I took my first solo vacation when I was 21, working in a high-pressured job at Goldman Sachs. I’ve traveled alone every year since. And you should too. Here why I love solo travel, where I’ve traveled alone and what I do with myself. I also shared a few tips for females traveling alone.
I started my annual tradition of solo vacations about 13 years ago. The original purpose of my first solo vacation was a small break about a year into my first real job. As much as I loved the competitive environment at Goldman Sachs, I started to feel a little frayed. So I booked 2.5 days in Park City, Utah and the solo time was HEAVENLY. And since then, I’ve taken annual solo vacations.
As the years have gone on, my need to travel alone has increased even more. While my career progressed, responsibilities and pressure at work also increased. Life responsibilities increased – relationships, launching and growing side businesses, moving. All good things, most of the time, but without intentional breaks, it’s easy to unintentionally burn out.
The real breaking point was earlier this year. I was working 80+ hours a week while also training for the Boston Marathon, running 55-65 miles a week. I started having panic attacks and not sleeping well. I was absolutely burned out and in desperate need of a break.
My trip to Boulder couldn’t have come at a better time. While my husband came with me for a few days to run the 10K, I stayed a couple extra days to have some time on my own. And the mountains are my FAVORITE spot for solo time.
Why you should travel alone
I love my friends and family dearly, and I love spending time with them and traveling with them. But traveling alone and having precious time alone, away from the responsibilities of work and home, is crucial for my mental health. Why?
It’s so nice do whatever I want, when I want, with no concessions, no schedule, no consideration of others. It sounds a bit selfish, right? Yeah, it is. That’s the point.
It’s so rare that we live just for ourselves without considering others – and that is a good thing. We can’t all walk around being selfish and self-centered jerks in our daily lives.
But I’m a FIRM believer in self care (read this blog post here), and one of the best ways to ensure self care happens is taking a solo vacation because there is no one else to take care of but yourself.
But what if I get lonely?
I have talked to many people about solo vacationing, and a lot of them say the same thing: “I love the idea, but I think I’d feel lonely!” so let me speak to that. That’s one of the main purposes of solo travel.
LET YOURSELF FEEL LONELY. It can help you realize that you are enough, without others. It can help you realize that you’re braver than you give yourself credit. And it will help you appreciate those in your life even more when you come home. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
It’s a good thing to get a little bit out of your comfort zone for the sake of self care. If that means being brave and going to a restaurant on a date with yourself, then take a book and do it. And if you are self conscious, remember that it’s easier to do things solo without being self conscious about what others think when you’re in a place where no one knows you.
How should I spend my solo vacation?
That is completely up to you, but I’ll share some of my favorite ways to spend a weekend alone.
I love early mornings, especially at the beach, but generally if I am taking a solo vacation, that means that I have been seriously lacking some sleep leading up to vacation. So I will either let myself sleep in and not worry about “all the hours I lost in the day.” If I was traveling with others, I would feel the pressure to get up to make sure they weren’t waiting on me and to make sure coffee was ready and breakfast was planned out.
Another thing I love on a solo trip is working out without needing to rush home to shower and start my workday. I always do some research before my trip and find out if there is a gym or class nearby that I could try on my vacation. I also go on lots of walks or hikes when I travel alone. And it is so relaxing to go on a long run with no time restraints so I can stop and take in the views as much as I want.
And my must-do on a solo vacation is a spa visit. I love getting a massage or facial and hanging out at the spa, reading books and hiding from my cell phone.
The key is to find things that feel indulgent – and DO THEM.
The perks of traveling alone
I love traveling with others and sharing in new experiences or relishing in the comfort of familiar places. But when you travel with others, there is naturally give and take and more effort that goes into planning and deciding what to do. When I travel by myself, I set the schedule (or lack thereof), and I make all the decisions. And both of those are really good for me.
I tend to OVER-schedule life so when I travel alone, I try not to set a schedule and just go with the flow (which then benefits others I travel with because I have practice in being less planner crazy).
And I can be extremely indecisive (my closest friends are nodding their heads vigorously) and traveling alone forces me to make all the decisions, even something as simple as where to eat and when to workout.
Traveling alone also gives me lots of time to think. At home, there is always something to do and I get so focused on getting things done, that I rarely leave truly quiet time. Without all the responsibilities and pressures of home, I’m more inclined to take it easy and be kind to myself.
It’s too easy for me to exchange self care for productivity, and solo vacations gently put me back in my place.
How to plan a solo vacation and where to go
Sometimes I do 100% solo vacations and other times I have someone meet me after a few days – both are great. Many times my husband will have to work, and he will only be able to join for half the trip, so instead of leaving with him, I turn the second half into a solo vacation.
Often times, solo vacations are somewhat planned for me. Recently, I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K and I had time in my schedule to add two extra days on the end of the trip for a mini vacation. I went on hikes, tried all the restaurants I had time for, and enjoyed every second in beautiful Colorado. And the best part? My hotel had horrible wifi so work wasn’t even an option!
A few ideas to inspire your solo travel trip planning:
- Tack on extra days alone at the end of the trip.
- Book a resort that is out of season. I love to stay at ski lodges in the summer and I’m able to find great deals when I do that.
- Hire a travel agent to help you find a spot where you feel comfortable traveling alone. I can’t recommend Heather Christopher enough – she’s planned multiple trips for us, including Ireland and our honeymoon. (Here’s a post about what it’s like working with Heather.)
- Check your points on your credit card. I often completely forget that I have credit cards points and am able to take a trip at a super discounted price using those.
- I’ve been really happy with my Capital One Venture credit card for earning points. (Not sponsored! I worked in financial services for 13 years — competitors — so I never really shared what I recommend for banks and credit cards. But now I’m happy to!)
- Go to running camp. It’s a great way to dip your toe into traveling solo without being totally on your own.
- Have a staycation. What hotel would you recommend to someone visiting your city? What would you tell them are must-do’s? Book a room at that nice hotel and do what you’d recommend. We so rarely explore our own cities.
- Pause your inbox and tell everyone you are busy. Don’t make plans. Just stay home and enjoy time alone.
Where I’ve traveled solo:
Sometimes I was completely solo for the entire time and other times I met up with someone at some point during the time. I like both options. (If I blogged about the solo vacation, I linked it below.) I know there are other places but I can’t remember!
- Park City, Utah
- San Francisco, CA
- Pinehurst, NC
- Boone/Blowing Rock, NC
- Carolina Beach, NC
- Kure Beach, NC
- Boulder, CO
- Wilmington, NC
One thing I haven’t ventured into is solo international travel. That still freaks me out but someday I hope to do it! Paris is at the top of my list for a solo vacation. I’ve been before but I’d love to go back on my own.
Tips for females traveling alone
There are definitely things to consider as a female traveling alone, but a little common sense goes a long way. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Be judicious about where you stay and know your comfort level with different types of accommodations.
- Are you okay being in an AirBnb/VRBO rental by yourself?
- What about sharing an AirBNB with others in the same building?
- Or, do you like the comfort of a hotel with others around?
- Everyone feels differently about these situations so evaluate what makes YOU feel the most comfortable. This may take some trial and error to figure it out.
- Is the area where you’re staying safe to walk around before the sun is up or as it starts to get dark?
- Think about morning walks or walking home from dinner.
- If you’ll have a car, is your parking area well lit?
If you’ve traveled alone, what did you love about it? Any tips? If you haven’t, what holds you back?
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