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Travel Tips

Table for one: Tips for dining alone while traveling

Table for one: tips for dining alone while traveling

Worries of loneliness often plague beginner solo travelers.  When traveling solo you have to be willing to do things people typically do with a partner. 

What one of the top things people feel awkward doing alone?:

Going out to eat.

Questions about my solo dining experiences are always quite popular whenever I come back from a trip abroad.

So, you just ate alone in the restaurant? All by yourself? Didn't you feel awkward?

Although I have traveled alone a number of times, and often take myself out to eat, I do admit, I still feel a little awkward dining alone. It's a social norm, eating with others, so it's natural to feel a little silly at first. However, if you're dining with shame are you even dining alone?

All perceived awkwardness aside, eating alone is pretty awesome. You get to order what you want with no judgment (well, except maybe your waiter lol), you can catch up on reading, or plan where to go next. So, go ahead and get that table for one and follow these tips for dining alone while traveling.

 

1. Keep yourself busy.

One of the awkward things about eating alone is twiddling your thumbs waiting for your food to arrive. Fill up that time with something to do like read a book or write in your travel journal. I typically bring my phone so I catch up on the news, scroll Facebook, update Instagram, jot down blog post ideas, etc. 

2. Have a drink

There's something about a woman nursing a cocktail and watching the world go by that is mysterious and sexy. You can also calm your nerves with couple glasses of Rosé. 

3. Have that drink at the bar.

If you're chatty sitting at the bar might be the best option. Bars tend to have cheap food and they are more casual and social. You can chat up the bartender, who might be bored on a slow weekday night or fellow patrons also looking to converse. Some bars also have TVs you can occupy yourself with while enjoying your food. Alternatively, restaurants with communal seating are becoming increasingly popular. 

4. People watch

The timeless act of people watching and eavesdropping on others' conversations can be one of the most entertaining things you can do while eating alone. Imagining the conversations people are having or what their life story is could keep me occupied for days. When I want to people watch, I tend to ask for a table outside or near a window so I can watch people on the street. Just remember not to stare.

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5. Don't be annoying

Maybe you know what I'm talking about; the person who is overeager to converse with others, constantly trying to catch someone's eye. Don't do that. I will admit, I have been guilty of this before. I was so overeager to not sit in silence during my meal I ended up talking too much to those around me, and even tried to insert myself into someone else conversation (I know, embarrassing!). But you live and you learn. Let your conversations emerge organically, don't force anyone to have a conversation with you. Stay aware of social cues, maybe others around you just want to enjoy their food.

6. Be confident

If you look like you're comfortable, no one will think twice about the fact that you're dining alone. If you feel awkward, this is one of those "fake it till you make it" scenarios. If you're worried about people thinking it's  weird to dine alone you just have to act like it's not weird. If you show you're uncomfortable people will be able to pick up on that. 

7. Don't give #$%&.

In all honestly, no one probably even notices or cares you're eating alone. Everyone is a little self-absorbed (yes even me and you). Everyone else in the restaurant is probably concerned with their own dining experience or life problems. People are self-absorbed, just a fact of life. So, don't worry, it's unlikely anyone is looking your direction and thinking, "Aw, what a poor pathetic person eating all alone." No. No one thinks that and if they do they suck. If they are thinking about you, it's probably because they are envious of super confident, independent, and worldly-looking solo diner siting across the room (aka you).

Have any more tips on dining alone? or maybe have a funny story about your experience? Share in the comments...

Table for one: Tips for dining alone while traveling

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Reasons You Should Travel Alone At Least Once

Reasons to travel solo at least once

While traveling with friends, a partner, or family, can be fun. There are plenty of reasons people, especially women, are traveling alone. Travel can not only be easier and more satisfying but can also help you grow as a person. Keep reading to see my reasons to travel solo. 

1. Scheduling is easier

It can be challenging to coordinate a trip someone else. Both of you have to schedule vacation time and look at and book flights together. Not to mention when it boils down to actually booking, some friends get flaky and back out. If you travel solo though you never have that problem. You can schedule your vacation time and book flights whenever you want! 

2. You don't have to compromise

When traveling with a partner, there's always the possibility that disagreements can arise over what to do/where to eat/how to get somewhere. Guess what? When you travel solo you get to do what to want, when you want without having to compromise your experience. 

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3. Your new best friend could be you.

Being alone can also be extremely healthy. Traveling alone can help you build a relationship with yourself. Have some quality ME time.While traveling you have time to reflect on yourself. you just may find out you're pretty cool.  If you rarely spend significant time alone, you may be surprised at how enjoyable it can be. 

4. Leaving your comfort zone is good for you.

Traveling solo pushes you out of your comfort zone and that's a good thing. It makes brave and adaptable to change. You'll learn how to handle tough situations yourself. You just may surprise yourself by how capable you are.

5. You force yourself to meet new people

Traveling alone can be a wonderful way to meet locals and make new friends. There are often many people traveling alone in hostels and many are open to chatting. When you travel alone you are taking responsibility to be the one to put yourself out there to meet people. Check out these tips for making friends in a hostel. The key is to keep an open mind while keeping safety in mind. Check out these safety tips for solo female travelers.

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6. It’s not as scary as you think.

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Chances are, your destination is no more dangerous than your hometown. Keep up to date on travel alerts and be sure to do your research and you should be fine. Want some safety tips? Check out this list.

7. It’s empowering

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“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are...” - unknown

You are totally responsible for yourself when you are traveling. That can be scary but once you take the plunge and get over your fears, you’ll feel a sense of empowerment. A successful solo trip can even inspire you to take on, even more, things in your everyday life you’ve been afraid to try.

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How to Kill Time During a Layover

How to kill time during a layover

So, you're on your way to your dream destination and you've made it to the connecting airport. But now you’re stuck with four or five hours to kill until you board your next flight. Luckily I have some advice for how to kill time during a layover. Let's bet airport boredom!

Explore the airport. Find a directory.

First things first, you need to be familiar with where you will be spending the next few hours. Find one of those airport directories and find something that interests you. You’re going to be at the airport for a while, so might as well see what it has to offer. Are there any cool stores you can check out? Any good food or drink options? Can you move between terminals to access different shops? You may be surprised by what you find. 

Freshen up.

Take advantage of the time you have freshen up. Splash some water on your face, reapply makeup, even brush your teeth. Sometimes I even change clothes if i want to look nice when arriving to my final destination. Taking the time to do this can help you feel refreshed and ready to go. 

People watch.

Airports are filled with people from all walks of life, going to different places, speaking different languages. Every person has a story and trying imagining what that story is can be the best form of entertainment. Don't be rude and stare but it's is ok to glance around and take in your surroundings. Who knows, maybe you'll spot a celebrity! I once stood in line at security near Gigi Hadid.

Take a nap.

It can be hard to find a comfortable place to sleep in some airports but it can be done. Get creative. use your luggage to prop up your feet or your head. You can even try walking around to see if you can find a more comfortable gate to wait in. Not every gate has the same lounge area. When I had a connecting flight in Munich, I abandoned my flight gate to go relax at one a few gates down because that gate had reclining chairs. 

Exercise.

Feeling your muscles atrophy from your last flight? Do some exercise. Work your legs! I personally pop my head phones in and power walk while lip-syncing my favorite tunes. some airports even have fitness centers in them with day passes available for the public. 

Eat.

Most airports have restaurants, convenience stores or bars in them. I find food on the ground much more appetizing than eating an in-flight meal. Most airports have food courts with hosts of meal options. Airport food can get expensive though so, I always try to pack some snacks in my carry-on. 

Surf the web.

Check and see if the airport you're at has free Wi-Fi or; if a store, restaurant, or airline has a Wi-Fi public network in the airport. Use your layover to update your blog, check in with family or friends, or even check up on things to at your final destination.

Check out this list of Wi-Fi passwords for airports around the world.

Read or journal.

Many travelers like to download books to their phones, iPads, or e-readers to kill time while in transit. If you prefer a real book there are plenty of bookstores in airports. Buy a book or simply browse and read a couple select pages of a book every so often. 

If you aren't into reading, try writing. Use this time to journal your feelings about your trip. Pick up a blank journal from one of the many bookstores if you don't already have one. Keeping a journal is very therapeutic and can help calm you nerves if your anxious about your upcoming travels.

Got any more tips for killing time? Share them in the comments below...

How to Kill time during a layover

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10 Safety Tips from a Female Solo Backpacker

10 Safety Tips from a Solo Female Backpacker.

Concerns about my safety are always common from friends, family, and even myself before leaving for any solo trip. Safety concerns are one of the many reasons some woman avoid traveling alone. Remember though, just because something can happen to you, doesn't mean it will, especially if you use the following safety tips. 

Research. Research. Research.

Once I have an idea of where I want to go, I research practically 24/7, trying to find interesting things to do, toying with flight deals. While over-researching may seem like a waste of time for some who just want to pick up and go, I find it relaxing. It eases my fears about traveling in a new place. I believe the better prepared I am, the better can handle a bad situation. Moreover, it can keep you safe.

Some important questions you should be googling about your destination: What are the best neighborhoods and the ones you should avoid?  Is there a hospital near my lodging, just in case? How are the reviews for my lodging? How will I travel once there? What the public transportation? Do I need to have vaccinations before leaving?

Being prepared is step one to safety while abroad. The better prepared you are the better equipped you can be to handle unexpected situations.

Be Confident.

Confidence can be a subtle weapon. Theoretically, people are more likely to try to take advantage of someone who appears vulnerable. Holding your head high and carrying yourself as if you are comfortable and aware of your surroundings can be a deterrent for unwanted interactions. Even if you may not feel confident, fake it until you make it. Solo travel has the ability to boost your confidence, so let it.  

Be rude when you have to be.

Be comfortable saying no or turning down an invitation if you are getting a bad vibe. Even, if you think you are being rude.  Don't feel like you have any social obligation to put up with an uncomfortable situation. I know I can't be the only one who has gone along too long with a situation because I wanted to avoid conflict. Your safety always trumps politeness. Are you in an uncomfortable situation and unsure of how to leave without being rude? My advice is to be rude and put yourself first if your gut is telling you something is off. 

Use your common sense.

Aside from being in a different place and not being in your typical routine, traveling isn't any more different than your everyday life. You are able to get by in your own city you'll get by fine in another. Stick to the basics like; don't go down a dark alley at night, don't accept a ride from a stranger, etc. You don't always have to have your guard all the way up but do use your basic common sense to guide you.

Be Comfortable saying NO.

There are countless scams that target tourists all over the world. Whenever I was around a popular attraction, while in Europe, it seemed like there was an increased number of people asking for money, wanting me to donate to something, or stopping me, to read my fortune; before asking for payment. If you don't want to interact with someone or stop to give money, you have to be comfortable saying no. Now, believe me, I'm all for helping people in need but it's not feasible to stop and give money or converse with every individual that I come across. Many of the inquiries for money also seemed to be scams. If someone approaches you a simple 'no thank you' is all you need. You don't have any obligation to explain why. 

Bring an Imaginary Friend.

By 'imaginary friend' I mean, pretend you are traveling with someone. You, obviously, don't have to pretend all the time but sometimes it's a good excuse if you have to leave a situation. You can say you're meeting up with your significant other, family, or friends later on. People may see you as being less vulnerable if they believe you're with someone. Some women even go as far as to make fake phone calls or wear a fake wedding ring while traveling. 

Be aware of how you present yourself.

Try to blend in as much as possible, if you can try to dress like the locals. Not looking like and obvious tourist can prevent you from getting some unwanted attention. Just as well, avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive things around. 

Stay Connected.

Having and regular check-in with someone from back home is always a good idea. I would even go as far as to email someone your itinerary so they can better locate you in  case something were to go wrong during your trip.

Stash your cash in safe places.

Hiding your money and other important documents like your passport, and copies of it, in several different places can help you out if you happen to get robbed. If you keep all your money in one place and you get robbed all your money will be gone. However, if you stash it in multiple places then you'll always have a backup plan in case something like that were to happen. Want some tips on how to Stash Your Cash? 

Get Travel Insurance.

While traveling you are solely responsible for yourself if something happens. However, travel insurance can get you out of a bind if need be. Travel insurance can cover things like emergency hospital stays, lost baggage, theft, flight cancellation, etc. You may not have to utilize it on every trip but it's something you will be grateful to have had when you need it. I purchased mine through World Nomads.

Like this list? Pin this infographic to Pinterest and share with your friends.

10 safety tips from a solo female backpacker

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Going Solo: Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Adventure

Going Solo tips for surviving your first solo adventure

Why go solo?

Traveling alone can be one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences of your life. It can be scary traveling alone, especially when you’ve never done it before and especially as a female. But, for me, not experiencing everything I want to in life is much more unnerving. Fear of missing out, I guess. Although it can be daunting, traveling alone has the potential to change you. It can help you become self-reliant and build your confidence. It's also nice not having to compromise your experience with anyone else. There are no fights over where to eat or what sights to see. You are at your own whim. When you are alone you experience the world unadulterated by anyone else’s wants or desires. It is truly freeing. 

While traveling alone can be amazing, it can be hard to build your confidence up to make you trip just that. So, to help you calm your nerves I've got a few tips. 

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Don't worry too much about being lonely.

"Oh, you're going to (Blank) by yourself. Won't you be lonely?"

This is a regular inquiry I get when I tell people I'm traveling solo. Yes, every solo trip has the potential for loneliness but there are so many people out there to meet in the world, as long as you are willing to put yourself out there. Going on a solo trip doesn't mean you'll always be alone. You will be meet people along the way, especially if you stay in a hostel. You're highly likely to run into other solo travelers, just like you. On my last trip, I met upwards of ten solo travelers, in a week's time. You also might be surprised by how comfortable you will be when you are alone. You're new best friend might just be yourself.

Talk to strangers and be curious.

When you travel alone you must accept that you must put yourself out there to interact with the world. Experiences aren't just going to happen to you, you have to make them happen. Be outgoing. Talk to strangers. Ask lots of questions. You'll probably find that most travelers and locals are quite friendly and are happy to strike up a conversation. When I was in Germany alone at a music festival, I just struck up a conversation with a woman and ended up getting invited to join their group for the rest of the evening. Ended up being one the best nights of that trip.

I also believe, hostels are the best place to start with making friends If you need some tips on how to make friends while staying in a hostel, check out this guide.

Choose friendly accomodation.

Where you stay can be key to a good experience. Do your research to try to find a place that best fits your travel style. Read reviews for places, to see if other travelers enjoyed staying there or thought there was a friendly or lively atmosphere. I always recommend that solo travelers stay in a hostel because it is an obvious place to run into people like yourself. AirBnB and Couchsurfing are also great options because your host may be willing to chat or show you around. 

Sign up for group activites.

Lots of hostels host themed nights, tours, and pub crawls. Often times you just have to ask reception to see what events the hostel has going on. Don't be too shy to sign up solo for a day-trip or tour experiences You'll likely meet someone else in your group you identify with. I booked a canal cruise for myself while in Amsterdam with Get Your Guide, and by the end of it the whole boat was friendly and conversing with on another. Same thing happened with my Sunset Eiffel Tower tour. I'm glad I booked a place in a tour group rather than just seeing and walking around on the Effiel Tower alone.

Trust your gut.

Traveling alone is not necessarily any more risky than traveling with friends—but it does require extra awareness, especially for female travelers. Keep an eye out for potentially dangerous situations. I'm not saying that you will for sure find yourself in an undesirable situation but solo travelers and women can be at increased risk for scams, pickpockets, and sexual violence. That fact of the matter is, the way societies treat women in some parts of the world still have a long way to go. Don't be fearful of that knowledge though, be vigilant. If you ever feel that you are in an unsafe situation, try to remove yourself from it, if you can. Be confident in saying no to people who seem suspicous, and may threaten you with a scam or some other intentions. Safety always trumps politeness. Keep in mind though, you don't always have to be on guard. Most countries in the world are not anymore violent or dangerous than your own country. Listen to your instincts and they will help keep you safe but also allow it to guide you in your adventures. 

Go with the flow.

Take advantage of your freedom and be willing to change plans or tag along with a new friend. Say yes to experiences. My first night in Amsterdam, a few weeks ago, I was super jet-lagged and was just planning on going to bed early to be well rested for a concert the next day. I ended up groggily introducing myself to a girl in my dorm when she walked in during my early evening slumber. That introduction led to an invitation to get food and in an instant, my plans had changed. Even though I was tired, I said yes and it turned into an unforgettable evening because, for the rest of the night, I decided I was down for anything. Grabbing food turned into drinks, drinks turned into going out, and somehow my night ended at 6 am at a rave/music festival in a small village in North Holland.

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Stay connected.

Let friends or family know of your plans. Check in with someone every so often from back home to let them know you're ok. If you are a US citizen, you also have the option of signing up for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, this way the government can better assist you in the case of emergency.

Be Confident.

Be confident in the way you present yourself and speak to others. Hold your head high and walk with purpose as if you know what you're doing. If you don't feel confident; fake it till you make it, as the saying goes. Confidence can make you seem approachable to others. Confidence can also deter people you don't want attention from, like scammers or even some guy who won't stop hitting on you. Also, try to research your destination so that you can walk the streets or take public transportation with little issue. 

Solo travel is exciting, it's scary, and it's one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. Have any worries about an upcoming solo adventure? Share in the comments below and maybe I have some tips.:)

Going Solo: tips for surviving your first solo advent

How to Create Your Travel Budget

So, you have to create a travel budget.

If you’re anything like me, this is something you have probably been avoiding.

Preparing a travel budget can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, with endless estimates, and often erratic or doubtful results. You can never truly know if the budget is going to work out until you actually embark on your journey. But they are important so that you can be better prepared for the unexpected. So, with that in mind take a deep breath. It’s ok, everyone else hates making a travel budget too.

The budget is one of the most dreaded things a person must create to effectively travel. No one wants to think about how much money their spending or try to find ways to cut their expenses. However, it is necessary. Some women (myself included previously) don’t believe they need a travel budget because they will be alone and will only be tracking the expenses of one person. Or they will think planning is pointless because travelling alone is cheaper than traveling in a group. Being whimsical and positive about your upcoming trip is fine but the reality of travel and unexpected costs will add up if you don’t do your research and at least loosely plan how you plan to spend your money.

Solo travel can be unpredictable and expensive. Drawing up your budget ahead of time will help you realize the true cost of your trip and allow you organization and peace of mind if something unexpected happens. If you have a budget, you can easily refer to it and adjust your plans accordingly.

Travel can be expensive – but there are ways to bring costs down. You just have to take the time to research and be open-minded with cost saving tips.

Where do I begin?

Things to think about before you even start

Remember that in addition to budgeting for your actual travel, there’s also what you’ll spend getting ready to leave – the startup costs, the upfront expenses. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of things you’ll have to keep in mind:

  • You’ll have to choose a backpack or a suitcase which can set you back anything from $30 to $300 and more. The type of travelling you are doing will determine if you need a pack vs. a suitcase.
  • Then there’s the rest of your travel gear and accessories: clothes, good boots and shoes, and the various products – creams, toothpaste and other toiletries.
  • Do you need medical attention before leaving? International travel vaccinations can be quite steep if your insurance doesn’t pay for them. You also should be sure you have filled all prescriptions you plan to bring with you before your trip. Check with a clinic or your doctor.
  • Have you gotten a passport? If you will be travelling outside your own country you will need one of these. In the US you can wait up to 6-weeks before traveling to apply for passport and receive it before your trip. Depending on how close your trip is you may even have to pay for expedited shipping. You also will have to pay for the passport photo to be taken.
  • Do you need a visa? The visas for some countries can cost hundreds of dollars.
  • You’ll have to factor in the cost of comprehensive travel insurance, especially if you come from a country like the United States, like me, where health insurance is private and costly. Travel insurance is a MUST. Imagine breaking your leg in the middle in Belize and having no way to afford medical treatment or surgery out of pocket there.
  • And finally, there’s the cost of international transport, your flights, trains, buses, lodging, entertainment etc.

This is a brief and general list. Not all of these will apply to everyone but, this list does give you an idea of what you need to try to keep in mind when planning your adventure.

So, now that you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to make your budget.

Talk to other travelers about their experiences. Ask friends for tips and advice from people who have travelled to your destination before.

To make your research easier I’ve compiled a list of some great tools, sites, and blogs that can help you plan both your budget and your itinerary.

Budget Calculator

You have to start by laying out what you think you’ll be spending. I find excel spreadsheets to be the most helpful. If you’re like me, and are extremely bad at math you will appreciate a ‘plug and chug’ excel template for budgeting.

A Ginger Away Travel Budgeter

Cost of travel in countries: figure out how much things cost abroad

There are plenty of resources on the web that provide information on the cost of travelling. Do you research and use multiple sources. It’s important to remember that some sites are paid to display certain information and can be misleading. Below I have compiled some useful sites that can help you determine how expensive a country or region can be.

  • XE.com: can help you determine currency exchange rates and will help you calculate your money exchange.
  • Travel Independent: a guide to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. This site gives you simple and relative information on country highlights, ratings, and expenses.
  • Budget Your Trip: View typical and average travel costs for thousands of cities and hundreds of countries around the world to help you plan your next trip’s budget.

How to actually plan your travel budget

What do you actually include in your budget? What proportion should go to accommodation, and how much should you set aside for food? Is there anything you can do without, or substitute? What steps do you actually have to take to get your budget done? I’m not going to go into specifics on searching for flights and lodging. I will address finding affordable travel and accommodation in a later post.

  • Nomaic Matt: staple travel blog is a must to follow for any traveler. It is full of extensive information on countries and the ins and outs of planning a trip.
  • Lonely Planet: extensive online travel guide to nearly every part of the globe.
  • Bootsnall: an amazing planning resource. While it tends to be angled at longer-term travel, that doesn’t matter. This is the gold standard and wildly useful.
  • World Travel Guide: online guide that offers information on what to do to before travelling, what to do while there, and even gives historical and cultural information.
  • Wild Junket: a step-by-step process that shows you exactly what you have to do to end up with a travel budget.
  • Maphappy: this article shows you how to prioritize high-ticket items and isn’t aimed at the backpacker crowd.

Travel Budgeter

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