4 Travel Mistakes Women Make When Traveling Solo
And 4 easy solutions to save you a world of frustration
The first time I boarded a plane by myself was one of the most terrifying AND exhilarating experiences of my life. I wanted to go home as much as I wanted the plane to take off right away. That first trip, long before there was an internet to use for research or social media friends to offer advice, I relied on advice from my mom and girlfriends.
Some of their advice I listened to. Most of it, I ignored. Considering my shocking lack of street smarts, I'm amazed I got home safely. My travel mistakes have ranged from budget-busting to stupid safety choices that (thankfully) ended with a good story to tell when I got home. The key is to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.
If you enjoy solo travel, hopefully our tips will save you from frustration. If not, there's always a chance always the chance of a good story.
Plan arrival and departure times during the day
A ridiculously cheap red eye can be hard to turn down - but do you really want to arrive at a strange destination after dark? Last year, I arrived in North Carolina at 10 pm. After picking up my rental car and saying no thank you to the GPS, I began a two-hour drive, which turned into three hours because I kept getting lost. Note to self, the iPhone is useless as a navigation tool when you're driving on a highway at 100 miles an hour in the dark - trying to avoid hitting other cars and an extraordinary amount of road kill.
Needless to say, I began my trip tired and frazzled. And I always invest in a GPS.
Deb (@DebDobson on Twitter) had interesting map experience as well. "I showed up at a B&B, ate cheese, crackers, drank glass of tea. Then found out when complimenting on the B&B, I was at wrong house. I very kindly thanked them for their hospitality. Finally found the farmhouse B&B, stepped into a pile of goose poop - it was the start of an eventful trip to say the least."
Flamboyant might be a way of life at home, but research your destination before packing your bags. Standing out in a crowd because you're a shock to the locals shows lack of respect and might put you in danger. Know what the locals wear and what they absolutely don't allow before leaving home.
In San Juan, I learned the hard way that my spaghetti strap dress was not permitted inside the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen. I returned after buying a shawl and was allowed inside. While the idea of bare shoulders not being allowed in a church might feel antiquated to me, it's not my place to disrupt local customs.
Use common sense
On GoGirlfriend we've shared boatloads of advice from travel safety experts but the best advice I ever received was to balance those smart travel tips with some common sense. Spending an evening enjoying a local celebration is a great way to dive deep into the culture. But being stranded at a Pueblo at midnight in a dessert with hitchhiking or walking your only way home equals stupid. We'll leave that story there.
Nancy (@greengirlmedia on Twitter) agrees with me that intuition can be a strong guiding force.
"I was younger and took a trip for a month after college to NorthWest," wrote Nancy during a recent Twitter conversation. "I always had my guard up for safety. I needed to relax. Once I relaxed I could really enjoy the freedom, alone time and meet really nice people. Good old intuition. I understand it more and use it in life. Past business experiences and life lessons. Older and wiser."
Carrie (@KinderSwagCA) learned the hard way that not all public transportation is safe. Here's what she shared on Twitter: "Being a single blonde on a train in S. Italy at 10pm with packs of young men roaming the cars. I found 4 nuns to sit with and I speak Italian quite well - the nuns were gracious to the crazy Canadian! But I was scared...serious stuff! In all seriousness, when traveling alone, good to hook up with other safe travelers as needed: couples, families, nuns!"
Choose travel companions carefully
While traveling solo stretches you in amazing ways, it can be nice to hang out with your girlfriends too. But choose wisely.
Ingrid (@ingridschiller) learned the hard way that friendship does not equal well-matched travel partner. Here's what she said on Twitter: "Traveling with a friend & a friend of hers that I never met before & she was a totally different traveler than the two of us. Had I know what she was like, I would have preferred to travel alone. While backpacking Europe, she brought 3 duffle bags filled with brushes, hairspays, tons of magazines. Her bags broke. She didn't want to experience the local culture, food, not willing to explore."
Traveling solo takes courage and I'm always amazed when I meet women who would never consider it. Fear is their GPS and they can't imagine just traveling for the sake of travel. I've had more than my share of botched travel days, most of them due to my own carelessness. But I've also had travel days that I make all those botched ones minor annoyances in comparison.
Do your research and leave home knowing the most important thing you'll pack is an open mind.
How do you travel? Solo, in a group or in pairs? Got any travel mistakes - and the lessons you learned from - to help other travelers? We'd love to hear them.