8 Unexpected Tips Die-Hard Solo Travelers Swear By

Even though it may seem like every cool woman you know has taken an enviable hike alone or done an independent Eurotrip, solo travel can still be an intimidating prospect — won’t it be lonely? Boring? Expensive? Unsafe?

But the reality is, traveling somewhere by yourself can be one of the most rewarding, life-changing experiences you’ll ever have, starting with the simple fact that you can be where you want, when you want, completely on your own terms.

Never vacationed alone but always dreamed of it? We tapped avid solo travelers to share their top tips on how to make the most of your first foray on your own — from gaining access to exclusive spots to earning travel reward miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card by Citi. Click through for more, and get ready to book your first getaway for one.

Make backup copies of all your important travel documents.

Screenshots disappear. Phones die, break, and get stolen. Never underestimate the value of having a printed version of your itinerary, any tickets or passes you may need, and maps and directions, just in case of any technological failures. We know, we know, you probably haven’t looked at a paper map since 1999, but trust us, it’s better than relying solely on directions from strangers if you don’t have a working phone.

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Look for opportunities to score big alone.

Waiting hours for entry to a city’s buzziest restaurant can be a massive waste of time when you only have so many days in a certain place, but traveling alone means you’re way more likely to get into places with ease — whether it’s snagging a lone seat at the bar or procuring a lingering ticket to a special event.

When travel writer Tessa Torrente was traveling solo in Amsterdam, she learned about “a crazy exclusive supper club that was a local secret: You had to call a secret number to get a reservation.” She used her solo status to earn last-minute entry, walking up to the door and explaining that she was just one. “They set me up at a tiny table in the corner and even allowed me to buy a smaller menu option. The moral of the story is don’t be afraid to ask.”

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Use a credit card to earn travel miles.

Without anyone to split a hotel or meals with, you’ll find the price of solo travel can add up fast. An easy way to cut costs? Use miles earned from your credit card to book your getaway and continue earning miles for the money you spend once you get there. For instance, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card by Citi offers cardholders two miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores, along with one mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases — meaning all those Sunday meal-prep supplies can go toward saving up for your big solo trip.

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Tap your network (and expand it).

Let your network know where you’re headed, and you may make some great connections (or at least get some good pointers) — whether it’s a coworker’s friend who can tell you the coolest dive bars or your mom’s third cousin whose guest room you can crash in for a few nights.

Social media can also be a fantastic networking resource. “Facebook communities are great for connecting with other solo females on the road and getting firsthand advice on what to experience or avoid,” says Stephenie Rodriguez, founder of WanderSafe. Some notable online travel networks include Girls Love Travel, Solo Women Travel Tribe, and Solo Travel Society.

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Leave room in your itinerary to be spontaneous.

While it’s fine to plan things ahead of time for your trip, one of the best parts of traveling alone is the freedom to be spontaneous. “As a solo traveler, one of my favorite things is to indulge in the freedom of making last-minute decisions,” says travel blogger Kristin Addis. “I intentionally preplan almost nothing and then make decisions — stay at or leave my hotel, take a yoga class or go for a hike — based on how I’m feeling.” Addis has also found that this often gives her room to accept impromptu invites: “It’s so nice to be able to say yes when these opportunities come up without having to worry about consulting with anyone else.”

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Shoot videos to capture the perfect moment in less time.

Skip the awkward and inconvenient task of taking a self-timer photo (or hundreds of selfies) while trying to steer clear of other tourists. Opt instead for video, like travel blogger Elona Karafin does. “When traveling solo, I often take short videos where I move around, laugh, etc., and then screenshot my favorite parts,” Karafin says. “It gives you an opportunity to choose and also allows room for more candid shots.”

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Be prepared in case of an emergency.

Sharing your trip details (i.e. flight numbers, Airbnb or hotel address) with a trusted friend or family member back home is always a good idea in case of emergency. You should also familiarize yourself with your destination’s local emergency numbers — including the nearest hospital and police station — and print out a card to keep in your wallet that includes your name, age, any pertinent medical information, and an emergency contact number, ideally in the language of wherever you’ll be.

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

Disconnect from life back home and prioritize self-care.

While it can be tempting to livestream your entire one-person adventure on Insta — not to mention, update your group text with every exciting thing you do — remember to take some time to truly check in with yourself. That could mean stepping away to journal, finishing a book you’ve been meaning to read, or heading to a spa where phones aren’t allowed. Alissa Bayer, founder of milk + honey, suggests asking your hotel’s front desk if you can borrow a yoga mat for in-room vinyasa and meditating, or seeing if any local gyms or fitness studios offer free trials.

Illustrated by Hannah Minn.

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