As a solo, female traveler I love the idea of the adventure that I can plan out on my terms. When I became an unexpected, relatively young, widow I was sad that my husband would not be here to join me, but I felt determined that I was going to travel anyway. My first big solo trip was to Thailand so I could escape being home for the one year anniversary of his death as well as our wedding anniversary. I have since embarked on a few travel adventures but I always get a bit anxious before I travel.
That time I planned a family trip for 4 to California but when I printed out the boarding passes 24 hours in advance, there was only a ticket for me. Somehow I had not reserved tickets for my husband and 2 sons. Panic set in. It was 6:00 pm on a Friday evening and I made some frantic phone calls to the corporate office. Apparently, when I had changed the dates a few months earlier, they had cancelled the other 3 tickets.
Fortunately, they were able to fit the rest of my family on the plane with me, but this was the beginning of my travel anticipation anxiety syndrome.
So many things can go wrong when planning and executing a trip. At one time I thought it would be a great career to be a travel agent. I worked for a hotel representative firm in New York City for a year back in the 1980’s. My job description was to speak to travel agents about the properties that we represented and make reservations. I even was sent to visit Bermuda for a long weekend so I would be able to discuss the properties in detail. This gig was fun for a while. I furthered my travel career by working in Aspen, Colorado and then became an employee at two different hotels in San Diego. I enjoyed some of the benefits of working in the travel field; discounted rates at hotels and restaurants, complimentary whale watching and hot air ballooning excursions, and meals were often included!
Those are awesome memories, but traveling as a middle aged solo widow is a bit different. I am never really relaxed until the plane is in the air, then I can rest, assured that I am on my way. My anxiety starts a few days prior to the trip. I procrastinate on packing but I know in my head everything I should do. Ways you and I can alleviate pre-trip anxiety include:
#1 – Use a travel agent or a tour group
That is the easiest way to avoid excess anxiety and to be sure that all the details are taken care of. Find and speak with a certified, experienced travel agent or sign up with a reputable tour. The travel agent will book the airlines, the transfers to the property or tours and recommend an itinerary. Sometimes transfers from the airport are included, and other times you will have to arrange that on your own so check your itinerary. When I went to Costa Rica for a yoga and writing week retreat, the ride was 2 and a half hours from the airport. Good to know that was included in the retreat package.
#2 – Find and locate your passport
Do not wait until the last minute. It can take several weeks to be updated so you may need to do that as well. Be sure you have your passport located and keep it with important papers and items you will be bringing on your trip. Take a photo of your passport on your phone, just in case. In addition, download the app Mobile Passport. This is the best thing. You will “breeze through customs” along with the flight attendants upon your arrival back in the USA. Also check for any immunizations you may need before traveling.
#3- Print out airline confirmations and flight information
This may be a generational thing. My son who is 24 years old and travels uses his phone for all that information and thinks it is odd that I need a hard copy. Remember, my goal is to alleviate unnecessary anxiety so I now have the habit of bringing along a manilla folder with some simple printouts that state my airline information and hotel information. If I ever lost my phone, OUCH, I would still know where I was supposed to go and which flight to confirm.
#4 – Visit websites of places you are visiting.
So much information is now available on line. You can research the hotels and landmarks in the locations you plan to visit. You can read so many blogs on Pinterest by typing in the names of cities. Some blogs are super informative and have great photos. YELP is a a great resource for ratings and reviews of hotels and restaurants. Another app I download is called Mapsme. I used this one in Bangkok, Thailand so that I would be able to find my way back to the hotel following a map that I had downloaded to my phone. It knows where you are and the street names in English, even though you are NOT connected to WIFI.
#5 – Plan your transport from home to airport
When you are solo, you want to figure out how you are going to get to and from the airport. Friends are great, but sometimes a car service is more practical, especially when your international flight is at 6:00 in the morning.
#6 – Arrange for care of any pets and mail
During busy school breaks, some kennels do fill up. Make a plan in advance. You don’t want to leave your little fur babies stranded. Also be sure to have the mail stopped or have a neighbor bring it in for you.
#7 – Pay your bills before you go and call your credit card company
No one wants to be sitting on the tropical beach, getting ready for that first sip of Pina Colada and remembering they were supposed to pay the electric bill. Get that over with. Also be sure to let your credit card company know you will be traveling and where. I learned that lesson the hard way after filling up the gas tank in Tennessee. I soon received a text message telling me they were canceling my credit card due to a fraud alert and sending me a new one. I had to speak to quite a few people to convince them that it was really me and I would not be home anytime soon to get that new credit card. They can be so efficient.
#8 – Make a list of what you MUST bring on your trip
I like to make a list of the important things to bring on a trip and cross them off as I pack. It helps me think through what I will need and then ensure that I have packed it. Start with eye glasses! Then medications. Passport, wallet, cash, charger, phone and ipad or laptop, toiletries, make up and toothbrush (I always seem to forget my toothbrush!). Finally, I am always sure to pack a bathing suit in my carry on bag. I love to swim and I have had my luggage lost before. As long as you can get to the beach or pool right away, you will be happy – even if the luggage has had a delay.
#9 – Keep in touch with family and friends
When traveling solo as a woman, you want someone to know where you are. Let people know where you are going. I finally learned how to use WIFI correctly so I keep my phone on airplane mode. I log in at airports, hotels and restaurants using their password. I was able to write my blog on line and keep in touch with Facebook, email and texting without getting a plan for my phone when I traveled to Thailand. If you are going to a more remote destination, it is best to call your phone carrier and ask them which program they have that best meets your needs.
#10 – Pick up some fun magazines and a glass of wine in the airport.
I always think that traveling on a trip solo means I can indulge in whichever magazine cover strikes my fancy. It is not something I usually pay for, but traveling is a fun treat and no need to start serious reading now. If time allows, I will often go to the bar at the airport, even by myself! It is fun. I get a glass of wine and sometimes talk to people although now I am just as hooked on my phone as everyone else. Mike used to be great at chatting to strangers when we were traveling. We met many different people and had great conversations. I think that is the point of traveling. Make the world a smaller place by engaging with as many souls as possible. The rewards are invaluable.
Well, as I said many things can go wrong while planning and executing the perfect trip but these tips may help you have a great time and feel calm as you board that plane. We all did make it to San Diego in 2006 and had a great time taking surf lessons, walking the boardwalk in Mission Bay and watching a Padres baseball game. Bon Voyage!
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