Tips for Solo Travel (NYT Travel Show)



After many years of wanting to attend (and missing it,) I was finally able to attend the New York Times Travel Show this past Saturday. The event itself was overwhelming (in a good way,) with beautiful displays and exhibits filled with tons of travel information of locations domestic and abroad. In addition to the exhibits, there were a great deal of seminars to attend on everything from train travel to cruising.

The seminar I was most looking forward to attend was one on solo travel. Going on a trip solo is something that I have always thought about doing, but have had many reservations about. My concerns ranged from "is it even safe to travel alone today as a woman? What if I get sick? Isn't eating alone awkward?" Despite my concerns, since a solo trip is something I truly want to do one day, I knew I could not miss the discussion. Moderated by Danielle Mattoon, and the panel discussion consisted of NYT travel writers and experienced solo travelers, Stephanie Rosenbloom"The Getaway" columnist, and Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, the almost hour long discussion was filled with great insight from how to stay safe while traveling solo, how to be comfortable, and the many benefits of traveling alone . Here are a few things that I took away the most from the seminar:

  • Stephanie Rosenbloom started the discussion off right away with the one topic I think most people wonder about when thinking of a solo trip: eating alone. Ms. Rosenbloom explained that it's not weird and to think of what you feel when you see someone in the same situation. She explained how having the right attitude and being relaxed will get you through any situation, including dining. 
  • Both panelists shared stories of "warming up mentally" to your upcoming interactions with locals by talking with the flight attendants, hotel staff, etc. 

  • Seth Kugel gave a scenario he sees quite often of "21-year-old backpackers," and how they all roam together in packs. He recommended interacting with the locals, as opposed to finding other solo travels to enhance the experience.
  • For going out as a woman, Ms. Rosenbloom mentions that she doesn't drink at all when she's out alone and suggested using as a way to meet another woman to dine with.  
  • When it comes to venturing out, say to another city, etc. Mr. Kugel recommends staying close to a city or town so if the need to get help arises, it will be easy access. He went on to say that it is important to learn the line between being too paranoid and being too free, and that ultimately, you must trust your instinct.  
  • In answering an audience question about traveling abroad and foreign disease, Seth Kugel mentioned that he had researched all the hospitals in the area that he was going to on his upcoming trip to China that were covered by his health insurance.
  • When going out as a woman, Ms. Rosenbloom stated that it was important for woman to "put on their game face," when going out and to never mention where they are staying to anyone. 
  • Also, using Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and the like is not just a great way to make everyone at home jealous update those at home about your trip, but for them to know where you are, when you'll be back, etc.
  • Technology has it's place, and no doubt has changed the way we travel, but should not be used as a crutch or as a way to replace social interaction. Seth Kugel encouraged the audience to not use smartphones in a situation that could easily be replaced by human reaction like asking for directions or a restaurant recommendations. 
Useful Apps and Websites:
  • City Maps 2Go ($1.99):  Maps that require no network or WiFi connection to work. 
  • Glympse (free):  An app that lets you send and receive others locations so you can see where someone is in real time. 
  • Libon (free) Free calls and texts to anyone else that has the app.
  • TripIt: All of you're travel itineraries into on simple itinerary, perfect for leaving a copy with those at home.
  • Google Translate: Useful for traveling when a foreign language is involved. 

With all of this new information, and my fears at ease, I have a feeling a solo trip will be happening very soon..

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