Traveling solo has always been rewarding — and it has also sometimes been uncomfortable. I've encountered wimpy locks on hotel doors, felt unease when lost alone in a big city, experienced the sad feelings that can creep in when dining alone.
Whether due to good fortune or preparedness, though, nothing truly bad has ever happened. I want to keep it that way, so I've explored some measures that lone travelers can take to ease their nerves — and their loneliness.
Travelers may need to skip pepper spray, which can't be carried on a plane and is illegal in some countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. But here's a tool that would have come in handy when I had a fitful night in a hotel room with a weak lock: the Sabre Door Stop Alarm. Wedge the device at the bottom of a door and an alarm sounds when pressure is applied — like if someone in the hallway attempts to open your door. It's loud enough to wake anyone in your room, and your neighbors. It also jams the door.
How to avoid solo dinners in a restaurant bustling with full tables? I've had wine and appetizers at a bar and headed back to my hotel room before the sun sets carrying bread and cheese for later. I've found good dinner company sitting at restaurant bars and communal tables. Solo travelers could also take a cooking class that ends in a meal or check out Eatwith.com. The company links travelers with locals for home-cooked meals and a deep dive into the culture.
Finally, let friends back home know your plans. And clue in the State Department, too, by enrolling in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). When the department knows where you are, it can inform you if safety conditions change and can help the U.S. embassy reach you in an emergency. Go to step.state.gov.
The thrill of exploration shouldn't override safety. The two go hand in hand.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.