I was one of the first women traveling solo and continued to be one of the few for many years. Now, gratefully a lot more women are venturing on their own and discovering themselves in the process. Here are my tips for women traveling solo post pandemic.
I didn’t always travel alone
Although I was lucky enough to travel a lot with my parents as a child, I started traveling with a friend when I was 19 years old. My first trip was to Greece, Italy and Switzerland. My friend —better described as a friend of my family— was ten years my senior and it was the only way that my parents let me take the trip in the first place. Needless to say that that first trip opened my eyes to very different cultures and to the wonders of traveling.
The travel adventures continued in the company of my ex-husband and then my ex-boyfriend, but I would say that I truly embraced the movement of women traveling alone around twenty years ago. First, I traveled with one of my girlfriends and eventually, as I traveled alone more and more for work, I decided to try traveling for leisure also on my own. And wow, what a completely different experience! I’m not saying it’s better or worse, I’m saying that when you travel by yourself you discover a whole new you. You really get to explore what you like and what you don’t. Your pace. Being with yourself while doing nothing. Making new friends. Solving all issues and making all decisions on your own.
Traveling before and after the pandemic
Needless to say that traveling has changed since the pandemic. What I used to take for granted, that I would be able to go anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted is no more. Now you plan and hope that all the stars align so your plans go through. To this element of uncertainty, there’s also an added amount of traveling anxiety pre-trip that I never had before. Whether it is around the Covid-related requirements of the country I’m traveling to and the U.S. upon return, to the health system of the country I’m visiting if I were to catch Covid there. Just like everyone, I have to consider a number of things I never had to consider before. Yet, the joy of traveling again outweighs everything else.
5 tips for women traveling solo post-pandemic
1Get Covid insurance
Yes, that is my number one tip. I caught Covid when I was in Israel in 2021. At the time, Israel was the country with the largest percentage of vaccinated population and yet, that’s where I got it. Back then, I had to be locked in for 10 days at my hotel and I had to change my return flight because I wouldn’t be out of quarantine on time to fly back. And also, it messed up my trip, so I wanted to stay a few extra days to make up for it. Thankfully, my insurance covered my interrupted-trip and all medical costs I incurred. So, I didn’t have to add worrying about the cost of doctors coming to check on me to a situation that was already bad.
2Be your own Dr. Fauci
With rules and requirements changing daily in different countries, and with most places having dropped their masks requirements, it’s all up to you. You need to use your common sense to protect yourself during your trip. I was just in Paris for a month and nobody was wearing masks in restaurants, stores, museums, etc. On top of that, during my stay, they lifted the requirement to wear masks on public transportation.
Now, given that May is a very tourist heavy month in Paris, the subways and buses were super crowded, and overnight nobody is wearing masks? My boyfriend and I did. All the time. Not only in public transport but also on the street in very crowded places and whenever we went into the supermarket, galleries, museums, and on the flight back home. People may have thought we hadn’t received the Memo, but we didn’t care. Better safe than sorry.
3Give yourself a cushion if you’re traveling for an event
If you’re traveling to attend a specific event, a wedding, a concert, whatever, plan on arriving a couple of days ahead of time. With the ongoing staff issues that the airlines are experiencing plus the increase in world travel post pandemic, many airlines are cancelling flights and not rebooking you.
That’s exactly what just happened to us. United cancelled our return flight and told us to rebook it on our own. But there weren’t any flights available the same day and very few seats available on the next-day flight. And of course, they didn’t pay for the extra night we had to stay in Paris. So make sure you have a cushion if you need to be at a certain place on a specific date.
4Stay at an Airbnb room rather than a hotel or entire apartment
When I first started as part of the few women traveling solo, I rented a car in Barcelona and drove by myself all the way to Monaco, France. This was pre-GPS days, so I had to print my itinerary and look at it while driving and reading signs in French. To top it off, I had dropped by Blackberry inside the toilet of the first museum I visited on the trip, the Dali Museum in Figueres, so I had no way of even calling anyone for help. Talk about nerve-wracking!
But the one good thing I did on that first trip on my own, was to rent a bedroom and bathroom in several homes whose owners were women. I planned it on purpose like that so that I would have someone to talk to at night when I came back from my sight-seeing. Someone who could suggest what I should see in their hometown.
It was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had traveling solo. I met some incredible women who were trying to make some extra income by renting a room in their home. They were artists, and furniture designers, and olive oil manufacturers, and photographers… It was also a wonderful way to learn about how other people live.
This is how I learned all those years ago, that there’s a lot of joy to be had outside working all the time, which is what I had been doing in New York since I had first moved here.
So, if you’re a woman traveling alone, you should consider staying in another woman’s house. And always carefully read the reviews before you book anywhere.
5Find a local woman guide
Ali Verástegui recently interviewed Vanessa Karel for this blog. She’s the founder of Greether, a new App that connects women traveling solo to a local woman guide. I find the concept fascinating as it helps women explore new places in a way they feel safe.
But if you don’t happen to find a Greeter through Greether, you should try to connect with local guides that offer free visits to the city you’re visiting. They are usually people who love their towns and are full of valuable insights. Also, look for Airbnb experiences led by women.
For anyone traveling at this time, I highly suggest you make reservations way ahead of time. For tickets to events, to dinner at the restaurants you’d like to try and Airbnb experiences. As I said before, there are a lot more people traveling than a year or two ago and as there is a shortage of personnel, there may be limited seating, limited hours and a host of other things to take into consideration.
Finally, before you venture out again if you haven’t traveled since the pandemic hit, build your patience and resilience. People in the tourist industry are overwhelmed and short-staffed so things may be glitchy and slower than you were used to.
Be prepared to have a good dose of disappointments (cancellations, closures, being unable to go where you planned to) and remember that you always catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a gallon of vinegar.
Treat people gently, give them the benefit of the doubt and be grateful that you get to experience the outside world once again even if it doesn’t look or feel like it did before.