Traveling alone.

I've traveled a lot, but always with my husband. Now I'll be traveling alone. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to do this safely? Hope to go back to the UK in May. Probably fly into London and take the train north to who knows where or might decide to explore the southern coast. I appreciate any help! Thanks.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

There's no particular dangers for women traveling alone in the UK that I'm aware of, other than things anyone should do (like not going into dark alleys at night). The biggest thing you have to do is get over your fear of traveling alone (which I understand is substantial for some people, either because it's a new experience for them or because they've heard exaggerated horror stories). Your wording indicates that you've been to the UK before - did you have any particular problems that make you feel traveling there alone would not be safe? If you feel insecure: 1. You can make sure you have a phone that works in the UK, in case of emergency. If yours doesn't, or is very expensive to use there, you can go to a Car Phone Warehouse (a British phone store chain) and get one there cheaply. 2. You can let your hotel or B&B know when they should expect you back. Although, if you're staying in a smaller place, they'll notice your absence at breakfast in any case. 3. You can establish a way to make regular contact with people back home - emails, Skype, phone calls. This can not only be reassuring, but can make you feel less lonely, which is part of feeling unsafe. 4. You can do walking tours, cooking classes, and other group activities where you will meet others. This is particularly good for something you don't want to do alone (like a pub crawl).
5. You can stay in a hostel. You'll meet intrepid travelers of all ages, and have lots of people to share activities, meals, etc.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

Hi Jane, Harold has given you some great thoughtful advice. I would echo his suggestion that you have a way to stay in touch with your friends and family at home. Thinking back to my experience when I moved back here, it'll make a big difference to you. Let me reassure you that you'll be fine on your own. One advantage of travelling solo is that other people are more likely to start a conversation with you. If you're nervous to go into a restaurant alone, take a book with you so you can at least look like you're reading. Public libraries are a great place to go into if you just want a rest without buying anything; and in most of them you may possibly be able to use the internet. Have fun and remember that while you might feel conspicuous, you're really not.
Good luck!

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

I was thinking about your question again- what about joining a Rick Steves tour? I've gone on two, the first with a friend and the second on my own. On both of them, the group were really great people and a great way to travel for someone on their own. There's always company if you want it. And you never feel alone.

Posted by Jane
Raleigh
7 posts

Thanks so much for the responses. I think the worry is more from the standpoint of my family than from me...I'm comfortable alone, but since my husband died, the kids are very protective. I'm very active and have no physical problems but they are full of "what ifs!" About the Rick Steves tours...I'm very familiar with RS, but haven't read anything about his tours...I'll do a little research on those.
Again, thank you for your response.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1519 posts

Ah, the problem is your kids are worrying. Smile, and give them flight and hotel details. Smile, and give them a copy of your travel medical insurance policy. Smile, and show them that you have emergency details tucked into your money belt and luggage. Smile, and show them where you keep your important info in case you don't come back. Smile, and wave goodbye. Have a great trip.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

What Karen said. Bless 'em, your kids will just have to adjust. I was going to suggest that you explore some online resources for solo travelers, including the Solo Travel forum at trip advisor, and Solo Traveler blog. Now I'd not only recommend them to you if you haven't found them already, but also to your kids. Maybe if they spend a few minutes reading about women of all ages who successfully travel solo, they'll be less fearful for you. Happy trails!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Karen's tips are wonderful. I always travel alone, so I always do what she says (send a copy of my itinerary to family, keep a copy in my wallet, etc). This way, if something horrible happens in Europe, they can know if I'm at risk. For instance, if there's a fire in a Paris hotel, they can quickly check to see if it's the one I'm staying in. Knowing this, they worry less.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

They sound like great kids. I wish I had kids looking out for me...

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
215 posts

Good for you Jane, striking out on your own. If your kids are the real concern here I'd recommend staying in touch via email. Something like an iPad Mini, even with WiFi only, is a great travel tool. WiFi is practically ubiquitous in Europe and you don't have to worry about sim cards or cell formats and can email them and attach any photos you've taken with the tablet as often as you want or they demand. You can also video chat or Skype but the time difference usually makes email the best and easiest solution. It is also great for looking up restaurants, schedules, maps, keeping books and music and doing site research. If you decide not to do a whole organized tour you might consider doing tours for certain sites you want to visit - Stonehenge, etc - to mix with other groups of people when you feel like it. Having travelled solo somewhat myself (mostly business travel in the US) bars and pubs where you can eat at the bar or event nights (like pub quiz in the UK) is good way to eat out without having to occupy a 'table for one' separate from other people. Table sharing in restaurants is also a much more European tradition than it is in the US and with no language barrier this is much more accessible option to mix with locals. Have a great trip!
=Tod

Posted by Pam
Albany, NY, USA
59 posts

Hi Jane,
I went to Scotland in 2011. My first stop after the guest house, was at a small mall where I was able to buy a cell phone that I could call home with whenever I wanted. It was only about $40 for the phone and the prepaid minutes for the phone. I didn't need as much time as I bought, but I had it and could call ahead to my guest house or call home. It gave me a great sense of security. I'm used to traveling alone here in the states, but I'd never gone overseas alone before. One of the staff members at Edinburgh Castles saw me alone, taking pictures and said, "here, let me get you in there so they'll know you were here too." Then she called over a couple of the handsome young lads in kilts to be in the photo with me. I've got that big smile again that I had in the photo, just from the memory. Pam

Posted by Ruth
Portage, canada
48 posts

Kids are so cute, even when they're grown up. Remind them that you got a lot of experience travelling with your husband. I was in UK last summer, solo for part of the time. Sometimes it's nice to be able to choose what to do, where to stop in to eat and change your mind whenever you want. For safety, I would say use a money belt, book accommodations (b&bs) ahead of time so family can keep track, and then depend on your intuition and common sense. If I needed to get my bearings, I just stopped into a little park and looked at my guidebook. Choose cozy little places to eat; it's more comfortable. I went from London to Leeds to Glasgow & Edinburgh on my own. I found that I got special attention from the proprietors when i was alone. One thing I wish I had done more often is starting conversations with people on the train or bus. It was really interesting the few times I did. Enjoy!

Posted by Jane
Raleigh
7 posts

Thanks again. You have all been very supportive and I've printed out the responses..hoping it will ease their minds. All the suggestions are good. My husband and I were careful travelers and I'll do the same. Yes, they are great kids! Yes, they know "Mama" is very independent and that she loves to travel so they need to put the two things together and give their blessings. I'm hoping your responses here will help them do just that. Someone, mentioned a website, Solo travel I believe (wish we had the ability to scroll back through the messages while posting) and I'm going to have a look at that.
Thanks again from a grateful poster. I'm so glad I signed up here! Happy travels!

Posted by Clare
Topsham, Maine, United States
17 posts

I've travelled a lot ALONE, not just in Europe, but not for a few years (caring for an ailing husband) so I'm dipping my toes back in the water, too. All the advice here is very good. Read journeywoman.com which has a LOT of women's travel tales. I had my wallet stolen from my big tote bag while I had it open in Barcelona; I had a wallet lifted as two nice gentlemen helped me onto the train in Prague. So now I do as most European women do, and carry my bag clutched by hand and cross-body. Take as few credit cards as you can - you do NOT need your Chico's card! But do be careful. I found that using a separate bank account from my daily one to hold the money I'll withdraw in the various currencies gave me reassurance that my whole bank account wouldn't be drained if my card DID get stolen. As others have said, give your family an itinerary and keep in contact by email. And follow the rule of Travel Thirds: one third of the trip planning, the next third doing, the third third reliving it (sorting the pictures, etc) I found it most comfortable when travelling alone (and cheaper) to eat a good lunch and then have snacks in my room for supper. Of course, in England the good breakfasts can mean you don't want to eat lunch! Stay away from big hotels like the Marriott etc - those are mostly populated by couples. Look for b&bs, pensions, etc, and meet other people like yourself. You might want to look at "airb&b" to find rooms for rent that aren't really real b&bs.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
304 posts

Do you prefer to travel alone or would you enjoy being with a group? I enjoyed the trip I took by myself, but also enjoy the company of others. I did London on my own and felt very comfortable, even on the tube after a play. I did get a pre-paid cell as soon as I arrived and found an Internet cafe so I could e-mail. I didn't want to carry the extra weight or get sucked into technology. There are Lots of single travelers on RS tours, or you can check in the Helpline for the "Travel Partners". There is a post there for single female travelers interested in traveling together.

Posted by Katy
London, UK
130 posts

Have a look at London Walks website. Walks.com. They do hundreds of two hour walks in London and day trips outside. You will be with a group, with a blue badge guide. Always fun and you get to meet others visiting London.