What Every Woman Needs To Do At Least Once
The experience can be incredibly rewarding.
Need to get away? Two years of stay-at-home orders will do that to you. Americans are back in travel mode, particularly since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its virus-testing mandate for international air passengers. But it’s possible we learned something about the value of “me time” from all that social distancing, because one of the biggest trends in travel is going it alone.
One in 4 Americans will plan to take a solo trip in the next six months, according to MMGY Travel Intelligence’s 2022 Portrait of American Travelers report.
“Solo travel is definitely up, especially among women,” says Samantha Brown, a travel expert and host of Places to Love. She attributes the trend partly to the fact that women spent much of the pandemic doing the bulk of homeschooling, working and tending to everyone else’s emotional needs, and are ready for a collective break.
“One of the great things about solo trips is that you don’t have anyone else you have to be mindful of,” Brown says. If you want to geek out on art museums or spend the entire day hiking, you have the freedom to do it — without anyone else whining and ruining the experience. And that can be really rejuvenating.
As Brown puts it, “A trip alone gives you back you.”
But before you get your Eat Pray Love on, however, keep in mind these tips for making the most of your trip and staying safe.
Consider your destination
By all means, if you’re a Disney freak or Hawaii is on your bucket list, book that trip to Orlando or Maui. But be prepared for most things to be oriented to large groups, families and honeymooners. Super-isolated spots might also not be something you want to do alone, but most national parks are tourist-friendly and nice to do at your own pace, without kids or a partner in tow.
Book transportation ahead
Thanks to ongoing supply-chain shortages, rental cars are in short supply — so book early or focus on destinations with a good mass transit system. On a recent trip to Utah, Brown waited three hours at the airport because only one taxi was available. Uber can be another option.
Watch out for the ‘singles tax’
Cruises tend to be based on two-person occupancy per cabin, so there can be an upcharge for going alone, although Brown says that is changing. Ditto hotels — if anything says “double occupancy,” you’re going to pay a little more. Airbnb's may sometimes be a better option, but hotels can be worth it because they often put you closest to popular spots like museums and restaurants. If you like roughing it, camping is a good option, says Stacey Powers, a former San Diego resident who now lives and works full time in her Airstream Flying Cloud travel trailer. If you stay in a campground, you’ll be in your own space but also have other people nearby.
Plan at least one group activity
If you’ve never traveled alone and are nervous about getting bored or lonely, Brown suggests checking out meetup groups local to your destination. There’s one for just about any hobby, like the San Francisco group that offers free yoga classes under the Golden Gate Bridge. Knowing you’ll get a social fix at least once may help take the edge off and give you a chance to experience a new place like a local would.
Sit at the bar
A great perk of solo travel? No waiting for a table. “There’s always room for one person at a restaurant no matter how busy it is,” says Brown. She likes to sit at the bar so she can chat up the bartender. Like hotel concierges, they often can give you advice on where to go and what to do. Plus, Brown says, part of the appeal of traveling on your own is opening yourself up to the possibilities of creating connections with strangers.
Research backs her up on this. After arranging conversations among more than 1,000 pairs of strangers and asking them to rate the experience, researchers at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management found that the majority of people enjoyed it more than they anticipated. And they add, it gets easier with practice.
Advertising that you’re alone can make you a target for theft or worse, so be discreet and aware of your surroundings, says Powers. If you drink, do it in moderation, and never leave an open beverage unattended. Make sure you have cell service when venturing out, and share your location with family and friends. If you ever don’t feel safe in a situation, leave. Powers forfeited her deposit at one San Francisco hotel based on a gut feeling — and has zero regrets.
Clothing with pockets or something like a fanny pack can be less obvious than a large bag. Carry only what you need, advises Brown, and make use of the hotel safe if you have one. She likes to put one of her shoes inside the safe, so she doesn’t forget to check it before leaving the room.
Don’t overschedule yourself
One of the benefits of travel is that it gets us out of our routine, says Brown. When you’re on your own, it can be tempting to fill every spare minute with things to do. But that’s not very relaxing. “Get away from the idea that you have to be doing something every minute,” she says. “Have fun, be playful, explore, experience delight.” After all, everyone needs some downtime, even on vacation.
Ultimately, traveling alone can be incredibly rewarding. “The experience in and of itself can empower you,” says Powers. “Everyone, at least once in their lifetime, should take a solo trip.”
Need help planning your next adventure? Check out the AARP Travel Center, which can help you find great deals and plan a fabulous trip.