16 Tips for Solo Travel (table for one please, meet new people)

by: Julie Anne Syperek |

Have you ever traveled by yourself? If you know me, then you have seen my face light up, and heard me sigh as I’ve swooned over my solo trip to France this past summer. I spent my days soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine while I checked one thing off of my todo list every day: Whatever would make me brilliantly happy. Because when you travel solo? You can do exactly what you want, whenever you see fit. Every solo holiday I’ve taken keeps getting better and better, because I’ve learned many important lessons over the years. I have also discovered the secret ingredient: Solo Travel is a state of mind. In order to prepare you for your own unique adventure, I’ll be giving you my best tips for solo travel that will highlight both the good, and the challenging that come along with it.

Why I Travel Solo

Before I unveil my best tips for solo travel, I’d like to share why I love it so much. I first dipped my toe into the world of traveling alone back in 2016, and the experiences have truly transformed my life. On each of my journeys, I spend my time writing, taking photographs, relaxing and eating my way through each city I visit. I seek out beauty and deliciousness, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet incredible people all over the world! 

But above all else, solo travel gives me the chance to get reacquainted with my own thoughts, and listen to the whispers of my heart and soul that tend to be dampened by the grind of everyday life. I always come back home feeling inspired, recharged, and grateful for the time spent doing everything my heart desires.  Because that’s the thing about solo travel…this is time for you to spend however you please. Single, married, or somewhere in between- this “all about you” mindset is crucial to the enjoyment of your solo travel experience. 

Home vs. Away

Can’t you do that in your own city? Well of course you can. But when your solo holiday is spent in an unfamiliar place, something very special happens. You have the opportunity to look at your life at home from the outside while you wake up each day with fresh eyes- ready to see whatever marvel the world has in store for you. There is magic in solitude, but only for those who wish to discover it.

As I said before- solo travel is a state of mind. Instead of thinking “I wish my loved ones were here with me watching this beautiful sunset!” I encourage you to shift the narrative and think “I wish my loved ones could see this beautiful sunset…I know they’d love it.” Thinking this way has taken time, but it’s been very powerful! Experiencing the world alone has become the most important part of my self care routine. It has also helped me become more confident in other areas of my life as well.  

Your Why

So what will your purpose for solo travel be? Do you want to eat your way through Italy, or spend your days walking through the museums of Paris? Or perhaps you want to golf your way through Scotland, or spend time exploring the islands of Croatia? Whatever your purpose, I encourage you to make the trip about yourself. If your reason for traveling alone is solely to meet people, you may end up disappointed.

Meeting others along the way should be seen as a lucky enhancement to your travels. It’s best to focus on preparing for alone time, what you want out of your holiday, and what will make you happy. This is something that you can control. And speaking of meeting people and managing your expectations, Let’s jump right into my best tips for solo travel.

Tips for Solo Travel #1: Expect to be Alone

Will you meet friends, or perhaps a romantic interest? It’s all possible, but at the end of the day, all you can count on is yourself and the plans you make for your holiday. I have made friends all over the world, and I have stories of serendipitous romance that have had such a positive impact on my life. But those stories were only the sprinkles on top of a whole lot of time spent enjoying the world for myself.

On one hand, when you are solo, you are more vulnerable. Which can be scary! But when you are alone, many people will feel more comfortable approaching you. 

But as I said before, you cannot expect to meet people that you will click with. The reality is that you may go the entire trip having pleasant conversations that won’t lead to special connections. You can’t assume that the gal on your boat tour will be friendly, or that the attractive man at the other end of the pool will swim up to you in Monaco. (Spoiler alert. He did!). 

So I encourage you to go into a solo experience with the expectation of being alone, so you are even more grateful for the short conversations on the Ponte St Angelo in Rome, and the friendships that endure years past your holiday in Sardinia. They will all be a special part of your story. 

Tips for Solo Travel
Monte-Carlo Casino, Monaco

Tips for Solo Travel #2: Test the Waters

Thinking about taking a trip by yourself but scared to take the plunge? Stay on a group trip a couple days longer than your family and friends. You will already be comfortable in this new city, and may even have a list of things you’d like to do that no one else was interested in.

You can also plan to meet up with friends in other places before or after you test out a solo adventure. Why not explore Paris for a few days by yourself before hopping a plane to Greece to meet your friends in Mykonos? In my opinion, it is so easy to travel between countries in Europe. Take a chance! It’ll be worth it.

Tips for Solo Travel #3: How to Meet New People

I love meeting new people and hearing their stories- but I wasn’t always this way. I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert who has really put in the work on the extroverted piece. And as the years have gone on, this evolution has helped me learn a thing or two about connecting with other people.

I go into every conversation looking for the common themes that bind us all together instead of looking for the differences. It has truly helped my perspective of the world evolve in such a positive way. I encourage you to keep an open mind as you travel, and you may be lucky enough to form connections with people no matter where you go.

Ask Questions: 

In a world where we all want to be heard, be the person who listens and asks questions. I love asking simple questions about where people are from, what they will be doing on holiday, and what their favorite meal was so far (it’s always about the food). Steer clear of politics and religion (it can be a real mood killer). Stick to life, career, love, why you travel, and any other big picture topics you can think of. There is so much to learn about people from other cultures. I have a sneaky feeling that you will find yourself amazed by how much you actually have in common.

Try to Speak the Language:

Wherever you go in the world, trying to speak their language will get you far with the locals. I learn at least a few key phrases before I arrive and keep building my vocabulary as I go. I also use Google translate- what a lifesaver!

Take a Chance: 

Maybe you are in a long line and are feeling chatty. Take a chance and talk to the people around you! Or if someone is speaking your language and you are in another country, say hello! Language is a common bond that will connect you together. Bottom line is this though: No one knows you here…what are you afraid of?  

Go on a Tour:

From a few hours spent on a food tour, to an entire day spent on a boat or discovering a wine region, I highly recommend going on a tour within a few days of your arrival in a new city. This is one of the best ways to interact with other tourists and your guide is bound to know the city well. I enjoy going on smaller group trips so it is a bit easier to get to know everyone involved.

Shared Experiences Will Bond You with Others: 

Unexpected moments, both good and bad, may connect you to the people around you. When I was hit in the head by the overhead bin on my flight to France, I met Julie. We were both pretty nervous about getting into France, as they had just opened their doors to Americans due to Covid restrictions. We would go on to spend time in Monaco where we talked about life, travel, and the places in the world that make us light up from within. I never would’ve visited Monaco if it wasn’t for Julie- and that little country left quite the impact on me.

Tips for Solo Travel #4: Find Your “Cheers”

There is something special about being a regular somewhere, or finding the place “Where everyone knows your name,” just like in the tv show “Cheers.” When I was in Nice, France, I was drawn to Cafe des Amis. From the chalkboard menu to the locals that were congregating there, I had a good feeling, and took a chance. I feel very lucky to have found a perfectly charming restaurant in a lively part of Nice on my very first night!

They had a fantastic wine and cocktail list, a menu that ranged from truffle hams and cheeses to delicious pizzas, and one of my favorite steak tartares of all time. The staff was so personable and made me feel welcome every time I popped in to enjoy a Cote du Rhône, a little bit of writing and the ambiance of the evening.

Tips for Solo Travel #5: Find the Helpers

Cafe des Amis wasn’t just my favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine and my never-ending love affair with “pain” Français (the bread!). But it was here that I found one of the kindest people I have ever met! Marion spoke English and made me feel welcome from the moment I sat down. And even at the busiest moments, she would always take the time to answer a question, make me a reservation to watch the Euro Cup, or give this solo traveler warmth that would make her feel right at home.

Now remember…not everyone will be like Marion…but don’t let it discourage you. For every helper, you will come across someone that isn’t a fan of talking to strangers- let alone tourists! But keep trying, and embrace your curiosity. If you have a question, just ask! If you are friendly, chances are pretty good that you will find someone who wants to be helpful. 

Tips for Solo Travel #6: Lead with Kindness

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but these days I am constantly reminding myself and my students to lead with kindness. We have ALL been through a lot all over the world and it’s important to remember that we have no idea what someone else is going through.

♥ On a similar note, I think of myself as an ambassador for my country and my city while I am traveling. When someone meets me, they will form an opinion about Americans from Chicago whether I like it or not. So even in challenging situations, I try my best to keep calm and use the words that I’d want someone to use when they talk to me. I encourage you to do the same.

Tips for Solo Travel #7: Table for One, Please

When you travel solo, you can eat whatever you want, whenever the mood strikes. Forget trying to decide where to eat to make everyone happy. The choice is yours, and yours alone, so listen to your stomach and eat your heart out!

But on the flip side, dining alone can be terrifying. At the beginning, you may yearn for someone to be indecisive with regarding where to eat, but I promise you, as you get more comfortable being alone you will love it.

In July I dined at the one and only Septime in Paris. I believe I was able to enjoy my dining experience more because I was by myself. In the absence of conversation, I was able to let the flavors and ambiance wash over me in a way that was truly remarkable. I savored every detail of the wine and food pairings while asking the brilliant (and very kind) sommelier and wait staff all of the nerdy food questions I had. What a delightful experience! I will never forget it.

For those of you that are new to the idea of dining alone, here are a few tips to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Ask to Sit at the Bar or at a Communal Table if Available

I recommend finding a perch where you can do some people watching. Sitting at the bar is also the best place to meet interesting people. Sitting at an actual table by yourself works well too, but it may be in a back corner of the restaurant, so it all depends on what you are looking for.

Have Something To Do:  

Are you working and traveling, or perhaps you enjoy writing like I do? Bring your computer OUT. It’s much easier to write this way, plus it gives people a reason to talk to you. The people of the world are curious! They will absolutely want to know what you are working on. Even when I’m writing on my phone, I try to have a journal with me. Why? Because your phone can be a signal to others that you don’t want to be bothered.

If writing is not your thing, I would suggest that you bring a book or a magazine when you dine. Even if you decide not to read, having something on your table will help you feel more comfortable, and it may also be a great conversation starter. 

Not Feeling Social?  

Most of the time, I like talking to people I don’t know. Everyone has a story, and I believe I can learn from their perspective. 

But in the times when all I want to do is write, eat my delicious tartare, or drink my vin de rouge, I have needed to figure out a pleasant way to end a conversation. My advice to you is this: Be kind, patient, and entertain the conversation for a few minutes. Then excuse yourself so you can get back to what you were doing. Or who knows, you may realize you didn’t want to be alone after all.

I believe that travel is an adventure. When you stay open to the possibilities, you never know where your day will take you. And those days are truly the greatest days of all! Which leads me to my next tip.

Tips for Solo Travel #8: Leave Room for Spontaneity. 

My name is Julie, and I am a reformed “plan every detail in my life” kind of person.  These days, I leave openings for spontaneity, which has translated to some of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.

This past summer I only booked half of my trip ahead of time. I knew that I was staying in Nice for 2 weeks and that I had to get myself to Paris for a flight home. But what I didn’t know, was what I’d be doing with the 2 weeks in between Nice and Paris. Was it scary not having a set plan? Sure! But the best insight for where to stay and what to do will usually be found when you start talking to the locals and other tourists at your destination.

My advice to you is to plan what’s necessary- your absolute must do’s. But have another list of maybes and leave room in your schedule for life to happen. Planning every moment, while comforting before you arrive, may end up leading to regrets while you are living your itinerary.

Tips for Solo Travel #9: This is Your Holiday

Planning a trip can be so much fun, but it can also be overwhelming. I encourage you to do your research, talk to friends and family who have been to the city, but don’t forget to think about what YOU want out of this trip.  

Everyone travels differently and enjoys different aspects of a vacation. There are people out there that want to spend their days inside museums, and do every single thing you are “supposed” to do in every city.  Then there are others that are more about immersing themselves in the culture and enjoying the food and drink that the city is known for.

Personally, I adore a bit of both. But either way, decide what kind of trip you want this to be.Then set your mind to taking the advice of articles and friends into consideration, but don’t take their vacation. This holiday is about you.  

Tips for Solo Travel #10: The Silver Lining of Bad Experiences

Unexpected challenges pop up. You might miss a train, have an unpleasant encounter, or eat a meal that wasn’t as delicious as you had hoped. Or maybe you will have a story like mine. One morning in June, I thought I missed my bus to Monte Carlo, so I started the 2 mile walk down the mountain, only to watch the bus drive past me a few minutes later! I ended up doing a walk/run through the streets and steep stairs of Monaco so I wouldn’t be late for my reservation. This was a day when looking sweaty was NOT the plan! I was so frustrated with myself. But an hour later while I was laying on my cabana at Nikki Beach enjoying the gorgeous views and a glass of rose, I had forgotten all about my bus debacle.

When challenges arise, the bad news is that you deal with them alone and that can be hard. But the silver lining, is that it’s hard to dwell on your misfortune or mistake when you don’t have a companion to rehash the situation with. Plus, your senses will be constantly stimulated by the newness and gorgeous views around you, and your mind will need to move on to focus on the next task.

With that being said, I know very well that there are moments that can feel very defeating. So I encourage you to try to look at all of the challenges you work through, no matter the outcome, as an accomplishment worth celebrating! Let’s be honest, it’s also a great excuse to treat yourself.

Tips for Solo Travel #11: You Will Always Be in Charge

This can be one of the downsides to traveling alone. You will be THE decision maker for the entire duration of your trip. So even when you are tired or just having a bad day, you will have no one to defer to. But. Getting through those days will feel very rewarding! They have left me feeling strong, and capable of getting through any adversity that comes my way.

The Importance of a Smart Phone

I find that the most difficult decisions revolve around how to get to a destination, and where I should eat. In order to make that easier on myself, I ALWAYS have a working phone with data no matter if I switch out my SIM card, or pay for an international plan. Paper maps are great, but Google Maps will save you so much time and frustration! Trust me on this one.

Before I leave for my trip, I will also star restaurants and locations on Google Maps that peak my interest. This makes it way easier to decide what to do next- especially when I’m feeling a little hangry. So charge up that phone, put it on the “Low Power Mode” setting, and you’ll have directions, and recommendations at your fingertips! But please learn from my mistake, and have an extra battery pack. I learned that in Genoa, Italy the hard way…but that’s another story for a different time.

Tips for Solo Travel #12: Taking Pictures of Yourself

While traveling alone you can take photographs all you want, and spend as much time as you like setting up the perfect shot- which is one of my favorite things about traveling solo. I can stop as much as I want and take all the time in the world with no one to explain anything to.

But taking pictures of yourself can be tricky to maneuver! Here are a few options to help prove that you were there:

Take a Selfie: 

Learn how to work those angles ahead of time, and create a digital memory for yourself! Even if you despise taking selfies like I do, you will be grateful for the photograph when you get home. I especially love documenting the blissfully happy moments with a selfie or a video- it helps me get back to that state of mind after I return home.

Ask Someone to Take Your Photograph: 

While taking a selfie, someone may approach you and ask to take your photo. Other times you will have to take a chance and approach a stranger. In that case, take a moment to observe the crowd. I will search for other solo travelers or couples taking their own selfie. Offer to take their photograph, and they will likely do the same for you!  

Use a Tripod or a Selfie Stick

Some photographs are worth using a tripod for. A selfie stick will also allow you to take a photograph from farther away.

Whatever your choice, make sure to practice before your trip. Photographs and videos will help you remember the joy of the moments you experienced, and I guarantee you will be so happy that you documented your journey when you get home.

With that being said, I try not to get too caught up in photographs or videos because I want to make sure that I live in the moment! I want to remember the colors, figures, and details through my eyes- not through a lens.

Tips For Solo Travel #13: Advocate for Yourself & Ask Questions

Not sure if that incredibly long line will cause you to miss your flight transfer? Ask someone. The same goes with asking for directions or anything else that just doesn’t seem right. Advocating for yourself while you are traveling solo is very important- you can’t assume anyone else will act on your behalf.

So if the thought creeps into your mind that maybe you’re traveling in the wrong direction, or you are not 100% sure what track your train is on, listen to your gut. I encourage you to pause, find someone who works there, or search for a kind face in the crowd. As I said before, the helpers are out there! Just make sure to lead with kindness- especially in your most flustered moments. Please and thank you never go out of style.  

Tips For Solo Travel #14: Where to Go & How Long To Stay

Recently, I was watching “The Holiday.” As I watched Cameron Diaz’s character get bored at her quaint little cottage in England in just one day, I thought to myself how important it is to think about small town vs. beach town vs. city before you plan a solo trip. If you are looking for a cornucopia of restaurants, shops, museums, and entertainment, then a city should be on your list. Or perhaps you desire to hide away on a beach for a few days? Then look for the best weather and bring your sunscreen! If you are truly looking for a small town vibe, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Remember that if Jude Law didn’t show up, Cameron Diaz would’ve been on the next flight home! 

My favorite itinerary includes a mix of all 3. I like to start in a big city when my energy is up. Small towns are great as day trips, or as a stop over on your way to your next destination, but not to stay for more than a couple nights at most. And then I love ending my holidays on a beach. Being a tourist is hard work! Reward yourself with some relaxation and sunshine.  

One day is too little unless totally necessary. 3-4 nights in any city is perfection. Really want to get to know a place? Stay for 5-7 days or longer if you have the flexibility. And remember you can always make a city your home base and take day trips to small towns around you.

Tips for Solo Travel #15: Always Be on Guard

When you are alone, you should always watch your back and air on the side of caution. You can’t just leave your drink and go to the restroom, or leave your bag on the chair next to you and expect that it won’t get swiped. Am I worried about this because I’m a woman? Maybe. But here’s the thing you must remember no matter what box you check. If something unfortunate happens, you don’t have friends that you can call to help. You are alone.  Finding a replacement phone if it’s stolen, or getting a replacement credit card can’t happen if you are in a different country.

Make Sure Someone Knows Where You Are

I give my rough itinerary to a few key people, but I have made it a habit of updating my stories on Instagram to show my friends and family where I am in the world to keep their minds at ease. Do they know every little thing I do? No. But consistent updates on IG help them worry less, and help me enjoy myself without feeling like someone is constantly checking up on me. It works beautifully, and ends up being an amazing highlight reel of my travels.

Dealing With Creepy People

If someone asks if I’m alone, and they make me feel uncomfortable, I will tell a little white lie to get away. I’m all about honesty, but having a “boyfriend” back home, or a “friend” back at your hotel is a great way to get out of an unpleasant situation.

If annoyance turns into harassment, I encourage you to yell “No!” as loudly as you can, change direction, and run into the closest business. Surprisingly, this has only happened to me once.  

More Solo Travel Safeguards: It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry!

Sometimes I do wonder if I am too much of a worry wart, but then again, my solo travels have been so marvelous! It’s hard to say that I’m “just lucky,” if so much thought goes into it, right? Here are a few more safety tips for you to think about.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and try to keep your head out of your phone as much as possible.
  • Keep your bag close to your body and zippered closed. Even when at a restaurant- the chair next to you is not good enough in my opinion. It’s an easy target for pickpockets.
  • Wallets and phones should be kept in an enclosed area inside of your bag if possible.
  • Bring at least 2 credit cards, and keep them separate in case you lose one. And always have cash on you- not every business will take a card.
  • Take a picture of your passport and other important travel documents and keep them on your phone.
  • Watch your drink, try not to overindulge, and don’t stay out terribly late unless you are with someone you trust.
  • When it comes to trusting others: Go with your gut instinct, stay in public places, and remember that it’s ok not to be sure. In Rome, I met a Roman who wanted to take me to a church to see Caravaggio’s Paintings. We exchanged information, but at first I said maybe. It ultimately turned into a yes, and I feel very lucky that I was able to see Rome through the eyes of someone who lived there.
  • When exchanging information with new people, Social Media platforms like Facebook or Instagram will allow you to connect AND do a little digging on who this person is if you are feeling skeptical.

Tips for Solo Travel #16: Embrace Being Alone 

Why are you alone? I get this question a lot, and every time, I simply say that I’m traveling solo because I love it.  Embrace the choice you made to go on this journey, and let it give you confidence. I have moments where I feel anxious that people are judging me for being by myself, but most of the time I realize that they are probably admiring my confidence for being able to be “one” in a world that tends to celebrate the “twos.”

Traveling solo is not only about being your own ring leader and calling all the shots.  It’s also about learning to let your senses have a love affair. The absense of conversation leads to the heightened awareness of the details that surround you, and you will naturally obtain a firmer grasp on what makes you happy in every single aspect of your daily life…and that will be the greatest souvenir of all.

Thank you so much for reading my tips for solo travel! Every time I jump on a plane, my goal is to evolve as a traveler and learn something new. I wish the same for you, and I hope I gave you a few things to ponder as you plan your own solo adventure.

This article is written by Julie Anne and a proud member of the Dutchbloggeronthemove team. Julie is known for her food and wine experience and she flawlessly combines these to give us the best travel experiences. To learn more about Julie, you can read her bio here or read more of her articles about St. Martin and Paris here. Or leave a comment below.

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