The Challenge of Transitions: 10 tips for stress-free solo travel

Getting a new perspective on your travels.

Keep the stress low by taking it slow on the first day. Visiting a park is a good option.

Transitions are not fun.

They can be exciting. In life and in travel. But transitions, times of significant change, are challenging.

Transitions are times when there are new things to learn – whether it’s a new language or a subway system – patterns are broken and a new social dynamic is at play.

Transitions are inevitably times of stress.

As a solo traveler, you may experience the stress of transitions more than the average traveler. Being totally responsible for yourself, you are alone in navigating the change. But there are things you can do to mitigate the stress. I give you…

10 tips for stress-free solo travel – especially for transitions

  1. Do some advance planning. I’m not a big planner but I do make sure I know the basics. Before you leave, be sure to understand the visa requirements and spend a few moments to understand the currency exchange. Make sure your passport doesn’t expire for at least three months as some countries have such a minimum for visitors.
  2. Book your first night’s accommodation in advance. Arriving in a new city, not knowing how it works and still having to find a place to stay can be stressful. Plus, you can end up spending more than your budget because you just have to get a place. Book your first night’s stay before taking off so that you have a safe place to land when you arrive.
  3. Study a map. I love maps. They provide a bird’s eye view of a new destination. They give you a sense of distance between places and, therefore, what’s possible to do in a day. You’ll also get a sense of where the areas are that you don’t want to go for safety reasons. All of this can reduce stress.The Challenge of Transitions: 10 tips for stress-free solo travel
  4. Arrive at the airport, train or bus station early. Whether it’s traffic congestion or a massive line-up at the airport, many things can slow you down when trying to catch a flight. Who needs the extra stress of possibly not making it. Take something to entertain yourself and arrive early.
  5. Arrive well before dusk. Arriving in the dark can make it difficult to find your lodging. In daylight everything is easier and looks better. Plus, if you don’t like the accommodations you’ve booked, you have time to change them.
  6. Think about how you’ll get around. Use public transit to save money and get closer to the real people but budget for taxis on occasion. They may be your best bet to get from the trains station or airport to your first night’s accommodation and certainly the safest way to get back to your hotel after dark.
  7. Don’t plan much for your first day. Take the time to settle in and get to know the city and how it works. Do people line up for the bus? What’s the street food like and where are the busiest stands? What’s within walking distance of your lodging?
  8. Ask questions. As you’re navigating a new city, ask questions of taxi drivers, store clerks and bar tenders – anyone who could be of assistance.The Challenge of Transitions: 10 tips for stress-free solo travel
  9. Add important numbers to your phone. Research useful apps for your phone and download them with free WiFi. Get the front-desk person to help you add important local numbers to your phone such as the one for your hotel. And, though you may not want to stay connected with home, have these numbers in your phone as well.
  10. Stay calm. You think better when you’re calm. If you find yourself getting stressed, find a seat, sit down and think the situation through. The answer is likely right before you or the person to ask is nearby.


BTW, stress can be a good thing.

In this delightful TED Talk about stress we learn that new studies  suggest that it is not stress that is bad for our health as such but rather the belief that our stress is harmful. Carrying around the notion that stress is bad for you is itself dangerous. In fact, the data shows that if it were considered in the ranking of diseases that kill us, the belief that stress is harmful would be number 15, more harmful than  skin cancer and HIV Aids. This video is quite fun and informative.

  • Daphne

    Just do a search: How to use Metro in Paris. Be sure to read ALL the info. Be warned: the fancy Metro entrance in front of the Comedie Frances (Rue Saint-Honore) didn’t have a ticket vending machine when I was there and you need a ticket to enter. We went back to the street and asked at the Tabac nearby. You have to go around the corner toward the Louvre to find the normal entrance where you can buy tickets.

  • Grace

    I should have kept some of these in mind before this happened:
    In my defense, I expected traveling to take much longer that it did and that I wouldn’t be there until morning!

  • Yolanda

    For anyone going to Paris, Paris is a walking city and most of the attractions and landmarks are often walking distance from one another .
    I prefer( if I have) to take a bus rather than the metro, it gives me a chance to view some of the neighborhoods that I didn’t necessarily had intention to visit, but I always discover something new!

  • Michelle Panting

    Good luck! It’s an exhilarating new challenge and you’ll feel so much more confident while travelling (in general) once you’ve mastered public transit.

  • Trisha Andrus

    Thank you so much Janice! You help so many people. I plan to use Paris Greeter and Voulez Vouse (you recommended them a while back and I took note of them). I can’t wait to experience Paris France!!!!!

  • Janice Waugh

    Hi Trisha,

    Michelle is right. The system is not difficult to understand and it goes everywhere. Have a great time and make sure that you search the blog for posts on Paris. I was there in November and have written a bit about the trip. The Paris Greeter program is fantastic and Voulez Vouse Diner gives you a chance to have dinner at a local’s house.

    Have a wonderful time,

  • Trisha Andrus

    Thanks Michelle-I’ve looked at the small metro map in a travel book and it looked overwhelming….I’ll ask a question at my hotel and then relax and try it!!!

  • Michelle Panting

    Honestly, the biggest thing is to give yourself plenty of time and stay calm. The maps are generally incredibly logical and very easy to use when you’re calm. I would suggest taking the metro a few times in low pressure situations to build your confidence. Remember that mistakes are fixable. You can always get off and then on again in the other direction.

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  • Trisha Andrus

    Michelle Panting-I am going to Paris over Christmas this year and I have never used public transit…I am worried about the metro. Any other tips???

  • Donya

    I just completed my first solo trip (Italy). I did some things right and several wrong. One thing I learned – WiFi is NOT globally available, lol. I set out from hotel in Rome, counting on my iphone for maps and such. A combination of limited wifi and user error left me lost at night, without a paper map or even a pen/paper! Lesson learned. Don’t rely solely on your smartphone!

  • Lingo Live

    These tips are essential. Definitely worth a review before heading out on my next trip. Although we might know many of these, we might also tend to procrastinate and suffer the consequences.

  • Jo Mo

    Yes, for a stress-free solo travel, nothing better than book a room first and pay only when you stay. And also with free cancellation! You can find a hotel at

  • Isabelle Darcy

    What a great discussion and TED Talk! I totally agree, especially asking questions of people nearby to stay calm and collected!

  • Magpie

    I’m a 53 year old woman, and I’m just finishing up the trip of a lifetime–over seven months backpacking solo in Europe. I’ve found that travel is a skill. Once I figured out the tricks it became easier and less scary. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never needed to use a cab. Not that there haven’t been a few bumps in the road, but I feel prepared and safe.

  • jacob smith

    I am regular follower of your blog,well i would say yet another great post.Thanks for sharing the tips .

    Panama city beach vacation

  • Mark Schaaf

    I am glad that someone mentioned using a map I use google maps to plan my entire trip. I start by plotting everything I want to see in order to get an idea of where everything is but I then use those locations to decide where to look for a hotel. I then make up a map for each days sightseeing. I try and not over due it so not to feel rushed and also leave time to look at things along the way.

  • Sue

    Over-packing can also create a less than ideal solo trip. Dealing with heavy, overflowing bags (that seem to expand, even if you don’t buy anything – how does that happen? :)This may seem obvious, but pack light – no checked baggage whether it’s a long weekend or 3 weeks!

  • Michelle Panting

    Great tips! One thing that can be really stressful is navigating public transit when you’re travelling solo. The key for me is to take a few deep breaths, study maps, and ask for help if I really need it.