11 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid On Your First Solo Trip

See recent posts by Megan Wood

So you’re taking your first solo trip? Congratulations! Traveling alone can change your whole life, or at least impact your worldview. We’ve traveled alone to five continents and almost all 50 states, so we know what to expect and how to stay safe, save money, and have solo fun. Read on for 11 rookie mistakes to avoid on your first solo trip. Don’t worry, you’ll be a professional solo traveler in no time. 

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1.Thinking You Need a Travel Partner to Have Fun

We get it, travel is usually marketed towards couples and families, so it can feel a little lonely and daunting to go ahead and click “buy” on a round-trip airline ticket for one. Forget all that! One of the biggest roadblocks to successful solo travel is the stigma that can go with it. Instead of worrying what people might think or being afraid of boredom, focus on your own happiness and decide to have fun. A positive mindset turns solo travel into a fun adventure where you’re in charge of your entire trip and vacation destiny.

2. Going Too Far, Too Fast

If this is the very first time you’ve traveled alone, and you’re not an avid traveler, now isn’t the time to stray too far off the beaten path. It might sound amazing to bike across Cambodia, but if you’ve barely biked across the street, you’re doing too much. For your first solo trip, go slow. It’s okay to take a long weekend somewhere domestic (hello, Miami and Portland) before you jet off for two weeks to a country where you don’t speak the language or understand the customs. Get a few solo travel trips under your belt, then book the solo Patagonia hiking adventure.

3. Paying for a Double Room

Paying for everything on your own is the biggest bummer of solo travel. Not having a buddy to split the cost of accommodations is the most expensive line item in your solo budget. Hotel prices are almost always based on double occupancy, which means two people can use the room (and split the price) without a cost penalty. There are a few ways around this solo travel double standard. You can book a group tour and request to be paired with another (same sex) single traveler. Companies like G Adventures organize international tours, and they specifically cater to different age ranges if you want to bunk up with a peer. Hostel dorms are another easy way for solo travelers to save money on sleep. Lastly, Norwegian cruise ships have a dedicated area for solo cabins and the space also offers a private lounge where solo travelers can meet up for a drink and chat on the high seas.

4. Overpacking

Let’s get real. If you can’t carry your backpack and suitcase (and place them in the overhead cabin) without assistance, you packed too much for solo travel. Sure, if you booked a luxury resort and private shuttle service, there’ll be a driver and bell staff to assist with heavy bags, but don’t count on strangers for bag assistance. Mid-range and budget travel destinations + public transportation = packing light.

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5. Ignoring Safety Concerns

Travel can pose safety risks, no matter how many people you’re with, but solo travelers need to be extra cautious. On your first solo trip, it’s important to over-plan and share that itinerary with a loved one at home. Check in every day, a simple text or Instagram post is fine, and have a plan of action in case of emergencies. Be sure you know where you’re going and the safest route to get there. That means downloading maps ahead of time, double checking directions with hotel staff, and being cautious about using public transportation or walking alone in isolated areas at night. Be sure to book a hotel with 24-hour front desk staff (especially if you’re arriving late). In the room, double check your windows and doors are locked and leave valuables in the hotel safe (or better yet, at home). In bars and restaurants, don’t leave your drinks and food unattended for any length of time, or accept drinks from strangers. It’s also a good idea to know where tourist police stations and embassies are located.

6. Only Booking a Fancy Hotel

If your solo travel goal is to rest, be pampered, and have uninterrupted me time — then by all means, book the most luxe hotel you can afford. We’d recommend going for a luxury all-inclusive with included spa visits to really lean in to the unplugged vibe. But, if you want to meet other travelers and make new friends, an expensive hotel is your worst nightmare. Five-star hotels are usually filled with honeymooners and business travelers, not the most inclusive bunch. Instead, go for a hostel (if you don’t want to share a bathroom or a room, many hostels have affordable private rooms) or a mid-range hotel that has a pool or bar — places where singles and friend groups tend to mingle and meet.

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7. Ordering Room Service

It’s fun to order breakfast in bed as an indulgent treat, but don’t hide out in your hotel room for all your meals because you’re too nervous to go to a restaurant by yourself. Dining alone can feel like the biggest barrier for rookie solo travelers, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re really nervous to ask the host for a table of one, get a seat at the bar counter. Coffee shops, food halls, food trucks, and beach vendors are also single-friendly (and affordable) places to grab a local bite and be part of the destination’s foodie scene.

8. Skipping a Selfie Stick

It might be a little embarrassing to whip out a selfie stick in public, but if you want to capture your travels for Instagram, this gizmo is the best way for a single traveler to take a flattering photo. Best of all, you won’t have to hand your phone to a stranger and hope they know your best angles and that you prefer a horizontal shot that follows the rule of thirds, thanks.

9. Advertising Your Solo Status

This one goes in common sense safety practices. If a stranger (or even hotel staff) is wildly questioning your single status or asking why you’re alone, it’s okay to lie and make up that a friend or partner is waiting for you or meeting you soon. Some single women wear a simple fake wedding band while traveling, to deter unwanted conversations from men. It’s unfortunate that women are especially at risk from assault, but fear shouldn’t take over your solo trip.

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10. Following the Crowds

The absolute best part of taking a solo trip is that you don’t have to do a single thing you don’t want to do. Not interested in checking out Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France? Skip it. Hate the idea of snorkeling? Don’t. You are in absolute control of your single-person vacation, so do what makes you happy — not what you think you should be doing. Solo travel might be the only time you don’t have to take someone else’s opinions and desires into account. Relish your solo control!

11. Skipping Single Necessities 

Packing for a single person requires a bit more planning. You can’t share toiletries, snacks, or water, so make sure you have everything you need. If you’re hitting the water, buy a waterproof cellphone bag so you can safely swim with your phone and wallet; buy spray-on sunscreen (for those hard to reach places); and don’t forget an external battery charger for safety’s sake. Other necessities to have on hand for single travel are a luggage lock, healthy snacks, and a refillable water bottle. Don’t forget individual entertainment, like headphones and an e-reader for solo downtime.

Our Favorite Solo Travel Hotels and Hostels

The Freehand (Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Chicago)

The Freehand brand is a dream for solo travelers. The quartet of hotels combines high-end vintage-inspired design, the option of affordable hostel-style accommodations, and lots of fun organized activities like yoga, cocktail classes, happy hours, story times, tarot card readings, and comedy shows. Room types includes quad rooms in Chicago, shared rooms for four to eight people in Los Angeles, and three- and four-person bunk rooms in New York. Oh, and the swimming pools in Miami and Los Angeles are some of the best in either city.

Generator Hostels (AmsterdamBarcelonaBerlinCopenhagenDublinHamburgLondonMadridParisRomeStockholmVenice)

If you don’t think you like hostels, you need to check out the Generator brand. Chic design, a fun vibe, and bargain rates come together for a memorable stay. Hostel life at Generator properties centers on spacious chill-out areas with lots of plush seating and extras like billiards, foosball, board games, and photo booths — plus regular social events like DJ sets. Some Generators (Copenhagen and Dublin) offer free extras like daily walking tours. The line should hit the sweet spot for solo travelers whose no-frills backpacking days are behind them but who want something a bit closer to a hotel.

Miraval Arizona

If you’re looking for more of an eat, pray, love vibe on your solo vacation, may we direct your attention to the Miraval Arizona? Set in the Sonoran Desert foothills, the all-inclusive Miraval Resort is a luxury wellness oasis where guests revamp their minds, bodies, and lifestyles. If you’re worried about being bored on your own, Miraval has you covered. Each stay is individually customized from a weekly catalogue of 120 fitness and yoga classes, outdoor activities, and wellness workshops. Plus, you’re going to meet kindred spirits at the three swimming pools, cutting edge spa, state-of-the-art gym, and over wheatgrass shots and organic breakfast bowls. Single travel, reinvented.

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