęs close to areas you will be staying to ensure you can regularly connect with loved ones about your whereabouts and ongoing itinerary.

3. Pack Smart
When travelling solo make sure all of your essentials are in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. That means a complete change of clothes for hot, cold, and wet weather, walking shoes, medication, and all of your identification and important technology. Split up your cash and credit cards into different spots so if you lose one set you still have another. Dress for comfort and always have some emergency cash stashed on you.

4. Be Aware
Personal safety and protection of your valuables can be a big concern but needn’t be such a fear that you become paranoid. Don’t dress like an obvious “tourist” (fanny packs, cameras swinging, and home country flag patches) and don’t flash money, expensive technology or wear pricey jewellery. Be aware of your surroundings and stick to main roads and well-lit areas when possible, but walk with confidence and purpose if you end up in unsavoury locations.

5. Be Creative
It’s prudent not to let strangers know you are alone. Little white lies are perfectly acceptable such as letting people think you’re waiting to meet someone until you’re sure they are trustworthy. You can also be creative in finding spots to stash stuff like hotel keys and cash when you must leave them unattended like when swimming at a pool or beach. Travel gadgets designed for this purpose are easily obtainable.

6. Befriend Professionals
Discover secret spots by getting to know local service people such as store clerks, hotel staff, security guards, taxi drivers, and servers. Tip generously to make a lasting impression. Travel writer Marcia Frost, owner of WineAndSpiritsTravel.com says, “When I travel alone, I always eat at the hotel’s bar. Bartenders have the inside scoop on things to do, and you never really feel like you are dining solo when you have someone to talk to!

7. Meet People
Vacationing alone is a great way to enjoy doing your own thing without restrictions, but eventually you might get lonely. A good way to meet people is to be a real “tourist” and join a group tour outing. Or seek out like-minded groups of locals that share a hobby you enjoy and attend one of their functions or go to a local church service of your faith. Having something in common is a wonderful ice-breaker.

8. Be Adventurous
Try things that really push you outside of your comfort zone, after all, you’re on an adventure! It doesn’t have to be something extreme like bungee jumping or dangerous like hand-feeding sharks. It could be as tame as singing karaoke at a local bar or taking a windsurfing lesson, as long as it’s something you’d never consider doing at home. You might be surprised to discover what you’re capable of when no one is watching.

9. Be a Good Samaritan
No matter where in the world you go, helping hands are always needed. Whether it be opening a door, aiding the elderly, taking someone’s picture, or even going so far as volunteering at a soup kitchen, walking dogs at a local shelter or participating in a beach clean-up. Even the smallest kindnesses are appreciated and often lead to new friendships as well. So always be on the lookout for where you can help.

10. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations
If you’re not comfortable doing things on your own at home, then vacationing solo might not be for you. If you’re not sure, then you might first try being part of a group tour or cruise to see if you like it. Once you’ve tackled vacationing solo successfully, you’re sure to feel a renewed sense of confidence and pride you would never have had experienced had you not done it alone. Go for it!

And of course, have fun!

Written by Susan Campbell for readersdigest.ca



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