How do you travel as a single lady?! Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Do you have anything fun planned for this year?
Oh what a fun topic for such a snowy season. This post has me calling to mind all the big and little adventures I’ve had over the years. The most memorable was also the biggest trip I ever took alone all the way across the country to San Francisco to see a dear friend. I can still feel the warm sun on my face and hear the bay splashing as I hiked around Golden Gate Park before having lunch at a snazzy bar in a historic restaurant overlooking the Pacific. While D. and I had a wonderful time together (especially the wine-tasting–something so delicious about having champagne at 11 am on a Friday when everyone else you know is at work), the day I spent exploring the city alone was truly special. I don’t recall having done that before, excepting a couple hours here and there walking around Cambridge after class during a summer study abroad program. All my other trips have been with someone else (Dublin and Edinborough with my summer classmates; Paris, Switzerland, and London with my parents; Chicago with D. and our friend K. in college, the Keys with J. for a birthday) or just me flying solo to go home. These earlier experiences had me convinced that traveling with someone, and having someone to share the adventure with, was infinitely better than going somewhere alone and not knowing anyone when you got there. But after that glorious Monday in SF, I’ve softened a bit. I’m still concerned about the safety of it, and making new friends is hard for me, but now I think I’d recommend it. So, here are some tips (mainly safety!), based solely on what worked (or didn’t!) for me.
- Research your lodging (if not at a friend’s or relative’s place) with TripAdvisor and the Bed Bug Registry (especially if traveling abroad or to large cities). I AM NOT KIDDING. Those spawns of Satan can cost you a lot of money to get rid of if they hitch-hike home with you.
- If traveling or seeing a far-flung friend is important to you, really work at your goal to save the money and vacation time. Take every advantage and deal you can get. SF happened because I had banked enough airmiles through my credit card (took just a few months, thanks to a signing bonus and responsible management), and a work holiday, saving me a day out of the vacation bank.
- If traveling solo and not meeting a friend you already know, do something at least once during your trip–blog, tweet, post to Facebook, Instagram, text, call–that lets someone who cares about you know not just that you’re safe, but having a good time. To put this caring person at ease, discuss beforehand what the “check-in” might be or how frequently (or not) it will be made.
- Budget on spending more than you initially think you would like to. You don’t want to be the person fretting that the cab ride now means you can only have a salad at tomorrow night’s fancy goodbye dinner or the one on the ground while everyone else is parasailing or something. Don’t follow that advice to pack peanut butter sandwiches for your excursion (unless you’re in a theme park). Savor the city you’re in, eat their cuisine, and save the packed lunch and Ramen for after your trip.
- If budget is an issue (no European or tropical vacations for this gal without some major assistance from others), but you still want to explore, try different locales closer buy (Montreal and Quebec City are like little pieces of France, I’ve heard); a beach is a beach, and probably cheaper in the south than an island somewhere. Or center your trips around seeing friends and relatives, and not necessarily the sights.
- When traveling abroad, have a set, zippered pocket or spot in a wallet for your passport. Do not whip it out at the gate when you are carrying a bunch of newspapers and then dump them all in the seat pocket, sleep terribly, and forget all about it in the morning. Some embassies may not be open (or anywhere near your airport!) the day you arrive. (This horribly embarrassing story may be told in detail another time….)
- Do whatever helps you remember the experience the best: take pictures, journal, eat!, get keepsakes or mementos, etc.
- Ahead of your trip, buy postcard stamps. Pack a small address book (or put it in your phone). Then, while you’re away, pick some out and send some to loved ones or even yourself!
This year, I do begin the most incredible adventure of my life: marrying Mr. Sweet! I’m very excited to have a life’s companion to share my journeys. But before that, we are traveling back home for a birthday (the big 3-0!), bachelorette, bridal shower bonanza. He won’t be at the latter two, of course, but it will be so good to spend time with my favorite ladies. And speaking of spending time with ladies, events like work or hobby conferences, or the Edel Gathering leave the option out there for traveling solo (maybe with a baby in tow) when you’re married.* Until then, enjoy the world!
*Special note for anyone discerning the religious life: in some orders you do get to travel! For example, I know that the Daughters of St. Paul may send you to cities around the country–or even the globe! (London, definitely Rome.) If you’ve got the travel bug, it’s not necessarily a sacrifice you’ll be asked to make!