Solo travel has a shared fear among most travelers, seasoned and naive alike - dining solo.
As much as I travel, I'm still not a fan of dining alone. Sure, there are days when I appreciate the quiet time and opportunity to people watch, but generally, those are days when I am dining out in my hometown, not when I'm on the road. So how do I dine solo? Here are my survival tips.
1. Restaurant Selection
I always ask the hotel clerk or someone local where the best place to go is. Sometimes, when I'm dragging and I want somewhere close to the hotel, I'll ask where I can go within walking distance, just to keep the to-and-from at a minimum (which was how I found an absolutely to-die-for Abuelos in Hurst, Texas), but more often than not, I'll venture out and explore the local restaurants. The locals won't go somewhere that's cold and impersonal, and generally, when I walk in and they ask, "Just one?" I'll say, "Yes, Jason at (this hotel) said you were the best place in town to eat, so here I am." Which usually sparks conversation. I also ask for a quiet corner that has some sort of a view across the restaurant or patio - so I can do one of my favorite things: people watch.
2. Restaurant People Watching 101
Sitting in the middle of a restaurant is a bad location for people watching; you want to be against a wall or in a corner where you have the aforementioned view. Ask for a table in the back or on the side. If you're going to people watch, don't take a seat at the bar because your back will be to nearly everyone. If you're a writer or like to journal, take a small notebook and just note what you're seeing and hearing around you.
3. Take your Time
Read the menu - and I mean really read it - don't just gloss through it like it's a board at a fast food restaurant. One of my favorite things to do is to also ask the waiter what he or she would have if they knew they would only be going there once. That's yielded some great adventures for me with foods I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise. Take a look around at what others are having, and don't be afraid to ask what was just served over at that other table. Then, enjoy your food. Eat slowly, using whatever means necessary, even if it means texting your best friend with every other bite.
4. Eat like you would on a date
I say this because people have a tendency to eat way too quickly and too much when they're dining solo simply because they're uncomfortable. Drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine, and be mindful of your bites. Also, if you overeat, you may have a difficult time sleeping and it can be hard enough to sleep in a hotel room.
5. Take notes
You never know when your opinion about a great local restaurant will be needed! Share your dining ideas and notes on sites like Yelp.com, Gayot.com, and TripAdvisor.com. You can take your solo travels to a new level by offering your experiences to the rest of the world.
Don't let solo travel mean room service and pizza deliveries. Venture out and see what's around the corner.