Vacay is life. I’m pretty sure we all could use a monthly, hell, WEEKLY vacay if we could have it! But of course, that’s usually not the case. We daydream about the beaches we’ll lay on, the monuments we’ll photograph, even the events we’ll someday enjoy if we could just freaking get there! In between your day-dreaming, I’m sure that the kinks that happen within vacation planning don’t come to mind. For me, planning the vacation is part of the fun! But that fun can easily be curbed when you find yourself debating with your vacation-buddies about: where to stay, when to travel, what to do! It can make you want to pull your hair out, and has even ruined some friendships!
Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.
When my urge to travel hit me recently, I was prepped to plan a group trip BUT, my solo trip planning was going to need to happen first. I had been talking about a solo trip since I left Haiti last year, listening to the amazing stories of solo women travelers and researching but never pulled the trigger! I, like everyone else, was worried about the obvious like: safety and being alone in a place I don’t know. After more research, more thinking, I realized that this solo trip was exactly what I had been daydreaming about and it needed to happen at least once! So I stopped being fearful, I stopped letting the fears of others scare me and I booked my flight. 🙂
I’m a beach girl for life, well, a bikini girl for life lol. When I think of meditation and peace, I think of the beach. The waves crashing against each other, sand between my toes, fresh seafood, these are aspects that continue to call me to the water. What a perfect location for peace! Upon realizing that the beach was where I wanted to be, I scanned Google Flights for the best prices and scored a $250 ticket from Tampa, FL to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands! I didn’t have my heart set on any place in particular, but surely lucked up with VI being the final destination. What are you looking to get out of your trip? A wild party? Try Vegas or Cozumel. Culture? Go international or a melting pot destination like DC or Miami. Cold weather? Check out the mountains! There’s a location for us all, figure out the weather you’re looking for, and proceed!
I’ve always been a major planner but getting into adulthood made it even more important to plan ahead. (Either I over-plan or I’m a flaky mess, so allow me to plan in peace!) To find the best tickets for lower than my budget of $250, I used Google Flights to see which travel destinations worked with the date I had available and the budget I had on-hand. Google Flights allows you to see prices across the country for various dates, how awesome?! There were other destinations that fell into the same range like: Key West, the Bahamas, Colombia and a few other domestic US States. I opted against the Bahamas because I’ve been there before and although I want to go back, it wasn’t right for this trip. I skipped out of any other US States because I was seeking serenity and wanted it to feel like an actual retreat, not touring the city lol. Colombia has been on my list for a while and although it’s still there, I didn’t think it was the place for my first solo trip as far as safety. The US Virgin Islands is made for tourists, isn’t far from Florida by flight, and is not considered an international flight, so no need for me to go out of my way to reach an Embassy if there are issues and no language barriers, both important when you’re focused on being safe while solo. Go into your planning with a flight budget!! It’s easy to plan a trip wihtout a budget, but will that trip happen? Not so sure once you see the price and freak out. That’s how many end up believing that it’s always expensive to travel.
Traveling can be done on a budget… if you have a plan!
The best thing about planning this trip? I didn’t have to wait for the opinions of others. Never an issue to hear my friends/family out when it comes to planning a trip, but man that slows stuff up! I’ll deal with that stress when it comes because it’s always worth it, but for my own solo trip, it was what Erica says goes. Always a fun way of life.
I adore Air B&B and that was my lodging of choice when planning my trip! When I searched the site for this trip, I looked for: scenic locations, pricing under $90/day, close to civilization, safety, 5-Star reviews and a Super Host that was also a woman and found just that! I loved that St. Thomas has SO many great lodging options for solo travelers, from hostels to Air B&Bs like I chose. The hostel would have been so much cheaper (about half of the price that I’m paying for my Air B&B choice) but I did want an air of peace and quiet, and hostels are a community of their own and I wasn’t looking for that on this trip. I also needed a spot that allowed me to feel secure, and the reviews on Air B&B make it so easy to find the perfect location. The home that I found fit all of my requirements and then some! I can’t wait to show all of you!
I am all about staying safe in ALL situations. I feel like there’s dangers in every street, every city, look at the state of the US right now? I could be in danger on the sidewalk outside of my corporate office or my home, dangers lurk everywhere unfortunately but we must be aware!
To remain safe, I’ve created a few of my own Solo Travel Rules:
Research where you are going. What’s the crime rate like? What are the customs? What language do the locals speak?
Never, ever let any stranger know where you are staying, not even a casual mention
Don’t have too much to drink so you’ll be alert and don’t accept drinks from others! (I’m not much of a drinker anyways, but it’s easy to get carried away on vacay!)
Prior to leaving home, be certain that your phone will work at your destination. If not, look into wifi or an international SIM card so that you make keep in contact.
Always leave a note at your lodging stating where you are going for the day, just in case
Make an itinerary (ahead of time or daily) and send to someone back at home so they know where to find you in case of emergency
Reach out to someone back home at least once daily to confirm safety
Travel in tour groups when possible
Do not travel after dark! I’ve given myself an 8:30-9PM curfew
Dress like a local or avoid being OVER-dressed!
Print out multiple copies of your travel itinerary, flight & lodging information and copies of your personal identification documents and disperse them among your bags, just in case any are stolen/damaged you’ll have a backup
Never keep all of your money in one place
Look into travel insurance! (More on that to come in this post!)
Even if you are traveling solo for peace and serenity, feel free to join groups of other travelers during excursions or tours!
Don’t feel crazy for taking pics of your taxi license plates and sending them to someone for reference and don’t accept free rides. Safety first!
Know who to reach out to or where to go if you have an emergency. Get your hotel/Air B&B phone number to hold onto if you ever need assistance
Carry an item that can act as a weapon if needed (My pepper spray and Taser are obviously not TSA approved, I bought this personal alarm that sounds when I pull the lanyard!)
Ummm, DUH! No matter how much peace I’m going to get, ya’ll WILL deal with these pictures! Lol! I just love a great photo and don’t plan on sacrificing that on my solo trips. I often hear people say that pulling out your phone or camera ruins the moment – not. I love to look back on my adventures and relive the memories, isn’t that what pictures are for? Still want awesome pics while on your solo vacay? No stress! Here are a few of my fave solo selfie technology recommendations!
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I never knew that so many people disliked eating alone! I laugh with my Mom all of the time because she always says she doesn’t understand how I can do it lol. Eating alone is actually quite peaceful! I love taking a book to read or jot down thoughts in, and this trip will be no different. Since I’ll be on this gorgeous island, I’m actually looking forward to enjoying my meals solo next to some beautiful water, maybe even getting to chat it up with the locals! Traveling while solo doesn’t mean that you have to stay solo 24/7! Feel free to get comfy and chat up the chef or business owner, learn some things about the location that you didn’t know previously and enjoy! Although we’re being safe and aware, doesn’t mean we have to be hobbits! (If asked if you’re traveling alone, say that your friends are just back at your hotel sobering up so no one will think you are easy bait!) You all also know that I LOVE Yelp and live and breathe by it, along with Trip Advisor. Check those sites out before you go if you’re looking for specific cuisine or locations to eat! You can get an idea of pricing, location, service and food all before you even hop on the plane! Not every destination has a Yelp (I was looking for Yelp in Haiti… it didn’t happen ya’ll), so the locals are your Yelp!
I’m a big believer in the “What If?” factor. I am an equal balance between: overly-organized & strategic and wild & flaky. When it comes to traveling, that can be great or it can be a disaster. I shoot for greatness though so let’s keep our fingers crossed. When I planned this trip, and probably up until about 2 weeks ago, I didn’t realize that I actually picked a pretty poor season to visit. Yep, it’s Hurricane Season. Being a Floridian, I’m no stranger to Hurricane Season. I was just a 2-year old when Hurricane Andrew hit, 15 years old when Irma hit and thankfully, only suffered cosmetic damages last year when Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas so devastatingly in late August; the same time as my trip this year. By statistic, St. Thomas, V.I. should only expect a hurricane every 3 years so I’m hoping for that!
BUT – I’m no fool.
In case of any weather emergencies, I’ve spent my best $40 for travel insurance! I looked into travel insurance previously, but never got such an amazing quote like the one I saw on World Nomads. It’s insanely easy to fill out your trip and personal information, and receive a quick quote on the World Nomads site. There are two different tiers of insurance that cover your changes out of your control, lost/stolen luggage, emergency assistance, and so much more! I have everyday health insurance, but things can happen with flights, baggage and so much more, it’s more than my health that needs to be covered. Although I have insurance, I’m still mindful of my safety, (like I won’t drive a Jeep in VI as recommended, because I’ve not very experienced on the roads and don’t want to have an accident!) Travel Insurance is definitely something to look into if you’re an avid traveler! Things can happen, we never want to think of that, but we must. Be safe while traveling alone!
Pack lighter if you can! I’ll actually be doing just that on my solo trips, far more than I do when traveling with others. Doing this because I’m going to a low-maintenance destination and I’d hate to be lugging around tons of suitcases on my own! God forbid you’re running late, you’ve got no one to turn to to ask for help! So I plan on making my solo trips work with a 40L backpack or duffel bag when possible. If you plan on doing the same, make a packing list so that you don’t leave out any neccessities! At the moment, I’ve been cringing at the thought of only taking a carry-on because of my liquids! I’m the Queen of over packing my toiletry bag and I barely wear the makeup/toiletries that I bring! So I’ll be making smarter decisions when it comes to packing those liquids. Do I really need 3 vials/bottles of Perfume on a solo trip to a beach destination? Probably not. If you’re shooting for a Solo Spa Vacay? Pack awayyyy! (And bring me too, please?)
The question I’ve been asked so frequently since stating my solo vacation plans is, “Why? Why travel solo when you can go with friends/family” Because I can. 😀 Because I’m young, independent and alive. For so many years, I hid in plain sight and smiled through a lot of pain. Now that I’m in a place 10x better than my past, I’m waking up and noticing so much beauty that seemingly bypassed me for years. Traveling became a major part of my life recently, once I realized how easy it is to explore, not escape. And the idea of being able to do it on my own dime, time with ideas from my own mind, is WILD. I’m insanely excited about this first trip, although it comes with a bit of anxiety, exploring the world is a blessing and an adventure in its own right and I’m SO excited for the journey.