BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS: SOLO TRAVEL

6 Most Common Solo Travel Questions—Answered!

The freedom to go precisely where you want, when you want, and how you want—behold, the power of one!

I absolutely dread going out to eat on my own. Help!

Count yourself in good company. Dining alone may well be solo travelers' number-one fear, so much so that it even has an official diagnosis: solomangarephobia. In practice, however, it can be a lot easier than you expect. Whitman recommends getting a seat at the bar, rather than at a table, in restaurants. "There are always people to chat with—other solo diners, regulars, even the bartender." If you're not feeling talkative, bring along a book or magazine to stay occupied. You could also skip the restaurant scene altogether, by sampling street food or picnicking in a park with items from a farmers' market.

I'm concerned about safety. Anything I can do?

To minimize risks, follow these five practical tips, gathered from experts including Whitman, Schlichter, and travel guidebook author Rick Steves. (1) Project strength. Walk purposefully, and show no fear—even if you have to fake it. Pickpockets prey on travelers who look like confused, easy victims. (2) Always remain alert. "It's those few seconds of inattentiveness when your bag or purse could get snatched," Whitman says. "Thieves are generally looking for a quick steal, so bring a cable lock to secure your belongings to your seat on trains, and lock the zippers of your bags together so no one can easily open them." (3) Readjust your schedule. If you feel uncomfortable going out at night, don't force it. Instead, sightsee during the day, make lunch your biggest meal, and turn in early. "Everyone should avoid walking alone at night," Schlichter says. "I've heard plenty of stories of male travelers who put themselves in bad situations—they made the mistake of assuming they'd always be fine because they're guys." (4) Avoid the flirts. Steves has long advised single female travelers to wear fake wedding rings, especially in Mediterranean and Latin countries, where the men tend to pay more attention to women than Americans are typically used to. Getting hit on doesn't always turn into a safety concern, of course, but a simple gold band could save you some headaches. (5) Follow your gut. If your radar goes off, listen to it—no matter who sets it off. "Woman and young children are just as likely to be pickpockets in some European countries—not men with knives," Whitman points out. "They often get away with it, I think, because people don't want to be rude to a nice-looking, middle-aged lady holding a baby, even if she's being pushy."

How can I get some decent vacation shots—with me in them—if I'm alone?

If you go the obvious route (asking someone to snap a picture with your camera), you're not only handing off a pricey piece of electronics to a stranger, you're also relinquishing control of how the photo turns out. Your best bet is to invest in some new gear, namely the XShot Camera Extender ($30), a metal rod that attaches to your camera, extends up to three feet, and acts as an extra-long arm. Once you master your camera's timer, you can capture self-portraits that look like someone else took the shot. "I carry it on every trip," Whitman says. "I put my iPhone in it and take pictures of myself and the friends that I've made. The photos are always great because everybody's laughing when I set up the shot. It's goofy, but fun." Now you can be the designated photographer, stay in the picture, and come home armed with frameable souvenirs.

By the Numbers

Solo-Travel Stats

9 Million — Number of American women who travel abroad solo each year

11 — Percentage of all Americans who travel solo

59 — Percentage increase in visits to solotravelportal.com between January 2010 and 2011

10 Million — Number of copies sold of Eat, Pray, Love—Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir describing her solitary travels through Italy, India, and Bali

$90 — Savings per night for solo travelers on rooms at Club Med in Turks and Caicos

17 — Number of new European river cruises Avalon Waterways is offering this year with no single-supplement charges

128 — Number of new studio cabins reserved strictly for solo travelers on Norwegian Cruise Line's new ship, the Epic

0 — Number of times solo travelers have to share their desert

How to Save on Solo Travel

Six ideas that help you skirt (or shave) the single-supplement fee
River Cruises

In the off-seasons, most river cruise companies discount or waive their single-supplement charges entirely. There's no fee, for instance, on 17 different European itineraries with Avalon Waterways in early spring and late fall of this year, including April departures of the 10-night "Legendary Danube," which sails from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest and is one of Avalon's most popular voyages ($3,049 per person).

Bed & Breakfasts

Many European B&Bs have single rooms, and some smaller inns charge on a per-person basis. Take for example, the Bayberry House, a beachfront mansion in Galway, Ireland, where solo travelers pay $61 nightly for a private single room, while travelers sharing a double pay $48 each.

Japanese Inns

The rates at ryokans, Japan's traditional inns, are always assessed per person—whether a room is occupied by one, two, or even four people. (One caveat: During Japan's peak travel seasons—especially in March and April when the cherry blossoms bloom—some ryokans may not accept single travelers.) Even better, certain ryokans specifically list single rooms, like Tokyo's Kimi Ryokan (singles from $55).

Ocean Cruise

Norwegian Cruise Line made news—and many solo traveler fans—last summer by debuting 128 studio cabins, reserved strictly for singles on its new Epic ship. The 100-square-foot rooms have full-size beds and streamlined wall units with closets, built-in sinks, and flat-screen TVs. Rates start at less than $800 per cabin.

Group Tour

Tour operators such as Intrepid Travel and Gap Adventures offer to pair solo travelers with a same-sex roommate. Others will waive the single-supplement fee: Cosmos charges no fee for most of its tours this year in North America, Europe, and Africa, including a weeklong "Ontario & French Canada" trip ($1,149 per person).

All-inclusives

Club Med regularly rolls out promotions in which the single-supplement is discounted or waived entirely, especially during off-peak travel periods from late spring through late fall. Its oceanfront Turks and Caicos resort features frequent discounts: Double rooms that normally go for $270 are offered for as little as $180 to solo travelers.

— Brad Tuttle

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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