Solo is a go-go
Marybeth Bond spent two years traveling alone as a single woman and loved it. Now married, she still flies around the globe regularly. The best part? She's the boss.
"You make all the decisions yourself, and you're much more open to meeting other people and more open to people talking to you," said Bond, author of "50 Best Girlfriend Getaways in North America," and frequent contributor to National Geographic and CNN.
"You experience the world unfiltered by others' emotions or input."
The idea of women traveling alone doesn't raise eyebrows like it did centuries ago, but there's an art to the freedom and safety solo trips offer.
The few women pursuing solo travels through Travel Unlimited in Florence, usually travel domestically, said owner Tracey Smith. One of her clients recently flew to Orlando and rented a hotel room with a view and never left the premises.
To marry relaxation and safety rely on your gut, Smith advises.
"The main thing women should do is use their God-given instincts and common sense," she said. "If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't."
That includes locating hospitals and embassies before departure and always carrying ID and valuables, said Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing manager for AAA Alabama.
Check in with family and friends regularly, too.
"You need to make sure you have somebody back home that you stay in contact with," he said. "Make sure they know how to reach you at all times."
In certain cities and countries that matters even more.
"Jamaica is one of those places where you have to be aware, especially if you go off the resorts," Smith said. Though she doesn't travel by herself, she and her husband rely on tips from cab drivers about parts of town to avoid.
Despite the discovery and confidence boosts often resulting from trekking solo, downsides exist.
For starters certain methods of travel cost much more than others. Cruises, for example, usually cost less for couples or groups than for an individual.
Other times, you miss extra witnesses during a snapshot moment.
"Sometimes there's a beautiful view or something really fun, and you'd like to share it," Bond said. "And it can be more expensive. If you're traveling with a girlfriend, you split a lot of things."
Her record of dangerous situations on her travels is scarce. In her visits to more than 70 countries, alone and accompanied, "I was pick-pocketed in Paris - that could happen to anyone. Nothing else has happened to me because I'm traveling alone," she said.
To prevent unsolicited attention, she refrains from walking at night and pays more for a taxi if streets are deserted. She recommends making hotel reservations in advance and finding out if airports offer shuttles to hotels.
While she discourages wearing any valuable jewelry or jewelry that could be mistaken as valuable, she always remembers to slip on a ring.
"If I'm traveling alone overseas I wear a gold wedding band and tell people I'm married," she said. "I am married, but before I was married I did that."
Think twice about slipping on a revealing sundress: "When in doubt, dress very conservatively," she added.
Then, go for liberal amounts of positivity.
"The wonderful thing about traveling alone is you feel so good about yourself," Bond said. "You realize you are a gutsy woman."