Tips for Traveling Single

I have to say, traveling by myself (Amy) was one of the places I felt my singleness most profoundly. Schlepping all of my stuff by myself was a pain! Going to the bathroom could be a major production. We thought, “Hey, we’ve got a multitude of traveling experts, why not gather tips from them and we all help each other.”

 
The response was warm and immediate! Turns out we all have something to say, smile. The following tips—in no particular order—come from Sarah Hilkemann, Ruth Lemmen, Ruth Ann Rooney, Krista Roth, Jaimee Silva, Emily Smith, Bayta Swartz, two single siblings, and several anonymous tips.

  1. Actually Travel. Find a friend to travel with. Meet people on the other end. Go by yourself. Do what is comfortable and exciting for you, but find a way to travel. If you are someone who avoids traveling single, discover what keeps you from going places and find ways to make it happen.
  1. Choose safety over money. This could mean getting a hotel or a taxi. Or getting the slightly more expensive flight that doesn’t arrive at 3:00am. Or making sure you activate international roaming on your phone. Or whatever your gut is telling you is the smart thing to do. Your safety is worth the cost.
  1. As silly as it sounds, have a story ready about why you are currently unavailable and cannot accept marriage proposals from strangers in airports (or anywhere). Most notably, I received two proposals in the airport in Ghana. The first was from a customs official as he studied my passport. The second proposal came about 20 minutes later from a man doing a survey for the board of tourism. They both insisted it would be in my best interest to be traveling with a husband … and they could fix that problem for me. I politely explained the very true reasons why I was in Ghana. Thankfully, they both gave up saying they “would not try to steal the beloved of a Ghanian brother” and we were all still laughing in the end.
  1. Don’t feel you still have to travel like a student once you’re into your 30s and beyond, just because you’re single! Feel the freedom to spend a bit more to get a flight at a decent time, a taxi to the airport, and other parts of traveling.
  1. If you have to sleep overnight in an airport sometimes the chapel or a room for nursing moms is a quieter place where you can feel safer and there are softer chairs.
  1. Pack light: Intentionally leave behind some of the essentials so you have to ask people how to get them and you can have reasons to interact with people.
  1. Ear buds are essential when you want people to leave you alone.
  1. Always be sure you have a good book to read. It makes any flight shorter.
  1. Plan ahead. If you aren’t familiar with the airports you are travelling through, research them. Figure out the layouts. Find where the food courts are. Find the free showers.
  1. When travelling alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always at least one kind person who will give you directions.
  1. When travelling to a new city and staying in a guesthouse, know what the guesthouse looks like. You may need to help your tuktuk driver find the place.
  1. For my last trip flying from Canada back to my station, my mom sewed a secret pocket inside an infinity scarf to keep my passport, phone & a pen handy at all times. This was so handy, especially when I had so many bags to keep track of but only 2 hands.
  1. Always travel with snacks. It saves you the headache of trying to maneuver your bags into the tiny, crowded restaurants & it saves your bank account! And sharing snacks is a sure way to make friends along the way!!☺
  1. Sit Strategically: before choosing a seat in an airport waiting area or on a bus, scope out the area first and locate a family or another single woman to sit by.
  1. Make sure someone at your destination or origin has your itinerary and contact information. It never hurts to have an extra mom or sister checking in on you.
  1. Pray lots: My first time traveling solo was in Italy and I had heard many stories of pickpockets and aggressive men. While on trains and buses, walking around the city and in coffee shops, it felt like the Father put me in a little bubble. Not only did I feel his protection (no one bothered me at all), but also it became an opportunity to practice praying continually, having intimate conversation with him about everything happening around me.
  1. Put the items you won’t need on the flight in the bag you keep in the overhead bin.
  1. I splurged for a roller carry on. When zipped smallest it’s allowed on the plane as a carry on. But when unzipped it expands a couple of inches for use on trains/busses. Because it is a roller (rolls in every direction) I can put my other smaller bags on top and keep one hand free. It’s also hard so things inside are less likely to break.
  1. Always arrive a few hours early, especially when you’re alone. You never know what could happen. This seems like common sense, but it should be your mindset when traveling.
  1. Make sure you know who your contact is going to be when you land. Communicate clearly with them so that both parties are sure what is going to happen when you arrive. I went to Africa once and had no idea if I had someone waiting for me at the airport.
  1. Research power converters, plug converters, and important information on all your electronics and electrical devices.
  1. If you have a favorite food, shampoo, body wash, et cetera, you might want to pack a few extras in case they don’t have them overseas.
  1. Don’t be afraid to travel by yourself, but know your limits!  Sometimes it is worth it to pay more for a hotel in a more convenient location or flying instead of taking a train or bus, if it will make you feel safer or make life less complicated. Traveling can be complicated and stressful enough as it is, sometimes paying more for less stress is worth it. For instance, I’ve taken long bus trips (with others) a couple times, and I know that’s not something I want to do by myself.
  1. If you get an opportunity to travel with others, take it.  Last year, friends of mine—a family with teenage kids—invited me to join them on a trip.  I wondered if it would be awkward to sort of crash their family-travel, but it was awesome.  I would not have taken a nine-hour bus ride through the Chinese countryside by myself, and my more advanced language skills made it easier for them.

Traveling single or alone, these tips will help you remember we never really go alone, even if we have to schlep all of our stuff into a small bathroom stall!

What tip do you have for us? Which of these tips inspires or empowers you to try something different when you travel?

9 Comments

  1. Joyce Stauffer June 8, 2016

    These are great! I would add one: when you have heavy bags  to lift off the belt onto your cart at baggage claim, position yourself  near a strong looking male who looks like the type willing to help when you ask for it as you tug at your moving bag. That was especially crucial when you  would have two bags at 70 pounds each to lift — in the old days  :-).

    1. Amy Young June 9, 2016

      Good one Joyce! Funny how that didn’t make the list. Thanks :)!

  2. M'Lynn June 9, 2016

    Even though I’m married and usually travel with my husband and kids, I’ve traveled alone a few times as well. (and alone with a baby…which counts as alone…) My favs on this list are #2 and #14. My husband makes sure we do those things as a family, but I can see how hard it would be to do the more expensive (but safer) thing on my own because I like to save money! My recent tip for myself is to be a lot less friendly to taxi drivers and anyone giving off the crazy vibe. Trust your gut. If the situation feels off, it probably is…so act accordingly and get yourself outta there!

    1. Amy Young June 9, 2016

      YES! Trust your gut. If you’re picking up on a crazy vibe, I agree with you, M’Lynn, you’re probably on to something 🙂

  3. Phyllis June 9, 2016

    These are great! If I can sensitively add this… or if there’s a way I can just say this without hurting feelings… I want to add: ENJOY! That’s my biggest tip for all of us travelling: for myself, for people who are feeling alone, for families.

     

    After more than a decade of travelling with little ones, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to travel by myself just in the past year, and I have LOVED it. It was so strange and new to me. No puking, no screaming, no strollers and potties. But it has also really helped me to have compassion on those who travel alone, too. In those crowds you really can feel so alone and so lonely (and bored! No funny comments when you’re alone, no one to share your observations with. How many times I wanted to say, “Did you see…?”) Sometimes in the past I’ve had to bite my tongue when a single friend was stressing over some detail of a trip, because it all sounded so easy to me. This list shows how not easy it really can be. But, still, even when it’s hard to travel, there’s point number one from this great list of yours: Let’s do it! And enjoy.

    1. Amy Young June 9, 2016

      Hi Phyllis — have you heard of the “curse of knowledge?” When you know something, it’s hard to remember what it is like to not know it :). You comment reminded me of CoK because you are so right . . . I do enjoy traveling so just assume everyone does :)! (only on rare occasions like when I had a twenty four hour bug and was flying from Thailand to Denver and puked my way around the world, or when a friends father had unexpectedly died do I not enjoy it). We are all so blessed, aren’t we?! Are you reading “Around the World in 80 days” with the book club? So many fun ways to travel! Enjoy, indeed!

      1. Phyllis June 11, 2016

        Yes. And I should have said that I know traveling alone doesn’t save you from puking. Just from pukers and screamers! 🙂 Puking your own way around the world sounds awful. (But don’t get me started on traveling with pukers. And I’ve heard worse stories than my own.)

        I really loved your #24, too. I’d love to have the aforementioned single friend see what it’s like to travel with a circus. 😉 The curse of knowledge could go both ways. Plus, it would just be fun for all of us.

  4. Gail June 11, 2016

    I’m intrigued by #12.  Great idea!  I wonder if your mom has a pattern, or would be willing to explain how she did it.

  5. Christine Brunsell September 14, 2016

    In relation to #3… fake wedding rings. I have a set that includes a solo “diamond” and a silver band. The silver band stays on my left ring finger while the other one goes on the right. If I’m somewhere where I feel uneasy- usually becomes others (men) are becoming too interested in me- I dig in a bag or rub my hands together and transfer the diamond over to it’s partner. Simple, easy, and a great conversation killer when needed 🙂

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>