Won’t I get lonely? What happens if I get lost? I can’t afford it. These are all common questions and concerns Solo Travelers have for me since I started Culture Trekking. While I could explain and argue these and many more, the bottom line is that you need to first choose a destination that fits your concerns. So here are, what I consider to be, the Best Destinations for Solo Travelers in 2019.
This is by far one of my favorite countries, and the one I recommend to first time solo travelers- especially female solo travelers. It introduces you in a gentle way to a different transportation system than most Americans are used to. It is a smaller airport flying into Edinburgh, English is the predominant language, and everything is so close in proximity in the center of the city that it is easy to walk everywhere. Entrance fees to the major historical sites are cheap, and the entire place is steeped in ancient history with plenty of Folklore, ghost stories, and Scottish Heroes to keep you entertained.
This is a great location for those wanted to experience beaches, culture, and great food, diving, and interaction with other travelers. The prices here are super cheap and you can get fairly good rates on flights because of its increasing popularity. The one drawback to this country is just how touristic it has become, and beaches are often crowded. On the other hand, it gives you plenty of opportunity to meet loads of internationals.
Deemed one of the safest countries in the world. Iceland’s popularity is growing though, ever since Game of Thrones was filmed here, and the photos of the Blue Pool emerged it has become a frequented location by travelers from around the world. While winters can be harsh, the Northern Lights are quite beautiful; the summers are filled with lush landscapes and plenty of Instagram worthy moments. Flight costs are very cheap, but once you arrive the costs of food, gas, lodging, and entrance fees can really put a dent in the budget. Still, for the outdoor enthusiasts, it is a fantastic location for all those Solo Travelers.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Yes, Cabo is always beautiful no matter what time of year you go – marine life, parties, and plenty of beach and sunsets for all. There are plenty of scams that go on here, but if you reserve your adventures and hotels beforehand you should be just fine. Try to stay at an all inclusive resort so that you don’t have to fight for your time on the beach with everyone else. There are several hotels like this in the area. My favorite thing is
This is also a party location, but for those who like to meet people- interact with the culture and yet also have a relaxing evening with beautiful sunset views then a visit to Mykonos is where you need to go for your first Solo Trip. It is a little more difficult to get around, and get to the Island – but due to the amount of tourists wanting to visit the Islands this has greatly improved over the years. There is plenty to see and do on Mykonos – it is an outdoor paradise with views that are unparalleled.
Get an authentic taste of the middle east by visiting this beautiful country. With teal waters, contrasting red/brown surrounding sands and mountains it is hard to not relax in this beautiful country. The people here are warm, inviting, and cater to the tourists. The traditional Bedouin values and warm hospitality will leave any traveler feeling refreshed by the new experiences and send you home with an infectious travel bug. It is a perfect destination for solo travelers.
This location can be surprising for some to see, but after hearing so many of my Scottish friends traveling to Tunisia – I had to include it. With the contrasting Roman mosaics to Islamic art, you will be visually enthralled by contained in this hidden gem. Bask on the beaches of this Mediterranean country and let the warm breeze wash over you and carry scents from nearby markets of Jasmine. Not only are there beaches, but beautifully forested coastlines, and a contrasting short mile away are the Sahara deserts. While some may caution against visiting this country, there are many Scottish Nationals who are choosing to retire here. Be cautious, but also take advantage of all this vastly under-rated country has to offer.
This is an oldie but goodie, because of how many tourists visit Rome – it is a perfect destination for solo travelers. Transportation in Italy is some of the best in Europe – making it very easy to find your way up and down the coast of the beautiful country. After seeing some of the unique places in Rome, be sure to head to the Amalfi Coast and truly feel like royalty surrounded by all things bright and beautiful. The prices are reasonable for accommodation because of all the competition, and entrance fees are moderate but reasonable. There is plenty to see and experience even for those on a budget. It does get crowded, but this city is so friendly – especially if you like to buy dinner for others- food is life in Italy. So Eat, Pray and maybe you’ll find some Italian Lover who will want to whisk you away on an Under the Tuscan Sun Adventure.
New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s Paradise – with so many different activities along each coastline and atop the highest mountain peaks. From glo worm caves, diving, and even a hobbit town – you will come home with a new found love for traveling solo and plenty of stories to make your friends green with envy. Prices here can be a little steep, but the increased budget vs quality experience are well worth the extra effort to get there.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Learn how a city runs green with an urban biking system so complex they even have their own traffic lights for the bike lanes. There is so much nautical history, World War II history, and heroes like Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank – all these are combined beautifully against the backdrop of the canals of the Netherlands. Traveling through Amsterdam and the whole of the Netherlands was such a soul healing experience, even as a solo traveler. The raw beauty, structured and efficient way these people live makes traveling through this country effortless and a perfect experience for those new to solo traveling.
For all those beach bums, that don’t want to get too stressed with the requirements of traveling Costa Rica is a perfect destination. Many of my Solo Female Traveler friends have Costa Rica saved as a favorite getaway. It is also home to one of the last remaining Cloud Forests in the world. Soon these unique environments will be extinct due to global warming. Even if the beach is not for you, traipsing through the jungles, bungee jumping, rappelling down waterfalls or experiencing a zip line over the jungle canopies is a must. The diving available in this area is unparalleled and also considered a UNESCO heritage dive site. Many of the locals also speak English so it is very easy to make your way around
Hear me out on this one – as someone who lived in Las Vegas Metro area for over six years I would argue that this is a great place for Solo Travelers. It has something for everyone. Watch a few shows on the strip, I recommend the Cirque Du Soliel shows. Then head out to Red Rock National Park to get some hiking or rock climbing in with a guided tour from a local. At night go to the container park, and grab some fabulous food at Yardhouse – one of my favorite restaurants with plenty of drinks to choose from. If the container park isn’t your thing, there are plenty of unique things to do in Las Vegas you can choose from that are great experiences for Solo Travelers. The best part about Las Vegas is that once you get off the strip, most of the locals are transplants so many of them are warm, inviting, and inclusive – so it is easier to act like yourself.
This is the Italy of the South, but could you believe it is even more passionate? Pick any time of day and you will find something to do here as a Solo Traveler – from Tango Shows, to Memorial Parks, Recoleta Cemetary, and a Rose Garden full of activities from Tango shows, concerts, paddle boats, feeding ducks and a poet garden you will never get bored. If you do, you can drop by the converted Opera House turned Library – find a book and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Many of the locals speak a little English and are so open and kind it won’t be hard to find and make friends quickly while there.
Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone
There are plenty of people who ask me ‘isn’t it hard traveling alone?’ I almost question myself for not feeling lonely on the majority of my trips. While there are admittedly times where I feel lonely that I don’t have someone to share the experience with. I wouldn’t trade the experiences and people I have met along the way for anything in this world.
So push those internal boundaries we all create for ourselves, and buy your first ticket for the year. Explore all the possibilities and friendships this world holds for you.
I met Jen and Ed from Coleman Concierge at a travel conference in 2017. We hit it off pretty well, considering she had lived in Utah for a while (my home state). They invited me down to Orlando and proposed we do some diving and go swimming with Manatees in Crystal Rivers Florida. They had done some kayaking in Silver Springs where Manatees also visit, and raved about their experience. I decided to take them up on their offer, and promptly bought my ticket to Florida.
Knowing that Manatees are often killed by boats passing by, and they were slow and fat was about the extent of my knowledge about Manatees and their world. Luckily we were able to pair up with Birds Underwater for a tour and my knowledge about Manatees exponentially increased from one afternoon with them. So come take a virtual tour with me, Jen & Ed, and our other friend Katie from The Traveling Spud as we learn just how to ethically interact with Manatees.
The History of Hunters Springs Park
This area was previously owned by a single individual, who upon her death gifted the area to the city as long as it remained free to the public. It was utilized by the surrounding community for many years, with manatees competing for the safety and warmth of the springs.
Over time the area was inhabited by vagrants and unwanted guests that helped contribute to the death and disuse of the property. The city was able to buy an abandoned lot, gave the park a facelift with park benches, a beach, and a playground. This facelift cost around 2.2 million. In order to help maintain the new parking, and the kayak launch there is a minimal charge – but the park itself if free.
Please do not make your own parking spaces, only park in designated areas. Be sure to get there early to get a good parking space.
Starting the Manatee Tour with Important Safety instructions & Ethical Interaction
While it isn’t exactly illegal to see the manatees on your own, I wouldn’t really suggest it. I thought I knew how to responsibly interact with marine life, but I learned so much by taking a guided tour.
My friends and I decided to take a tour with Bird’s Underwater, who are very dedicated to maintaining an environment that is safe for the animals. It was nice to see they were talking about the animals like they would family members they were protecting.
When you arrive, you check in at the front desk to sign a waiver and watch the instructional video on ethical interaction with manatees. The video explains how you shouldn’t dive towards the manatee, reach towards the manatee, pinch them, attempt to ride them, dive near them, wear a wetsuit, don’t kick just use your arms and loads of other things.
I know it sounds like a lot, but manatees are such shy and gentle creatures actions you take are akin to jumping on their bed while they are sleeping. One individual was kicking too much, and ended up kicking a manatee in the face on accident. He got scared, and scared all the other manatees out of the area.
Other general rules that those who were not on a guided tour didn’t quite understand are: don’t hover or corner them, stay a body length away, do not enter the area that says ‘manatee resting zone’, do not talk through the snorkel tube or make cooing noises, be mindful of people near you so everyone has a turn to observe quietly without getting kicked in the face, don’t use underwater lights as the manatees don’t have eyelids and it can blind them. Do not attempt to feed manatees, this can decrease their fear of humans which can lead to more manatee deaths from boating propellers as they will learn to associate the bottom of the boat with food. Last but not least, don’t walk on the river bed, it is silt and if everyone walks or kicks vigorously it makes the water foggy and is more difficult to get good photos/video of the manatees.
Helpful tips: Use a noodle to help float so you don’t have to kick, Gopro beeping doesn’t bother them, be calm and quiet and they will come up to you, manatees love to look at themselves in the GoPro Dome, they are also fascinated with colorful toenails. If the manatee does approach you, always keep your elbow bent and palm open – if not and someone snaps a photo of you then you will be sent a fine of up to $10,000. There are several fish and wildlife patrols in the Crystal rivers area to enforce these rules.
This is the only place in the world that you can legally swim with manatees, so please try to be respectful and not ruin this opportunity for everyone else.
What Birds Underwater has OnBoard
Birds Underwater outfitted us with snorkel gear, wetsuits, and flotation devices (foam noodles). They do a guided tour up the stream, making we stay together as a group and lead you to the areas where the manatees are. Onboard they have hot drinks: coffee, tea, hot cocoa, granola bars etc… (if there is a good guide) available to you free of charge.
There are typically 12 people on the tour which is a little tight when your all there with your gear on and rucksacks and such. There really isn’t a dry area on the boat, so be sure to either have a dry bag or leave your things in a locker in the store. Once your in the boat, pay attention to instructions and stay seated when the engine is in gear (this is for insurance reasons).
When is the Best Time To See Manatees in Florida?
Out of all the companies we looked at in the Crytal River area, Birds Underwaterseem to be the best on all spectrums for a safe, ethical, and flexible interaction with the manatees. They are one of the only tour group that start a tour at 630am, which puts you out in the rivers before all the silt is stirred up and the manatees are scared away. It also allows you to get up to the Three Sisters area (where many manatees go to rest) before the tide comes in and boats are no longer able to get under the bridge.
The best time to go is when there is cold front coming through Florida from November through February. When the ocean waters get cold, and the Manatees search out warmer waters. This can be really hard to time perfectly, but if all else fails, Birds Underwater also has Diving excursions available.
A Short Manatee Biology Biography
Manatees have seal like bodies that taper into a flat, large rear fin; with two forefins that also aid with maneuverability. Each forefin has 2-3 nails on each.
The Manatees closest relative is actually the elephant, even though they are commonly referred to as ‘sea cows’. (Sea cows were hunted to extinction as of 1741). There are three different types: West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, and the ones in Crystal Rivers area are mostly West Indies Manatees.
These mammals migrate mostly around the united states during the summer months have been tracked from Texas all the way up to Massachusetts. Despite popular belief, Manatees are pure muscle, which is why they have to seek those warmer waters during the winter months.
Manatees eat mostly aquatic plants and must surface to breathe air. They typically rest submerged at the bottom of the river bed or just below the surface of the water. When they surface, every 3-5 minutes, for breath, it is a subconscious action that puts them at risk for boat propeller injuries. When they are migrating, they expend a great deal of energy and can surface every 30 seconds. Despite being made of pure muscle, Manatees can only swim up to 20 miles per hour, which made them perfect targets for hunters.
Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal Rivers
After learning all of this information about Manatees, I found myself feeling protective of these unique and gentle creatures. My new found respect for them, allowed me to have a much better experience and appreciate just how lucky we are to have these types of interactions when a few of its marine cousins are already extinct.
Getting into the water, I was very careful to not kick my legs around. Tried to relax into the floating orange noodle I had been given and followed the guide up the river to where the manatees were resting.
When I fist saw the manatee, it was almost as if it wasn’t real. This giant fish, that looked like a pug nose on a walrus body was one of the cutest things I have seen. Especially since it seems they love to push their nose into the silt, or into other object when they are resting peacefully. It endeared me to them in a way, as I can’t get to sleep until my mouth is covered.
I quickly became annoyed at other people who refused to follow the rules, or even the young man who dove down right in front of the manatee with his GoPro to get a picture up close. I was grateful my guide warned us about this, and just told us to worry about how we interact and notify a guide if a manatee is encroached upon or touched and the park rangers would take care of it.
I just calmly floated, enjoying the experience and being able to witness this incredible creature tucked into its river bed sleeping. The manatee started to float towards the surface, and watching it come up for air was like watching a ballarina dance gracefully across the stage – be lifted by her partner and the last stretch to the air above before descending to the floor below. Watching this incredibly large creature be so graceful truly gave me chills.
Eventually the manatee swam away because of a group that came in squealing, splashing and talking underwater. I was glad I was able to get a video before they came in and be able to be witness to something so intimately impactful to me.
After re-boarding the boat, slurping down some warm hot-cocoa and traveling to Jurassic Springs – we were able to see a Mama Manatee and her baby. Our guide told us to listen for the squeaks from the baby to its mama, and I was able to capture this on camera. How sweet the playfulness of the baby, and mindfulness of the Mama to her baby was. Our guide told us about how there are different squeaks for different states that the baby manatee can be in, and demonstrated those for us. This baby manatee was happily playful and wanting to explore a little more.
After quite some time observing this sweet interaction between the two, we all headed back to our boat. While waiting to reboard, our guide called out ‘hey, there are a few coming right towards you’. I ducked my head underwater again, and the water in this area was quite murky so it was difficult to see. Then the massive Mama and her baby manatee swam within two feet of me, seemingly out of nowhere – it startled me quite a bit. It hit me, that even when looking for the manatees, it is still easy to miss them when they are literally right under you. This is the very reason it is so important to use boats without propellers in these high manatee traffic areas, and to be mindful of marine life – it would be so easy to kill a mama and leave her baby to fend for itself. That is one desperate squeaking I hope I never have to hear or witness in my life.
Other Activities Near Crystal Rivers
There are quite a few activities to do near Crystal Rivers once you finish your manatee tour. Birds Underwater have Kayaks you can rent to explore the place, Stand up paddle boards as well. If you are feeling more adventurous take a drift dive tour down Rainbow River where you will see a near natural environment with plenty of fresh water fish. Maybe you would like to take your diving a little deeper out in King’s Bay where the once barren area is showing signs of the bass, crustaceans, and other marine life that should be inhabiting one of the largest remaining saltmarsh estuary systems left along the US gulf coast.
For my fellow Scuba Divers, Birds Underwater also offers a full-service scuba diving training and is a Scubapro Platinum dealership (one of only 23 Platinum facilities in the Eastern US). They offer dive training at all levels. Bill “Bird” Oestreich is the only cave diving, Tri – Mix, and Megalodon Re-breather diving instructor in Crystal River, FL, with over 25 years of technical diving, dive training, and dive exploration conducted in over 5 countries. I will personally be revisiting this area, as I am attempting to be a Master Diver in the near future and would love to gain some of his invaluable knowledge. (Don’t tell, but I feel like I was secretly a mermaid in my past life).
How to Get to Crystal Rivers in Florida
It is 1.5 hours from Orlando if you are driving by car, and car rentals are around $13-$18/day for most rental companies.
If you don’t want to drive, or rent a car; then try to take the bus. This will take a considerable amount of time, but you can take a few different bus lines to Crystal Rivers. The Crystal Rivers bus line will cost around $84 round trip, and take around 4.5 hours to get there. What is a hidden within the route there though, is a stop in Tampa Florida where you could grab lunch and maybe stay overnight before heading to Crystal Rivers.
Jen and Ed (locals) said that the beaches on the west coast of Florida are much better than the East coast. Tampa is also close to St Petersburg Florida which is full of beautiful street art, beaches and relaxed environment.
What to Pack for Swimming with Manatees and What NOT to Pack
Selfie Sticks are illegal when swimming with Manatees. Please don’t bring them and ruin the privilege of swimming with these animals.
Wet suit and quality snorkel are a must, no matter what time of year you visit. I personally did not think I required a wetsuit, but was so grateful I ended up wearing my shorty wetsuit once I got in the water.
Being a first time female solo traveler is a very scary thing, and can cause a lot of anxiety – yet it also will be the best thing you could do for yourself. There are so many things I wish I would have know before taking my first Solo Trip to Jordan to see Petra with a tour group; or my first true solo travel to Edinburgh when I stayed in a Hostel. So Here are a few tips for first time female solo travelers from across the globe, things they wish they would have known before traveling solo.
Have A Set Of Rules You Follow
I was so nervous to travel solo to Edinburgh, as I was recovering from my rape in Texas and was trying to push myself back out into society. I was terrified to stay in the mixed dorm, to walk around the streets of Edinburgh on my own at night. So I set a bunch of Safety Rules to Stay Safe While Traveling Solo. These are rules I ALWAYS follow, no matter who invites me to a particular occasion, or what opportunities come up. No experience is worth compromosing my safety. This doesn’t guarentee that you will always be safe, because humans will be humans – but following certain protocols will decrease the statistics for you.
Despite the risk, the contributing factors of my past, I don’t let fear get the better of me. When you push yourself past your comfort zones, have courage, the gift of traveling alone can truly change your life for the better.
Take It Easy, Don’t Rush The Experience
My first ever solo trip was when Imoved to Spain; for 6 months, I was exhausted, stressed, and/or physically sick over and over again. I couldn’t figure out why – I’d never been sick at home, besides a cold every once in a while. Turns out, I had been so excited over the fact that I was living in Europe and could travel that I wasn’t even aware of how much stress I was putting on my body by traveling instead of taking a break.
That being said, every traveler, especially first-time solo travelers, should always be aware of how their body is reacting to everything. If it’s telling you to take a break, don’t ignore it. Listen to your body and mind, and remember to take it easy. (Contributed by Jamie from CrashedCulture.com)
Be Prepared To Let It Shape Your Personality
Before I took my first solo backpacking trip, I remember myself being a very unassertive person. Even if I was self-confident, I used to think that saying “no” to someone is just wrong and I should do everything to make everyone happy but me.
And then, I felt I HAVE to take that trip (and many more!) far away from people who tell me how I should live my life. And that was the best thing I could do for myself. I was in Asia alone with my thoughts, feelings, insecurities, and dreams. No one could tell me what was wrong or right.
As a result, I became not only more assertive but also more self-conscious and independent. Today I know what I want from life and I am confident about how I want to live it, even if I have to say ‘no’ to someone. If I knew it would shape my personality so much, I would start travelling solo earlier! (Contributed by Hannatravels.com)
Don’t Hold Back, Get Outside Your Comfort Zone – Things Will Work Out
It was 2010 and I was on my semester abroad studying at the University of Reykjavik in Iceland. You might remember – that was the year the unpronounceable volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and sent Europe’s airports to a stand still.
It was easy to get to the volcano from Reykjavik and so our university advertised the unique opportunity to book a helicopter flight to see the eruption up close. All my geology studying flatmates got excited – and me? I did not want to spend the money. It was not the only opportunity I did not seize during my time in Iceland for financial reasons. I also did not join a trip to Greenland and did not participate in the ski-doo expedition on a nearby glacier.
And as you can imagine – I still think about these missed chanced. It’s like they say – you only regret the things you didn’t do! Today, my attitude is different and whenever I am presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on my travels, I will seize it (within financial reason and without piling up debt). One of my favourite recent experiences was anexcursion to St Kilda, a World Heritage Site in Scotland. I spent a lot of money, but I will remember it for the rest of my life! (Contributed by by Kathi from WatchMeSee.com)
It Teaches You To Be Your Own Best Friend
Before embarking on my first long term solo adventure, I had always been quite uncomfortable with the thought of being on my own. I rarely spent time alone and struggled to see the beauty in my own company. My first six-month solo trip showed me how to enjoy the moment I was experiencing through my own two eyes, without the need for another person to validate the enjoyment or happiness I was feeling. It allowed me to become my own best friend and to truly appreciate my own company.
It became clear over time that there is value in experiencing travel both in the company of others, and on your own. If I had known how unique and special it would be to have those travel moments with just myself and my own internal thoughts and reflections, I never would have been so terrified of being alone. (Contributed by Caitlyn from GirlSeekingPurpose.com)
Don’t Listen To The Naysayers
Having traveled alone for over 30 years, I still can look back at my early adventures as a solo traveler in my 20’s when solo travel wasn’t widely accepted and one important thing I learnt is not to listen to naysayers. But how do you deal with negativity when this comes from your family or close friends? I have experienced this. And while at the beginning, it may sound discouraging, my tip is always to try to turn this negativity into constructive criticism. Be open to discussing it and telling how you think. By showing that you are a responsible woman and have well researched your destination, and how safe it is, it will help convey trust and confidence in those people around you. Finally, the main trigger to negative feelings towards solo female travel comes from irrational fear or excessive concern about security. So don’t overreact and instead show from the beginning how responsible you are about your choices. (Contributed by Michela from RockyTraveler.net)
Learn A Few Words In The Local Language
Have you heard people saying how rude French are to foreigners? I’ll let you in a secret: they are not! The issue is that they want visitors to embrace their culture and not for them to expect English everywhere! So, learn a few words of the local language. I can’t tell you how much of a difference just a couple of basic words make. People react so well when you at least try! This means it’ll be easier to interact with locals and make more friends along the way. Start by hello, thanks and please, and ideally “I’m sorry I don’t speak (insert language here), do you speak English?”. I guarantee you’ll get a ton of smiles, you´ll learn more about the culture of the place, and you’ll feel welcomed, no matter where you are in the world, which is especially important when you’re traveling solo. (Contributed by Coni from Experiencing the Globe)
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone
Even though you are traveling on your own, that definitely doesn’t mean that you will be alone the whole time. Having experienced both solo travel and couple travel, I’ve found that I meet many more people when I am traveling by myself.
Staying in hostels is a great way to make friends while traveling. Choose a hostel that has common areas or that organizes dinners or other activities, as this will create more opportunities to meet people. Offering to cook for your fellow travelers in the communal kitchen is a great way to make friends.
While hostels are great for meeting fellow travelers, Couchsurfing is a wonderful way of meeting local people. Your hosts will often be able to give you insider tips on the best bars, restaurants and little-known sights to visit too. Meetup.com is also useful for finding out about local events that you can participate in. (Contributed by Wendy from TheNomadicVegan.com)
Live Like The Locals
More and more people are seeking localised experiences, and wanting to know how a place is special not because of the landscapes, but the people. Even Airbnb has capitalised on trying to “live like a local”, but what if you want natural encounters and still want that peace of mind before you embark on your solo trip as a female?
During my first solo female travel to India, the place where it is seemingly dangerous for women, I sought out locals in unlikely places like Couchsurfing. I didn’t use the place to stay with hosts because I was not comfortable then and was still easing myself to the world of couchsurfing and solo travel, but I used it as an avenue to connect with locals for a meet-up instead.
The meet-ups turned into full-blown adventures, getting invited to their parents’ house, or into help with dealing with the country’s chaotic transportation, and all this would not have been possible without a local. Hence, whether it is Couchsurfing, Meet-Up.com or even Airbnb, just a simple connection with a local and a little curiosity will help you ease your solo travel worries.
So if this is your first time traveling solo as a female, keep these things in mind, be kind to yourself; grab onto your courage and take one step at a time. Your mind will ALWAYS want to do what is safe, and keep your protected. This is what life is, pushing past that blockade of safety, grabbing onto that courage and living our best lives.
It won’t always be sunshine and roses, there will be hiccups, there will always be worries – but when you let go of the control of needing to know what the next step will be – solo travel can be a beautiful and life-changing thing.
To all my ladies out there…. dig deep, get that girl power engine going and never let fear determine your futue.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side 😉
It was my friends first time booking a flight overseas, and I tried to tell her that flying with the more expensive flights that didn’t have as many stops was better than flying the cheapest option. We were headed to Scotland, and she got a great deal on a flight; but ended up spending more money than I did on my flight with Delta. So here are a few hazards to choosing cheap flights that I have found in my two decades of travel.
No Changes, or Additional Help
What if your flight is cancelled due to weather? Will they help your rebook your flight or just give a refund? There are so many tickets that say ‘non-refundable’ but will they give those who paid more priority over those who paid the economy price when rebooking your ticket?
If there is an issue with the plane, mechanics or weather and you bought your ticket through a third party vendor (ie/ Orbitz, or Expedia) the airline is not obligated to help you rebook and you would have to arrange for a different flight with that third party – eventually costing you more.
If you look closely, especially on Spirit, Allegiant, American Airlines, and United Airlines they make you sign a waiver before you finalize your booking.
If you get stuck on the tarmac, you are entitled to food and water within two hours of a delay. If you are bumped involuntarily from your flight you are owed food vouchers; additionally, if the flight is delayed by more than 2 hours you can get reimbursed up to $1,350.
If you book economy flights, it isn’t exactly guaranteed that you are allotted any of these types of compensations. If you volunteer to get bumped to a different flight or volunteer to be put on standby or on another flight you lose all rights to compensation
For example, if your flight is overbooked, which airlines do all the time (and isn’t exactly illegal) – you can get booted from your flight. If not enough people volunteer to take a different flight, then they can legally start kicking people off the flight. They start by kicking people off the back part of the plane, then move their way up systematically based off the people who paid the least amount of money.
There is an upside to those who have been kicked off the plane involuntarily. Those who are “involuntarily denied boarding” of an aircraft on domestic flights (even if they’re already on the plane) are entitled to 200% of their one-way fare in compensation (no more than $675) in cash. When the delay is more than one hour but less than two, according to federal regulation. If the delay is more than two hours, they are entitled to 400% of the one-way fare (but no more than $1,350) in cash.
Frequent Flier Miles
Your Frequent Flier Miles will also take a hit. For example, if you buy a ticket within your country, a basic economy seat might give you 1,811 frequent flier miles to your account. If you buy a premium economy you will get 2,600 miles.
When you go to book your flight, if you are wanting to build up your miles – make sure you check and make sure your getting the most for what you pay.
Many airlines are now only giving you the option of the area beneath your feet to store your one personal item. Even with packing cubes and suction bags, you can only physically fit so much into one space and bag.
If you are allowed to check a bag, it may cost $60 per direction (for most airlines). They can also charge you for the weight of your bag, or decrease the amount of weight that you are allowed to have per checked bag.
A friend of mine flew with a budget airline, that she paid to have her bag checked; the bag was crushed and some things inside destroyed. When she approached the budget airline, they told her that because she had a basic economy seat baggage replacement was not in the budget. Paying more for a bigger airline like Delta (not sponsored to say this) my roommates bag was broken, and they immediately replaced it with an equal bag to what she had before.
So you see, sometimes it is better to pay for the more expensive tickets because of the protection it provides not just for your trip but for what your bringing to or from your destination.
If you don’t like to pay the $8-$80 extra fee to pick a seat other than the middle seat, I’m afraid your going to get stuck in a place you don’t want to sit. I don’t mind paying a little extra myself for a window seat, so I have something to wedge my pillow up against when I sleep. It is also great to be able to take photos of the city as your leaving or as your flying in.
If you are traveling with your family, your children might be at the front of the plane, and you might end up in the back of the plane. On long flights, this might make life extremely difficult for you and your children, so is it TRULY worth the savings?
Leg Room and Seat Assignment
With the Basic Economy, you will be getting those seats that are the least desirable. You will also have to reserve your seat right as soon as they open up the option for choosing your seat– racing your fellow passengers, and hoping for the best internet connection.
For those flights that are 8-10 hours long, I know we would all hate to be stuck in the dreaded middle seat all the way home. For shorter flights the middle seat may not be the worst choice. Your option of having more leg room with the coveted exit row seat will not be an option.
The issue with the more budget friendly airlines, is that they truly aren’t as budget friendly as they seem when you finally reach your destination. In the case of Breanna, my roommate, she bought her flight from Salt Lake City to where the airline was flying out of…Los Angeles. Her flight was delayed in Salt Lake City, which would have caused her to miss her non-refundable budget ticket flight in Los Angeles. This would have cost her another $600 to buy another ticket to Scotland (her final destination).
She was able to get on another flight to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles she had another connecting flight to Iceland. There she would have a 19 hour layover – arriving at 11pm when everything was closed; then leaving at 1pm the next day. There are not many places to stay near the airport in Iceland, so she had to catch a ride into town which was a 30-45 minute ride. Was so jetlagged from all the flying up to this point – she slept through the morning until her ride came to get her to take her back to the airport. Her Airbnb was another expense for her in addition to transportation to and from the airport.
What about staying at the airport? Well unless you have a departing plane ticket, they do not allow you to buy food in the airport. I do not know why, but this is what she reported. In some airports there are also rules that if your flight does not leave within three hours of arriving at the airport – you must collect your bags and belongings and leave the terminal area. Once you leave the terminal area into the public space – there are typically very few places that you can sit or sleep that aren’t cold tile floors.
So when you book your ticket, look at your layover times- if you will be required to check out of that airport, if you are required to change airports between layovers, and if the airline actually flies out of your local airport or if it would require more layover time in another city.
Frontier charges a $25 carry-on baggage fee, which you don’t see until you get to check out. At this point, they want you to just wear what you plan on wearing on your vacation to the airport, on the crowded flight, and if you can’t shove your overly-layered self into the small seats…. well there is a charge for that too.
Norwegian Air Tickets don’t include meals or overhead bin use in its economy class fare prices. So you will need to buy the expensive airport food, and shove everything you brought with you at your feet. This doesn’t seem too bad, but still leaves the wallet a little more sparse (and every cent counts when your on a budget).
I recently returned from Florida to Utah, and Delta was charging $2 for earphones as I had broken mine. I had cash on me, and they only accepted credit cards, so I ended up playing some games and sleeping for the 4.5 hours home.
What is next?
It is hard to imagine that booking a flight could be more complicated and frankly discriminatory. I wonder what will be next? Will they start to charge us for bringing bottled water onto the plane? On my way home from Buenos Aires, they searched my carry on bags again to make sure I wasn’t bringing any water home on the plane. I was so dehydrated from the hot day touring the city I was dizzy.
Will they charge for how much we weigh? There are some fears with obesity passengers that they will require each person upon check-in or when dropping off their bags to sit in a test seat to ensure they fit. Then charge for another seat along with all the other hidden fees. While Canada Air views obesity as a medical disability and doesn’t charge for an additional seat, most airlines require you to purchase an extra seat or only offer a 25% discount for that additional seat.
What about charging for every time we use the bathroom? Will they require us to insert a quarter like some of the subway systems in Europe every time we wish to use the loo?
While flying is becoming more affordable on the surface, I wonder how affordable it will be for the majority of us in the future. Looks like flying will only be for the rich in the future if the consumers don’t start asking questions about these things.
What to Ask Before Booking Your Flight
For any airline, if you are booking with that airline for the first time be sure to ask these things:
1- Ask about what conditions are excluded in trip protection
2- Does your economy fare include or exclude flight changes
3- What compensation is allotted if voluntarily change vs changes are forced on you for over-booking or double-booking. (ie…because my friend volunteered to change her flight, she forfeited any compenstation, was placed on standby for the following flights and kept getting bumped off the list so she ended up missing her vacation completely).
4- If you are a larger individual, what are the rules for needing to buy an extra seat (ie… if over 2″ into the passengers seat next to you, you may be required to buy an additional seat).
5- For In-Flight fees, do they accept cash or card, and if they accept card- what major credit cards do they accept.
6- Do they have pillows, blankets, eye mask, ear phones, ear plugs provided or do you have to bring your own.
**Most airlines charge for Wifi depending on if you use your mobile or your computer. **
In the End Are Cheap Flights Really Worth It?
In the end, it depends on what is the most important thing to you. Are you willing to pack extremely light? Are you ok being in the middle seat, or have minimal leg room and be at the back near the bathrooms? Can you afford to buy another flight if yours is cancelled?
You can take the risk, or you can pay a little extra for the peace of mind. To me, starting a vacation off in a peaceful and relaxed way – knowing that I can count on the airline to help me should something happen to me, my luggage, my flight or the trip is worth the extra cost.
Airlines and Their Hidden Fees, A Resource:
Here is the research I collected to help you book your flight and be informed. This is not all inclusive, but should give you a general idea of the airline hidden fees for either economy or budget fares and what you would get with seat width, carry-on, overhead bin space, meals/beverages, and leg room. Each airline reported here will vary depending on the type of plane it is, and if it is transatlantic vs national air travel.
With a Saver ticket you are allowed a Carry-on, Overhead Bin, pre-flight you can order a meal. Seat width ranges from 30-31 with leg room being 17-18 inches. Aer Lingus charges and rules on food and drink, there are charges on meals and snacks if economy and it is a short trip – a complimentry meal is provided for transatlantic flights.
Seat width ranges from 31-36 inches, with leg room being a standard 17.2 – Be sure to check out their Baggage Allowance before your trip. Food and basic drinks are free, specialty drinks can be charged for depending on the length of the flight. Types of snacks and beverages also depend on the flight but are free.
Seat width from 31-35, with leg room being 17-18 inches. Air Canada Baggage Fees and allowances. A pillow and blanket kit and earphones available for a nominal fee. Meals are available in Economy Class on most flights of 90 minutes or more when you travel on Air Canada There is a fee for the food, except for when there is a stop into a Canadian city on the way to your international destination and then it is complimentry.
Seat width 31-32 inches, with leg room being 17-18 inches. Larger width seats have an additional charge, different rows will have extra charges, and baggage allowance has additional charges. The measurements of your bag, and the weight of your bag can also be charged for. So be sure to check Air China’s baggage allowance before traveling with them. Tea, coffee and soft drinks are free on most flights, the same goes for their meals – but you are given two choices over the intercom. The frequency of meals is based on how long your flights are.
Seat width is 31-34 inches in width, with leg room at a standard 17 inches. There are different seat options for more leg room, position in the plane, and additional seat within the same row…all come at an extra cost. Meals can be purchased, some flights meals are provided. The flights can had options added to them Al La Carte. It doesn’t appear they charge extra for baggage at this time.
Can Charge $6 to $8 snacks and meals. No charge for soft drinks. Seat selection charges are n/a. Different flight booking fees: free if 60 days+ before flight, $125 if less than 60 days, $25 same-day for any flight changes. They will charge $100 to travel with pets.
This is considered a budget airline, they can charge $10 to $35 if checked online, and $35 to $75 at the airport for your carry-on luggage. Fees can be $1 to $13 for all snacks and meals, $2 to $7 for drinks, including alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Seat selection can range from $0 to $75. If you would like to board first that will be another $4 to $12 for priority boarding. With any flight changes that is another $50 to $75 per segment. If you travel with your pet then it is $100 per segment.
Seat width ranges from 31-37 inches, with leg room being a 16.6- 18.1 inch range. Baggage fees, do apply – but they also have other hidden fees you see on this same page for same-day flight changes, customers that require extra space, charges for voluntarily changing your tickets etc… So be sure to browse all their hidden fees. Fees can be $3+ for snacks and meals, $4 to $99 for preferred seats. For priority boarding fees can range from $9 to $40. It is free to book online, but they will charge $25 over the phone, $35 in person for booking. They can charge you $75 to $200 for any flight changes, plus $50 fee if ticket was bought from an outside agency (such as an online booking website other than American Airlines) for any flight changes. If you travel with pets, it will be $125 fee.
Seat width is 31 inches, with leg room being 17.5-18.1 inches. There are different options while flying with British Airways that depend on your seat, baggage, and length of flight that could add extra fees. For short flight hauls they charge $5 for snacks and for soda it is around $2.50; if you are traveling on longer flights or in a different cabin, check out the British Airway menu charges.
Carry-on luggage is free for the majority of their flights, but there are basic restrictions on size and a 35lb weight limit. If you would like to pick your seat there is a $9 to $180 seat selection. If you would like to board first, and ensure you have enough overhead cabin space that will be $10. For booking your flight it is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person for booking. If there are flight changes then it is $150 to $50, with a $50 same-day changes. For earphones, earplugs, facemasks for domestic flights there is a fee. Flying with pets in cabin (domestic flights): $100 each way, international is $125 per segment. If they travel as cargo (domestic): $178 to $669 depending on weight, each way
Per Emirates website: “We make every effort to show all fees and taxes during online booking, but additional fees and taxes may be charged on ticket issuance or at the airport if levied by the country of departure”. Popular flight times can be charged more. They have free WiFi on all flights and can even make phone calls in-flight, complimentary drinks with alcoholic beverages costing more. If you are traveling with kids, they even have toys available for your kids to play with and get special attention from the staff. No extra charges for carry-on luggage.
There are four different options for Economy Fares and three different options for Buisness Fares. Each fare has it’s own restrictions, guidelines and discounts so be sure to review the Ethiad Fare Choices before booking.
Seat width is 31-37 inches, with leg room a standard 18 inches. There are different levels of seating assignment you can choose at extra charges for those needing more leg room, or those who like to be near the front of the plane. Most flights you can have a carry-on and a personal item. For intercontinental flights, you are allowed one piece of checked luggage. As an Economy Class passenger, you’ll receive a generous and tasty hot meal. We also serve an appetizing snack before landing on many of our flights. You can also purchase delicious in-flight snacks at any time. See snack list
Your going to be charged a lot of hidden fees when flying with Frontier. With $3 to $7 for any snacks and meals; $5 to $15 for preferred seats, and $15 to $100 for extra leg room. It is free to book online, or over the phone. For in person booking, you will be charged $75 to $125, and $25 to $100 same-day for any flight changes. While one personal item per passenger is allowed for free, Frontier charges a fee for all carry-on luggage. Carry on bags must not exceed 10″ x 16″ x 24″ in size and 35lbs in weight. Bags exceeding this size must be checked at the gate at a cost of $60. If you are traveling with a pet, expect to pay $75 to $125 per segment.
Seat width is 32-33 inches, with leg room being 17-19 inches depending on the plane. Change fees for passengers in Economy range from $75 to $275, depending on fare conditions, and fare difference may apply, based on availability, when changing flight itineraries. Economy Light, there are no checked bags allowed; while Economy standard allows a size restricted bag. They will require you to measure out your luggage before boarding the plane, unlike most other airlines.
Maximum dimensions of carry-on luggage: 115 cm/45 in (length + width + height)
Maximum weight of carry-on luggage: 10 kg/22 lb
Flights within Europe/Weight Concept: (Europe to Iceland and return) Economy Class passengers are entitled to one checked bag, weighing no more than 23 kg/50 lbs, total of the 3 dimensions (length + width + height) does not exceed 158 cm/62 in.
Transatlantic Flights/Piece Concept: (Europe to the USA and return) one checked bag, weighing no more than 23 kg/50 lbs, total of the 3 dimensions (length + width + height) does not exceed 158 cm/62 in.
For excess pieces of baggage each weighing 1 lb/1 kg to 50 lbs/23 kgs, each piece one-way fee will be charged:
Flights within Europe: $46 each piece, each way
Flights between Iceland and the USA/Canada: $120 each piece, each way
Flights between Europe and the USA/Canada: $132 each piece, each way
Seat Width is 17.8 to 18.25 inches, leg room is 32-33 inches. Carry-on luggage is free. Free snacks, paid meals on short flights, meals provided on long-haul flights. Extra legroom will be $10 to $99. If you are booking your trip it is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person, and $75 to $150 for any flight changes the day of the flight (including re-routing/missed flights). If you would like to travel with your pet it is $100.
Seat Width 17.4-17.9, Leg room . For those with wider girth or ‘passengers of size’ KLM requires that the arm rests be able to move up and down effortlessly and “if you have not booked a second adjacent seat and no second seat is available in the same travel class on your flight, you may not be allowed to travel if your size does not permit you to sit properly in a single seat.” A 25% discount can be offered for a 2nd seat on the flight if purchased beforehand.
Snacks and beverages offered complimentary and vary depending on length and final destination for your flight. For most intercontinental flights you are allowed 1 item of check-in baggage, each max. 23 kg (50.5 lbs), max. 158 cm (62 inches) l + w + h. If you are flying within the US and Canada then KLM Light tickets: 1 piece of hand baggage is allowed. If you would like to bring more baggage you can purchase the extra baggage online with a discount during your booking or in My Trip . For those with Standard and Flex tickets: 1 piece of hand baggage and 1 piece of check-in baggage is allowed. For excess baggage the cost ranges on if you notify them before your flight online or in person, it also depends on where your traveling. So for the 1st piece of luggage it can cost anywhere from $35 to $120 per segment. For the second piece of luggage it can cost you $45 to $300 depending on the weight. Flying with pets can be anywhere from $45 to $120 depending on the flight. This seems pretty standard for most of the larger airlines.
The seat width of most flights is 17.3 inches, leg room averages 32 inches. Extra charges are incurred for seat selection, early boarding, and extra legroom range based on location within the plane, and popularity of flight. A meal and snack is provided if more than 4.5 or 7 hours respectively. For other meal requests or those flights within South America food is available for purchase. For booking through their website there are no charges, but booking over the phone or in person there is a $20-$45 charge.
Seat width for economy class is 17 inches, for economy premium the seat width is 18 inches. For leg room the economy class is 31-32 inches, with economy premium being 38 inches. coffee, tea, soft drinks are offered on most flights and depending on the length of the flight you can get one or two meals that is included in the price. Lufthansa has just updated their carry-on policy for the three different economy fares for Lufthansa (light, classic and flex) – each come with different weight and size restrictions so I suggest you check your ticket and their current policies.
Seat width is 17.3-18 inches, leg room is 31-36 inches. For charges on extra baggage, it will be calculated based on distance flown from point of departure to the final destination in one single itinerary. Rates will be charged on per kg basis (over and above the permitted free baggage allowance of the cabin class). The Economy Class on their airlines seems to offer a little more than most in the way of entertainment. On shorter flights the standard beverages are available, and meals for purchase. On longer flights, they feature local flavors of Malaysia and special meals are available for purchase, you can also upgrade your meal as well.
Seat width varies from plane to plane with 17.2-17.9 inches for seat width, and leg room measuring 31 inches in the economy section. Short flights get a drink and snack with options available for purchase. For longer flights you get a 3-course meal, but if you have a flex or low-fare ticket you are required to pre-order your food. For Lowfare tickets you get one carry-on bag, and a $70 charge for any changes (including name). They also have the LowFare+ and the Flex which are considered the higher-end economy, check out Norweign’s ticket types and what it includes.
Carry-on luggage can be charged for $25 to $30 if you’re a member of the Fare Club, and $35 to $40 for nonmembers if checked online ($50 and $100, respectively, if checked at the gate). It is $1 to $10 for snacks, $1 to $15 for drinks, including alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. If you would like to choose your seat it is $1 to $50, and $12 to $199 for extra legroom. For booking your flight Spirit charges $10 per segment all methods, plus $15 convenience fee – for booking online. If you would like to book over the phone it is $10, and in person the booking fee is $16.99. If you change your flight itinerary it is $115 online, $125 over the phone for any flight booking or changes. To travel with Pets it is $100 per segment.
Seat width ranges from 17.1 to 17.8 inches, leg room ranges from 31-32 inches. There are free snacks and drinks. If you want priority boarding it is $40. It is free to book online, over the phone or in person. To make changes to your flight it is technically free, but will receive difference or refund in future credits. Southwest Airlines (WN) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee-free. They allow two checked pieces of luggage for free provided that they do not exceed 50lbs. To travel with pets it is $95.
Carry-on Luggage is free with the Economy Seat, but Basic Economy ticket and brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge. If you’re traveling on a Basic Economy ticket for a trans-Atlantic flight, you have to check any bags beyond your personal item and full-sized carry-on bag. The charge for the first checked bag is $60, the second checked bag is $100 and third checked bag is $200. Free snacks, paid meals are typically provided for intercontinental flights. Basick soft drinks, tea, coffee and snacks are available for destinations within the USA. If you would like a preferred seat it can range from $9 to $299. It is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person $200, $50 same-day for any flight changes. It is $125 to travel with Pets.
All passengers flying in our Economy or Premium cabins can take one piece of hand baggage per person weighing up to 10kg (or 22lb). Economy class passengers, you can enjoy the Welcome Cocktail, followed by a meal service and then a coffee/tea and dessert service. Afternoon tea or breakfast is usually a deli-style box that is served to passengers just before landing. If you would like a preferred seat it can range from $29 to $129. For flight changes, it is free to book in person or online, $20 over the phone $75 to $150$25 to $50 same-day for any flight changes. To travel with pets it is $100.
Seat width in Economy is 17 inches, 30-31 inches of leg room, with extra-legroom “XL” seats in rows 1, 12 and 13. The WOW Basic only includes one personal item, that might cost $200 for a one-way ticket, but then if you get the WOW Plus then it includes $271 one-way, includes one personal item, one carry-on bag, one checked bag, and cancellation protection. In the end, just buying the WOW Plus will save you more, than going with the basic and adding in the other items most other flights offer. A carryon will cost you $51, a checked piece of luggage costs $71, and cancellation protection costs $26, with an XXL seat you pay another $61.
Seat width is 17.5 inches, with leg room measuring 31-32 inches. There are multiple hidden fees and exclusions with Basic Economy vs Economy Premium on West Jet, be sure to look at the comparison chart of their different fares and seats for fees, baggage, and trip protection options.