For ultimate freedom in your travels this summer, consider going alone. More people are discovering the benefits of vacationing without a companion because they can travel where they want, when they want and do what they want when they get there.
Of course, you'll need to be careful -- especially if you're a woman. But traveling alone is a great way to get in touch with your inner explorer while you're young. You can experience a culture more fully and interact with the locals for a richer experience than if you'd been distracted by a travel companion.
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Plus, traveling alone is cheaper than it used to be. In the past, travel operators typically charged single travelers extra. After all, if a cruise charged $1,000 per person, it would make $2,000 on a double-occupancy room, but only half that for a single occupant. But now more tours, cruise lines and resorts are making it affordable to travel solo by lowering single-supplement requirements or offering single-only accommodations and tours.
If you're thinking of striking out on your own this summer, play it safe with our travel tips below. (Already have some experience? share your stories and advice with fellow solo travelers in our forum.) Then, check out our slide show of 12 Excellent Solo Vacations that are big on fun but easy on the wallet. There's something for everyone, whether you're looking for inner peace and solitude or you're eager to meet new people and have an adventure.
Solo travel tips
When going alone, it's important to plan well and travel safe. Follow these tips for a smooth getaway:
Have a plan. Even if you want to travel unstructured, you should arrange your first night's accommodations before you arrive. This will help you get your bearings. You should also have a general idea of what you want you want to do, and pack a good travel guidebook and map.
Dress appropriately. You'll be less of a target for thieves if you blend in as much as possible. At the very least, dress modestly and conservatively, and don't bring expensive jewelry. Consider leaving the shorts, baseball hat and sneakers at home -- they scream "American tourist."
Time your arrival. You'll want to arrive at your destination during the day so you can find your hotel and get oriented before dark.
Be street smart. Be aware of your surroundings. Know which parts of the city to stay away from, especially after dark. And if you're lost, don't whip out your map on the street or draw unwanted attention to yourself -- walk into a restaurant or shop to ask for directions, or slip into the bathroom to discreetly check your map.
Talk to strangers. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with other travelers at the train station or with locals at the coffee shop. You can get the skinny on a cool club or local sight you didn't know about before. But be discerning in whom you choose to talk to and what you disclose about yourself. You don't want to unwittingly get taken advantage of.
Keep in touch. Before heading out on your trip, leave an itinerary and/or contact info with family members or friends so someone knows where you are and how to contact you if necessary. You should also check in regularly via phone or email.
SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW: 12 Excellent Solo Vacations