Backpacking with a friend can be a distinctly different experience to that of solo travel; almost as important as deciding where to go is deciding whether to go backpacking solo or with company.
Personality Issues to Consider Regarding Solo Travel or Group Travel
Firstly, your own personality. If possessing a largely independent personality leaning towards freedom and personal space then a solo travel may be a wise option. Conversely, if normally more at ease and more secure in the company of others, sometimes restless when alone, group travel may be a better choice.
Secondly, consider the personality of the friend (or friends) with whom potentially travelling. If they are in the ‘best friend’ category it is a safer option: both having a good understanding and acceptance of each other’s flaws, a tried and tested relationship that is both dependable and well-matched.
This is even more important when considering travelling with a girlfriend or boyfriend; a backpacking trip of 3–6 months or more is a considerable test of any partnership.
If swaying more towards solo travel but still not totally decided then here are a few factors, both positive and negative, to bear in mind:
Positive Aspects of Traveling Alone and Backpacking Solo
- Greater freedom and choice to go where you want, when you want.
- Meet more people: a solo traveler is often more approachable. A traveler backpacking solo is more actively seeking social interactions both with locals and other backpackers, not having a constant companion to rely upon.
- Learn the local language more rapidly: if the chosen destination has a language different from the traveler´s own, he or she is more likely to pick it up quickly traveling solo. This is because the backpacker will be doing all the talking (without relying on a companion to share the load) and won’t be speaking their native tongue continuously with a friend.
- Find a traveling companion on the road: starting off backpacking solo doesn’t mean always staying that way. Other backpackers will be met on the way and will often be heading along the same route. If a bond is formed it is not uncommon to travel together for a while, separating when plans diverge or changing plans to carry on together.
- A more rewarding experience with a greater sense of personal achievement. The feeling, when the trip is over, that you ‘did it alone’ can be a very satisfying one.
The Negatives of Traveling Alone and Backpacking Solo
- No company in those moments of ‘downtime’ when having little to do (in hotel rooms, on buses etc). A long trip, no matter how exotic the location, can be boring at times. Eating alone in restaurants is a particular drawback.
- Practical safety issues: no-one to watch your back, or your bags. An extra pair of eyes can be very valuable, especially in countries with higher instances of crime. It is also handy to have someone reliable nearby who will take your photo without running off with your camera.
- Solo travel can be more expensive. Better prices in hostels and hotels can be negotiated when in a group: a single room will usually be more expensive than the shared price of a double. The same applies when paying for tours and/or guides: more people makes for a lower individual price.
- If the planned trip involves camping, equipment is far more efficiently carried in two backpacks or more.
- No shared experiences: this is especially important when returning home. While experiences will be shared with other backpackers met on the road, sharing them with a life-long friend is a different thing.
Solo Traveller or Going with Backpacking Groups….. It’s All Good Fun
These are only a few points to consider when trying to decide on solo travel or group travel. Naturally, much will depend on the backpackers own personality as well as the kind of experience being sought. The most important thing is to pick up that backpack and get going, whether backpacking solo or with a friend.
Flying Solo With a Baby
For most parents, the thought of flying solo with a baby can be intimidating. Following are some tips to help make the experience run as smoothly as possible.
Allow Plenty of Extra Time at the Airport
Be sure to arrive at the airport well ahead of the departure time. Checking in can take longer than usual because airport staff will need to examine baby’s documents (passport, paper ticket, etc.), and seating arrangements may need to be changed. Going through security will probably take up the most time. Even simple things such as using the restroom take twice as long when a baby is involved. More than likely, baby will also need to be fed and changed at least once before boarding, which will take up more time.
Ask for Preferential Boarding and Seating
Most airlines allow families traveling with children to board with the first group of passengers. Parents traveling alone with baby should definitely take advantage of preferential boarding since, once on the plane, it will take longer to get situated without an extra set of hands.
If you have not purchased a seat for baby, ask at check-in to sit in a seat with more leg room, and enquire whether there are any seats reserved for disabled travelers and families traveling with children. In some airplanes, but not all, the bulkhead seats are the best for this. Some airplanes are equipped with bassinets for young babies. Bassinets attach to the bulkhead and are ideal for parents who are traveling alone with baby. Bassinets cannot be booked in advance and must be requested from a flight attendant on board. If a bassinet is not available, ask to sit in a row with a couple of empty seats next to you so that baby can lie down.
Take an Umbrella Stroller
An umbrella stroller is ideal for traveling because it is lightweight and folds to a compact size. An umbrella stroller is useful for transporting baby through the airport and can be checked at the gate. On most airlines, umbrella strollers are exempt from baggage regulations. Umbrella strollers are inexpensive and can be purchased from most major baby retailers.
Wear a Baby Carrier
A baby carrier allows mom or dad to “wear” baby on his or her chest or back, leaving hands free to push luggage trolleys, lift items onto the conveyor belt at security, or place bags in the overhead bins once on board the plane. Extra caution should be used, however, when lifting heavy items around baby. In this case, it is probably best to ask someone to help you.
Ask for Help
The most important thing to remember when traveling alone with a baby is to ask for help when you need it. Airport staff and flight attendants are used to working with parents traveling alone with babies and are usually more than willing to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s asking a flight attendant to lift a carry-on bag into the overhead bin or to hold baby while you use the lavatory, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Flying solo with a baby isn’t easy, but the right equipment and the right attitude can make the flight easier for both parent and baby.