Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when you are on solo travel.
I’ve made some of these mistakes myself so I’m speaking from experience
1. Posting Your Whereabouts in Real-Time – Don’t
Especially for those of us who are travel influencers and bloggers, this is an important one to remember. It’s best to share your location, specifically where you were staying, AFTER you’ve left not while you were still there.
There are a lot of weirdos out there so to protect your safety it’s a good practice to share about the places you visit after you’ve left.
2. Pay Attention to Your Stuff at All Times. Don’t Get Distracted.
I recently walked away for about 60 seconds from the self-check-in kiosk in the Cancun Airport and left my carry-on bag there. Luckily, I realized what I had done pretty quickly and ran back and grabbed it even though it cost me my spot in a very long line. But even in that short period, someone could’ve taken my bag that had my electronics and other valuable items in it.
Another time at the DC National Airport, I had my poodle traveling with me and I left my carry-on bag with my laptop my camera, and lots of other valuable items at a bar. I grabbed my dog’s carrier as if it was my carry-on and forgot my actual carry-on. Again, I was very lucky because I didn’t realize what I had done for at least 10 minutes. When I got back to the bar my bag was still sitting where I had left it. The lesson is before you walk away always check and make sure you have every single thing you brought with you.
Both times my brain got a little distracted for just a short period and it could’ve cost me a lot.
Always check to make sure you have all your things before you walk away from the check-in counter, self-check-in kiosk, or even when grabbing a drink or food at a restaurant. Always check and make sure you have all your things with you.
Special Mention: YOUR CELL PHONE AND PASSPORT. Take special care to keep track of your passport and cell phone. In addition to your passport, your cell phone is probably the most important thing you will carry on your person. Make sure you know where both are at all times. I’ve seen so many stories about people leaving their cell phones in Ubers on counters etc. and losing their passports to pickpockets. Here is my specific advice about keeping track of your cell phone and passport.
CELLPHONE: Always keep your cell phone on your actual person in a Crossbody bag or a belt bag. When you take out your cell phone make sure that you put it right back into your Crossbody or belt bag when you’re finished using it don’t put it down anywhere – always keep it on your person. The last thing you want is to lose your cell phone in a foreign country with all your information on it.
PASSPORT: Have at least 5 color copies of your passport. Keep a copy of your passport on your person at all times. Keep backup copies in your suitcase. Keep your actual passport in the safe in your hotel or Airbnb. Do not carry it everywhere with you!!!! Caveat: In some countries by law, visitors are required to keep their passport on their person at all times. Senegal, for example, has this rule. Unless such a law exists (do your homework), I do not recommend carrying your passport around everywhere. It is too important to lose and too much of a hassle to replace while on travel. Lock it up!
I personally always carry a copy of my passport and my US driver’s license on my person. I have yet to have the copy rejected. Of course, when traveling to a country where the actual passport was required, I kept it on my person in a belt bag under my clothing.
3. Invest in a Vpn to Safeguard Your Location, Especially in Cafés and Anywhere with Open Wi-Fi
Never use free or open WIFI without activating a VPN on your device.
I like Nord VPN and I recommend it. Another good one is ExpressVPN but I especially like Nord VPN. If I am using free Wi-Fi, I always make sure my VPN is running. But I still avoid accessing information like my bank account on my credit card account on free/open Wi-Fi if I can. There are people laying in wait to hack your phone or laptop. Don’t make it easy for them, use a VPN when traveling and especially while using free/open WIFI at airports, cafes and so on.
To avoid using free Wi-Fi I often carry an extra older phone with me that has a local sim and I use it for Wi-Fi in places like restaurants at the airport With my newer phone which still has a US number.
4. Buy the Travel Insurance
I can’t stress this one enough. Especially for those of us who are over 40 and especially for those of us who are over 50 with specific health issues or mobility issues. Buy the Travel Insurance you just never know when you may need it. I have almost fallen multiple times while on solo travel. The sidewalks are not always smooth and even in the United States. It’s easy to trip even when you are being careful. Between the uneven pavements and other health issues, as we get older, slips and falls happen easily. Add to that the possibility of auto accidents and other unforeseen health issues and the case for travel insurance is made. You want to know that you can walk into a hospital and get assistance and that if anything really bad happens you have insurance to cover your transport back home. Buy the Travel Insurance. I like World Nomads but there are many others that are just as good so do your homework but buy the Travel Insurance.
5. Keep a Low Profile
Don’t stand out blend in. Stay low-key and don’t do or wear anything that will bring you unwanted attention. For example, I like and own some luxury items and designer accessories but I’m very careful about when and where I wear them. I am more likely to wear them on travel in Europe or the US, less likely in other places. I always research appropriate dress when traveling to predominantly Muslim countries to make sure I blend in when I arrive as much as possible by following local attire expectations.
I avoid wearing expensive or flashy jewelry and I never carry large amounts of cash or credit cards on my person. I avoid having my passport on me unless local law requires it. I try to stay super low-key. I often wear baseball hats or headwraps just to be less of a standout as I am bald.
When you’re traveling alone stay low-key. This is not the time to be getting drunk and loud at a bar. If I want to dress up and take pictures, I book a photoshoot via the hotel or Airbnb experiences. Other than that, I stay low-key.
6. Plan to Arrive and Depart During Daytime Hours.
It is not always possible but as much as possible, try to arrive and depart your destination during daytime hours. Especially when you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been, you don’t want to be navigating your location in the dark. You don’t want to be trying to find an Uber or taxi driver who may not speak English at night. So, plan your arrivals and departures for the daytime. Especially if you’re going to be staying at an Airbnb upon arrival this is especially important. For example, I am planning a trip to Africa and for one of my destinations, the only flight I could find at a reasonable rate was at 1 o’clock in the morning. I planned to stay at a hotel upon arrival and check into the Airbnb the next day but I found an even cheaper rate thereafter arriving during daylight hours (Winning)!
I almost never arrive or depart any location in the dark if I can help it. Daytime hours are best. If you must arrive in the evening make arrangements for a vetted and reputable pick up at the airport. I do not recommend Uber for very late night (after 9:00 pm)arrivals if you are unfamiliar with your destination. Instead, ask your hotel to arrange for a transfer from the airport or use vetted services like Booking.com.
7. Have a Security Plan
I talk about Personal Security all the time because it is the number one reason that women don’t take so long trips. As someone who oversaw security for several large international development companies, and the author of a guide on Travel Safety and Security for Solo Female Travelers, I advise that women take security planning seriously when planning solo travel but do not let it be the reason you do not solo travel. A key mistake many solo travelers make is not having an intentional security plan for their trip.
A security plan will include a daily check-in buddy, an electronic itinerary that your check-in buddy can access, among many other things that you can find in the guide that you can purchase online HERE, and in several blog posts I have written on my website.
8. Do Your Homework on Your Destination
Before you go, bother to know some basic things about your destination.
Are there cultural and social norms you need to be aware of?
Are there specific clothing and dress you should avoid?
Are there mobility issues?
What is the climate like?
You need to know more than where the nice bars beaches and restaurants are located. For example, if you have any mobility challenges you want to know what the city is like. Is it a town on the top of the hill? Are you going to have to climb a lot of steps to get to the place where you are staying or does your Airbnb or hotel have an elevator? In a lot of places in Europe, the buildings are very old and they do not have elevators. Are you prepared to climb 20 or more steps? Are you physically able to do so? To see the beautiful views in the pictures are you prepared to walk up the hills to get there or will you need transportation? Do you have the right shoes and clothing for climbing and walking extensively?
I know there are many social media travel personalities who are telling you to go here and go there including me. But do your own homework as well. Don’t just travel to the country because it looks pretty in videos and pictures. Make sure you understand where you are going so that you are equipped and ready to have a good time.
One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy Cinque Terre in Italy as much as I could have been that I didn’t do any research about it. A friend recommended that we go and I never even looked it up till I got there. If I had done my homework, I would’ve learned that the beautiful “Five Towns” are nestled in the mountains; that I needed comfortable shoes to trudge up and down the many hills and steps, and I would’ve had my mind right for climbing the many hills and stairs. But I didn’t do my homework and I didn’t enjoy being there as much as I would or could have.
9. Get Some Familiarity with the Local Language
While it’s not necessary to fluently speak the local language of every place you visit, learning some basic phrases will be very helpful to your enjoying your solo travels. I live and travel in a country where Spanish is the official language. I also travel to many Spanish-speaking countries. While I am taking Spanish lessons to become fluent, I also use Google Translate and download basic phrases so that I know how to say things like:
How are you?
I need help.
Where is the . . . .?
Can you help me?
I do the same when traveling anywhere that is not an English-speaking country. When traveling to Portugal and Italy, I downloaded phrases in the local language so that I could communicate as needed.
I co-authored a guide with common words and phrases in Spanish that has helped me a lot while traveling in Spanish-speaking countries. It is called “Como Se Dice” which means “How do you Say” in Spanish. You can purchase and download it HERE. It’s only $8 bucks and includes over 50 words and phrases you will need when solo traveling in Spanish-speaking countries.
Having some basic phrases downloaded to your phone and brain really comes in handy on Solo travel. Don’t make the mistake of expecting everyone to speak English because they won’t and shouldn’t have to for your comfort.
10. Take Some Time to Just Enjoy Where You Are
Take the time to just enjoy where you are.
As a travel influencer and blogger, this is especially important for me to remember. Take a deep breath put the phone in your purse and just really take in where you are. Everything doesn’t have to be shared with “the gram.” And every picture doesn’t have to be perfectly posed.
You don’t have to share every single moment with the world, save something for yourself.
Now that you know my Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on Solo Travel, try not to make them.!
Now go book that Trip Sis! The World is waiting!