Travel is often thought of as a group activity: Spring break with your best friends, a romantic getaway with your partner or a high-energy vacation with the whole family. But there’s something to be said for going it alone: Solo travel can be a freeing and rewarding experience, whether you’re backpacking through Europe, indulging in a rejuvenating week on the beach or testing out the digital nomad lifestyle. But there are also unique challenges you may face when you’re traveling as a party of one — which is where your phone comes in. Downloading a few handy apps can help make solo travel as smooth, safe and fun as can be. Ready to take off? Start here.
Just because you’re traveling alone, doesn’t mean you have to explore and experience your destination alone. Meetup allows you to search for group gatherings and events by category and location. It’s “a surefire way to find local people, fellow travelers and underground events going on in your destination,” said Gloria Atanmo, the travel blogger behind The Blog Abroad. “While we like to think that the best adventures happen when unplanned, Meetup serves as a tool to connect, organize and enhance your experience in a new city.”
“When you’re in a new city, you really have no clue what the unsafe neighborhoods to avoid are often times,” said Paige Brunton, a digital nomad and online business educator. And it’s particularly important to have that information when you’re alone and don’t have the added security of a travel partner or group. That’s where RedZone Map comes in. The app uses crime data sourced by police, government agencies and its user base to determine the safest route for you to take from point to point.
WhatsApp is a free messaging app that uses your phone’s WiFi connection or cellular data to connect you with other users.“With WhatsApp, you can call, text and — what I love most — share location,” said Katelyn Smith, founder of The Remote Nomad and WiFly Nomads. “So if you’re traveling solo and about to go out on an adventure...you can share your location with a friend or family member so they know where you are and that you’re safe.”
And if you don’t want to shell out on an international cellular plan, you can buy a local SIM card and get a plan in your destination instead. “Typically local data plans are much more affordable abroad than [in] America or Canada,” Smith said.
There’s nothing wrong with eating out alone; but if you occasionally want dining companions while you’re traveling solo, you can find them with EatWith. Through the app, you can discover and join all sorts of local dining experiences, from cooking classes to in-home tasting menus.
These days, it’s easier than ever to find free or public WiFi wherever you go, but that doesn’t mean you should depend on it, especially when you’re on the go and on your own. “Let’s face it: There’s nothing more terrifying than getting lost and having no signal to find your way home,” Atanmo said, noting that she uses Maps.me as her “go-to app for offline navigation.”
“Maps.me allows you to locate the nearest ATM, pharmacy, hospital, hotel [and more], and you can download the streets and routes of an entire country to conveniently access offline at any time,” she said.
“Tourlina is an app that helps solo female travelers connect with other trusted travelers and locals,” Brunton said. When using the app, you can enter your destination and travel time and link up with a likeminded travel buddy, swiping through your options as you would in a dating app. Enjoy your solo travel days, and meet up with a new friend when your phone gets a little too full of selfies and you realize you haven’t had a real conversation in a little too long.