Traveling Alone: 19 Safety Tips For Your Kid’s First Solo Trip
It’s so hard letting go of your child (no matter their age) – especially when that means letting them go halfway around the world, traveling solo for the first time.
When it’s time for your child to fly, you can’t be right behind them in the helicopter. However, you can give them something even more valuable than your constant presence: a set of tested tips for staying safe. And, these tips are good advice for anyone traveling alone, not just your child.
Share these 19 tips with your child before they leave, but make it look casual. You don’t want them to think you care or anything.
Tips for solo travel:
1. Get travel insurance
You’ll want a travel protection plan with coverages that can help during the trip, in case of issues like lost and stolen luggage, medical emergencies, Trip Interruption coverage that can get your child back on their trip or back home if needed, as well as 24/7 travel assistance services if your passport or other important papers are stolen. With a well-rounded travel protection plan, you at the very least have a knowledgeable resource to turn to in time of need.
2. Tell people where you’re going
Students want to feel free when they travel, but it still never hurts to tell your family (especially parents) or a friend where you’re staying, where you’re going, and when you expect to get there.
3. Watch your belongings
Keep your backpack in front of you when standing in line, or when unknown people are behind you. Carry bags with straps that go across your body. When you set down your bag, don’t hang it over a chair. Put it between your feet and keep one foot on the strap.
4. Separate your valuables
Spread around your money, credit cards, copies of your passport, and other important documents. Consider a money belt, travel pouch or pickpocket-proof clothing. Carry a copy of your passport and keep the original somewhere safe.
5. Stay Healthy
Avoid street food and beverages that don’t come in a sealed bottle. If you take prescription medications, bring copies of your prescriptions with you.
6. Learn a few phrases in the local language
“Please,” “thank you,” “slow down,” and, “Do you speak English?” are great ones to start. If you’re traveling to countries with multiple languages, or if you prefer a technological solution, use Google Translate.
7. Hang with a group from time to time
It’s ok to take a break from the solo stuff and join a group tour of a city or a historical site. You don’t have to tell anyone back home. And if you’re having trouble meeting people when you travel, a group tour can help fix that.
8. Keep your solo-traveler status to yourself
Make up a story that the rest of your group is joining you later. Your safety is totally worth a little white lie.
9. Stay aware of your surroundings
Don’t let your guard down, regardless of what’s going on around you – especially if there’s an event that draws crowds, like a street fair. These events invariably attract pickpockets.
If you’re not sure where the safer areas are where you’re traveling, ask someone knowledgeable you can trust – the local embassy or consulate, a police officer, or your hotel concierge.
10. Be smart about alcohol
Not only are you more accident-prone if you’ve had too much, but you’re more vulnerable to crimes of all sorts.
11. Watch for common travel scams
These can include the offer to help at the ATM, a donation for a friendship bracelet, the broken taxi meter, the great restaurant on the other side of town, spills on your clothing, and so forth. Don't Fall for Travel Scams: See Our Essential Guide to Protect Yourself
12. Avoid buying things on the street
The one exception: If you’re with a trusted local who knows the ropes.
13. Get the right ticket
Youth or student rail passes are a great way to travel, especially in Europe and Japan, but several days of sleeping on coaches can get really old. Understand your options (and your tolerance for discomfort) before you book.
14. Get off of the train or bus when you’re supposed to
Even on the straightforward (but French-language) Montreal transit system, station announcements can be hard to understand. Know your stop like the back of your hand, and understand how station stops are announced.
15. Fit in
No matter what you do, you’re probably going to look like a student traveling alone. Do your best to look like anything but – even if that means resorting to the old subterfuge of pretending to read a local newspaper.
16. Turn it down
Especially on trains, the volume level is less than you might be used to. Keep conversations muted, don’t blast your music, and carry earplugs because other people do.
17. Carry local currency
Local taxis and buses may not accept credit cards or be able to accommodate other currencies. When you enter a country, get the equivalent of $20 in local currency from an ATM – and use ATMs only during the day, not at night.
18. Don’t leave your luggage
If you have no other choice but to leave your bags, remove all valuables and lock bags together with a bicycle lock. Better idea: store your valuables in a locker.
19. Download a couple of good apps
bSafe can track your movements and share them with loved ones, and send out an alarm if you need help. Google Translate incorporates Word Lens, the amazing feature which translates printed materials like signs and menus.