When my now ex-husband decided he wanted a divorce, I decided to use the funds from selling my wedding ring to fund what I called my Divorce World Tour - A trip around Europe. No one I knew was able to go, so I decided to take it on as a solo lady traveler. I love traveling and my ex never wanted to spend money on it, so the best thing to me was to take off to Europe!
I got a lot of questions about traveling as a single lady, but honestly, for me, it was never a question. I’ve traveled alone before, both domestically and internationally, but never an entire international trip alone. Usually, I would meet a coworker or family member at some point.
All the questions I received made me think this might be useful for other ladies (or gentlemen) to learn about.
Where do I start?
I did a little research to help me decide where to go. As a solo lady traveler, safety was a concern, as well as ease of traveling to and within the destination. Asia was a little too far for the amount of time I had, so I kept my options to Europe. While I was still deliberating, a deal came up for a nonstop flight from Austin to London that was too good to pass up. I’ve been to London before, so I felt good about choosing it as my destination.
Once I booked my flights into and out of London, it was time to figure out where to spend my time in between arrival and departure. Europe, and especially the UK, is incredibly easy to navigate by public transportation - trains, planes, and boats are all easy to come by. I decided on a rather vigorous itinerary:
- Day 1: Land in London, take a bus to Bath
- Day 2: Tour Bath
- Day 3: Tour the Cotswolds around Bath
- Day 4: Fly from Bristol (nearest airport to Bath) to Edinburgh, Scotland
- Day 5: Tour Scotland
- Day 6: Take the train from Edinburgh to York early in the morning
- Day 7: Tour the area around York
- Day 8: Fly from Leeds (nearest airport to York) to Amsterdam
- Day 9 - 10: Tour Amsterdam and surrounding area
- Day 11: Train to Bruges, Belgium
- Day 12: Train to London
- Day 13-14: Tour London
- Day 15: Fly home
I may have been a little too ambitious looking at it like that.
I don’t know about you, but planning is almost more fun than the actual travel for me. Using my tips for budget travel made it easy and affordable. Seeing all the possibilities, researching options of places to go and things to do - it’s like the vacation starts months before I leave! I enlisted my favorite travel writer: Rick Steves. He has excellent books and a tv series on PBS with wonderful information and tips for travel all over Europe. Most of the tv episodes are available on Hulu, or directly on the Rick Steves website.
Where to Go
I searched for locations that were easy to get to from each other. Nonstop flights and train rides less than 4 hours were my criteria. I checked into the ease of getting around each location, as well as sights within or nearby that I might want to see. Safety was a consideration as well, since I knew I would be alone.
I also used Rick Steve’s website and guide books. He defines itineraries for each location based on how long you have in each place. This was invaluable in helping me to figure out what was feasible in the time period I had.
I’m a huge history nerd and so in the UK I specifically chose locations with a lot of history (which, honestly, isn’t that difficult in Europe). I love castles and old villages and anywhere I can poke through to see how people used to live.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a mix of Airbnb’s and hotels. I chose locations as centrally located as I could afford, both for ease of getting around and with the hope that they would be more populated and safer. Prior to booking, I checked reviews thoroughly - not just looking at the ratings, but reading in-depth about what reviewers did and didn’t like.
Was there a lot of noise at night? If so, the location might be a hotspot for nightlife and could be popular with the drunker elements, which may not be the most secure. Is the room on the ground floor (in Europe, the first floor is the American version of the second floor and the ground floor is the American first floor). Did any previous reviewer feel unsafe? Was it in a populated area? Lastly, Google street view was useful to check out the area that each accommodation was located in, when the address was available (Airbnb doesn’t give you the exact street address before booking).
All of this worked really well and I was very happy with the places I chose to stay. I was also happy that I did a mix of Airbnb and hotels as it made for a good mix.
Considerations as a Solo Lady Traveler
Never did I feel unsafe on my trip, but I also chose carefully to avoid situations in which I might have felt unsafe. Even at home I am not a big drinker, but I intentionally did not drink at all my on trip. I didn’t stay out late at night (I was generally back by by 8 or 9); I didn’t go to areas that weren’t well lit or weren’t well populated, and I traveled during the day so I didn’t arrive late to each new destination.
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In addition, I only brought a backpack and a carry on rolling suitcase. This had several benefits - I wasn’t struggling with multiple rolling suitcases through the various airports and train stations; it prevented me from buying excessive souvenirs, and made it easier to move around each city on public transit.
How to Find Things to Do
While in each location, I used the first day to explore during the daylight, to understand the lay of the land and sometimes to take a hop on-hop off tour, depending on the timing. That helped me feel more comfortable getting around when it got dark out.
Even though I was in Europe, I still ate dinner at my normal time (around 5 or 6) which is incredibly early by European standards. That meant having the restaurants pretty much to myself! This wasn’t so much about safety as me getting hungry!
For things to do, I scoured TripAdvisor for tour companies and local attractions, as well as places to eat. Again, this worked really well for me - I didn’t have a bad experience or meal the entire trip!
I checked in with home regularly. It meant buying international data, but it was worth it to me to stay in touch and make sure people knew where I was at all times.
I made sure to always be very aware of my surroundings. My stuff was kept in my sight as much as possible, and I used a luggage lock whenever I had to leave my luggage somewhere (outside of the hotel). I did carry a backpack, which some say is a magnet for pickpockets, but I tried to never put my back to someone I found suspicious. I still used public transport (and managed to get on the wrong train in the Netherlands going the wrong way) and I never had any issues or near misses of any kind.
To sum it up…
- Read reviews! Even if a place or activity has 5 stars, the details can still reveal a lot
- Travel as light as possible. This will make it easier to keep track of your stuff and move more easily.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don’t put yourself in a situation that could become uncomfortable or dangerous.
- Don’t drink to excess. If you’re a regular drinker, one is probably fine, but for me even that was too much for comfort.
- Have fun! Travel is all about new experiences and traveling alone allows you to do whatever and go wherever you want!
Are you planning any trips? Where are you headed next? Will you be traveling alone or with someone?
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