Solo travel hacks for the solo 20 something.

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As all of you who have been following The Empowered Woman Project know, I set myself the challenge to travel to the US alone.

I booked a flight to New York last Tuesday from Edinburgh on the following Sunday.

It was important to me that I did every part on my own so even when family and friends offered to take me to the airport, I politely declined and decided to wing it, Mandy style! That’s the new and empowered route after all, right? (it’s a work in progress)…

I’m a 28-year-old female who’s just following that wanderlust with an open mind, an open heart and lots of positive energy but I’d like to provide you with some tips to make the most out of your solo adventure should you choose to go for it. And I’d like to eliminate any doubts you may be having over booking your very own solo trip.

A lot of my advice is tailored to New York City but I’m sure it is transferable to going to any large cosmopolitan city on your own for the first time.

  1. If you want to go somewhere, go.

I cannot stress this one enough.

Whether it’s because, like me, you used to be hooked on old fashioned Hollywood films and are excited by the sheer sexy and grit of New York or just because you heard about a pretty and secluded lake somewhere in Canada, trust your gut instinct and book a flight to go to that place you’ve been dreaming of and experience it for yourself.

Travel ANYWHERE is so accessible if you want it badly enough.

I have always had a crazy pull I can’t describe from New York City. From a young age, everything about the place speaks opportunity and creativity to me and there’s inspiration to be found on every street corner.

I first visited when I was 22 with my soon-to-be ex-husband (I bet he can’t wait for his corny cameos to end…) and I remember arriving into JFK airport with butterflies in my tummy. I saw yellow cabs whizzing by and heard broad accents just like the ones in the movies. That’s the stuff life is all about. Chase that. Whatever that is. It may be pie in the sky to some people but that feeling /sensation resonates with you for a reason, feel it and chase it.

On returning from NYC for the first time, I remember just binge watching shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl just to feel closer to the city I love. I remember learning street names and reading the New York Times and dreaming of what the commute to work may be like if I lived in Manhattan.

So, chase your wanderlust.

  1. DON’T worry too much about meticulous planning and preparation…

This may seem like the opposite of what you’d expect to read here and in some people’s opinion’s a bit airy fairy but honestly, don’t sweat the big stuff!

Providing you have worked out how much money you can afford to spend each day and you are disciplined enough to stick to this, that’s really all there is to it.

Google is your friend on a lot of these points so if there are any sights you’d like to see or major tours that you fancy, check out the specific website for prices and buy what you can before you go but most places allow you to pick up a ticket on the day for things which makes your stay a little more flexible. Being alone also helps on this because you’re not needing the venue to accommodate a family of four or a large group for example.

New York City in particular is exciting and there is so much to see but It can get overwhelming!

So although I am saying not to meticulously plan and prepare, do still roughly set out what you’d like to achieve that day. But just a few scribbles to guide you.

For example:

Monday – Empire State building and midtown

Tuesday – Downtown and the world trade centre, wall st

And try and stick to it.

You’re on holiday and you’re alone.

The beauty of that is you are entirely flexible where your plans are concerned so sometimes, if you do get caught off track, it’s not a disaster. You may even stumble upon something more exciting than you’d first planned for! This happened to me when I accidentally arrived at the Whitney art gallery. But by planning a few things while you’re in a specific part of town certainly cuts down your travelling costs and allows you to cram more into your busy days.

  1. Don’t be afraid to use public transport.

When in a new city and unaware of your bearings, it can be an extremely daunting task to take to the bus or subway systems alone and with confidence. The good thing about using the public transport system in Manhattan is, it’s cheap and quick and believe it or not, Manhattanites are very helpful if you are stuck or need some extra directions.

Taking a cab is a nice thing to do on a couple of occasions because you are able to see some of the city but you will do enough of that by walking, trust me! And taking a yellow cab can be a little pricier. Anything between $10-20 to get from A to B depending on congestion in the city and of course how far you want to go.

A single ticket on the underground Metro system which is valid for 2 hours costs $3. This can take you the full length of the city if you want it to just one stop so it’s excellent value for money. Just make sure you enter at the right side because once you’ve swiped it, it’s no longer of any use. When I say the right side I mean that there is usually an entrance at either side of the street for each subway station. One will say ‘Uptown’ and the other will say ‘Downtown’.

Make sure you know which direction you need to be moving in!

But yes, my biggest piece of advice here is to not be afraid to ask for help. You are on your own and people in New York City especially love to know they can be of assistance! So just ask. Like I posted on the Facebook page earlier today, what’s the worst that can happen?! You may even strike up some good conversation with a local.

  1. Don’t be afraid to take yourself out / make new friends!

This section is dedicated to Karina off the TV, Steve (the bar man in Knickerbocker with the magic tricks!), Jim, Mr Hayes (thank you for the encouragement to follow my fire), Kevin Shapiro who’s done Ricky Martin’s makeup and who I know will become my BFF when I finally make the move, Normal but homeless Matt in the coffee shop, Sassy Francois who works in the film industry, Michael the broker, other Michael who designs bespoke pieces for Tiffany’s, the Serbian designer who paid for my steak in Rocco’s (thank you for that lovely gesture, Iger), not-so-normal Matt the failed tinder date who sang out of tune Motown to me in the Karaoke Cave who you are all desperate to hear about!, Barjuice the karaoke guy (please someone remind me to go into this in more detail at some point!), Jonathan the bouncer, Margo the girl from breakfast who is also seeking empowerment from The Netherlands (hello, Margo!), the travelling family from Charlottesville who were in New York City to play in the marching band for St Patrick’s Day and last but not least, big Drewmoo off insta who I met on a chance encounter at The Gramercy Theatre with all the directions (saved the last spot for you because I can’t get your EYES out of my head, dreamy bassist bearded lifting man, where did you even come from?! Thank you for the Mexican..).

These are just some of the amazing individuals I had the privilege to meet while on my solo trip.

My only advice on this one is to just be open!

Take yourself to a bar and strike up a conversation, don’t cut yourself off from potential chat in coffee shops! You never know who you may meet and what doors those people could open for you.

Be personable, approachable and friendly. There is a coffee shop I visited which I posted about on my page called ‘Birch’ which actively encourages customers to have a sign on their table which acts as a conversation opener. I think this is a great idea. Manhattan is busy but their culture dictates a togetherness which I just adore. Also, restaurants usually have table seating for solo diners at the bar which also encourages chat over dinner with other solo movers.

Get out, explore and chat some hours away with locals. Some recommended haunts for doing this in from my experience are:

Rocco’s Steakhouse

Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse

Rob’s Steakhouse (I do eat things that aren’t steak, sometimes…)

Lotte New York Palace Hotel

Birch Coffee

Any Starbucks!

Knickerbocker Bar and Grill (my absolute favourite bar in New York… adore)

Karaoke Cave (obv)

The Wooly (Downtown)

And just any wee bar you stumble upon! Take yourself in, order a drink and see what happens.

  1. Do scrimp on accommodation (this is if you’re alone!)

So it’s your first time in the new and amazing city or your first time travelling alone.

be afraid to spend a little less than you think you need to on accommodation.

I had a single private room in a hostel (which I HIGHLY recommend) called the American Dream (very appropriate given that’s what I think I’m chasing!). It came in at about $50 per night but that included a crisp white double bed, TV, free WIFI, a breakfast buffet and kitchen facilities and was in a fantastic central location.

In the past, I’d have been discouraged by the word hostel but this place is like a home from home for the individuals staying. I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. It is immaculate and within walking distance of everything you could need. Free tea and coffee and oreos all day every day too so you’re never short of somewhere to relax among likeminded people.

The nice thing about breakfast is it’s in an open plan environment like a homely kitchen so conversation is, once again, encouraged and I shared many a pleasant conversation over my morning coffee! I found it to be a real melting pot of culture and wouldn’t be scared to go for a hostel again in the future.

That’s really it for now, there is loads I could add but I don’t want to bombard and I now have the fun task of writing all about Matt the tinder date for my next post! It’s nearly 1.30am here UK time so I’m clearly still jet lagged as I’m wide awake and bashing these keys.

I hope some of what I have shared here has been of some use, particularly for those who’d like to replicate my solo female Manhattan trip!

If you’ve any questions or comments, as always, please feel free to pop these below or contact The Empowered Woman Project on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Love and wanderlust,


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