6 Things to Pack When Traveling Alone

 

In many ways, packing for a solo trip isn’t that different than packing for a trip with someone else. If you and your partner always use packing cubes, you’ll probably still rely on them when you’re by yourself. Can’t travel without your Kindle, no matter who you’re with? Of course you’ll bring it along.

woman traveler with view of verona italy

But there are certain concerns that become more pressing when you’re traveling alone — particularly when it comes to personal safety. If you don’t have a companion to watch your back, you’ll want to take a few extra precautions and consider packing the following six items when you travel alone.

Because deadbolts and other security features vary widely from hotel to hotel, packing your own door stopper can help you add an extra layer of protection. (This is especially true at many motels, where doors open to the outside, and at budget properties with shoddy locks.)

The DoorJammer Portable Door Security Device weighs just eight ounces and can be wedged under your hotel door to keep an intruder from opening it. The SABRE Wedge takes it a step farther by including an alarm that goes off when pressure is applied to the door.

Hotel Safety Tips

When you’re traveling with a companion, you can split your money and credit cards between the two of you so there’s less impact if one of you is robbed. But if you’re alone, you’ll still want your valuables to be in more than one place.

We recommend carrying the bulk of your cash and cards in a money belt hidden under your clothes, while keeping only what you need for the day in an inexpensive wallet, which you can put in a front pocket or in a crossbody bag that’s difficult to steal. If you’re mugged, you can toss this dummy wallet away from you without giving up all your valuables.

You may also want to keep some emergency money (perhaps a $100 bill, or the local equivalent) in a place that a mugger would be unlikely to access — tucked away in your shoe or bra, for instance.

One money belt we like is this RFID-blocking option from PEAK. (RFID stands for radio frequency identification; passports and some credit cards have RFID chips in them with sensitive data that could be skimmed by opportunistic crooks.) If you’re looking for crossbody bags with anti-theft technology (such as slash-proof straps), Travelon offers a number of options.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers

If you become incapacitated during a solo trip, you won’t have a companion to speak on your behalf to medical personnel — which could be life-threatening if you have allergies or health conditions a doctor needs to know about. That’s why it’s vital to have your medical information in a place where first responders can find it easily.

NomadSOS is a medical ID card that you can customize with information about your blood type, allergies, medications and emergency contacts. Or try a service called My Important Information, which gives you a card with a QR code on it that first responders can use to access your medical and other essential data.

You may also want to consider wearing a medical bracelet or necklace engraved with important health conditions such as heart disease, severe allergies or diabetes. (Amazon offers numerous medical necklaces and bracelets.) And, of course, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance.

hand with plain wedding band

Wearing a wedding band may help deter unwanted attention, even if you’re not actually married. And some travelers who are married buy cheaper wedding bands to wear on the road in place of sparkling engagement rings and diamond-crusted bands. A plain band will attract less attention, and if it’s lost or stolen, it won’t be a big loss.

Plain stainless steel bands are available for less than $10. Titanium bands are also sturdy and very affordable.

Single Travel: Tips for Going Solo

We don’t recommend carrying pepper spray when you travel, as it’s illegal in many countries (as well as on planes). However, having a whistle or other noise-making device can help scare away an attacker or draw the attention of others in an emergency.

This personal alarm has a backup whistle that you can use even if the battery dies, and it clips onto a purse or backpack. You can also buy a simple safety whistle such as this one from Fox 40.

We recommend that every traveler bring a few medical necessities, but it’s even more essential when you don’t have a travel buddy to run down the street to the nearest pharmacy on your behalf.

You can create your own first-aid kit with items such as antibacterial wipes, adhesive bandages, tweezers and over-the-counter pain medications. Or you can buy a ready-made first-aid kit such as this one from SadoMedcare.

What other safety tips would you recommend for solo travelers?

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What I Wish I'd Known Before My First International Trip

Preparing for your first international trip is an exciting time — but it’s also stressful. Should you create an hour-by-hour itinerary or wing it? When and where should you exchange money? Jet lag can’t be that bad, right?

woman with map exploring europe

We asked our staff and other experienced travelers what they wish they had known before their first trip abroad. Learn from their mistakes — while knowing you’ll make some of your own. It’s all a part of the journey.

“You will arrive, in most instances, on a red-eye flight feeling utterly bewildered, off-key and just plain tired because of a foreshortened night’s sleep. Your hotel room won’t be ready when you arrive, sounds will bounce off the city as if you’re inside a tin can, and for that first meal, just for that very important first meal, you’ll want to find home food. Sometimes, McDonald’s is a life saver.” — Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Cruise Critic

“I wish I knew (even though I sort of thought about it) to bring more than one pair of comfy shoes. My first international trip would have been more fun without the sore feet.” — Rachele Concep

“Renting an apartment away from the tourist centers is a great way to get some R&R while enjoying a taste of the way locals live.” — Jan Harding

Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay

“Wi-Fi! I wish I realized that when you don’t have Wi-Fi or cellular data while traveling internationally, you also don’t have maps, apps and Google. Remembering to do the research while you have the use of Wi-Fi is key when traveling internationally. Or purchase a SIM card and you don’t have to worry about it.” — Courtney Elko, Associate Editor, Family Vacation Critic

“You can’t do it all in one trip, so don’t try. I spent my first few vacations in Europe sprinting from one major attraction to the next, which was fun but exhausting. In retrospect I wish I’d chosen fewer sights to see and spent a little more time at each place.” — Sarah Schlichter, Senior Editor, IndependentTraveler.com

“Pack light! You will probably be dragging that suitcase up and down stairs and onto trains.” — Kathy Keevan

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

“I learned to bring my own medicines pretty quickly because even if they do have meds that would work (which they might or might not), they’re probably named something different and if I don’t know the language, it’s hard to explain what I need.” — Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor, Cruise Critic

“I wish I had known that ATMs are often the cheapest way to exchange currency. I made the mistake of doing it at the airport, and I got totally ripped off with the surcharges.” — Ashley Koscoiek, Ports and Copy Editor, Cruise Critic

“Get a free Schwab account so you can use ATMs fee-free worldwide. Best exchange rate.” — 2BTraveling

The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas

“Remember to check hours for major attractions like museums/cathedrals — many are closed on Mondays, and there might be a local holiday or something you didn’t account for.” — Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor, Cruise Critic

airport

“There’s an assumption that airports will sell useful things — whereas a traveler knows they sell some useful things, but not all and it’s always expensive, even food. People are still quite shocked by that — and don’t realize they can simply [pack their own] snack or sandwich.” — Carrie Gonzalez, Director of Marketing, Cruise Critic

“I wish I had known not to take a nap on my first day abroad. Power through the jet lag.” — Amanda Geronikos, Features Editor, Family Vacation Critic

“Even if you tend to have a ‘wing it’ mentality, do your research on the area (local attractions, hiking trails, etc.) before you go. If you do plan to go on some kind of offbeat excursion, look up top-rated outfitters in the area to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.” — Gina Kramer, Associate Editor, Cruise Critic

“The baggage doesn’t necessarily arrive when you do.” — Irene Keel

“If you plan to wing it with accommodations (i.e., not book in advance), find out when local holidays and school breaks are. I got screwed over in Granada when I showed up looking for a hostel and discovered it was a long weekend and everything was booked.” — Erica Silverstein, Senior Features Editor, Cruise Critic

Don’t Miss Top Travel Tips — Sign Up for Our Newsletters

“The point of the trip, no matter how far from home or for how long, is to enjoy life. Sometimes trying to see everything and do everything takes away from the joy of the experience. Remember to relax and revel in the present moment. Remember to slow down, pack less and eat local. Remember to sleep when you feel tired and be spontaneous if you feel like it.” — Lora Gilchrist Coonce

“I wish I’d known how easy it was.” — Landra Haber

What do you wish you’d known before your first international trip? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

You May Also Like
6 Things Newbies Should Know About International Travel
What to Do When No One Speaks English
10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad
Essential Tips for Fighting Jet Lag
Share Advice from Your Latest Trip

–written by Amanda Geronikos

What I Wish I’d Known Before My First International Trip

 

Preparing for your first international trip is an exciting time — but it’s also stressful. Should you create an hour-by-hour itinerary or wing it? When and where should you exchange money? Jet lag can’t be that bad, right?

woman with map exploring europe

We asked our staff and other experienced travelers what they wish they had known before their first trip abroad. Learn from their mistakes — while knowing you’ll make some of your own. It’s all a part of the journey.

“You will arrive, in most instances, on a red-eye flight feeling utterly bewildered, off-key and just plain tired because of a foreshortened night’s sleep. Your hotel room won’t be ready when you arrive, sounds will bounce off the city as if you’re inside a tin can, and for that first meal, just for that very important first meal, you’ll want to find home food. Sometimes, McDonald’s is a life saver.” — Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Cruise Critic

“I wish I knew (even though I sort of thought about it) to bring more than one pair of comfy shoes. My first international trip would have been more fun without the sore feet.” — Rachele Concep

“Renting an apartment away from the tourist centers is a great way to get some R&R while enjoying a taste of the way locals live.” — Jan Harding

Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay

“Wi-Fi! I wish I realized that when you don’t have Wi-Fi or cellular data while traveling internationally, you also don’t have maps, apps and Google. Remembering to do the research while you have the use of Wi-Fi is key when traveling internationally. Or purchase a SIM card and you don’t have to worry about it.” — Courtney Elko, Associate Editor, Family Vacation Critic

“You can’t do it all in one trip, so don’t try. I spent my first few vacations in Europe sprinting from one major attraction to the next, which was fun but exhausting. In retrospect I wish I’d chosen fewer sights to see and spent a little more time at each place.” — Sarah Schlichter, Senior Editor, IndependentTraveler.com

“Pack light! You will probably be dragging that suitcase up and down stairs and onto trains.” — Kathy Keevan

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

“I learned to bring my own medicines pretty quickly because even if they do have meds that would work (which they might or might not), they’re probably named something different and if I don’t know the language, it’s hard to explain what I need.” — Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor, Cruise Critic

“I wish I had known that ATMs are often the cheapest way to exchange currency. I made the mistake of doing it at the airport, and I got totally ripped off with the surcharges.” — Ashley Koscoiek, Ports and Copy Editor, Cruise Critic

“Get a free Schwab account so you can use ATMs fee-free worldwide. Best exchange rate.” — 2BTraveling

The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas

“Remember to check hours for major attractions like museums/cathedrals — many are closed on Mondays, and there might be a local holiday or something you didn’t account for.” — Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor, Cruise Critic

airport

“There’s an assumption that airports will sell useful things — whereas a traveler knows they sell some useful things, but not all and it’s always expensive, even food. People are still quite shocked by that — and don’t realize they can simply [pack their own] snack or sandwich.” — Carrie Gonzalez, Director of Marketing, Cruise Critic

“I wish I had known not to take a nap on my first day abroad. Power through the jet lag.” — Amanda Geronikos, Features Editor, Family Vacation Critic

“Even if you tend to have a ‘wing it’ mentality, do your research on the area (local attractions, hiking trails, etc.) before you go. If you do plan to go on some kind of offbeat excursion, look up top-rated outfitters in the area to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.” — Gina Kramer, Associate Editor, Cruise Critic

“The baggage doesn’t necessarily arrive when you do.” — Irene Keel

“If you plan to wing it with accommodations (i.e., not book in advance), find out when local holidays and school breaks are. I got screwed over in Granada when I showed up looking for a hostel and discovered it was a long weekend and everything was booked.” — Erica Silverstein, Senior Features Editor, Cruise Critic

Don’t Miss Top Travel Tips — Sign Up for Our Newsletters

“The point of the trip, no matter how far from home or for how long, is to enjoy life. Sometimes trying to see everything and do everything takes away from the joy of the experience. Remember to relax and revel in the present moment. Remember to slow down, pack less and eat local. Remember to sleep when you feel tired and be spontaneous if you feel like it.” — Lora Gilchrist Coonce

“I wish I’d known how easy it was.” — Landra Haber

What do you wish you’d known before your first international trip? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

You May Also Like
6 Things Newbies Should Know About International Travel
What to Do When No One Speaks English
10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad
Essential Tips for Fighting Jet Lag
Share Advice from Your Latest Trip