6 Tips for Planning a Solo Vacation

Interest in solo travel has hit an all-time high, with plenty of happy travelers heading out to explore as a party of one. In fact, solo travelers made up 70 percent of passengers on Intrepid Travel’s U.S. trips in 2018. If you’re ready to vacation but don’t have a travel buddy, don’t despair — there are all kinds of reasons to strike out on your own.

Reasons to Plan a Solo Vacation

Perhaps your significant other doesn’t have the same time off work as you; your kids don’t share your fondness for driving through redwoods; or your friends aren’t interested in pounding the pavement to find the best sample sales and microbreweries. Maybe you just need a little time to yourself, to recharge while setting your own schedule — whether that’s hitting snooze on the alarm or waking up in time to do sunrise yoga on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Solo travel can be a great way to indulge in self-discovery, partake in relaxation or simply take a break from the wants and needs of others.

Now that you know why solo trips are worth your vacation time, learn how best to plan and travel by yourself. Remember, even if you have grand ambitions — like a few months of trekking with just a pack strapped to your back — you can start by finding your single traveler’s feet with a weekend or even a day away. Got a layover in a city you’ve wanted to visit? Extend your two-hour wait into an overnight. If your husband can’t get off work until a Friday but you’ve got the PTO to start your trip on a Wednesday, fly out early for a solo adventure and then enjoy the rest of your vacation together.

Before you pick up your rental car and drive off, use this guide to help you master the art of solo travel and enjoy vacationing alone in destinations like Seattle, New York or Charleston, S.C.

1. Define the Purpose of Your Solo Trip

First, figure out the goal of your trip. Are you keen to see the bright lights of a big city, hopping between cocktail bars, cultural centers and high-fashion boutiques? Or would you prefer something a little lower key, like strolling quaint cobblestone streets with heaps of Southern charm? Before you book it, think about what kind of getaway will make you feel great.

Put it in action in Seattle: Solo travelers can experience the best of both worlds with city perks like a seaside farmers market (try the chowder) and terrific craft breweries, plus spectacular access to lakes, the ocean and snow-capped mountains in the great outdoors.

Rent a kayak on Lake Union and enjoy Seattle’s sights from the water.

 

2. Do Your Research

The best way to prepare for your first solo adventure is to do your research. Think through the steps you need to take to have the best possible week or weekend. Do any activities require tickets booked in advance? Do you know how to get from the airport to your hotel? Book your travel arrangements so you arrive in daylight, which will allow time to scope out the neighborhood. If you don’t feel comfortable, you’ll have a couple of hours before nightfall to make new arrangements. Additionally, stay on a higher floor and note all the available exits in case of emergency.

Put it in action in New York City: Before you make your way to the city that never sleeps, book your tickets to Broadway shows or food tours that let you sample the best pizza, bagels and other iconic delicacies. Don’t forget to book your rental car sooner rather than later so it’s ready for you at the airport, or in the city, come time for your solo vacation.

With corned beef and pastrami cured for 30 days, Katz’s Delicatessen has served sandwiches worth savoring since it was established on the Lower East Side in 1888

 

3. Go It Alone, Together

Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to be alone. There are plenty of great groups you can join that can enhance your experience — whether that’s a day tour of historic sites or a multiday tour with organizers who handle the logistics. Joining a group tour can be a fun way to minimize the organization required of you, and to meet new friends over a meal.

Put it in action in Charleston: This city offers plenty of affordable group tour options, from exploring the architecture of some of America’s oldest churches like St. Philip’s Church, whose roots date to 1680; learning more about Civil War history and the Battle of Fort Sumter; and hearing local ghost stories involving spooky pirates. Consider joining Free Tours by Foot for a two-hour historic Charleston walking tour.

In 1861, several bells from St. Philip’s Church were donated to Civil War efforts and melted into weapons and ammunitions. The bells have since been replaced and continue chiming and charming passers-by throughout the day.

 

4. Test Your Boundaries

While you might be tempted to keep to a well-worn tourist path as a solo traveler, there’s no reason you shouldn’t push beyond your comfort zone to have an authenticlocal experience. Be prepared to check off your must-see big sights, but save time to explore lesser-known gems, too. You might be surprised at the diversity you discover along the way.

Put it in action in New York City: You might want to climb to the top of the Empire State Building — OK, maybe take the elevator — but consider driving 19 miles south to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. Here, experience “Little Odessa by the Sea” — the nickname for this enclave formed by immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union — by brunching with caviar and blintzes at Ocean View Cafe

Soak in the sunset in Brooklyn at the historic Brighton Beach boardwalk, which is free and frequently less crowded than the seaside attractions of neighboring Coney Island

 

5. Don’t Forget About Self-Care

While your whole trip will hopefully feel like a true vacation, consider carving out some time for self-care — from soaking in the sun’s rays and peaceful sound of waves on the beach to sitting with a good book at a restaurant bar near your hotel. You could also pamper yourself with a spa treatment. Focus on what makes you feel happy to ensure you return home feeling energized, fulfilled and ready to re-enter your daily post-vacation routine.

Put it in action in Seattle: Make your way to West Seattle for a vibe that feels more like a cozy fishing village. Unwind by hanging out on the beach, eating some fish and chips at West Seattle Fish House and gazing out at the bright blue water

Whether your version of self-care is heading to Pike Place Market downtown or into quieter West Seattle, it’s not hard to find a nice spot to relax over a good meal.

 

6. Let Yourself Wander

One of the best perks of traveling solo is that you don’t have to keep to a plan, nor must you fret about planning everything, if you would prefer to let your days gradually unfold. Stop for brunch, pause to sit on a park bench to people-watch or wander into a beautiful market you didn’t even know existed. Whatever it is, take advantage of a chance to spend a day, or a few, without a set schedule.

Put it in action in Charleston: Spend an afternoon strolling Charleston’s pretty cobblestone streets, ducking in and out of the pastel buildings housing great restaurants that serve fresh oysters and little shops that sell handmade jewelry and bespoke suits.

Charleston’s historic buildings and cobblestone streets, like Chalmers Street above, make for some picturesque wandering on your solo vacation.
Vacation Stories

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About the Author

Sarah Treleaven is a Canadian journalist, and her work has appeared in the BBC, Vogue and New York Magazine.

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