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Traveling Alone

Hi to all. I am planning a trip to GB next May and will be traveling alone. Does anyone have any tips for a 28 year old female traveling alone...aside from the usual? I am thinking about getting one of those backpacks for hiking or would a regular duffle bag be good enough? I am still reading through the website and books so I have a basic idea of where I'll be going and doing. Thanks for any help in advance.

Posted by
606 posts

I enjoy traveling alone and when I do, I only feel lonely when I eat alone at a restaurant. B&B's are fine for breakfast since it's not hard to strike up a conversation with other's staying at the same house.

But lunch and evening meals are another story. Unless you plan to go looking for new friends once you get there, you might consider booking lodging that includes a kitchenette, so you can prepare your own meals sometimes and settle down with the companionship of the TV as you eat.

It's kind of fun to go grocery shopping in a foreign country, planning your meals and such. Of course, having a kitchen is only efficient if you stay at the same place for several days. Otherwise you end up leaving behind half a dozen eggs, half a carton of orange juice, etc. each time you move on.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi.

Look through The Rough Guide to London and Let's Go: London; between both of these books you'll have plenty of information. I find them very valuable and useful for traveling in London. Happy Travels!!

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Mandy,
The choice of what kind of bag to use as the primary travel bag is a personal choice. My advise is : if you think you wish to bring a backpack, be certain that you will like carrying that weight on your back. I did not like the weight of a backpack on my back. Even a light weight carry - on size bag that has padded straps, containing a minimal amount of light weight items,was too heavy for me. I prefer to use a duffle (23 inch length) that has detachable padded straps. That is more versatile than a standard suitcase. For planning your trip, I guess the book "Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door, 2010" has all the knowledge and advise that you will need, for how to travel. The LET's Go book is good for its detailed directions for going to hostels, and it has information about the lower priced places for buying food.

Posted by
1449 posts

would not recommend the regular duffle bag. You want a bag that has a waist belt so that your hips are carrying the weight of your pack, not your shoulders. See the discussion of bags at onebag.com for a good discussion of how to choose a bag and some recommended suppliers. Rick Steves also makes a carry-on bag, available thru the link at the top labeled "travel store".

Posted by
3428 posts

Why don't you check out Rick's convertable bag. We have used it for more than 20 years. (I know some things have changed, but the basic design is still the same). I like that I can wear it as a backpack, carry it in my hand or on my sholder. It holds everthing you need. I am even able to suff an empty day bag in it at the start of my trip.

Posted by
689 posts

There are loads of resources about traveling alone (esp. for women) both online and in travel bookstores. I'll never forget reading about a quadraplegic woman who hitchhiked through Australia, alone. Anyway, the best thing to do is to stay in hostels, where you'll meet people easily, and will always have someone to eat dinner with. If you stay alone in hotels you will probably get lonely, unless you are very extroverted and meet people easily in bars, etc.

Posted by
689 posts

Oh and geez, anything's better than a duffel! Use a carry on sized wheeled suitcase (my preference) or a backpack.

Posted by
5678 posts

I traveled solo the first time in France when I was 19. I stayed in Youth Hostels and met a lot of people. I've continued to do it and have found that hostels continue to be places where I can meet people. Another way to meet people is to sign up for day tours. You won' t meet locals, but you will meet people who you can talk to! You might look to see if there are any music festivals or other kinds of festivals that are interesting to you. I find that locals attend these and you can meet people at them. Personally, I found that the people in Scotland were the most friendly in the UK. If you go into a country pub you can meet people. I was even able to strike up a conversation in Edinburgh's Sandy's Bells pub! So don't be afraid to try that approach as well. Pam

Posted by
32244 posts

Mandy,

I have a few comments on your questions. First, the Luggage. A Duffel tends to be a bit "awkward" to travel with, so would be about my LAST choice for travel. A Backpack would be a much better choice. A few thoughts on Backpacks...

There are two general types - a "hiking" style (often a top load design) and a "travel" style (sometimes called "panel load" - with zippers). The travel Packs are a bit easier to secure as the zippers can be locked, providing at least a minimal amount of security.

Some features to look for are stowable harness (prevents the straps from being torn off by airport baggage systems), detachable Daypack (works well for carry-on when the main pack has to be checked) and front carry option (works well to balance load).

The MOST IMPORTANT point when buying a Backpack is to make sure you're properly fitted for torso length. Most of the weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders.

For which brand to choose, you could look at Eagle Creek, Osprey, Gregory or ETBD Packs (click Travel Store link above). It's a good idea to try a Pack fully loaded for an hour or so to make sure the fit works for you.

You could also look at some of the Luggage used by "one bag travellers" such as the Air Boss or the TriStar. These are primarily shoulder-carry models, however the TriStar also has a Backpack option. Have a look at This Website or This Website for some ideas.

The most important point for travel with one bag is to PACK LIGHT. This is especially important if you'll be travelling by budget airlines, as they have VERY strict luggage rules!

continued....

Posted by
32244 posts

PART II....

Regarding travelling alone, that's the method I usually prefer (except when I'm on a RS tour). I find that locals or other tourists will more readily approach a solo traveller, and it also forces me to be a bit more outgoing. I never seem to have any problem meeting people when I'm on holiday. Dining alone seems to be a problem for some, but I kind of enjoy that time, and often visit with others or plan my activities for the next day.

As others have suggested, reading Europe Through The Back Door would be a good idea, although it won't be quite as applicable if you're just travelling in the U.K. Hopefully you'll be able to find a copy at your local Library or Book Stores.

I would highly recommend packing along a copy of the ETBD country or region-specific Guidebooks for the areas you'll be visiting (Great Britain 2010, England 2010, etc.). Those will be enormously helpful not only in planning your trip but also good reference while you're in the U.K. They have lots of information on Hotels and B&B's in different price ranges, some restaurant listings, information on how to get from city-to-city, sightseeing costs, opening and closing times for Museums, etc. Incidentally, all the Guidebooks are on sale at the moment if you order from this website.

I normally "mix" my accommodations and stay in both budget Hotels and Hostels. Hostels are a good choice for low cost rooms and also meeting other people, but sometimes it's nice to have some privacy rather than the "dorm room experience". Sometimes the cost is not much different between a Hostel and a budget Hotel. You might have a look at This Website for more information.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
276 posts

I prefer the convertable suitcase/backpack. As Rick says, it has the respectabilty of a suitcase and the practicality of a backpack; and now they are available with wheels - the best of all worlds.

As for eating alone, it's not my favorite thing, but it's not that bad. I really feel sad for Patrick eating in isolation in his hotel room:( Though he's probably right about shopping. For lunch, I often get some sort of sandwich or local "streetfood" and find a park bench and enjoy people-watching as I eat. I don't feel lonely at all. Dinner is a little trickier, but I usually look in windows (as nonchalantly as possible) until I find someplace that looks inviting and isn't full of romantic couples. I often end up having a nice chat with the waiter or waitress and get some local insight.

I think traveling alone is the best!
Have fun!

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for all the great advice. It's my first time traveling aboard alone so I'm a bit nervous about it. But I figure if I can do it in the US, it shouldn't be too bad. I do dislike dinning alone but I'll get over it.

Posted by
32244 posts

Mandy,

I believe there's a chapter in Europe Through The Back Door about solo travel, and you might want to pay particular attention to Chapter 26, "The Woman Travelling Alone".

Cheers!

Posted by
15539 posts

1) If you go to the Graffiti Wall on this website, there is a section on "solo travel" where travelers post their experiences. I travel solo and love it.

2) I agree that a duffel is a bad idea. Give yourself carry options such as hideaway backpack straps and a good shoulder strap. (The best shoulder strap on the market, as far as I'm concerned, is the Tom Bihn Absolute Strap. It's pricey at $30 but I've never used a strap that makes carrying a bag feel so light.)

3) Here are a few examples of convertible bags:

Rick Steve's Convertible Carry-On
Ebags Weekender
Outdoor Products Esssential Carry-On ( best deal through Campmor)
LL Bean Quickload Travel Bag
Patagonia MLC
Osprey 46
Redoxx Sky Train

Prices range from about $32 to nearly $250 depending on the quality of the bag. Make sure you check out the sizes as well as the carry-on limits of the airlines you plan to fly. (size and weight).

You might want to check your local bookstore or Amazon as there have been a few books written by women who have traveled alone,

Posted by
590 posts

I traveled alone for 5 weeks in Eastern/Central Europe last May and loved it! I stayed mainly in hostels and took alot of city tours where I met many people. Lots of hostels arrange free city tours as well. There are other free city tours that you can find out at the TI desk too. You generally give the tour guide a tip.

THere are so many other solo travelers out there (it is more common than I thought it would be) and I found that the solo travelers gravitated towards each another and hung out. I loved this as I met so many people that I wouldn't have otherwise. When I travel with friends or my husband, we end up sticking to ourselves, or people maybe too intimidated to approach us. You will get used being alone going up to other solo travelers and striking up conversation. It is almost expected! :)

Posted by
15539 posts

I forgot to mention that the two places I find to meet lots of people are a) on walking tours, and b) waiting on line for something. I'll start a conversation with the people I'm waiting with.

In London, I've taken many walking tours with London Walks and I've never been disappointed.

Posted by
3580 posts

In addition to the other posts, when you want to be alone you get to be alone. I've traveled with friends and found it no improvement over traveling solo.

Posted by
14580 posts

Most of my trips to Europe were done alone, the third one when I was your age --I was 27 then--like the first two was also done alone. Definitely there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing it alone. In Western and Central Europe it never bothered me, whether it was a 3 or 12 week trip,(max) seeing the sites, viewing museums alone or dining alone.

London and England are so fascinating and captivating that you will forget you are alone.

Posted by
990 posts

Walking tours are a great resource for the solo traveler, as Frank II said. Pubs, surprisingly, can also be a good place to meet people--though of course as a single young woman you have to be judicious about striking up conversations with men! I had one of the most memorable afternoons of my travels in Nottingham at the Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a pub that dates back centuries. I asked three older women for some advice about which of the beers on draught to try. Not only did I get spirited advice on that subject, but they dragged me off behind the "no admittance" sign into the back area of the pub where there were dug out rooms into the cliffs--during WW II a lot of trysts between local girls and American soldiers happened there. (Though they all assured me that they didn't know this first hand, just by way of rumor.) Anyway, I ended up spending much of the afternoon in conversation with them and didn't regret for a second that I missed the Robin Hood tourist experience in favor of what turned out to be a literal "back door" experience.

Posted by
211 posts

I spent a semester studying in France and did a lot of travelling, about half with friends and half alone including a trip to Edinburgh and a trip to London.
The UK is a great place to travel alone as there is so much to see an do. Like others I recommend hostels, by May there are many solo travellers that will be like you. (I found winter hostellers tend to travel in groups. Like the others I definetly recommend taking some walking tours and day trip tours. If you get lonely eating by yourself, bring a book, or write out postcards, do puzzels etc. The good thing about the UK is if you want some reading material, it's all in English.
Also if you have some hobbies that you enjoy try finding a group where you staying that welcomes newcommers, for example if you care about the environment there are groups all over the world of a network called "Green Drinks" where people get together very informally at bars and to join the group you just go up to the group and say "are you green?" and they will welcome you. Often times vistiors from away are given special treatment etc.

Posted by
1035 posts

Bring a book or two. Books which are relevant to the places you are traveling can really amp up the experience.

I was solo in Paris this fall and read "Paris to the Moon." http://www.amazon.com/Paris-Moon-Adam-Gopnik/dp/0375758232/

It really added context to the people, culture and idiosyncrasies of the French.

When I am traveling with the family, I don't have as much time to read and reflect.

Posted by
676 posts

In London, the London Walks company has a pub walk that is a great place to meet people. A little history, a little beer...