As international borders open up, traveler extraordinaire Valerie Joy Wilson shares her advice for traveling alone and staying safe.
In an Instagram Live interview with Blacklane, Wilson — a.k.a. Trusted Travel Girl — discussed her experience during the crisis, her top tips for traveling solo, and where you should go for your next adventure.
Traveling during the Coronavirus
Wilson contracted and overcame Coronavirus following a speaking engagement in Los Angeles, California.
“It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to go through, especially early on with so many unknowns. I was one of the first couple thousand people in the United States to have it,” said Wilson.
Returning to Albany, New York brought its own set of challenges.
Having disclosed to her booking agent that she’d contracted COVID-19, Wilson assembled paperwork showing she was clear of the virus, assembled her protective ensemble, checked in using CLEAR to limit her social interaction, and prepared herself for a food-free flight.
During the flight, she even had to insist on social distancing herself.
“They moved me up to First Class and then they tried to sit me next to someone, and I was like “Oh no, no, no! 1A is empty, I need 1A!” I was like, I do not want to sit next anybody, you’re promising social distancing, what is this… This was kind of before airlines were being called out for not actually social distancing,” said Wilson.
Tips for staying safe on your next trip
When booking flights, having all the information available is key.
“Some airlines are social distancing and blocking middle seats and some aren’t… It’s easy for you to find that information if you are really concerned and trying to decide which airline to take. Also, you can check the seating chart and you can use Expert Flyer to see how full your flight really is,” said Wilson.
Wilson is a huge advocate for personal protective gear, both to protect yourself and the people around you.
“You want to make sure you have everything that you need to keep yourself safe, which is an N95 mask, a face shield… There’s always somebody, or a couple people, that think they’re special. So, the problem with that is that they’re the ones that can get you sick, so you really need to make sure that you do everything so that you’re in control of the situation, as opposed to relying on other people to do what they need to do,” said Wilson.
Wilson also highlighted that some American airports now allow up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer as an exception to the usual liquid allowance.
“It’s uncomfortable sometimes to tell people, “Excuse me, stay six feet away,”… but you know what, I’d rather come off a little bit rude and stay protected and have that travel experience than not be able to travel at all. My other suggestion is just to speak up for yourself when you need to, and you can always still be polite,” said Wilson.
Changes are coming to solo travel
“I don’t think [solo travel]’s going to be going anywhere anytime soon. There’s definitely a lot of people that have learned to spend some time with themselves recently, and so maybe feel a little bit more comfortable being alone than they otherwise would have,” said Wilson.
“I also think you’re going to see those single supplement fees disappearing on tours to kind of entice people to get back to travel.”
This will especially apply to cruises, says Wilson, which base their cabin prices on double occupancy.
The downside Wilson forecasts is that the socialization aspect of traveling solo may be limited in the future. While meeting new people of different cultures is a big part of the draw of solo travel, she warns that people may not be so open to taking the risk of hanging out with new visitors.
On the bright side, Wilson said that if a vaccine comes by January as predicted in the United States, you can feel confident booking in the first quarter of 2021.
Wilson’s top road trip routes
Wilson has a variety of recommendations for traveling by yourself throughout the United States and abroad, starting with road tripping through Oregon and paying a visit to Bend and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.
Other American destinations Wilson recommends include Southern California — specifically the undervisited Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Santa Barbara — and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, where Wilson grew up.
Across the pond in Europe, Wilson recommends Italy, France, and Spain, but also the lesser known Estonia.
“Another Rapunzel, fairy-tale-looking one is Tallinn, Estonia. I’m a huge fan of Estonia because it’s one of those places that is not overrun… I drove from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia, and that’s a great little drive, those are some great places you can visit. You can stop in Pärnu, Estonia which is a cute little town on the way to Riga, so if anybody’s visiting that region, check out those places as well,” said Wilson.
The ultimate tip: Just get out there
“If solo travel teaches you anything, it teaches you to be your own best company,” said Wilson.
“It builds your confidence, it helps you immerse yourself in the destination, it’s not going anywhere… If you’re the type of person that is afraid to take that first solo travel step, I think you can really look at taking advantage of some of these group trips that are going to cut the solo travel fee.”
“That’s where companies like Blacklane so come in handy, they’re like your security blanket. As a solo female traveler getting out there the first time can be a little nerve-wracking… it’s a safe way to do it and dip your toes in, and then gradually you’ll get more comfortable being a little more adventurous,” said Wildon.
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Learn more about how you can travel city-to-city with Blacklane’s chauffeur services, and how our revamped Health and Safety Standards can help you travel with confidence.