Whether you’re a solo vacationer or traveling alone for business, these tips will help you be mindful of solo travel safety without cramping your style.
Planning to travel alone? You need these tips for solo travel safety
I enjoy traveling alone. I enjoy doing things alone, like going to a museum, shopping, or going to a restaurant. Doing things with friends and family is fun, too, but no matter the reason for it, there’s just something that feels so grown up about solo travel.
I don’t have to consult anyone else on the itinerary or where to stay or when to eat. And staying in a nice hotel and having the bed all to myself? Pure heaven.
But let’s talk about safety for a minute. When you’re traveling solo, the only one you have to rely on is you. This isn’t about being paranoid in a way that limits your adventure. This is about being prepared to make it a really great one.
Some of these solo travel safety tips are good for couples, families or group travel. Even if you are not planning a solo trip just yet, you will be able to use some of these as you plan travel.
Let someone know your travel plans
If you have a schedule or an itinerary, provide that to someone at home. Let them know if you make changes or if you’re not going to be where you say you’re going to be.
Check in with someone each day, even if that’s just a quick text or email. Whatever you decide, let your designated person know what to expect in terms of check in frequency.
Solo travel safety doesn’t mean you have to be checking in with someone multiple times a day. If your partner or your mom is blowing up your phone hourly with that “Everything OK?” text, that’s going to get tedious for sure. But, it’s helpful (and safe!) for someone to know where you are and that you’re doing fine.
Trust your gut feelings
If your Spidey senses tell you something is off then it probably is. That said, there’s a balance between being paranoid and using common sense. If there are particular things about solo travel that make you nervous, think about them and address them before you go.
Avoid situations you know that will cause you stress (but don’t be afraid to spread your wings a little, too) like traveling alone at night or staying in an outside corridor room.
If you’re nervous about traveling solo, I recommend having a fairly scripted trip for your first trip alone or doing a small practice run trip close to home. I like having a schedule and knowing what’s going to happen from day to day or even hour to hour. True, that removes some of the spontaneity but the structure might make a nice safety net until you get used to traveling on your own.
Travelers who pack light are more easily mobile and less distracted. Besides, unless you’re ultra fancy and have a porter to attend to your bags everywhere you go, it’s likely you and only you schlepping your stuff around.
Whether it’s retrieving your luggage from a baggage claim or getting in and out of a taxi or Uber, make it easy on yourself and pack light. If you are comfortable handing your own luggage no matter what, that limits your reliance on other people to help you.
I know packing light is sometimes a challenge but really work to consider what you’ll need on your trip and don’t fuss with “just in case” items.
Choosing the right place to lay your head is key to solo travel safety. If you are traveling by yourself, accommodations are not what you want to skimp on. I’m not saying you have to stay at a five star luxury hotel to be safe but definitely keep your safety at the forefront when you are deciding where to stay. This might not be the time to choose “Hmmm…could be a little dicey but the price is great so why not?”
Although I absolutely love Vrbo and Airbnb which have opened up a whole new world for me as far as travel accommodations go, I tend to avoid this type of setup when I’m traveling by myself. I want a hotel with an inside corridor room with a desk clerk that will see me come and go or maybe a Bed and Breakfast where the host or hostess know where I am.
None of this solo travel safety advice is written in stone and I decide everything case by case. Your comfort level may be different than what mine is. Let’s face it, we’re all different and there are a lot of variables in planning any travel. Selecting a hotel might require a few extra steps or more research when you are a solo traveler and that’s not a bad thing.
Read about my favorite hotel in downtown San Antonio, the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
Things like how well-lit the parking area is or how far you’ll have to walk between the parking lot or taxi drop off and the entrance are things you’ll want to know ahead of time. You might also want to ask what kind of door locks or peepholes are available. This is something you might not think about until you realize you don’t have it.
I stayed once in a brand new property with outside corridor rooms and the peepholes hadn’t been installed yet. Even though I was not traveling solo, this made me super uncomfortable.
I find that when you plan your trip with a focus on solo travel safety, you think of different things to be alert to.
Make friends with the hotel staff
Get to know the people at the front desk, people in bell services, housekeeping staff, or anyone you’re likely to encounter when you’re making your way to your room. By introducing yourself and learning the names of hotel staffers, you are creating a support system for yourself. Make sure you’re polite and pleasant and the people working at your hotel will probably go out of their way to look out for you.
Let the people working at your hotel (or your B&B host/hostess) know you’re traveling alone and you may get extra tips an intel on areas to avoid or things to watch out for. If they know you’re solo and you’re friendly, they’re much more likely to check on you and make sure you’re doing okay. While you might not feel like you need a babysitter, it’s nice to have someone in your corner when you’re alone in a strange place. These people are often the best resources for things to do that might not be in your guidebook or on your radar.
Lock your door – This is probably Solo Travel Safety rule#1
I know, I know. This sounds like a no-brainer but make sure you’re using the deadbolt and any other extra latch that’s available. Even if I feel like the place I’m staying is 1000 percent safe I will utilize every barrier available when I turn in at night.
This is one of the reasons I’m not comfortable with ground floor rooms or (in general) outside corridor hotels. I do make exceptions and I’m not saying you should never choose one of these accommodations but I know what makes me comfortable and I go with that.
Meet people but be careful who you give your details to
One of the reasons I enjoy solo traveling is because I love the break from peopling on a trip. I am a huge introvert and love the opportunity to go at my own pace and have some alone time doing what I love best.
That said, solo travel has offered the opportunity to meet different people and strike up impromptu conversations that might even lead to friendships. People are often curious about solo travelers and not always in a weird, creepy way.
Just be careful.
Questions like “Are you by yourself?” or “Where are you staying?” might seem innocent. Most of the time, they probably are but once you’ve given out info, you can’t take it back.
Although we might be programmed to be cooperative and answer questions, get into the habit of not answering the question or at least questioning the question or why the asker needs to know.
Everything is situational. My gut will usually tell me whether answering a question is a good idea and if I’m not sure, I go with less information.
I have no qualms about telling a white lie and saying “I’m traveling with friends” or “I’m meeting someone here soon.” I’m also very selective about telling people I meet while I’m out and about where I’m staying. They’re probably just making casual conversation but think about it: there is no reason you owe someone you do not know that level of info.
Be cautious when using social media
One of my biggest solo travel safety trips is to be cautious with how you use social media.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media can be a great way to share your travels with friends and family and to learn what’s happening in a new place.
Use caution when tagging your specific location or sharing the name of your hotel. You don’t always know who is out there watching, especially if your accounts are set to public or if you’re using popular or local hashtags. If you tag an Instagram picture with #BostonLife then your post will show up in the newsfeeds of people you’re not connected to who follow that hashtag.
I’m not saying don’t use social media when you’re traveling or that it’s not safe to use it to make connections with other travelers. Just maybe don’t post a selfie standing in front of your hotel room with the room number visible and geotag the hotel.
Be careful with alcohol
I am not saying don’t have a drink or a few drinks and I am not saying don’t have a good time. I am not implying or suggesting anything.
If you’re drinking alcohol, you’re lowering your inhibitions and potentially hampering your reaction speed and your judgement. Someone with nefarious intention may see you drinking by yourself and decide you’re a target because of that.
Use your best judgement when you’re out by yourself or if you meet people. If a bar or a restaurant gives you a weird vibe, you probably need to pay attention to that.
In general, bartenders and waitstaff are great people to make friends with. As with hotel employees, develop a rapport and they’ll be extra likely to look out for your well-being.
Also, if you feel unsafe walking to your car, to get a cab, or in any other circumstance, let the a bartender or bouncer know. I once got a really weird vibe leaving an event to walk over one block to where my Uber was waiting. I asked someone working the event to walk me over and watch me get into the car. Maybe I felt a little bit silly doing that but the guy was happy to oblige. Better safe than sorry.
And, see the section below on guarding your valuables. These apply double when you’re going to have alcohol. Letting down your guard might mean being less diligent with keeping your purse or wallet safe.
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Stay alert – Maybe the most important solo travel safety rule to remember
Pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you only have your own sense to rely on, make sure you’re paying attention to where you are and who else is around.
If someone stops you to chat – whether they want to ask you for directions or to sell you something – make sure you don’t let your guard down. It may be totally innocent but it also may be a ploy to distract you while someone else riffles in your backpack.
You may also want to consider using not using headphones or air pods. If you do use them, keep the volume low enough to where you can hear things going on around you.
Be wary of sleeping on public transportation like buses or trains where people get off and on regularly. Make sure your valuables and your money aren’t in a bag that someone can easily snag while you’re dozing or distracted.
Solo travel safety 101 – Avoid walking by yourself after dark
No matter how safe you think the area is. Period.
I walked from my hotel in New Orleans, which was located just outside the French Quarter, down to Bourbon Street at twilight because the desk clerk told me it was safe…and maybe it was. I got there unscathed.
I didn’t have a good feeling about the area I was walking through and there were a lot of alleyways where I didn’t have complete visibility of who/what was there until I was vulnerable. I took an Uber back to the hotel, even though it was only about half a mile.
You might be tempted to let yourself feel silly for being focused on solo travel safety, but don’t. Being safe and comfortable are the most important things and those aren’t going to hinder you from having a good time and exploring.
Know your hotel’s contact info and carry it with you
I take a picture of the front of my hotel and also grab a business card from the front desk or concierge. If a business card isn’t available, I write down the name, address and phone number of my accommodation, and the name of the host, manager, or person working the front desk if I can get it.
If there’s a language barrier or other types of writing/numerals (i.e. Arabic or Cyrillic) then ask an employee of the hotel to write it out for you. One reason I always carry a small notepad in my bag or purse, even in this digital day and age.
Even if you have the best sense of direction ever, it is easy to get thrown off or lose your sense of direction in a strange place. Take this one simple step to ensure you know where you need to go back to and you’ll probably never need it.
Guard your valuables
I don’t usually carry a ton of cash when I travel but that’s specific to where I’m going. There are places around the world that are less credit card centric than the U.S.A. and places where using an ATM to withdraw cash is risky. Make sure you do your research in advance of your trip.
Solo travel safety doesn’t mean being paranoid…it means being careful and thinking things through in advance. I typically take one credit card with me and if I need cash, I try to get that before I leave. If I need to exchange currency at my destination, I have a plan for how/where I’m going to do that before I start out.
I also avoid wearing expensive jewelry when I travel, all depending on where I’m going, of course. Sometimes, I’ll even pair down my wedding set and wear a silicone band and leave my diamond rings at home.
Keeping your valuables on your body is always the safest bet, whether that’s a money belt, a pouch that goes around your neck under your shirt or the good old fashioned “stuff it in your bra” method. The fanny pack is also making a comeback but make sure you keep it in front of you. There are all kinds of garments made for travel nowadays (shirts, scarves, and even underwear) that have secret pockets designed to hold valuables and keep them close your body.
If I’m wearing jeans or cargo pants with a zipper, I might keep valuables inside the front hip pocket, if it’s deep enough or if I can secure it. I might be distracted enough not to notice a clever pickpocket grab something out of my back pocket but chances are I will notice if someone puts their hands in my front pants pocket.
If you keep valuables in a bag, wear the bag on your front and keep close tabs on it when you sit down. It seems normal to put your backpack on the floor or slide your purse over the back of a chair when you sit down to eat but it only takes a second for someone to grab your stuff from either location.
Consider keeping your cash and your credit cards in separate locations and if you rely on Apple Pay or something similar, make sure your phone’s lock screen is set to activate quickly.
I also do not carry my passport with me when I am out and about unless I know I will need it. I’ll keep it stored in the hotel safe and carry another form of ID.
Finally, have copies of all of your identification documents and your credit card numbers and customer service numbers, just in case. Keep those separate from the originals in case your bag gets lost or stolen and you’ve just saved yourself a lot of headaches.
Solo travel safety won’t cramp your style
You’re not going to have less fun and your trip isn’t going to be less spectacular because you take safety precautions or overprepare. There’s a difference between being alert and prepared and being suspicious and afraid to leave your hotel room.
Like just about everything else with traveling and living, taking safety precautions – especially as a solo traveler – is a balance.