Solo travel can offer the sense of serenity and freedom that comes with doing things completely on your own terms. But trips can be pricey, especially if you’re the only one footing the bill.
Here are seven common mistakes made by solo travelers that can cause headaches and hassles. Check out this expert advice to save money on your next solo trip.
Mistake No. 1: Not Researching Thoroughly
Solo travelers are often researching rooms, rental properties and other travel necessities on their own when planning a trip rather than relying on suggestions from a travel partner or pro. So, it can be tempting to grab the first great deal you see.
But Justin Lavelle, a scam prevention expert and chief communications officer at BeenVerified, which provides contact information and online background checks, offers this axiom: “If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
He said one common scam involves sites set up to look like legitimate travel booking portals. These sham sites offer deep discounts on rooms and rentals if travelers book through the site, which processes the payment without actually making a reservation. If not uncovered early, this mistake could lead to travelers paying a premium for last-minute accommodations or — in a worst-case scenario — unable to find a place to stay in their desired destination.
“If a deal sounds incredibly cheap, there’s a strong likelihood it’s a scam,” said Lavelle. “Companies aren’t about to give you an 80 percent discount on your travel and stay.”
How to Avoid Travel Booking Scams
“Protect yourself from scams by always using a credit card with fraud protection,” Lavelle said. “Always get everything in writing, play it safe by booking direct with a company, and do your research on a site like TripAdvisor.” For example, these tend to be the best travel sites for saving money.
Mistake No. 2: Booking Double-Occupancy Rooms
There are many travel expenses you can get for less. Still, traveling by yourself can be frustrating and costly because everything from the room rates to tour prices tend to be based on double occupancy. For instance, while rates for early winter vacation bookings on the Club Med site start at $119 per person, per night, those deals are based on double occupancy. Single supplements vary depending on the Club Med resort but can exceed $100 a night.
However, there are some special occupancy options for single travelers who do their research. For example, some hotels offer rooms specifically for singles, like the single-occupancy garden view rooms at Juliana’s Hotel on the Caribbean island of Saba, which run $25 less per night than double-occupancy rooms.
How to Find Single-Occupancy Rooms
Even if hotels don’t advertise such options, travel experts like Elizabeth Avery, who operates the travel site Solo Trekker 4 U, recommend inquiring about available deals and discounts during the research and reservation process.
“Since most travel services are based on doubles, solos may not think about asking for a singles room or cabin or other solo price,” said Avery. “Many hotels in Europe, unlike the U.S., have a slightly lower rate for one occupant of a hotel room. However, it is important to see whether that is a very small room rather than a reduction for a standard room.”
Mistake No. 3: Sticking to Resort Dining Plans
When you’re traveling in a group, you might opt to eat at the hotel or the resort because it’s the easiest way to sit everyone down for a meal together. However, if you’re traveling solo, determine whether a resort’s optional daily dining plan — which might include a big breakfast or an appetizer, entree and dessert — is really the best thing for your wallet or waistline.
How to Choose the Best Dining Option
You can save money and have more dining options if you eat outside of your hotel or resort. But, Avery suggests researching nearby restaurants and shopping options before rejecting meal plans, which might need to be booked at the same time as a room.
“In … resorts in the U.S. and abroad, the location may be secluded,” said Avery. “As a result, there may not be a nearby town or even transportation to find alternative dining options.”
She recommended that when you’re booking lodging, do a very careful internet search of the vicinity. Look at the distance to restaurants and cafes, as well as your local transportation options.
Mistake No. 4: Not Protecting Your Passport and Passwords
The application fee for replacing a lost or stolen passport is $110 for adults, according to the U.S. State Department. But the long-term costs of losing your travel documents can add up to much more — especially if criminals get their hands on them. Identity theft affected 15.4 million American consumers last year, costing them $16 billion, according to a study from Javelin Strategy & Research.
Since solo travelers are by themselves and don’t have a travel companion to help them keep an eye on their laptop, tablet or cellphone, it’s particularly important to safeguard these items.
How to Protect Your Valuables When Traveling
While on the road, leave your valuables in a hotel room safe or other secure location. Avery also recommends taking some precautions before leaving home.
“Be very careful with smartphones, tablets and laptops,” said Avery. “Password protect each. Where possible, enter personal data in ways that are not readily identifiable to strangers. Delete sensitive data before leaving home. Make copies of the first page of your passport and any visas. Don’t just rely on digital copies in case the devices are lost or stolen.”
Mistake No. 5: Falling Prey to Pickpockets
Traveling solo can make it easier to lose track of your valuables. To help keep a watchful eye on your wallet and other important assets while out and about, Lavelle recommends researching common tricks pickpockets use. For example, beware of people hanging around ATMs or a clumsy passerby making physical contact.
“This scam is common in Europe,” he said. “While sightseeing, a person may accidentally spill something on your clothing or bump you from behind. This is a mere distraction to keep your focus on the spill and not on personal belongings. While helping clean up the mess, the culprit will pick purses or pockets.”
How to Protect Yourself From Pickpockets
“Avoid this scam by being aware of your surroundings and declining help should someone spill condiments or beverages on you,” said Lavelle. “Go to the nearest bathroom and clean the stain yourself.”
Depending on how much cash they’re carrying and whether thieves get away with credit cards and other valuables, a dose of healthy skepticism can save solo travelers thousands of dollars and countless headaches.
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Mistake No. 6: Skipping the Road Trip Readiness Check
Even if you religiously follow your car’s regular maintenance schedule, consider giving your ride a little extra TLC before hitting the highway, said Jessica Bisesto, senior editor at TravelPirates, a travel site featuring various deals.
Car repair costs vary, but the national average for check engine light-related repairs in 2015 was $387.31, according to a report by CarMD.
“So, you might’ve just had your oil changed a few thousand miles ago, but it’s worth taking your car back to the shop to give everything a once-over before heading out on your multi-state road trip this summer,” Bisesto said.
How to Prepare for Your Road Trip
“It’s better to take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic instead of risking a roadside breakdown and having your trip completely derailed,” said Bisesto.
Being stuck on the shoulder can be especially scary if you’re traveling solo, so it also makes sense to check the roadside assistance services offered by your credit card issuers or AAA, if you’re a member of the auto club. For instance, AAA memberships include battery jump start and flat tire service, among other benefits.
Mistake No. 7: Not Investing in Travel Insurance
When you travel with your family or with a partner, you might not be the one who’s in charge of arranging travel insurance. However, when you’re traveling solo, this is something you’ll want to look into — especially if you’re visiting high-risk destinations.
The U.S. Department of State’s current list of travel warnings and travel alerts includes advisories on popular destinations such as Europe and Turkey, with some being prompted by an increased possibility of terrorist attacks. Some countries, such as Haiti, also offer limited access to medical care. So, experts recommend researching travel insurance options regardless of your destination.
Carrie Pasquarello of Global Secure Resources, which is a provider of travel safety assessment and related services, said travelers must be vigilant and sensible when it comes to the risks of traveling. Her advice is especially true if you’re traveling alone.
“The No. 1 mistake is not to be prepared with risk mitigation strategies,” she said. “The costliest [mistake] is not having medical and evacuation insurance.”
How to Pick the Best Travel Insurance
A comprehensive travel insurance plan with trip cancellation coverage will typically range from 4 to 8 percent of the total trip costs, said Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. And many policies not only cover medical emergencies and expenses, but some also cover certain unforeseen events that could prompt travelers to suspend or shorten a trip.
“For example, when the U.S. State Department recognizes a terrorist attack — as it just did recently with the Manchester bombing — policyholders are able to cancel the rest of their trip and return home at no additional cost,” he said. “They are also eligible for the reimbursement of any unused, non-refundable costs they had already paid, plus the additional fees, if any, of returning home early.”