As a big advocate of traveling solo, I’m not entirely sure why so many are afraid to do it. To me, “fear” is nothing but four letters ominously strung together and exhausted within the travel sphere because people are concerned about getting lost, getting mugged and getting scammed—particularly if they’re alone.
But here’s the thing: While getting lost, getting mugged and getting scammed certainly can happen if you travel enough, fearing them is to fear the dark; eventually, day becomes night and you’ve got no control over it. What you do have some control over, however, is what follows. And you can prepare for the worst without freaking out about it.
So if you’re planning to embark on a solo trip, face the fear and take these five precautionary steps first.
1. Identify U.S. embassy locations nearby.
One of the first pieces of information you’ll want to look up about the place you’re visiting is the location of the U.S. embassy. In the event of an emergency, you can go to or contact the embassy for help. For example, if your passport is lost or stolen and you’re stuck in a foreign country, the U.S. embassy or consulate will be able to provide you with answers and get the ball rolling on administering you a new passport. Likewise, if you fall ill or get injured, the embassy can help find you adequate help or schedule your transportation back to the States if necessary. This link will guide you to a list of addresses to all embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world.
2. Share any general itineraries with someone back home.
If you’ve got an agenda or at least some idea of what airlines you’ll be flying, where you’ll be staying or any other pertinent information, it’s wise to share that with a friend or family member back home—preferably someone you may have jotted down as an emergency contact. If something were to happen to your flight, that person would be alerted or could keep themselves alert. If something were to happen to you while traveling, like you mysteriously go missing or something totally out of the ordinary, that person could help track down your whereabouts—or at least your remains. Kidding! Sort of. Let’s move on…
3. Make laminated copies of your passport and other identification cards.
Losing your passport is nothing short of a nightmare, especially if you’ve got places to be because, ultimately, you’re stuck. And you don’t want to be stuck in a foreign country trying to explain to the police who don’t speak English that you need to get home. Basically, if you lose your passport, you must be able to prove your identity and citizenship to the U.S. government and the easiest way to do it is to have copies of your passport and any other identification at the ready. Regardless you will need to go to the U.S. embassy or consulate, where you’ll spend some time waiting in line and answering a bunch of questions, calling people back home to vouch for you and filling out a slew of paperwork. But the process will be a whole lot smoother if you are indeed able to provide those docs.
4. Call your bank and credit card company.
It’s important to carry some cash on you while traveling, especially since you won’t want to have to pay international credit and debit card fees. But it’s also important that your credit and debit cards actually work if you do need to use them—and sometimes you’ll want to charge purchases instead, since taking out too much cash can be risky. Call your bank and credit card company prior to your trip to let them know where you’ll be and when you’ll be there. This will let them know not to flag your credit or debit card for fraud, which would place a hold on your account. You don’t want to have to worry about calling them while overseas to deal with a declined purchase or ATM withdrawal, especially if you don’t have an international phone plan.
5. Stash cash in different places.
Putting money away in various hiding spots is key. If a pickpocket does get you, you get mugged, you lose your wallet or something else entirely, you’ll have backup stashes. Some hiding spots include toiletry bags, laptop sleeves, rolled-up socks, empty Advil bottles (don’t mix dirty money with the pills…) and eyeglass cases. You can certainly get creative, but maybe send yourself a note about where you hid the money just in case you become slightly too stealthy for even yourself.
Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus/KenTannenbaum