11 Ways To Beat Loneliness While Traveling Solo
Where to stay, what to do, how to meet locals, and more.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve taken more solo trips throughout the country than I could have ever predicted, from Miami to Nashville to Joshua Tree, California. Remote freelancer life has allowed me to make the most of “working from anywhere,” and I’ve found myself growing more and more comfortable hopping on a last-minute flight for a spontaneous adventure. At first, though, I was extremely hesitant about traveling by myself. It seemed too risky, too complicated... and, quite frankly, too lonely. It took talking to a few travel-savvy friends to overcome these worries, and now that I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve racked up a few tips for solo travelers that have helped me gain the confidence to explore on my own.
And of course, I’m not the only one who’s leaned into this lately. “I find solo travel to be the best way to reset and reflect whenever [I’m faced with] a big life transition,” says Nandini Mullaji, 27, a startup founder who has taken solo trips to over 20 destinations. Some, like travel journalist Lola Méndez, 33, of Miss Filatelista, even prefer solo travel over larger group trips. “I love being able to curate an itinerary that revolves around my travel desires,” she says.
Below, travel pros share their best tips for fighting loneliness while exploring alone.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take The Plunge...
“Becoming a ‘digital nomad’ was always something I had on my radar, but I spent years waiting on other people and thinking I needed to be in a certain stage of my career financially to make it happen,” says Kendall Becker, 27, host of The Curated podcast and a freelance editor in New York City. “There was once a time when I thought traveling alone would be too lonely, but it turns out, working solo from a beach is far less lonely than typing all day in my cold, dark studio apartment!”
... But It’s OK To Start Small, Too.
Respect your own comfort level. “I’d recommend tip-toeing into solo travel,” says Jen Tenzer, 36, founder of The The Soloist, a solo travel advisory firm. “Solo travel doesn’t have to mean two weeks away in a far-flung destination! Consider extending a family trip for an extra couple of solo days, book a weekend away in a nearby city, or join a group trip.”
Companies like FTLO specialize in group travel, so you can book with them solo and travel alongside other like-minded folks with an itinerary already planned out and social interaction guaranteed.
Consider Staying In A Hostel.
Perhaps one of the most heated debates among solo travelers is that of where to stay. Some might choose to spend on luxe hotel rooms, but others prefer the hostel route if all they need is a place to crash after a day spent exploring — or if they’re hoping to save some coin. A hostel stay is also a great way to meet other travelers, some of whom may be there alone as well.
Despite their bad rap, Tenzer points out that there are now hostels to suit every safety and luxury level. “Many offer private rooms that are priced below traditional hotel rates. Hostels don’t necessarily mean bunk beds!”
Even if you aren’t staying in a hostel, scoping them out can lead to potential solo traveler friendships. “I like to locate a hostel or even stay there so I’m bound to meet other travelers,” shares Nabila Ismail, 28, a travel influencer who has visited 53 countries on her own. “Since I work a bunch, I often look for co-working spaces because there’s usually people there I can meet.”
If you do rule out hostels and Airbnbs, it’s important to do your research on which hotels are worth the splurge. Tenzer warns, above all else, “Do not forgo hotel safety for budget. If a cheaper hotel is located in a neighborhood that’s considered more dangerous or desolate, it’s not your best bet!”
Don’t Stay Cooped Up Inside.
No matter where you’re staying, head outside. “If you’re not proactive about it, you can easily spend an entire day isolated in your hotel room. A couple days of that sort of routine, coupled with the unfamiliar environment, is a surefire way to spark bouts of loneliness,” says Tenzer.
Choose Hotels With Amenities.
Tenzer has taken countless solo trips, but still, she says, “Loneliness, awkwardness, and homesickness can bubble up to the surface ... when I’m not keeping myself busy with activities and socializing with other people.” So, lean into amenities — especially if you don’t like the idea of venturing out alone. Some hotels have expansive spas, innovative restaurants, and in-room experiences so unique, you hardly need to leave the premises.
During a recent stay at the Four Seasons Nashville, I barely left the building and still felt like I got the full Tennessee experience. I enjoyed multiple Italian-style meals with a Southern twist at the exceptional Mimo Restaurant & Bar and luxuriated at the on-site spa. (They have a Tennessee Honey and whiskey body scrub — how on-brand is that?) I even strummed an acoustic in my suite courtesy of the hotel’s Room Service by Gibson Guitars experience, a major perk for any traveling musician.
Another benefit of hotels with unique or noteworthy amenities? The opportunity to connect with like-minded travelers. “There are some hotel chains that attract a young, fun crowd — like The Hoxton hotels or Soho Houses,” shares Mullaji, who notes you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the latter. “They often have happy hours, and I sometimes meet other people there who are also visiting the city, and we go out to dinner together.”
Even if a full-blown stay in such a hotel isn’t within your price range, you can still get in on the action. “I’ve started booking spa treatments at nearby hotels that are often out of my budget to stay in,” Becker says. “You can typically spend the day there before or after your treatment to have lunch or enjoy the pool and other amenities.”
Use Social Media To Plan Your Itinerary.
The way people talk about solo travel, you’d think you can just show up and get ~lost in the magic~ of place, wandering aimlessly and discovering sensational opportunities with every step. In real life, a great trip often takes a bit more planning.
Méndez recommends using social media to your advantage when figuring out what to do. “Join local Facebook groups that pertain to your interests to organize meet-ups with people who you’ll have something in common with, or find out about local events that are happening while you’re there,” she suggests. “You can do the same by searching relevant hashtags.” There are also sites and apps dedicated entirely to things to do in different cities, like Time Out, The Nudge, Cobble and more.
While meeting new people is a major perk of solo travel, it’s important to practice caution when sharing personal information. “I always feel more comfortable giving my IG handle rather than my phone number for making plans,” says Mullaji.
Embrace Your Alone Time.
“For me, solo travel is the ultimate form of self-care,” says Tenzer. “It’s a special time for me to escape, recharge, and pamper myself. I get to do whatever I want without compromise!”
Mullaji agrees. “As a huge extrovert, I love the planned alone time I get with solo travel. I love the flexibility of having my own schedule, especially when lingering over meals and waking up whenever I want.”
And when those feelings of isolation creep in? Mullaji recommends something special, like a lavish meal, to make time alone feel like more of a treat. “It’s always good to make a few reservations for dinners and activities in advance,” she says. She recommends Eater for restaurant recommendations.
Take A Tour.
“One of my favorite ways to meet people is by going on a free walking tour — you’re bound to meet someone and it's a budget-friendly activity!” Ismail says.
Tenzer agrees. “Walkable cities make for fantastic solo trips because there’s no shortage of ways to entertain yourself. If you’re embarking on your first solo trip, pick a destination that’s both easy to navigate and has loads of activity options. Planned group activities ensure you’re keeping busy and not spending too much time alone with your thoughts! I love Airbnb Experiences because they’re locally led small group tours that don’t charge a solo traveler surcharge.”
Bond With Locals.
It can be tempting to group up with other visitors, but the best way to experience a new place is to chat with locals. One way to do this is to find folks with whom you share a common interest. For a fashion editor like Becker, that means shop owners, designers, and the like. “Shopping locally and getting to talk to the designers really helps me immerse myself in a location’s culture while I’m visiting,” she says.
Remember, It’s OK To Feel Lonely Sometimes.
At some point, the blues might creep in, but that’s normal. Solo travel comes with ups and downs; you might have the most delicious meal of your life but wish a companion was sitting on the other side of the table.
“When I travel long term, I definitely hit bouts of loneliness,” Ismail says. “I think it’ll particularly hit when I don’t meet many people or travelers, I miss out on an event with my friends back home, or I see one of my closest friends get engaged or married. It also depends where I am. I remember feeling lonely in Cyprus and Bali because I just saw couples or groups of friends everywhere I looked.”
That discomfort won’t last forever, especially if you try to forge new relationships (especially with other travelers going it alone). “It can be intimidating at first but it’s a classic ‘rip the Band-Aid off’ experience — it definitely gets easier the more you put yourself out there.”
Tenzer opts to look on the bright side. “Part of what makes solo travel such a transformative experience is the fact that it is a bit challenging,” she says. “[It’s] a rare luxury to indulge in whatever you want do, without compromising for anyone else. Your solo trip is temporary and any negative feelings that come up during it will also be temporary. By the end of it, you’ll realize how truly capable you are; strong enough to overcome whatever travel mishaps are thrown at you. It’s all incredibly empowering.”
Keep Safety Top Of Mind.
If, like me, you tend to feel safer when traveling in a group, the potential dangers of solo travel may be enough to deter you — but preparedness can soothe your stress. A lot of safety precautions can be implemented before your trip begins. “I recommend crafting a loose itinerary that you can share with family and friends back home and also sharing your phone’s live location,” says Tenzer. “That way, there’s someone looking out for you in case of an emergency.”
Similarly, Mullaji recommends buying a local SIM card or signing up for an international roaming plan so that you can get in touch with loved ones no matter where you are. She also recommends carrying a battery pack or phone charger at all times. Just in case service ever does become an issue, Becker recommends downloading an offline map you can access without Wi-Fi.
“If you’re an American citizen traveling internationally, I also recommend registering for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. State Department, which can facilitate emergency assistance,” says Tenzer.
After you arrive at your destination, making wise decisions regarding where you spend your time (and who you spend it with) is key. “The burden of my safety shouldn’t fall on my shoulders — but it does,” Méndez points out. “I don’t drink often when I’m alone. I don’t trust strangers, [so I don’t] go to random houses or get in random cars. I carry a key-ring alarm, as in the past when I’ve had a taser or pepper spray, I’ve been concerned someone who attacks me could use those weapons against me.”
Becker notes that she feels best sticking to well-populated, touristy sites and avoids going out alone at night. “Always listen to your intuition,” she says. “If a location or particular person makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to those cues and remove yourself from the situation.”
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