Woman standing in a city square with her camera

How to Travel Alone for the First Time: 10 Solo Travel Tips

need tips on how to travel alone for the first time?

You’ve just landed (🛬 pun very much intended!) on the right blog! ðŸ‘‹ Hi, I’m Shelley and I have traveled solo throughout Mexico for several years now, my beautiful adopted country.

I became a solo traveler by accident when my travel buddy took a lucrative job offer, and abruptly returned home from what was supposed to be a gap year trip. By abruptly, I do mean abruptly; he took the job offer on a Wednesday afternoon and left on the first flight out Friday morning!

Looking back, that was a blessing.

Umm… HOW? You might be wondering.

Well, I didn’t have time to be scared, or overthink solo travel: I just had to start doing it.

🇲🇽 Related Blog: Solo Travel in Mexico: 20 Destinations You Need To Visit

🎧 Prefer Podcasts? This article is available as a two-part podcast — Part 1 is below, and here’s Part 2.

Though the only way to solo travel is to you now, go travel by yourself, there are planning steps you can take to put your mind at ease before you embark on your first trip alone.

The advice I hear most from other solo travel bloggers when they answer the “How to travel alone for the first time” question — is to JUST GO! While the just-rip-the-band-aid-off strategy certainly works, there are softer ways to ease into solo travel.

In this article, you’re going to learn 10 useful tips for how to travel alone for the first time. Ready to get started?! The first tip is all about how picking a first time solo travel destination, so you know where you’re headed on your first trip alone, so let’s get to it!


1. Choosing A Solo Travel Destination

Every place has Positives & Negatives

Just because there are “To 10 Travel Destination” lists out there, doesn’t mean those are your top choices; so first off — Where do you want to go?

That question is important, as many people travel where they think they should. However, something to also think about is that every place has positive points and negative points, so picking the one meaningful to you is key. Here are a few things to consider:

Some countries are known for being safer than others, like Iceland, Japan and New Zealand, though they come with “negatives” as well.

For example, Iceland is one of the most expensive countries for travelers; the language barrier in Japan might throw your confidence right out the window; and New Zealand takes three (often four) flights and about two (maybe three) full days of travel.

Some countries are known for being more friendly, though these come with “negatives” too. These countries include Indonesia (particularly Bali and the islands), Costa Rica and Portugal.

Though “friendly,” a tropical destination like Costa Rica might be a dealbreaker because of the large jungle bugs; and maybe the thought of Portugal simply does nothing for you (a valid reason, btw). Bali is quite far, and you might not want to spend so much of your precious travel time in airports and on planes.

🇮🇩 For reference: When I visited Bali in 2016, it was 24 hours of flight time, spread over three flights, plus six more hours of airport/layover time. If you didn’t do the math on that — it took me 30 hours to get from Miami to Bali 😳 which also means it took 30 hours to get back, so 60 hours total or 2.5 days lost to travel.

RELATED BLOG 🇲🇽 Solo Travel in Mexico: 20 Destinations You Need To Visit


Where do you want to go?

Wondering, What are the best places to solo travel? You could go back and forth debating positives and negatives of any destination on Earth, as every place has plenty of both. This fact is precisely why the first question in this section was Where do you want to go?

If you already know where you’re headed — great. If not, you’ll want to make a list of your top three choices, and then positives vs. negatives column for each which should include cost, weather at the time of year you’re visiting, safety, etc. After weighing those pros and cons, pick the best destination for you.

Why the emphasis on for you?

Most of my solo travels have been in Mexico. Pretty much all statistics, well-meaning but actually uninformed friends and family, and boisterous co-workers, all had negative opinions on Mexico. In fact, if I remember correctly, 100% of people I know told me not to go.

Tulum, Mexico
Mexico City
woman smiling on a colorful street in Sayulita, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
Sayulita, Mexico

Want to travel to Mexico solo?

After visiting 14 states now, I know firsthand that many parts of Mexico are perfect first time solo travel destinations. In fact, I teamed up with other solo female travelers to create this article, Solo Travel in Mexico: 20 Destinations You Need To Visit, with their personal experiences traveling solo to different parts of Mexico.

The truth is, simply being a solo female traveler, you will get warnings fro people on your decision to travel alone to any country on earth. Like my Mexico warnings, these will likely come from people who have never traveled solo 🤷‍♀️ Simply put, Mexico was the place for me, regardless of what anyone said.

Because of this, you might as well start considering where you want to go, and not where you’re told you should go.

🎧 Prefer Podcasts? Dream To Destination is a solo travel podcast meets Mexico travel podcast! The episode below is all about planning your first solo trip in Mexico.


2. Building Solo Travel Confidence

Practice Solo Travel

Now that you have your place in mind, and you’re super excited, you’ll want to practice for the real thing. After all, if there was any way to get good at something that wasn’t by just practicing it, we’d all be doing it that way — since there isn’t, practice is the way to gain confidence.

Start small! Small, in this case, means go to a museum solo, or to see a movie, or take yourself out to dinner alone. Overcoming fear for something commonly fear-inducing, yet “smaller” than a full solo trip, will springboard you to feeling less scared of your actual first solo trip.


If those three things, go to a museum solo, or to see a movie, or go to dinner alone, sound easy peasy to you, consider an overnight trip or a solo road trip. The key here is to not sit in a hotel room or at a resort, but to explore — for this reason you might want to pick a tourist friendly destination with lots of activities.

If all of that sounds like fun to you, congrats 🎉 you seem to be in a great solo travel headspace, so let’s work on how to budget for you first solo trip.

Woman eating alone at a restaurant & sipping on a glass of wine

RELATED BLOG 🍷🍽 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear


3. Making A Solo Travel Budget

Let’s get real: the bottom line for most travelers, is money. When you’re making a budget, the most important thing is to budget honestly and within your own personal means. In fact, this is one of the best things about solo travel: You are the boss of your budget.

You, and your budget, answer to no one! This is also why it’s easy, though still important, to be honest with yourself about your travel budget. After all, no one else will see it, so be brutally honest here.

Truth be told, there’s no magic formula for travel budgeting. In fact, budgeting differs from person to person. For some solo travelers, their top priority is fancy accommodations; for others, it’s all about tours and attractions; while some travelers put eating, drinking and shopping in their top spot. 

Use This Travel Budget Formula

Because no two travelers are alike, I made this formula so you can just plug in the most important elements of your solo trip!

  • 40% of your budget goes to whatever thing or category is most important to you (ie. accommodations, tours, food, shopping, etc.)
  • 25% goes to your second most important thing or category
  • 15% goes to your third most important thing or category
  • 10% towards non-fun, but necessary, things (like transportation to/from the airport)
  • 10% goes towards purchasing Travel Insurance or putting into your Emergency Fund

If there’s anything I can tell you about travel, it’s this: Something will go wrong, and something else will not go as planned. This is part of the fun, btw; not meant to scare you.

However, if you budget for said “unplanned adventures” with a dedicated Emergency Fund or by purchasing Travel Insurance, these incidentals won’t ruin your trip.

Woman happy sitting on a recliner chair having a drink and throwing money
Considering Mexico? Did you know you essentially “make” money with the exchange rate?! Find out 4 more reasons why Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations 🇲🇽

4. Do I Need Travel Insurance?

For me, this answer is a wholehearted HELL YES! …because as they say, you can’t put a price tag on peace of mind. Also, many years ago, someone wise told me it’s bizarre to insure a hunk of metal (our car), and a pile of bricks (our home), but not our body!

I’ll be honest, when I first started traveling solo, I wasn’t insured. However, after years of solo traveling, I wised up… now I even have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important.

I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to use it, but after seeing other travelers living out their own worst “OMFG” nightmare moments — from stolen everything on an overnight bus (literally, every item he had with him was stolen) to multi-day hospital stays from food poisoning — I feel like I can’t unsee all of travel’s potential dangers now.

Happy woman on a swing | Overcome Solo Travel Anxiety

I’ve turned to travel insurance to shut off the part of my brain that worries. From who to contact for help if your phone breaks, to not dealing with a huge hospital bill if your thumb breaks, I let World Nomads handle my problems.

If you’ve done any research about traveler’s insurance, I’m sure you’ve seen World Nomads come up. They are the leading company for travel insurance, and endorsed by many of the industry’s biggest names — Lonely Planet, Eurail, Intrepid Travel, etc.

Get your FREE solo travel insurance quote right here:


5. Solo Travel Accommodations

Hotel vs Hostel Vs Airbnb

This, like all things solo travel, is totally up to you! Meaning: You don’t have to compromise on your accommodation, so let’s figure out what’s best for you.

Hotel: For travelers who need the option of room service, an onsite gym, an abundance of towels, etc., spring for a hotel. Booking.com is a great place to book hotels.

Hostel: If your travel accommodations mean little to nothing, and simply act as a place to shower and sleep, opt for a hostel and save some money. Hostel World is a great place to find hostels.

Airbnb: Staying in an Airbnb lands somewhere in the middle of the two.

For me, I opt for Airbnbs. My largest concentration of solo travel years were from ages 36-38, and I don’t really drink/party, so for me, hostels were a hard no. Now, I’m not knocking hostels! They are a great way to save money, and an easy way to be social and make friends. However, for me, they simply don’t work.

I am a pretty textbook introvert (shoutout to my fellow INTJs!), meaning I recharge when I’m alone. One of the things I love about solo travel is getting to choose when I’m social. I also need eight hours of sleep, so the late night party atmosphere of most hostels interferes with my beauty sleep.

Having said all that, many solo travelers opt for hostels for the ease of meeting others. However, as you’ll see in Tip # 7 below, there are plenty of other ways to meet people while traveling solo.

As far as Airbnb vs hotels, I like that Airbnbs (usually) afford you more physical space than a hotel room. I’m also not someone who wants to spend much time in my accommodations, so I rarely even take advantage of all a hotel’s amenities — so why pay for them?!


6. Planning For A Solo Trip

Pick Your Top 3 Things to Do

The best advice I have on solo travel, is about travel planning — if I may be not-so-humble at all! In fact, you can conquer solo travel planning in this very simple two-step process:

  • Step 1: Pick the top three things you most want to do, and plan for those.
  • Step 2: For the rest of your trip, have no plans at all.

Besides identifying your top three must sees, plan to do them first. As mentioned, unforeseen things happen while traveling, like not feeling well or feeling exhausted. If you’ve done the things you wanted to do on the first two days of your trip, and then you’re tired on the third day, you’ll just take it easy that day.

🇲🇽 Let’s take the example of Mexico City solo travel, so you can see, the planning process doesn’t have to be complicated:

If your Mexico City top three are to see the Teotihuacan archeological site, go to the Frida Kahlo Museum (Casa Azul/Blue House), and eat at the famous Taqueria Orinoco — then book your Teotihuacan tour, buy your Frida ticket, and google the best route from your Airbnb to Taqueria Orinoco.

Teotihuacan pyramid
Teotihuacan Pyramids
Frida Kahlo Museum
tacos and a beer
Taqueria Orinoco


The Joys of Slow Travel

Wondering why this only says to pick 3 things, and not make a list of 30 things?

You’ve likely heard someone after a trip say something like, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” This is because that person tried — and failed — to do all of the things.

There’s a whole movement called slow travel that I really get behind, and practice for myself. Basically, slow travel allows you to really get to know a place, rather than just attempt to check as many boxes off your list as possible.

If vacations and travel are, at least in part, about recreation, relaxation and recharging, how can you even accomplish that if you leave no time for, you know, recreation, relaxation and recharging.

Think of the place you currently live; there’s probably even places to see and things to do where you live that you haven’t yet seen or done.

Quite bluntly, no amount of time will never be enough time to do all of the things, but if you prioritize, there will never be enough time to do all of your things.

RELATED BLOG 📸 6 Epic Solo Travel Photography Tips + 5 FREE Presets


7. How to Meet People While Solo Traveling

My response to the question of how to meet people while traveling solo typically throws people off! For me, an “INTJ” introvert, I really believe this: It is soooo easy to meet people as a solo traveler — almost too easy.

When you’re solo, you’re less intimidating to approach, meaning more people approach you!

Look Approachable (Smile 😊)

If you haven’t ever done this, go out to eat alone and sit at the bar. Now, I don’t really drink, so I’m not even telling you to drink if you don’t want to, but just sit and eat at the bar. There is a very good chance the other people sitting at the bar will talk to you!

This is the nature of bars: they foster communication. The unspoken language of a person in a bar is that they want to meet people. At the very least, you can chat up the bartender/server.

While, as a traveler, this may not be the fellow solo traveler you’re hoping to meet, it will give you a chance to chat up a local. In-the-know locals, as many bartenders are, usually have the best insider intel about the coolest things to see and do in their city.

Woman in a cafe looking at her cell phone | Overcome Solo Travel Anxiety

RELATED BLOG ✈️ 5 Effective Ways to Overcome Solo Travel Anxiety


Online Networking

Besides the obvious of bar/cafe/restaurant, you can try online meetup groups and Facebook groups. These are especially great because you can start networking before you even start traveling!

The first recommendation is to hit up your own social networks and see if anyone knows anyone where you’re going. Friends of friends tend to be the easiest and most effective people to online network with.

Meetup.com is also a great way to find people and events from your niche interests. If you’re into acro yoga, there might be an acro yoga meetup, or even an aerial yoga, or sunrise beach kundalini yoga meetup.

As far as Facebook goes, it is one of the best tools for online networking. There have been American expat FB groups in every city I’ve traveled to in Mexico. Americans who have moved to Mexico (expatriates, or expats for short) use the groups to network for themselves, and I’ve regularly seen travelers seeking advice from group members.

To find the groups, just do a search for “Expat groups in X [name of city/state/country/region/place you’re visiting].” Request to join a few groups, and start interacting.

Happy woman on a bike tour with male friends | Overcome Solo Travel Anxiety

Take A Group Tour

Solo travel doesn’t have to mean you must be alone for your entire trip. If there’s somewhere you want to go that’s maybe a little outside of the big cities, or just seems more fun to go with a group, take a group tour.

In fact, nearly all day trips I took to pueblos (small towns) and sites outside of the big cities, were with groups. While yes, they are pricier than DIY traveling… they also have worthwhile benefits! 

Some of the benefits include: Group tours are great for meeting other travelers and they save you the time and hassle of planning and coordinating, in addition to being safer!

Teotihuacan hot air balloon ride
One of the coolest group tours ever? A hot air balloon ride over the Teotihuacan pyramids near Mexico City.


Solo Travel Photo Swaps

This last tip is also how I’ve managed to be in so many of my solo travel photos!

When you’re at an attraction, a museum, a popular site, etc., a big chunk of the other people there will be travelers, just like you.

If you see someone taking a selfie, offer to take a photo for them.

Any time I’ve done this, they have offered to reciprocate — and violà, now I’m in my travel photos. More importantly, now the door to conversion has naturally opened with this person.

As someone who doesn’t really drink or party, this organic conversation starter has been the most effective for me… aside from opting to eat at the bar.

Woman taking a photo of another woman
Offer to take a photo for someone taking a selfie, as a natural way to start a conversation.


8. Solo Female Travel Safety Strategies

Stay Alert at ALL Times

While many want to travel to be able to “turn your brain off,” I think that only tends to work for the all-inclusive resort type of trip. If your ultimate travel goal is to turn your brain off, not think, relax and sip piña coladas, you might want to opt for an all-inclusive resort.

For everyone else, you’re going to actually need to be more aware of your surroundings than you’re used to being back home.

Think about it: You’re in a new place. Everything is unfamiliar. You’re relying on a map to get around. You don’t know anyone. Is this really the time to “turn your brain off” and chillax? This is the time to activate your intuition to its fullest, and use your best common sense to keep you safe.

Unconditionally Listen to Your Intuition

As I mentioned, the majority of my solo travels took place in Mexico. The U.S. mainstream media would lead you to believe Mexico is the most dangerous country on Earth. 

However, I have stayed totally safe. In fact, I tend to feel safer in Mexico than where I lived previously in South Florida. 

How is this possible? Easy. I avoided unsafe situations — and I do this by listening to my intuition. Basically, when my intuition said No, it was a No. This was a hard No; not a “No, but let’s see what happens.

yellow shoes standing with happy and sad faces drawn on the ground

RELATED BLOG ✈️ Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help


Mitigate Your Risks

One way I mitigated (or lessened) my risk of something bad happening to me, was I always took an Uber home at night — by always, I do mean any and every night.

There were nights when my house wasn’t far from where I was, but I still called Uber. Some nights, the weather was perfect and I actually felt like walking, but I still called Uber. I’m sure you get the idea.

Why was this necessary?

Well, most crimes happen at night. If I was walking the streets alone at night, I was a convenient target. For me, risk mitigation meant I took measures to avoid any unnecessary risks I could. I view my own safety as my own personal responsibility. In my experience, no one’s looking out for me, as much as me.

After years of solo travel, I really do believe keeping your wits about you, always listening to your intuition, and mitigating your risks are the keys to solo female travel safety.


9. Quick Tips for Solo Travel Safety

Hopefully now you see that safety is more of a FEELING than a FACT! However, we can make some of these safety measures a little more tangible.

Beyond listening to your intuition, here are 10 concrete, general solo female travel safety precautions and measures to take. You can use use these to keep yourself and your belongings safe when traveling alone for the first time.

1. Crossbody Bags: Use a cross body bag instead of a shoulder bag, and keep it at your side or on your chest, instead of on your back. Better yet, opt for an anti-theft purse or bookbag.

Having a strap that must go over your head to come on/off, makes a snatch and grab theft much more difficult. If the bag is tucked under your arm or on your chest, it makes it near-impossible for someone to slip their hand in and steal something.

2. Your Belongings: Take your purse or book bag into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch it. 

Much like the previous tip about never putting your phone in your back pocket, this one is also a bit inconvenient. However, it also works to not get your stuff stolen! If you want to make sure your belongings remain with you, then keep them with you at all times.

3. Phone Storage: Don’t ever put your phone in your back pocket. Ever! While this is arguably the most convenient place for it, it’s also the most convenient place for someone to steal it from.

Think of it this way: It takes some extra time to keep putting the phone inside and then taking it out of your bag, admittedly. However, these extra seconds pale in comparison to the time and money you’d have to spend replacing a phone.

Besides the time and money, think of all the headaches that come with buying a new phone in a foreign country. A lost or stolen phone is a surefire way to ruin a trip, so avoid ever putting your phone in your back pocket.

woman getting her cell phone pick-pocketed
“I didn’t even feel it being taken.” –Everyone who’s ever been pickpocketed.

4. Phone Safety: Don’t pull your phone out in a giant crowd and/or if the vibe feels sketchy. 

Remember, your intuition is always right! If something feels unsafe, it is unsafe. If you feel like the situation is too hectic to pull your phone out, then walk to another street that feels less chaotic, sit down on a park bench until you get your bearing back, or….

5. Take a Cafe Break: If the vibe feels sketchy where you are, duck into a cafe for a second. Take this time to do all of the things: Eat a light snack, fill up your water bottle, use their bathroom, jump on the WiFi, put on lipstick, etc. You can even listen to your favorite song or read an uplifting blog while you’re waiting for your uneasy feelings to subside.

6. Keep It Casual: Don’t wear flashy clothes or jewelry. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but the less flashy you appear, the less attention you draw to yourself, the more you go unnoticed. 

As an American from Miami, an admittedly flashy city, my standard of what “flashy” meant had to be reigned wayyyy in!

Keep this in mind: Even wearing a casual T-shirt from a high end brand with their logo prominently displayed all over it, can be considered flashy in some parts of the world. The moral of this story is, keep your Gucci at home.

RELATED BLOG 🧳 Packing List for Mexico: Outfit Ideas & FREE Printable Download

7. Wallet Safety: Keep some cash in your pocket, or in the side pocket of your purse, so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.

You can also open your wallet inside your bag, instead of pulling the whole thing out. The idea here is to minimize the times your whole wallet is out in the open, especially if you’re grabbing a quick snack on the street, or buying a small souvenir in a crowded market. 

8. Phone, Keys, Wallet Checks: Double check to make sure you have your “PKW” (or, Phone, Keys, Wallet) whenever you’re leaving one place to go to the next. (Side note: I borrowed PKW from an episode of Broad City! I miss that show.)

Three things you really don’t want to lose while traveling: Your phone, keys and wallet. Whenever leaving one place and heading to the next, get in the habit of doing a “PKW” check.

9. Maintain Mystery: If you’re casually chatting with a stranger, you don’t have to tell them every single detail about travel plans. It might be good to keep things like your last name, where you’re staying, your nighttime plans, etc., to yourself.

10. Travel Insurance: Want to put your mind all the way at ease? Just as you would insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your solo trip. Personally, I recommend World Nomads.

Their travel insurance plans cover bodily injury, as well as a lost phone, luggage, etc. In fact, I believe in travel insurance so much, I have a whole page on my site dedicated to it… but you can also or get a FREE quote below.


10. Feeling Comfortable Flying Alone

Have you ever heard of catastrophizing? Basically, when we humans do not have a mental picture of how things will go or turn out, tend to assume it will be a catastrophe; hence the word catastrophizing

Here’s how catastrophizing works: “When we catastrophize, we actually do two things: first, we predict the worst possible outcome; second, we assume that if this outcome transpires, we won’t be able to cope and it will be an absolute disaster.”

The thing is: you are more than capable of coping with situations you’ve never coped with. This even applies to flying alone for the first time. Since you’ve never done it, you’re likely assuming a horrible outcome. However, have you ever considered that flying alone is just like flying with someone; just alone.

Mental Comfort

You’ve (likely) already flown on a plane, you’ve just never done it this way. Since you’ve already done it, you have some tools in your mental toolbox you don’t even realize you have.

For most people, having a travel buddy means someone has your back. If you’re solo, you simply have to figure out your own personal ways to do that for yourself.

For many travelers, they want to put in their headphones and peacefully wake up in their destination. If this is you, download some podcasts, playlists, movies, meditations, etc. that make you feel calm, positive and empowered.

These will help you in those moments you want a travel buddy to reassure you that everything’s ok. Beyond your mental comfort, let’s next talk physical comfort. 

woman on a plane looking at her phone
Book ✔️ Headphones ✔️ Charged Phone ✔️ Hoodie ✔️ Pillow ✔️

Physical Comfort

You’re going to want to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The airport security may make you take your shoes off, so opt for an easy on/off pair that doesn’t have metal buckles, so you don’t set the metal detector off!

Since planes tend to be cold, have your sweater in your purse or carry on, and not packed away in the suitcase.

Speaking of purses make sure you bring one that zips all the closed, as you don’t want anything spilling out under your seat during the flight.

For extra comfort, some people like one of these best neck pillows for travel. Personally, I never fly without one anymore.

They have been a game changer for me, and I can now comfortably sleep sitting up. Beyond physical comfort, let’s look at some electronic “comforts” that help the time pass quickly.

Woman on empty airplane with neck pillow on
IT ME! This was a flight in January 2019 BC (Before Corona), with my trusty Memory Foam Neck Pillow.


Tips for Long-Haul Flights

For international, and long flights in general, you’ll want to have distractions — and lots of them! The easiest is a book because it will never run out of batteries… but many swear by their Kindle, noise-canceling ear buds, and the other electronic distractions.

Do remember to download everything you want to watch or listen to before the flight. Also, fully charge your external battery, and bring any necessary chargers with you, and an external battery.


While planes have WiFi more and more nowadays, it’s not exactly 5G in the air! Also, WiFi is usually not free, in addition to not being fast. 

If you have a Netflix account (Wait. Does someone not!?) make sure you download the movies to your phone/laptop/tables before you even get to the airport. Much like the plane, don’t assume the airport has good and/or free WiFi.

If you’re more of a podcast person, why not download a season or two of a few podcasts. The way I see it, you never know what you’re going to feel like listening to, and since they take up virtually no phone space, go nuts with the podcast downloads.

If you just want to watch the in-flight entertainment, remember that most plane audio systems work with the old fashioned 1/8-inch or 3.5mm headphone jack.

Have water and healthy snacks with you! While yes, they have both of these on planes, be as self-sufficient as you can. 

Speaking of being self-sufficient, remember that you are in control of how you feel. If you find yourself uneasy or moody, just focus on your breathing, and remember this isn’t a catastrophe — it’s just a part of the adventure that is traveling alone.

Have questions on how to travel alone for the first time?

If there was anything I didn’t cover, please ask away in the comments down below!