Taking a solo Eat, Pray, Love trip to find yourself is every woman’s dream. But most of us are reluctant to travel alone, and for good reason: Is it really safe?
Before we get to the meatiest part of the question, there are a few big reasons why a woman may want to travel alone at least once in her life. As Elizabeth Gilbert proved in her bestselling 2006-memoir-turned-Julia-Roberts-movie Eat, Pray, Love, taking a trip by yourself can be a cathartic and life-changing experience — especially if your life is in need of a major reboot, like Gilbert’s was.
Michael Alan Connelly sings the praises of solo travel for more selfish reasons in his 2015 Fodor’s travel piece. Besides the obvious “me time,” Connelly says that taking a trip alone can make planning easier, provide more freedom in choosing your itinerary, help you stick to a small budget and even give you the chance to make new friends, if you’re feeling brave.
In this day and age, solo travel for women isn’t unheard of, but the general public still views it as risky. If you find comfort in numbers, there are plenty of women-exclusive travel companies that offer safer booking in a guided trip, but that can take away the thrill of vacationing alone. Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds. When you practice a few female-friendly travel safety tips and choose your location wisely, you can set out on your first solo adventure without a care in the world.
If you’re looking for a place to reconnect with yourself that is both cheap and safe, check out these top U.S. travel picks for women:
When the sole purpose of a solo trip is rejuvenation, there’s no place that will awaken the senses quite like Colorado. Colorado is home to thousands of hiking trails, ranging from beginner to advanced in their difficulty. If you’re not a skilled enough hiker to set out into the wilderness alone, consider a YMCA Rocky Mountain retreat instead. “Surrounded on three sides by the Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s not only affordable, safe and great for traveling solo, but it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind,” Sarah Shelton of YMCA of the Rockies explains. “We offer small cabins and intimate lodge rooms for people to relax and enjoy. We also have a wide range of programs and activities. From horseback riding in the Rocky Mountain National Park, to hiking our many trails on our 860 acre property — women are sure to find a safe and relaxing getaway.”
The Grand Canyon
The majestic Grand Canyon isn’t just for that cliché family road trip. Intriguing research suggests that we create our most vivid memories when we are alone, so it stands to reason that visiting the Grand Canyon on your own will be an experience you’ll never forget. Out of the 10 solo trips she’s taken in the past decade, Erin Smith, founder of Gluten-Free Globetrotter, says that her first trip alone to the Grand Canyon was the most terrifying — and the most exhilarating. “I felt so liberated, traveling on my own terms at my own time. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to, and I loved it. I will never forget the moment I walked up to the rim of the Grand Canyon. The sight took my breath away. I just basked in the beauty and was so proud that I had taken the first step to book that trip to Arizona,” says Smith.
New York City
Who doesn’t want to make like Carrie Bradshaw and spend the weekend kicking up her Manolos in Manhattan? The biggest reason for hesitation in heading to NYC for a solo getaway for most women is the big city crime, but Janice Holly Booth, a 20-year solo traveler and author of Only Pack What You Can Carry, begs to differ, “I’ve walked the streets alone in New York City, and I’ve explored Navajo reservations by myself. Most destinations in the U.S. are safe, especially if they’re frequented by a lot of people.” She continues, “The same safety rules apply on a trip as they do at home: Be aware of your surroundings; lock up your valuables; stay out of sketchy neighborhoods; make sure at least someone knows your itinerary for the day; and don’t broadcast to the world that you’re alone. Unless you are planning on going into the deepest part of the inner city, you don’t have much to fear, even in big cities.”
For all the women who’ve ever wanted to take a relaxing nap at the pool instead of waiting in long lines at Disney World, add Orlando to the top of your travel list. Avid solo traveler Dr. Felicia Clark, author of I Like My Body, calls Orlando a top vacation destination for women since it is a safe city full of opportunities to meet new people. She shares her travel tips to enjoy the sunny city to the fullest, “Stay in a trendy area where you can walk. [Orlando has] trendy areas set up for tourists. You will find lots to do. Try to limit your night activities until you know you can travel safely back and forth to your hotel/hostel.” She adds, “I travel a lot and feel very safe. I have met lots of nice people, and I do it very affordably.”
How to keep solo travel cheap
Here’s the good news: When you’re traveling stateside, it’s easy to keep most travel costs manageable by booking cheap airfare and checking out alternate lodging sites like HomeAway and Airbnb. But these personal rental sites bring us back to the question of safety — most women feel uncomfortable booking a room through a stranger when traveling alone.
Lindsay Sakraida, the Director of Content Marketing at DealNews, covers all the bases in her top four tips for safe, memorable and affordable solo travel for women:
1. Home and apartment rentals can sometimes be cheaper than hotels in some cities and heavily touristed areas, but be cautious when booking. You want to make sure you’re in a safe and accessible neighborhood, that the rental is private with sufficient locks and well-reviewed by a variety of travelers.
2. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, cheaper options are more likely to be located further out of the downtown area. That’s not necessarily an issue, so long as there are sufficient transportation options, especially cars that can take you home late at night, if needed.
3. Consider searching for abnormal flight times — like very early in the morning or red eye flights — to maximize your savings on air travel. That can sometimes cut costs by as much as 20 percent. Just make sure you understand your transportation options to and from the airport while arriving and departing at odd hours; if there’s no safe form of public transportation, you’ll want to factor in the cost of car service before you decide if the off hours are worth it.
4. If you can avoid traveling during the weekend, you’re more likely to save on both hotels and activities. Typically, Sunday through Wednesday, and sometimes Thursday, are the least expensive days to book a hotel in many cities.