Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thinking about Traveling Alone?

Traveling solo can be very liberating.

Start with a short getaway:
If you’ve never traveled alone before start off with a short weekend to somewhere not too far away and not too unfamiliar to get comfortable with the idea. Do a weekend in New York City or visit a nice resort town on the coast.

Once you realize how much fun it is to be someplace new all alone-do a longer trip to an international destination. You may want to start some place where English is spoken like Ireland or England, but there is no reason not to venture off to Italy or Greece or what ever destination you have always dreamed of visiting.

Before you go:
Where ever you decide to travel to, learn about the customs of the country before you go.
Culture Shock Books, although some are a bit dry, can be very helpful.

Be sure to visit the US Gov travel site for women traveling solo provides helpful tips on safety:

Also the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has a helpful consumer site with recommendations for solo female travelers:

Learn the language before you go. I like RosettaStone. Another good option is taking an Adult Ed course, they are usually inexspensive and offer the “popular” foreign languages, Greek usually isn’t among the offerings. Check with your local high school to find out about classes.

Before booking you airfare plan your itinerary.
So often people book round-trip air and end up spending extra time and money getting back to their starting point, whereas it might be cheaper and more convenient to fly home from a different city.

Rick Steve’s travel guides have good well planned out itineraries and the hotels selected are unique smaller places.

So if traveling to Ireland, instead of flying in and out of Dublin, fly into Dublin and then return from Shannon if it works better with your itinerary or visa versa.

In Greece if you are visiting the islands get a flight that connects to your international flight from the last island you visit rather than doing an additional night in Athens (its is an expensive city).
Check with the national carriers. You may need to call them if not doing a round trip.

As far as hotels are concerned, I recommend pre-booking at least the first and last nights of your trip. So when you arrive jet lagged and tired you know where you are going. You may even want to splurge on a transfer to the hotel from the airport. On the return it is nice to know you have a hotel booked from where you can conveniently get to the airport and catch you flight home.

If you do want to pre-book all your hotels in advance make sure to allow yourself at least two to three nights in each city/town. You’ll need one day just to get to the destination. Another to see the “must-see” sights and it is nice to have at least one day to just explore and people watch. Do your major sight seeing at the beginning of the trip and finish up at a nice relaxing place so when you return home you’ll feel rested and happy. have great prices on larger hotels and I would also check reviews on sites such as Fodors and Frommers. Smaller hotels can now be found online and booked directly by guaranteeing a room to a credit card. Be sure to find out what their cancellation policies are, should you decide to change you itinerary.

Getting around:
In Europe train travel is a great way to get around and provides opportunities to meet other travelers as well as locals. Click here for Rail Europe fares and schedules.
For different types of passes check the lisyting of different passes

Car travel can be expensive and can make it more difficult to meet people. I have occasionally rented cars for a day or two to go see places that can not be reached by public transportation, but I prefer not to deal with driving in foreign countries.

NOTE: it is cheaper to rent a car here in advance than overseas. Autoeurope provides great rates and also offers airfare and hotels.

Another option is to join a group tour. I recommend smaller companies that provide a more personal experience than the large mass-tourism companies (although these can be cheaper than smaller companies or than traveling alone). To get an experience of traveling as one might traveling independently rather than being herded around on motor coaches-look for tours that are limited to 12 to 14 maximum and that have unscheduled time to explore and discover and that do not include all the meals so you can try different types of restaurants.

Travel insurance:
Be sure to have travel insurance. Many homeowners policies include travel medical, but check with your insurance provider and also be sure to have trip interruption and cancellation insurance.
Free Travel Insurance Quotes from AIG Travel Guard.
You can book directly online.

Have a great time!
And drop us a line to let us know about your Solo Travel Adventure!

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