I’ve traveled a lot on my own.
Despite being a seasoned solo traveler, when my friend pulled out of our planned New York trip, I freaked out at the prospect of traveling to New York alone.
For a while the trip was off. Not wanting to give up, I asked another person to travel with me but unfortunately she couldn’t go either.
I found myself questioning why I could travel by myself to cities like London and Berlin, yet not be brave enough to travel to New York alone?
So what do you do when you have your heart set on a trip?
You put your big girl pants on and go by yourself.
I am happy to report that I have recently returned from two glorious weeks in New York by myself. I had a total ball. It was an amazing trip!
If you have been thinking about heading to the Big Apple but don’t have anyone to travel with, here are my top 10 tips on how to travel to New York by yourself.
So what does it mean to blend in? Catch the subway. Dine where the locals go, which means avoiding touristy chain restaurants (particularly in Times Square). Dine at restaurants later in the evening.
Blending in is more about attitude. Act like you know where you are going and that you belong there.
For knowing my way around, I personally love The New York Mapguide. I know paper is old school but it’s perfect for getting a fantastic overview of the city. I buy a new book before every trip and study it before I go. A bit of prior research can make a big difference. Use your smart phone to get familiar with some of the areas you want to visit.
For me this trip, having a more authentic experience involved taking a course. I attended the fabulous 2 day Blogcademy workshop. I learnt a lot about blogging, meet some incredible people, had fun and hung out in Brooklyn.
Use the amount of people to your advantage
There are people everywhere in New York City! Literally millions of them are in Manhattan at any one time.
While some people might find this a bit overwhelming, I say use it to your advantage. For starters blending into crowds is easier. This way you won’t feel like you are sticking out by being on your own.
You can also leverage positive energy from having lots of people around. New York has an energy and buzz that is quite unique. Tap into that and feel invigorated.
Lots of people around also means interesting people to talk to.
Talk to people
One of the reasons many people don’t travel by themselves is because they are worried about being lonely.
To be honest this isn’t a problem for me. I live in a two bedroom townhouse with myself and my beautiful boy so I’m used to spending time alone.
Whilst I wasn’t lonely, I’m still a social creature so I made the effort to speak to people. I randomly chatted to people at restaurants, bars, and cinema lines. I had a lovely conversation with a local woman while waiting to see a Broadway show. I had dinner one night with a fellow traveler after meeting at the hotel bar.
The trick is to reach out to people.
I have a lot more to say on this particular subject so stay tuned for a separate post on this topic!
Get comfortable dining by yourself
A lot of people find dining alone intimidating though sometimes I wonder why. I have been in restaurants where couples next to me barely spoke to each other during dinner. Having a dinner companion doesn’t necessarily translate to someone to talk to!
This trip was the first time I had a smart phone, so if I didn’t feel like talking to people over dinner it was easy to use the phone as a barrier of sorts. As a reader I often have a book in my bag, which is perfect for reading over a solo lunch if I feel like it.
Most of the time however I relax, enjoy myself and people watch. New York is a fantastic people watching town!
If you are uncomfortable sitting at a table my yourself, find a restaurant with bar service (there are tonnes of them in New York). Most people eating at the bar are by themselves so you will blend right in.
If you know you will be traveling alone, practice dining out in your home town. Spend the time getting comfortable with dining alone before your big trip.
Choose your accommodation wisely
Hotels in New York are expensive. I’m not even going to sugar coat that for you. Paying for a decent room by yourself (including all of the taxes) can be a bit of a financial hit.
If you are up for it there are hostels. I’ve stayed in hostels before in other countries but nowadays my personal preference is to have my own bathroom.
Hotel rooms can be small so be prepared. I’ve lived in small apartments so it doesn’t particularly bother me. With so many things to do in New York, you don’t spend a lot of time in your room anyway.
Because I was travelling alone, I put a lot of thought into picking my hotel. I stayed at Pod 39 on 39th Street just off Lexington Avenue. I loved it! The room was small (it was called a pod so I was fully expecting that) but the hotel was clean, safe and social. The social elements were one of the deciding factors in choosing the hotel.
The hotel had a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Salvation Taco, a games room (which I used one day when it was pouring down raining) and a fabulous open rooftop bar which I used many times! Though I could have stayed in a cheaper bed and breakfast, I choose the Pod specifically for its social aspect.
Next time I’ve decided to take the plunge and try Airbnb, where you stay in someone’s house to have a more authentic New York experience at a cheaper price, depending on what accommodation you choose naturally!
Location location location
Of course it’s not just about what facilities the hotel provides its about the hotel’s location.
Regardless of whether I go with a group of friends or by myself, staying near a subway station is a must. On my recent trip my closest station was Grand Central (42nd Street) which has to be seen to be believed at peak hour! It was 3 short blocks from my hotel and had easy connections to other subway lines.
When travelling (and let’s face it at home as well) safety is paramount so pick a safe and busy neighborhood (thankfully this describes most of Manhattan’s neighborhoods nowadays).
Whilst I did catch taxis to restaurants at night, I did find myself making the most of the local restaurants near the hotel. Keep that in mind when booking a room. If you want to try a lot of restaurants in Chelsea for instance, look for accommodation closer to the area.
Ask around before you go overseas
New York is a popular holiday destination. You might be surprised how many people you know might be there at the same time as you.
The timing was perfect for me this trip. One of the ladies from work was holidaying with her husband and we all caught up for dinner one night and two of my other co-workers were also in town.
Ask around at work, run it by your friends, ask your friends if any of their friends are heading over when you are. You might be pleasantly surprised who is in town at the same time.
Use common sense
Don’t go staggering around drunk either by yourself or with any new friends you might have met (ie total strangers).
Don’t be stupid about your safety.
One evening after dinner with friends in the Meatpacking District I walked back to my hotel. It was about 26 blocks uptown and 9 blocks across. Normally I would have jumped in a taxi. Being my fifth trip to New York I knew the areas I was walking through well. I stuck to the main avenues which were crowded with people (many of them walking home from dinner themselves) and made sure all of the side streets I walked down were busy, well-lit and again streets I knew well. There was no chance of me getting lost.
I used my common sense and had a lovely evening stroll back to my hotel.
Trust your gut
This piece of advice pretty much applies to everyday life regardless of whether you are at home or traveling alone.
If you have a feeling something or someone is suspect, trust your instinct. If you sense trouble get the hell out of there.
You will be amazed how many people will walk towards possible trouble because they want to see what is going on! I saw this happen first hand in Italy years ago. There was a commotion at the train station, a SWAT team or the Italian equivalent were pouring out of an armored vehicle and tourists were walking towards them to snoop around and see what was going on. Seriously?
Me, I was walking swiftly in the opposite direction.
Do whatever you want
This my friends is the joy of traveling by yourself!
You can do whatever you want. If you want to stay out all night you can. If you want to sleep in, ditto. If you want to spend all day in a museum you don’t need to fight with your friends who would rather be shopping. There is no compromising with people on what you want to do.
You decide what you want to do with your time. Heaven!
If you want to travel but don’t have anyone to go with you, don’t miss out! There are so many solo travelers out there having the time of their lives.
Be brave and make your dreams come true, get out there and travel by yourself!
Have a fantastic time and don’t forget to write and tell me all about it.
When are you going to make your New York dream happen?