Here are five tips from guest travel writer Arlene Davis that make up Part I:
Arlene Davis is a 76-year-old world traveler who took her first trip overseas at the age of 65 where she was clearly hit by the travel bug. These days she loves to explore alone and has picked up quite a few savvy rules of the road along the way. She’s now sharing her best travel trips for women who would like to “go solo.”
Do your homework
Request brochures from travel companies, tourism bureaus, use the library, etc. Decide what you want to see and how much time to devote to each. Figure out what attractions are near each other so you can see more than 1 each day. Have your days planned out, but leave lots of time for unexpected finds along the way. If you’re lucky enough to have more than just a few days, try not to exhaust yourself. You can start out at 10 a.m. after a leisurely breakfast, and plan to be done sightseeing by 4 p.m. Then you have enough time to rest and relax before going out to dinner.
Prior to my first trip to England, I purchased tickets online to many of the most popular tourist attractions; i.e., Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, etc. I was able to walk past long lines of people waiting to purchase their tickets and be admitted immediately. Most tickets have a 5-7 day window of time to use them. I also had all my train and bus tickets between London, Bath, and the city where I stayed in the Cotswolds.
In addition to advance planning, be sure to remain flexible. I can’t count the number of times I was headed to a particular place and en route something else caught my attention and it was hours before I reached my original destination. These little diversions are one of the great joys of traveling on your own and not being locked into anyone else’s schedule.
Live like (and with) a ‘Local’
Name brand chain hotels are pretty much the same the world over. Try to stay in a small, family-owned hotel/inn. The desk clerk at the name hotel will steer you to all the typical tourist-y places, while the local owner will know exactly what restaurant serves the food you are craving. The accommodations may be a little “quirky” and not what you’d expect in a typical name-brand hotel, but isn’t that one of the reasons you travel? I rely on books by Rick Steves, available at your local library, for recommendations to local inns.
Go with the flow
When things aren’t exactly up to the same standards as in the U.S., remind yourself that you intentionally left the U.S. to absorb a different culture. When the shower’s water pressure feels more like someone dribbling on you, don’t tell the front desk “Back in the U.S. we have …” Delete that phrase from your vocabulary for the entire trip. If it takes an extra two minutes to rinse out shampoo, so what? If the bathroom is so small you have to turn sideways to get into the minuscule stall shower, so what? Enjoy each and every experience, no matter how different from back home, they make wonderful stories to tell.