11 smart tips for travelling solo

The last census reported that approximately 363,000 Kiwis live alone. This number is expected to increase by two thirds over the next couple of decades, making one-person households the fastest growing.

The number of Kiwis travelling solo is also likely to take off, as singles temporarily wave goodbye to friends and families and take advantage of their holiday freedom.

Flight Centre New Zealand's executive general manager, Mike Friend, says going it alone is an increasingly popular trend, as singles make the most of their opportunity to go on holiday when, where and how they want.

"Travelling solo is invigorating and character-building, but it can also be intimidating and a little more costly than travelling with a friend or partner," Friend says.

"The good news is that steps can be taken to reduce the safety-related risks that may deter some solo travellers and to reduce costs, particularly when it comes to accommodation.

"In terms of safety, the rules are generally the same, whether you're travelling alone, with a friend or partner or as part of a broader group."

Flight Centre has compiled 10 helpful hints to help solo travellers prepare for their trips.

1. Beware the single supplement

Unfortunately, the average hotel won't offer you a single room - unless you're prepared to pay for it.

If you're travelling alone, chances are you will be offered a twin or double room and asked to pay a "single supplement".

This basically means you will pay twice as much as a sharer because you will pick up most or all of the cost of occupying a room for two.

2. Happy to share

Although solo travellers may not be able to avoid the dreaded supplement at hotels, the good news is that the travel industry is responding to their needs.

There are now huge numbers of singles' package tours, cruises and resorts offering singles' weeks.

To avoid the single supplement on tours, it is also common for tour operators to pair up people of the same sex to share accommodation.

3. Dormitories

If you don't mind sharing, an obvious way to avoid the single supplement is to stay in dormitory-style accommodation.

The other obvious advantage is that hostels and other similar establishments are great places to meet like-minded travel companions if you are keen to make new friends or to share part of your travel experiences.

To keep costs down, some organised tours now offer multi-share accommodation options. So you will be sharing a room, regardless of whether you're travelling alone or with a friend.

4. Plan ahead

No one is watching your back when you're travelling solo.

It's important to plan ahead, particularly when it comes to sightseeing, finding your way around and making your way to your hostel or hotel.

Work out in advance where you're staying and how to get there from your arrival at an airport, bus or train station.

If walking, map out a route and memorise key details. If you need to consult a map, be discreet.

Where possible, adjust your travel schedule to ensure you arrive at your location at a reasonable hour.

5. Dress down and blend in

When you're on the road, you probably don't need the Rolex and your full range of jewellery. Leave expensive items at home or locked away securely.

Where possible, try to blend in with the locals.

While out and about, store important documents securely and don't carry large amounts of cash.

6. Stay in touch

If you're on your own, it's crucial to stay in touch with friends and family. Let them know your itinerary - where you're going and where you're staying.

In addition, Kiwi travellers can register their details with Safe Travel and are encouraged to update their details while they are travelling.

7. Backpack

No one's watching your back, but someone may be watching your backpack.

On days when you're not travelling, lock it away in a safe and secure location in your hotel or hostel and take a smaller bag.

When travelling, try to keep your luggage as close to you as possible. If you need to put it down, loop it around your leg so it is not an obvious target for bag snatchers.

The other great luggage challenge for solo travellers is what to do with the suitcase or backpack when nature calls. If possible, take it with you.

8. Meal time

Seasoned solo travellers generally opt for busy eateries, rather than more intimate dining options. Books, laptops, Kindles and magazines are handy meal-time companions when you're travelling alone.

9. Social networking sites

Social networking sites can be a valuable source of information for solo travellers.

In 2010, Flight Centre acquired an 80 per cent interest in gapyear.com, a website that focuses on travellers taking off for a year's break between university and a new job.

Visitors to the site have access to useful articles and tips, in addition to touching base with travellers who are already embarking on similar journeys.

Airbnb and couchsurfing.com are other sites worth reading if you're travelling independently overseas.

10. Daytrips

If you plan to visit major tourist attractions, consider joining an organised day-trip. You may give up some of the freedom you desire, but you also remove some of the potential dangers associated with travelling solo.

11. And finally

Don't forget travel insurance. If your bags are lost or a health problem arises while you're travelling solo, nobody's automatically on hand to help you.

Insurance will be a valuable investment at a time of need.

- Hamilton News

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