When my sister and I booked a trip to San Francisco, I knew that it would be a great vacation. What I didn't know is that it would spark my sister's writing gene! When we returned from our Bay Area/Silicone Valley stay, she sent me her own list of solo travel tips - and this comes straight from a solo travel newbie. So here's her list with my commentary.
1. Travel light – anything you plan to take you will have carry around at some point.
Whenever I travel, even if it's just for a day, I usually take some version of a bag that has wheels. It's bad for your back to carry things over one shoulder, primarily, and secondarily, it's just easier when you can pull something rather than bear its load. When my sister got here, she had a great duffel bag and a new roomy purse to carry things in. I offered a piece of luggage with wheels. She refused. Her massage therapy appointments for her neck and upper back are progressing nicely.
2. GPS – never drive around an unfamiliar place without one
I am a GPS convert. I admit it. I never spent the money on a GPS until the last year. Now, I won't go anywhere new without one. This also goes for "look where the traffic lights and stop signs may be posted in busy areas, because they might be different from where you are used to seeing them." Don't take off into downtown of a busy city without taking a moment to get your bearings. Some cities have strange light patterns. Watch for them.
3. Know the TSA guidelines before you get to the airport. Knowing what you can and what you can’t take will save a lot of time and headaches in security.
I love this, because my sister, literally, got pulled aside at the Oakland airport by TSA because of King Tut.
Allow me to explain. One of our stops was at the Egyptian Museum. We bought a small statuette of King Tut. When she packed, all the boxes went to the bottom of her bag. When we got to the airport, TSA gladly fished them out of said bag to inspect the solid object that wasn't showing up very well on the x-ray.
4. Explore the area online before you go – find places you would like to visit beforehand.
The research my sister did was invaluable! We found out how to book tickets to Alcatraz where we could actually go to the island rather than just float by it, found the Egyptian Museum, and made it to the Winchester Mansion with an idea of the time commitment. Plus, we knew what was within walking distance of our hotel over the weekend near Fisherman's Wharf. Plan ahead and then you can do #5 with ease.
5. Don’t plan every moment. There may be places you happen upon that you want to check out.
By avoiding an itinerary, we were never watching a clock. If we got tired, we napped. If we wanted to walk, we walked. It was a great, relaxing vacation that gave us both a much-needed break and time with each other!
So, when you're booking your first solo adventure, take the advice of my big sister AND me, and you'll be sure to have a great time!