Solo Travel Tips for College Students

By Brittany Loeffler on February 25, 2019

If you have just booked a ticket for your first trip alone, you’re going to need some solo travel tips to get by. While you may have traveled with friends and family before, solo travel is a whole new mountain to climb. Without the safety net of having other people to rely on, you may feel overwhelmed in a new city.

I believe that everyone should take a solo trip at least once in their life. It’s an amazing experience where you can prove to yourself that you can do anything and do what you want to do. So, before you go on this life-changing trip, it’s a good idea to read up on solo travel tips so you can stay safe, be informed, and have the time of your life.

solo travel tips

via Pixabay

Why Travel Solo?

Friends and family can be a blast to travel with. You’ll create new memories with them that you can always reflect on for years to come. However, travel companions can also make a trip miserable and sometimes relationships are ruined.

Traveling solo gives you the independence to do what you want when you want. It also allows you to get to know your true self. A lot of people never fully know the person they are because they don’t have the opportunity to spend time alone. A solo trip gives you days or weeks to be alone and learn what kind of person you are.

Not only will you get to know yourself, but you’ll prove to yourself that you can do anything! Whether it’s train hopping in Europe, hiking in Africa, or simply planning an entire vacation by yourself, you’ll return home with a new air of confidence that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Do Your Research

It’s easy to go online and book a ticket to an exotic city. The hard part is preparing yourself for your trip. This means doing a lot of research about your destination so you know what to expect when you arrive. While it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect in a new city or country, you will have an advantage if you have an idea of what to expect.

To do the most thorough research, pick up the most recent travel guide and get involved in online forums or Facebook groups. Talk to people who have traveled to the destination before and ask them about what to expect, what they would do differently, and what to avoid. Talking to experienced travelers is where you will get the best solo travel tips for your specific trip.

solo travel tips

Infographic by Brittany Loeffler

Plan Your Trip (Lightly)

You have probably heard of those travelers that buy a ticket, show up at their destination, and just wing their entire trip. This is great if you are with another person or a small group, but when you travel solo, it’s a good idea to give your trip some sort of structure. This is to keep you from feeling overwhelmed when you arrive and to ensure that you get to do everything you want to do.

As you do your research, start making a list of everything you want to see and do while on your solo trip. This can be a list of activities you’d like to do, sights you would like to visit, or goals you would like to accomplish while on your solo trip.

You don’t have to plan every moment of your trip. Keep your itinerary flexible so you can participate in things that come up unexpectedly. You never know what is going to come your way when traveling solo.

Stay in Hostels

When it comes to lodging as a solo traveler, hostels are the way to go. Nowadays, hostels can be pretty luxurious. Traditionally, travelers would stay in dormitory-style rooms with other people. While hostels still offer this option, most of them also offer dorm rooms with fewer beds and even private rooms. However, when you stay in the dormitory, you are more likely to meet people and make friends.

Oftentimes, hostels have a communal space and sometimes even a cafe or bar where guests can hang out and be social. You never know who you are going to meet while staying in a hostel!

If sleeping in a room full of strangers makes you feel uncomfortable, the next affordable option is to stay in AirBnBs. A private room in someone’s home can still give you the opportunity to make a friend and experience how locals really live.

Staying Safe While Traveling Alone

The first thing people will say when you tell them that you are going on a solo trip is to make sure you stay safe. Traveling alone means you are more vulnerable than traveling with another person with another set of eyes to look out for danger. Some of the most valuable solo travel tips you’ll receive are about how to stay safe and stay alert.

If you are traveling from America, you can register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program set up by the government. This is to provide a record of where you are going and when you will be there in case of any emergencies you should be notified of while you are traveling.

Try to Blend In

The biggest invitation for being scammed or robbed is looking like a tourist. When traveling alone or with people, you want to try to blend in and look like you belong. This means checking maps and transportation schedules before you leave for the day and staying off of your phone. It also helps to wear clothes similar to what the locals wear. Leave those jeans and sneakers back home.

Look Confident

When walking down the street, show an air of confidence. Even when you don’t know where you are going, act like you do. When you look lost, it makes you look vulnerable to people who want to hurt others. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and keep looking forward. People will think twice before approaching you.

Don’t Let People Know You’re Alone

It’s okay to lie sometimes and say that you are meeting up with a friend when asking for directions or that your family is waiting for you back at the hotel. Don’t let strangers know that you are traveling alone, especially if you get a weird vibe from them. I know it’s exciting to go on a solo trip, but you don’t have to announce it to everyone.

Stay in Populated Areas

Try to stay in populated areas, especially at night. When you are in a populated area, you’re less likely to be singled out. Honestly, just use your street smarts. If something feels off, then maybe it’s time to move to another part of town. Don’t be afraid to approach a police officer and ask for help if you feel uncomfortable.

Expect to Feel Emotional

Now that we’ve discussed the logistical solo travel tips, it’s time to talk about the real effects of traveling solo. Many people are used to being around their friends and family all the time. When you travel alone, you are completely by yourself without the comfort of knowing you can call a friend or family member to get together in a familiar place. This can cause you to feel lonely and overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel lonely, as long as you fight through it and still enjoy your trip.

It may be tempting to say in your room all day, but the most important thing to do is to go out on the town. Do some sightseeing or try new food. In doing so, the days will go by faster and you’ll create memories you’ll have forever. Embrace the emotions that you feel during your solo trip. They will come in waves and won’t last the whole trip.

Enjoying Dining Alone

Many people feel awkward about eating at a restaurant alone. The reality is that people do it all the time. If you’re feeling nervous about eating alone, try it out in your hometown before you leave. When eating alone at a restaurant, try sitting a the bar or a counter or eating in a cafe. This will make you feel less lonely. You can also bring a book or something to read so you have something to do while eating.

solo travel tips

via Pixabay

Join Group Tours and Classes

Group tours are a great place to meet other travelers. You know that everyone is a tourist in the group and some of them may be solo travelers like yourself. Not only will you learn more about the city you are staying in, but you can come out with a new friend to do things with. Free walking tours and bus tours are some of my favorite tours to go on while traveling.

Friends Will Come

Whether you are shy or outgoing, friends will make their way into your life while on your solo trip. You will naturally meet people and make friends during your travels, so don’t feel pressure to force a friendship with the first person you meet. You will meet some pretty strange people and some pretty amazing people. Let these travelers come and go naturally. One of the most important solo travel tips is to be comfortable being alone and don’t depend on making friends to enhance your trip.

Go With the Flow

Remember that lightly planned itinerary you made before you left? It’s time to throw it to the wind! Just kidding, but it is important to have a flexible schedule so you can change your route if needed. If you meet someone in your hostel who is going on a two-day tour that sounds really interesting, go with them! Even if you didn’t plan for it in your schedule, it’s okay to change your plans and do something different. The best part about taking a solo trip is that you get to do whatever you want without having someone else’s opinion to consider.

Be Kind to Your Wallet

As a college student, it’s important to keep finances in mind while traveling. Traveling can be pretty cheap, but can also get very expensive very fast. Set aside an emergency fund while traveling just in case you run into some trouble such as needing medical attention or booking an earlier flight home. You never know what can happen and it’s important to have some safety net.

Check out college student discounts when booking tours or staying in hostels. You can save a ton of cash with your student ID. You can also save money on food by going to the grocery store and learning how to prepare a quick meal for yourself rather than eating out at restaurants for every meal. This will teach you how to live like a local and even try some new foods.

Live in the Moment

One of the best solo travel tips you will receive is to just live in the moment. Enjoy every experience you have while on your solo trip, even if it’s just waiting for your bus. Take a moment to consider where you are, the people around you, the scents you smell, and the view you’re seeing. Ditch your phone for a few hours and really take in your surroundings. It’s tempting to post everything you’re doing on social media to keep friends and family updated while on your trip, but this solo trip is for you, not them. Enjoy your time and make new memories.

The Best Solo Travel Tips

When it comes to taking a solo trip, it’s important to do your research. Learn what to expect when you arrive and ask people who have been to the destination before what they would recommend. Plan a flexible itinerary and read up on some safety solo travel tips. Also, expect to feel lonely sometimes. Nobody ever said that traveling solo was easy, but it is usually the most difficult tasks that have the best rewards.

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