Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you.
I had an absolutely wonderful time on my vacation. It was desperately needed. And even though it was short, I still learned a few new things so here are 5 tips to vacation alone.
5 tips to vacation alone – my first solo trip
I should probably disclose that this isn’t the first travel experience I’ve ever had solo. When I was in college, I studied abroad for a semester in Italy. We had class Monday through Thursday, leaving three-day weekends free to travel to all of the cities I’d always dreamed about. One particular weekend, all of the other students on the trip wanted to head to Spain. It was one of the last weekends we were going to have before the semester ended, and per the usual, I missed the sun (a winter semester in Northern Italy is pretty friggin’ frigid). So I decided to be a rebel and check out Cannes on my own while everyone else headed to Barcelona (I haven’t yet traveled to Spain to make up for my missed opportunity, but after two trips to Europe under my belt, I’m confident I’ll make it there at some point).
Anywho, I survived that trip, and really enjoyed the experience of discovering a place on my own. So when an opportunity to get an inexpensive hotel stay on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) popped up on my radar, I went for it. Whether I would be going alone or not, I needed to get my R&R before summer semester ate up all my sunshine (class starts again this weekend)! After posting some of my (mostly) Instagram pics last week, one reader commented that she wasn’t sure she could take a vacation by herself:
Just a quick question: did you go on vacation by yourself or did you meet with family/friends? I’m a single lady and would love to have the balls to go on vacation by myself instead of waiting around for my friends to arrange their schedules with husbands/kids.
I’m sure many people feel similarly. So, in a nod to everyone who might be feeling a little anxiety about taking a trip companionless, here are my top 5 tips to vacation alone (and not feel alone).
5 tips to vacation alone – here we go
1. Beach it.
The best place to take a solo trip? THE BEACH. If you’re anything like me, when you plan a trip to the beach, you’re thinking of sun, sand, and most importantly, relaxation. What’s more relaxing than laying on a towel, earbuds in, feeling the cool breeze, and diving right into the latest bestseller? And guess what? None of those things require a second person to do. And if you’re single, it’s not so hard to ask someone to help apply the SPF (winkwink – you can even ask a mom type next to you or buy the spray-on kind if you’re at all shy).
2. Get your “Samantha Brown” on.
In high school, my favorite show on the Travel Channel was Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown. I loved her enthusiasm for talking up locals and getting the scoop on the best places to eat and visit. If you’re traveling solo, why not chat up the stranger next to you? Even if they’re with their family or taking a vacation themselves, if they’re sitting at the tiki hut bar, there’s a good chance they’re looking for some lighthearted conversation too. Just don’t agree to go with them if they offer to take you somewhere (hey, better safe than sorry). Plus, the bartenders at these places are usually very friendly people who only want you to have a good time. Don’t forget that simply saying “Hello!” goes a long way to making new (albeit temporary) friends!
3. Alone time = think time.
Sometimes taking a vacation in a group is exhausting instead of relaxing. All the things you thought you’d get to or all the things you thought you’d forget about might not be the case if you’re stuck in the middle of a conversation with your BFF of why you both hate your dead-end jobs. Don’t forget that there’s a reason taking a trip to the spa has soothing music and people tiptoeing around silently – because it helps you to unwind. Venting may be helpful when you’re at home and can’t get away, but after taking two trips by myself with nothing but my books to keep me company, I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to “brain dump” and empty out all of the contents skipping around in my head. Sometimes your solutions may be right in front of you if you just give them a chance to work themselves out without any extra input or chatter.
4. Facetime for a friend fix.
You don’t have to spend your entire vacation not talking to a familiar face. While I was on mine, a buddy of mine was in Costa Rica celebrating his 30th birthday. Instead of a text to wish him the usual “HBD”, we both took advantage of free wi-fi and shared a few travel stories. It was a blast, and I could sit the phone right on top of the centerpiece on my table and chow down on some fresh Mahi Mahi while he recounted his latest sportfishing adventure.
5. Your rules rule.
You don’t have anyone dictating your schedule. No need to worry if you have a late start time for the drive. Sing to your favorite tunes with no one asking to change the playlist. Go to bed early; stay up late. Have two desserts. Take a long walk around the island without anyone hassling you or rushing you to do something they want to do. You can selfishly do what you and only what you want. You paid all that money to travel somewhere else besides where you usually are; take advantage of your freedom and smile at all the other people still trying to pack a schedule into their vacation to get everyone’s preferences accounted for. Best. Sleep. Ever.
There ya go. My top 5 tips to vacation alone with just me and my shadow.
Ive always wanted to travel alone, but I feel like I would be so lonely. I spent 2 days and a night alone in a small town in The Netherlands a couple years ago and I found the language barrier terrifying and I wished my friends were there to tackle the city with (they went to a wedding). I love touring, but my favourite part is discussing the places with my friends. I guess a beach vacation would be best, but I still dont know if I would like it…
I don’t see how traveling alone is any different than exploring your hometown alone. I use Yelp and Trip Adviser a lot so if I were traveling alone and hitting all the best restaurants, attractions, etc. chances are there will be a lot of other people there making it feel safer knowing that if something does happen at least someone will witness it. Hah!
But when I first moved to any of the places I’ve lived I got in the car and drove around exploring and figuring stuff out. I think traveling solo would be the same thing. I’ve never actually traveled solo but not because I’m afraid to but because I’m just broke most of the time. :)
I’m heading to London & Paris this fall on my own and CAN’T WAIT. While I love spending time with friends and family, I think i’ts important to not always rely on others for a good time. I come home feeling confident, engaged, relaxed and HAPPY. I will absolutely continue to travel with people AND by myself. After all, there is a big world out there and I like spending time with me!
You go girl! What a great post. I think so many people are scared to go anywhere by themselves, especially vacation. These are great tips on not just going on vacation alone but realizing it’s okay (and sometimes preferred!).
I’ve done quite a bit of solo travel. I did 5 weeks in Europe and a cruise. The cruise was easy (sort of like beaching it) but Europe was a bit more challenging. Maybe because it *felt* unsafe at times. I was 24 at the time and while I loved it 90% of the time, I felt tired by the end of it because I felt like I always had to be on high alert for pick pockets and nefarious types.
I’m glad I did it but when I returned, I realized that maybe 5 weeks was just too long for me. I’d definitely travel alone again if the opportunity arose, but probably to an ‘easier’ location.
Your trip seemed lovely!!
More power to ya! The first time I traveled alone, I was scared, but it was totally empowering! Now…I am never alone, and honestly – the thought of even ONE night to do whatever I want, whenever I want is AMAZING.
I MISS taking solo vacations. So. Freaking. Much!
I was single for a loooooong time. And even when I had a nice cozy relationship going on, I’d still get away solo once in a while. I think my longest trip was 2 weeks I too to drive from central CA to: SF to see friends->Joshua Tree NP to climb/bike/hike for a few days alone->drive alone to San Antonio, TX to visit my cousin/sister whom I hadn’t seen in several years. It was a true adventure because, well, I failed to notice that my chose route dipped INTO Mexico at one point, and I had to make a border crossing. 1 girl in a Xterra filled to the brim with ice chests, camp supplies, climbing gear and a mountain bike apparently looks suspicious, and I endured a 2 hour search of my vehicle. Nevermind the fact that the smallest person could not have hidden inside my biggest ice chest.
With a family of 5, vacation is NOT a vacation for mom anymore. I just got back from one of those gems, and really, i need a vacay from my family, bless their little entitled, whiny hearts!
I am laughing at your “bless their little entitled, whiney hearts”. I have been a mom for 13 years now and once when I was pregnant with my second I got away for an overnight at a B&B. It was enough and I was glad to be home. I did enjoy my time though. Word to moms…there are times you think “if I could just get away—have some stinkin’ time to myself”. I had that–spent two nights in the hospital, no kids, no husband–it was not fun!!! You get to the point where you think that would be better than the chaotic moment you are in. NOT the case! My husband encourages me to go do something but I have no close friends and would go bonkers by myself for more than a day. Besides, I need to be doing something–creative–I would miss my craft room!
Loved this post! I took a solo trip to Alaska for a weekend last year just because I felt like it and had some crazy but awesome aventures just doing whatever came my way.
I also just booked a solo trip to Bucharest, Romania after seeing a cheap flight become available. The freedom of travelling alone is great. The downsides for me are not having dining/nightlife companions. I like to try out nice restaurants (vs pubs), which can be a bit uncomfortable alone.
I travel 3-4 times a year for work, and sometimes am fortunate to have an evening to myself – I have no problem bringing my ereader, and asking for a small table. The waitstaff are usually a good source of tips to local attractions. An earlier dinner (before 6:30) or late meal can be less intimidating, because the restaurant can turn the table 3x which makes everyone happy.
I agree with M! I love dining alone either on vacation or or on a business trip or just near home. It’s one of the things I look forward to when my better half has a work trip: dining out solo! Fancy girly restaurants! High tea! Bring something to read and just enjoy the peace and the food. Once you do it a few times it doesn’t feel awkward at all; it’s liberating!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND VACATIONING ALONE! It forces you to make new friends out of strangers. I went on a cruise alone many years ago; I had a weeks vacation I had to use or lose and none of my friends could go. I ended up dining at an extra seat at the captain’s table and by the end of the week we (the captain &I) fell in love and decided to get married! At the end of the week’s cruise I went back home, quit my job and put all my things in storage and sailed off into the sunset with the captain. My friends thought I was nuts to leave a good job for “a sailor” but 27 very happy years later, I have never had a moment of regret! We have shared many adventures as we lived and traveled all over the globe. I have a wonderful husband that i dearly love all because I was brave enough to go on that cruise alone!
That is such an awesome story–I got chills! Yeah for you and your adventure that turned into a marriage!
WOW! That is awesome!
I’m super proud of you and all women who venture on solo vacations! Sorry if that’s weird since you have no idea who I am… But bloggers are used to super weirdness, so this shoud be ok, right?
I’ve done a bunch of solo traveling and while there were a few moments that were lonely, it’s enriched my life. I think everyone should do it. The time alone helps in making big decisions that are 100% yours. The relaxation is easy to attain because there is nobody to consider but yourself – that means no worrying about who eats meat and who doesn’t, or who is on a diet and who isn’t, or who burns and who wants beach time… You just get to satisfy your wants.
And, as cheesy as this sounds, I “found myself” on solo vacations. I think everyone expects this to happen in college, but life is very different from 18-22 compared to traveling alone as an adult. You learn more about what you like and what you don’t when there are no responsibilities in the way: no work, no class, no project, nobody to meet at a certain time, no laundry… Just whatever you want to do. Lack of responsibilities, while temporary, teach you what you want. On vacation: “I want to go out to dinner to this particular restaurant that I found all on my own.” At home: “I want to go out to dinner tonight, but I’d better not because I have work in the morning and laundry to do and I have to call my mom and I should probably dial into work…” You’d be surprised how easily that translates to, “I want to paint my living room white,” or “I want to go back to school and change my career,” or “I really do want another kid,”
or “Of course I know what I want for dinner, honey, so glad you asked!”
KUDOS!!! Keep it up!
The beach for a break – what’s not to love ?! We loved it so much we decided to settle down close to the ocean – just a five minute drive now to take the kids to the beach and go fossicking for shells and driftwood :o)
I had several years when I was single and living alone. Whenever I wanted to take a vacation my mother was always a willing travel companion and we would have a great time. But I wanted so badly to make a beach trip alone. Problem was, I let my mom and dad in on my plans. They were VERY against it, trying to protect their little girl. They begged me to take my mom, take my brother, take a friend, just don’t go alone. I never did. And I regret it.
Now I have a wonderful boyfriend to take all my vacations with, but I do wish I had taken my solo vacation back then.
Hi Sarah, your holiday looked so relaxing but fun being on your own. I’m heading off to Fiji in less than a month with my whole family (hubby, mum, dad, brother SIL, niece & nephew… I hope I can get some ‘me’ time in :) hey, just curious, what is that book you are reading? xx
It was The Nest Home Design Handbook. I’ve been meaning to read a few of the design books I purchased, and I got through about half of it. It’s an easy read (goes over the basics of decorating with LOTS of pictures).
Thanks :) I need a new decorating book, I’ll hunt it down x
Having spent 3 months travelling around Germany/Austria alone (actually for auditions and not a holiday, so a bit different, but hey!) the selfish wants reason is definitely the one that resonated most with me. I didn’t have to rush around ticking sights off a list, if I went to a museum I could go at my own pace, and locals really are mostly friendly and helpful :) I did meet up with a few people I knew along the way, but mostly it was just me, my shadow (and my cello…). Ah well…one of these days I’ll get to a proper vacation ;)
Glad that it was a relaxing trip for you!!
My friend just backed out of a week-long Europe trip we had been planning, which I am super bummed (and peeved) about. Luckily I hadn’t booked anything yet, but I still really want to go especially since I’ll lose the time off from work otherwise. Unfortunately none of my other friends are willing to take me up on the offer, so I am starting to consider going alone. I am concerned I might get lonely though so was thinking of maybe joining a group tour. Guess my question is did you ever do any group tours/activities? Or if not, did you ever find yourself getting lonely? I have great memories of my semester abroad in Italy when I didn’t really have any close friends with me. I’d often go on outings by myself and liked it, but I feel like I’m in a different place now as silly as that sounds.
My real fear is that while I’m pretty social, I’m quite introverted when I first meet people. I think I come off shy, but I’ve been told by a few of my (now) friends that they thought I didn’t like them at first! Who knows what kind of impression I’ll give to an entire group of strangers!
I think you’ve just described the perfect opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and give it a try. You never know what kind of amazing experiences you might have. I never signed up for any group activities, but I think that’s an awesome idea!
Up until 10 years ago, I spent two weeks in Arizona with my parents. They had been wintering there from London, ON Canada. Loved it there. We’d visit friends in San Diego, Carlsbad and other great places in that part of the world.
I had had two dreams: one, to own a piano (at this stage that’s not going to happen; and two, to go to the UK. I got to see that dream come true in 1983 and it was at this time of the year: last two weeks in September and first two in October. (Not being as smart as I usually am, I had the opportunity to parachute two weeks prior to my trip and did it. Not the best time to try but…….)
I had planned and did end up alone for the four weeks. I was OK with that. I was going with the idea it might be my one and only time and I wanted to see as much as I wanted that time. I had an idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Other than the last week which I spent in London, I drove all over the place. I still get excited thinking about it. I love to talk so talking to strangers (within reason) has never been a problem for me.
Now I’m somewhat disabled and definitely not as spry as I was 30 years ago. Wow 30 years! Hard to believe! It won’t be as easy the next time. I would have liked to go back and do the south to the north trip: from Land’s End in the south to John O’Groats in the north. And all kinds of other places in between.
I learned to do the “alone thing” the hard way. I was tired of missing out on concerts, theatre or whatever because I was waiting for someone else to make up their mind. So I started letting people know what I was doing and would get my ticket. If they wanted to come with me, great; if not, even greater sometime.
I like being able to do what I want when I want. So what if I get lost, I have found the best and neatest places during my lost times.
I would definitely like to go somewhere else. My biggest problem is the single premium we are charged. England was easy: B&Bs all the way – no extra charges. There are places in the States I would really like to see but again the single premium. Any suggestions about getting away from that?
You mentioned the best for travelling alone is to a beach. Unfortunately, I don’t do “nothing” well. So lying on a beach would probably drive me crazy after the first 5 minutes. Now if wherever the beach was had other things to do I would be fine
Anyhoo, thanks for letting me relive my time in the UK.
P.S. Just discovered you from a mention in Southern Hospitality.
I really loved your post on travelling alone. I have always travelled with family and friends but last week I bought a plane ticket for one to celebrate my birthday next year. I can’t wait to go on vacation alone to Maryland/DC. I am so excited. I am a single woman in her forties with a large group of friends who are all married with children. I expect to have a great time all by myself!
Sweet! Have a GREAT time. I know the chance to relax and do what only YOU want to do is a treat!
I got here after looking for some alone time, thanks for the helpful tips!
I am a 60 year old woman on my own and I have not been on holiday for 9 years since I split from my partner. Although my family (sisters) ask me to go on holiday along with their husbands (which I have done many years ago) I really enjoyed myself but not having to do or see the places that I would like to visit whilst away and they also choose really expensive holidays that I can’t afford. I have seen a very affordable holiday in Greece that I would love to visit on my own but I’m scared of telling my family as they will offer to come with me to save me from being on my own and if I book it and if I tell them at the last minute and just go , I don’t want to cause them any worry about me …..
Thanks for the empowerment!! I am traveling in a month to Egypt solo. I booked it at a weak moment and have never traveled alone before and rarely been out to europe let alone further afield. I keep reading pages like this on the internet and I know I have done the right thing and my time will fly however my first steps that morning into my taxi will be me the biggest I have ever made I think in my 40 years
Good for you! Have the time of your life!
Yes! Alone time on vacation to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate! I discovered this a year ago, and I’m on a vacation right now in Cancun! I enjoy finding like-minded people who treat themselves to a good time and deserved time away from their own grinds!
I’ve spent time visiting my brother while in college, 7 years ago, as he was living in a few different places and which gave me an opportunity to see more of the country. Visiting him in Pittsburgh in 2007, I created my own sight-seeing tour in downtown Pittsburgh and photo-documented the trail. Along the way, with all of the sights and interesting cityscape, I came across the local Salvation Army in an old warehouse building not far from Mt. Washington (at the time). There, I found an Italian suit that fit like a glove. That suit made my trip. I took the suit home for five dollars and put it to good use for four years. for business and special occasions. Every time i received a compliment, it offered an opportunity to share my travels to Pittsburgh, and segue to other trips as well. Every trip is an opportunity for adventure, both in the moment and to expand into life-experience that can open doors. Here I am, 7 years later, the suit has since been ripped (dancing like a fun-Ambassador at a wedding in 2011), but the memories of great times and travels still remain.
I just turned a young 49 I want to go somewhere but I have no one to go with have taken trips by myself but on the other end I meet up with my sister still went to the beach alone walked around it was OK still felt stupid not really I just knew I was by myself so your next trip count me I it would be fun I’m very outgoing let me know proud of you for doing things on your own . Diane
Ya hope I can get it too
Thank you for posting this I booked a holiday alone on a whim after a bad break up and started freaking now its getting closer but now I’m looking forward to it :)
I ended up making a traveling job the best trip ever. I drove my new car to North Carolina, enjoyed the mountain roads, hiking or running every trail I could find. Turned where I wanted and stopped when I wanted (at every Waffle House)
There are new people to meet everywhere you go that add a wonderful dimension to your experience.
So I’m reading this blog on night 1 of my 5 night alone beach holiday.
It’s my 33rd birthday tomorrow and I got tired of trying to organise things when no one seemed really bothered and booked this impromptu trip.
I’ve also had a lot of person upheaval so I really needed a relaxation break.
I just didn’t want to compromise or have to consult anyone else. I wanted peace and quiet.
My tips are to read a book during dinner, and choose a base close to the airport if poss (it’ll make you feel safer), and somewhere with good wi-fi.
If anyone questions you, you could be anyone you choose to be if you feel weird saying you’re alone – you’re on a project, learning a language, working ..
My main problem has been other people I actually know thinking its ‘weird’ or ‘odd’.
I think it’s brave.
Have a fantastic holiday, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Screw what people think. If it’s any consolation, you just inspired me. :-)
I’m about to leave to go on my first trip alone, I’m terrified . I planned this trip because I felt like I was coming apart due to some family problems. I felt I needed to be some where I could get it off my mind for a few days. And maybe come to some conclusions in my life. So I’m going alone. I love to read, love the beach. So what do I do for some fun? I feel as if I’m going to be lost. And alone.
Janice, Your post could’ve been written by me! I’m 60, have never vacationed by myself…..it’s time. I hope we come to some clarity having time to ourselves! Good luck and have a ball!
My first solo trip to a city where i don’t know anyone next mont! Spain, here I come! I love to make photos without anyone waiting for me to hurry up while doing that! :) And I want to visit the indoor food market and enjoy it, sometimes just standing and staring, and sniffing up the scents… Without having to worry that my travel companion gets bored and want to go elsewhere! :)
Looked this up and I am in the exact same situation! A friend of mine has an amazing condo in HHI, and wants me to have it for a week! It’s such short notice I first panicked trying to think who could come…and the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I would have the time of my life going alone!
As someone with a very social job and life, it will be so nice to just be with myself for the week. The thought of doing everything on “my time” makes me downright giddy. Here’s to sleeping in, and doing whatever the heck I want.
Thanks for making me feel not insane for vacationing alone!