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How to Tell Your Family About Your Solo Travel Plans

When planning a solo trip, you’ll eventually have to tell your family and friends about your plans. Some people will be supportive and others will think you’re out of your mind. Some people just don’t get solo travel. Your parents will worry about your safety. People may try to convince you not to go. They may simply think you’re crazy or weird. 

You will get all kinds of questions and comments. People may ask you why you’re traveling alone or why you’re traveling for so long. They may bring up news stories about crime or people who went missing while traveling in attempt to scare you. Some may suggest you travel in the U.S. instead. They may suggest you travel with a friend or join a group tour.

Knowing that your loved ones don’t support you can be really discouraging. It may cause you to start second-guessing yourself. You may start to doubt your abilities. Maybe you’re thinking about canceling the trip. 

In this guide, I’ll talk about how to go about telling your unsupportive friends and family about your solo travel plans. The best way to handle the situation will depend on your circumstances, your age, your finances (are you paying for the trip?), your living situation (do you still live at home?), your culture, and your individual family. Everyone will react a bit different.

I started solo traveling when I was 18 years old. I caught a flight from LA to London 2 weeks after my high school graduation. Telling my family was one of the hardest parts. In this guide, I’ll share how I dealt with it.

Zac on safari in Kenya
In Kenya on safari
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Some Questions and Comments to Prepare for Include:

  • Isn’t it dangerous?
  • You’re going alone? Why don’t you go with a friend?
  • It must be nice not to have any responsibilities
  • Why don’t you get a job?
  • Why don’t you travel around the U.S. instead?
  • How can you afford it?
  • Traveling alone isn’t safe
  • Why would you go there?
  • When are you going to find someone to settle down with?

You’ll hear these questions from your parents, spouse, siblings, friends, family members, and coworkers.

In the following sections, I’ll explain how to address some common criticisms. 

It’s important to remember that as long as you’re you’re over 18, financially independent and living on your own, and paying for your own trip, nobody can tell you not to travel. It is nice to take your friend’s and family’s concerns into consideration but at the end of the day, you have to make your own decisions and live your own life. Book your trip then tell your family and friends about it.

Do Your Research

Before you tell your friends and family about your plans, think about all of the questions they might you ask about your trip and do your research so you have an answer. If they ask you for details about the trip and you don’t have a decent answer, they will worry. They may feel that you’re biting off more than you can chew. They may believe that you’re not competent enough to travel on your own. You’ll also feel embarrassed and frustrated after the conversation is over. 

Before your trip, you should research the security situation in the countries you’re visiting. People will tell you that your trip isn’t safe and that you shouldn’t go. Some people live in fear. 

Read travel advisories for the countries you’re planning to visit so you know about the various crimes and scams that exist and which regions to avoid. It can help to look at crime statistics. You may find that the places you’re visiting have lower crime rates than your home town. If you’re traveling to a destination with a low rate of crime, show them. Explain to your family that you’re not going anywhere dangerous and you know the places to avoid. If they try to tell you it’s dangerous, you can explain that it is safe.

You should also research the costs of everything. Your family may ask how much the trip will cost and how you’re going to afford the trip. You need to have an answer. If you don’t have an answer, they will worry that you’ll run out of money.

You’ll also want to research accommodation options. People will ask where you’re going to stay. Look into hostels, hotels, Airbnbs, etc. Show your friends and family pictures of the room.

Research transportation routes. Someone may ask how you’re going to travel from A to B. You need to have an answer. Are you going to take a train, bus, flight, or ferry? If you tell them that you’ll figure it out when you’re there, they will worry.

When I was preparing for my second solo trip, my dad was concerned for my safety. It just so happened that he was working on a project in Compton, California at the time. I told him that where he’s working is far more dangerous than anywhere I’ll be traveling, statistically anyway. He agreed.

Zac at Petra
Petra, Jordan

Know Why You’re Traveling

You should also have an answer about why you’re going traveling alone. This can be a hard question to answer. You could tell them that you’re interested in learning about the culture or that there is a particular site you want to see.

You might also explain that you are at a good point in your life to travel. Maybe you are between jobs. Maybe you don’t have kids or a spouse yet and you want to travel before settling down. People will understand this.

Create an Itinerary

Give your family an itinerary. Write up a basic plan of your trip. This way, they will know where you’re going to be. Knowing where you are will really help to calm their nerves. 

In your itinerary, you should include all of your flight info, the accommodation you’re planning to stay in, and all of the activities you have planned. Include as much detail as possible. For example, write down flight numbers, departure and arrival times, hotel phone numbers and addresses, etc. 

If you’re traveling for several months, you probably won’t have everything booked and planned out but you can still create a basic itinerary. Your itinerary doesn’t have to be exact. You can still be spontaneous and make changes as you go. 

Having an itinerary really helped when I took my friend traveling. His parents were very concerned because he had never traveled before. I created a detailed itinerary with our plans for every day. I included the contact information for every hotel we were staying in and information about all of our flights and transportation. This assured them that we knew what we were doing and that we had a plan. This seemed to calm them down.

Zac at the Taj Mahal
At the Taj Mahal on my second solo trip

Plan Your Communication

Explain to your friends and family how they can reach you while you’re abroad. Knowing they can reach you at any time will be very reassuring for them. 

It may also be helpful to set a communication schedule. Set a particular time of day or day of the week when you will call. This may be necessary due to time differences.

Sometimes your family may not want you to go simply because they will miss you. If they know they will speak to you regularly while you’re away, they may feel a little better about the whole thing. 

It’s important to have a plan for how you’re going to keep in contact with your friends and family while you’re away. You could use WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, email, etc. These days, there are lots of free options.

You can buy a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination or buy an eSIM in advance so you are always reachable. You could also pay for an international phone plan.

It can also help to post to social media. When you arrive in a new country make a quick post to let everyone know you made it safe. This is a nice way to let your extended family and friends group know that you’re safe. You can’t call everyone every day. It would be too time consuming. 

On my first trip abroad, I pretty much relied on email to keep in contact. I didn’t travel with a laptop or phone back then. Most hostels had common computers that I could use to contact my family. Almost every night, I sat down and emailed my dad and grandma. Once in a while, I would pay to make a phone call home. I mostly used pay phones and a phone card. On my second trip, I had a smartphone. It made staying in contact so much easier. 

Show Them That You Have Thought About All of the Risks and that The Trip is Safe

Try to emphasize that the trip you are taking is safe. Your family’s biggest worry will be your safety.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong while you’re traveling. The airline could lose your luggage. You could eat something bad and get food poisoning. You could get robbed or pickpocketed. It is even possible that you could get involved in some kind of freak accident. You never know. 

Your friends and family may bring up these risks. Try to show them that you have a plan in case things go south. 

Show them your travel insurance and explain how it will cover you if you get sick abroad or if something gets stolen. Explain how you have all of the required travel immunizations. Show them how you have made copies and backups of your important documents and that you have written down the emergency numbers of the countries you’re visiting. 

This will show them that you have prepared for every situation you could encounter and that you are aware that there are some risks. 

Zac at Cape Point, South Africa
At Cape Point, South Africa

Show them Your Budget

Some family members may be concerned with your finances. They may ask, can you really afford to travel? Shouldn’t you save that money for something more important? Isn’t travel expensive? How can you afford it? 

Show them that you have made a budget and that you have planned for every possible expense. Research the cost of airfare, accommodation, transportation, food, drinks, activities, insurance, and every other expense you’ll encounter. For help budgeting, check out my guide, How to Create a Budget for Long Term Travel. 

Travel can be a lot more affordable than people think. Some people’s idea of travel is staying in a fancy resort, eating out every meal, and renting a car to go sightseeing. If you’re staying in hostels and using public transport to get around, you can travel on a surprisingly small budget. 

This helped with convincing my dad about my trip. He was very concerned about the money I was spending. I researched the cost of everything and showed him that I had more than enough saved up.

Some people will also ask you, why don’t you just get a job? They have a point. Unless you’re already wealthy, you’ll have to work at some point. The truth is that most of us will work until we die. Taking a few months off to travel won’t ruin your career. Spending a few thousand dollars on a trip won’t ruin your retirement. You can always work. 

Tell Them About Other Solo Travelers

Some people have never even heard of solo travel. They don’t know it’s a thing. In many people’s minds, travel means going to a resort for a week with the family and then returning home. The idea of traveling alone for several months seems insane.

Showing people that there are other people traveling like this can be helpful. There are plenty of blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books about solo travel. There are also large Facebook groups and Subreddits about solo travel. Show them that we exist. For example, check out my YouTube video about the pros and cons of solo travel:

Pros and Cons of Solo Travel

Solo travel is actually surprisingly common. A significant percentage of the people I meet in hostels are traveling alone. Your family will think you’re less crazy if they know that there are lots of other people doing the same thing. 

It is also helpful to explain how you won’t be alone all the time. You will meet locals and other travelers during your trip. You may take day tours, attend classes, etc. Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you’ll be alone all the time.

Show Them What You’re Packing

Your parents may worry about whether or nor you’re prepared. For example, if you’re traveling to someplace with a cold climate, they may worry that you won’t be warm enough. Show them the clothes you’re packing so they know that you are prepared for the climate.

This helped calm my mom. She was always worried about whether or not I’m warm enough. Before I traveled to Patagonia, I showed her that I have a nice warm jacket, hat, and gloves. Knowing that I will be toasty warm calmed her.

Make Plans For When You Return Home

Some people may assume that you’re running away from something. They might think that you’re running away from responsibility or that you’re having some type of mental breakdown.

If you have plans for when you return home, it may convince them that you’re not. Even though you may be traveling for months, it’s still just a vacation and you will return to normal life. You could make plans to go to school, start a job, or just do something fun with your family when you return. Knowing that you will be back will be calming for them.

It can also help to explain that you are simply choosing a different lifestyle than them. You aren’t running away from anything. Us travelers are often weirdos and misfits. We’re not running from anything. We just make different life choices.

Zac at Coconut Beach, Palawan, Philippine
Palawan, Philippines

Try to Calm Their Nerves

Take some time to listen to all of the questions and concerns of your friends and family and address them. Don’t just dismiss them. This will show them that you understand their concerns and that you are considering their feelings. If you just ignore them and tell them not to worry about it, they will just worry more.

They may have some valid concerns. Think about what they say. Try to find solutions to all of their worries and answers to all of their questions. This will really help to calm their nerves. 

Another thing that can help is showing them pictures or Google Streetview images. Sometimes, they will get it when you show them a picture of what you’re going to see. Showing them some street view images of the outside of your hotel will also show them that you’re not going to be staying in a war zone or a ghetto. 

My mom really understand why I would want to travel until I came home and showed her some of my photos. Then she got it. She was amazed by some of the cities I have visited that she had no idea existed.

What If You Still Live at Home or if You Rely on Your Parents for Money?

If you still live at home or if you rely on your parents for money, your parents may have a little more say in whether or not you go traveling.

I have heard stories of people’s parents threatening to kick them out or cut off financial support if they go through with their solo travel plans. This can happen if you’re a young traveler and you’re still dependent on your parents. Some parents may threaten to stop paying for your college expenses if you’re a student.

This threat could be used as a means of control. Some parents do not want their kids to leave. Your parents may simply not think you’re ready to travel. It could also be for financial reasons. They may not want to finance your trip. Even if you’re paying for it, they are indirectly financing it by covering some of your living expenses if you live at home.

If you still live at home or if you are dependent on your parents, you will have to take their concerns into consideration. If they kick you out or stop financial support, you could find yourself in a difficult situation when you return home.

They do kind of have a valid argument. If you can’t afford to move out and live on your own, maybe you can’t afford to travel. It may be best to wait until you’re older and more financially stable. 

Of course, everyone’s situation is different. Some parents just like to control their kids. They may be trying to stop you out of fear. Whatever the case, this kind of reaction can put you in a really tricky situation. 

Even if you’re older, living on your own, and financially independent, your parents may still try to talk you out of going solo traveling. I have even heard of people’s families threatening to disown them if they go traveling. This is usually out of fear. 

If you’re an adult living on your own and paying for your own trip, there is nothing your parents can do to stop you from solo traveling. They can try to guilt you into canceling your trip but they can’t make you cancel. At a certain point, you just have to listen to what they say then make up your own mind, even if if they get upset. 

Zac Scuba diving in Thailand
Scuba diving in Thailand

Dealing With Unreasonable People and Negative People

Some people simply won’t listen to you. They are unreasonable. If you tell them that the trip is safe, they will tell you that you’re wrong. For example, maybe you tell your parents that you’re planning to go to Prague and they make some kind of absurd claim that you will get kidnapped without any evidence to back it up. There is nothing you could tell them to change their mind. Sometimes you convince them that they are wrong. 

Some people will just be negative about everything. They’ll tell you that you’re spending too much, that you’re making a mistake, and that you will fail and come home early. It can be hard to convince pessimistic people. They will always look at the negatives and never consider the positives. 

Some people will say passive aggressive things like, ‘It must be nice not having any responsibilities’ or ‘It must be nice to be able to afford that’.  People who say these types of things are just envious. Maybe they have a job or a family that prevents them from traveling. Maybe they’re just bad with money. They may not want you to go simply because they can’t do the same thing. In some cultures, people try to drag others down to their level.

Someone might ask, why would you want to go there? People who ask this have no curiosity. They can’t comprehend why you would want to go someplace that they don’t consider nice. I got this a lot when I went to Russia a few years ago. A friend of mine asked why I would go to Russia when I could go someplace nice like Australia. The best response I could think of was that I was just curious to see what it’s like. I like going to off-the-beaten-path destinations sometimes. 

Some people may go as far as to sabotage your trip. They may make up some reason that you have to stay home or try to guilt you into staying home. They might try to tell you that you’re abandoning them. 

Your culture can also play a role. In some cultures, family is everything. If you come from one of these cultures, traveling alone may sound crazy to some of your family members. This can make telling them more difficult.

You just have to accept that some people won’t be happy with your decision. Some people won’t support you, no matter how much you try to convince them. These kinds of people can be irritating but it is what it is. You can’t make everyone happy.  

Even if you go traveling agains the will of a close friend or family member, they will forgive you. Chances are, they will be happy to see you when you return home.

Zac at Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Do What Makes You Happy

At the end of the day, you just have to live your own life and do what makes you happy. Maybe you find that you don’t like solo travel and that your family was right. That’s fine. Now you know. Maybe you fall in love with solo travel and continue taking solo trips for the rest of your life. That’s great too. 

The first time you tell your family about your solo travel plans will be the hardest. The next time you do it, they may still have some questions but it will be easier. The time after that, it will just become normal for you. Solo travel will be your thing. People will expect it.

Don’t Ask First

It’s also important to make it clear that you are going when you tell your friends and family about your trip. You aren’t asking them for permission. You are telling them that you’re going. If you sound wishy washy or if you ask them if it’s a good idea, they may try to convince you not to go.

If you’re afraid of your family talking you out of it, book your trip first then tell them that you’re going. When everything is booked, it’s harder for them to tell you not to go.

Don’t Lie

It may be tempting to tell your parents that you’re going with a friend or that you’re going with a tour group. This may make things easier but you shouldn’t lie to your parents. If you get caught, they won’t trust you. They will also worry more.

My Experience

I was pretty young when I took my first solo trip. I planned the trip when I was 17 then I left around a month after my 18th birthday and 2 weeks after my high school graduation. For my first solo trip, I spent 3 months traveling around Europe with a Eurail Pass and staying in hostels.

Nobody really tried to talk me out of it but some people were more supportive than others. My dad suggested I wait until after college to travel. He understood my desire because he traveled quite a bit when he was younger. He really wanted me to get an education before traveling. My mom was just nervous and feared for my safety. I tried my best to reassure her so she wouldn’t worry too much. 

I had the hardest time telling my grandparents about the trip. While I was growing up, I was very close to them. I knew they would pooh-pooh the idea. I didn’t tell them until around a month before I left.

They ended up taking to the idea surprisingly well. They did suggested I travel in the U.S. instead of going to Europe. It was strange to them that I would fly all the way to Europe when I hadn’t traveled my own country. They also decided to delay giving me my high school graduation gift until I returned so I wouldn’t spend it on travel. When I came home, they gave me a few hundred dollars, which was generous. I emailed my grandma almost every day. One of the best parts of the trip was reading her emails every night on the hostel computer.

How has your family reacted to your solo travel plans? Share your experience in the comments below! It might help other solo travelers.

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