20 Solo Trips in 2020: I Traveled Solo During COVID-19

Twenty readers share their travel trials and tribulations in a challenging year

tourist Young woman wearing medical mask

Phynart Studio / Getty Images

We’re celebrating the joy of solo travel. Let us inspire your next adventure with features about why 2021 is the ultimate year for a solo trip and how traveling alone can actually come with amazing perks. Then, read personal features from writers who have traversed the globe alone, from hiking the Appalachian Trail, to riding rollercoasters, and finding themselves while discovering new places. Whether you’ve taken a solo trip or you’re considering it, learn why a trip for one should be on your bucket list.

In a year where "social distancing" and "six feet apart" became some of our most often-used phrases, it seems traveling solo was one of the only ways to cure the wanderlust while also following CDC guidelines. We were really curious what solo travel looked like in the middle of a pandemic, so we asked our readers directly: Have any of you taken a solo trip last year? And what was it like?

It turns out they had! After sending out a survey to our readers via our daily newsletter, to our coworkers at Dotdash, and by sharing it on our personal Instagram stories, we received more than 60 responses from people who had traveled alone—or perhaps with a furry companion—in the last year.

Some people had planned their trip at the beginning of 2020, right before "COVID-19" had become a household word, and the world as we knew it began to shut down. Others needed a break from reality after losing their job or family members due to the global pandemic. Even a few intrepid travelers undertook cross-country road trips to meet a new member of the family. While most stayed state-side, a few took to the skies and went abroad.

From funny anecdotes to heartwarming, inspirational tales, read on for 20 stories of solo travel experiences in 2020. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Wing, 41, Connecticut

I went on a solo road trip from Connecticut to Maine and Acadia National Park. At the time of my trip, I had been in lockdown for over six months. I was eager to go out and to be on the road again. I told my close friends about the trip for safety concerns. Although this was not my first solo trip, this was the first time I went on a hiking trip by myself. I spent a night in Portland on the way there and the way back and stayed at a motel in Bar Harbor while in Acadia. I would also say that this was a lobster roll tasting and lighthouse sighting trip—because #wheninmaine. I also witnessed an amazing sunrise on Cadillac Mountain and sunset at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. The hike was challenging at times, but the view was rewarding. One day, it was pouring during my hike, but the experience was still worth it.

Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple) in Luang Prabang, Laos. Xieng Thong temple is one of the most important of Lao monasteries.

pigphoto / Getty Images

Holly, 64, San Diego, California

I started the trip in Myanmar with my daughter. She had to return home for work, so I continued by myself to Luang Prabang, Laos. I happened to arrive there on March 17, 2020. just as the pandemic news took hold and the world started going into lockdown.

As people fled to their home countries, I embraced the lack of crowds and got to see and do even more than I had hoped. I was able to visit the sites and restaurants with no crowds or waiting. I enjoy learning the history of a region from a local’s perspective, so for two days, I had a guide take me on a full-day jungle hike and to the historical tourist destinations. The guide was prearranged through my travel agency in San Diego. 

I stayed at the Sofitel Luang Prabang, which was wonderful! Knowing I was alone, the staff kept an eye on me to ensure I was safe and always returned from my adventures. They went out of their way to make me feel at home and cared for.

The only problem I had was getting a flight back to the U.S. when my original flight was canceled. Due to the pandemic’s sudden escalation, I could not get through to the airlines to get rescheduled. Sitting on hold for hours in Laos was not an option—I had to have my daughter, back in the U.S., contact the airlines on my behalf. It took her almost eight hours on hold before she reached an agent and could reschedule my flight. The lesson I learned here is always to have a contact in your home country who can jump in to help if needed.

I was the last person to leave the hotel after waiting to get a flight back to the U.S. The staff never made me feel like I was a burden and honored all of my prepaid activities. They provided me with masks and hand sanitizer before I left for the airport. I felt very safe and protected from the virus while in Asia, which was not the case when I returned to the U.S.

Traveling solo during the pandemic was actually an awesome experience. I loved the flexibility it gave me and the time to appreciate the sites at my own pace. The timing and ability to have the city to myself was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'm sure this was just the first of my solo vacations.

National Geographic Orion, Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

Ralph Lee Hopkins / Lindblad Expeditions

Alex, 63, Calgary, Canada

I was fortunate to get all my travels done in February 2020 before the world shut down. I went to Antarctica and combined it with travel in Argentina and Colombia. The Antarctica part was with Lindblad on a National Geographic expedition vessel, and it was an amazing experience. I stayed in boutique hotels in Buenos Aires and Cartagena and at a wonderful estancia a couple of hours outside Buenos Aires.

Because of COVID-19, we were questioned by Lindblad before the trip started and again on board by the ship’s doctor before leaving port in Ushuaia. But the questions were focused on travel to China and contact with people who had been in China. Once we were on board, we had no contact with anyone off the ship (other than penguins) for 10 days. We had planned to drop mail and some killer whale biopsies taken by a couple of whale researchers at the U.S. research station at McMurdo, but the folks at the station said they did not want anyone from the ship coming to the station. So the delivery was done on the water by a transfer from one of our Zodiacs to one of theirs.

It was a bucket list trip and one I was going to do with my wife. Unfortunately, she passed away a year earlier, so I felt I was doing this for both of us. We had traveled a lot in the years after she was diagnosed with cancer, so it was very difficult not to have my travel mate with me on this trip. She was definitely with me in spirit. 

Madeline, San Diego, California

I've been unemployed and felt compelled to help flip the senate seats in Georgia. I had some money in my savings and a very kind gentleman, who I met in San Diego at a Biden/Harris victory small gathering, graciously offered me his family home in Augusta free of charge. I had not traveled during COVID-19, so I was very apprehensive about getting on a plane and even going to an airport, but I knew I had to take this historic trip.

I volunteered my time, knocking on 1,000 doors and having meaningful conversations about systemic racism, voting rights, democracy, and the importance of voting. I will never forget my trip to Georgia and the kindness shown towards me. I went to diverse neighborhoods, predominantly in communities of color, and felt welcomed and received so many "Bless your hearts" for deciding to come to Georgia from San Diego. Every vote matters! Black people, young people, the elderly, the poor, and the marginalized—their votes matter, and I wanted to make sure that they used their vote as their voice!

South Beach in Miami with white sand, clear turquoise sea and blue sky,

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Micha, 43, New York, New York 

I had travel credits because all my 2020 plans were canceled because of COVID-19. I decided last minute to do something for my birthday and go to Miami. I usually travel with a group, and I love the nightlife, but because of COVID-19, I didn't want to travel with my squad. I needed the time alone. I had lost my beloved grandmother, possibly to COVID-19, and I'd been waiting for months for her death certificate. I had friends die, and relationships end. I was going through it. Not to mention before the Rona came around, I lost my mother, paternal grandmother, aunt, brother-in-law, and about three close friends. 

I almost canceled. I knew a few people that traveled and were fine, so I basically talked myself into it. Up until it was time for me to leave for my train. I went in late September, and although it wasn't the normal crowd, it was a crowd. NYC has set guidelines, and Miami seemed like a free for all. And this party girl was traumatized. But my motto is no matter what, I shall have a good time. And I did.

Geneva, 52, New York, New York

It started as a girlfriend trip to Las Vegas, but when COVID-19 hit, and the restrictions started, everyone felt it best to cancel their reservations. I kept mine, hoping for the best. By the time I reached the date of my trip and landed at my destination, the shutdown effects were evident.

I spent most of my time in my hotel room, watching the two commercials that were constantly being broadcast about washing your hands and avoiding contact. I went out, but all of the businesses had closed. I was hoping to see a show, but it was also canceled. I walked the barren streets of Las Vegas, known as the "The Strip," but it was more like "I Am Legend."

I had told my family about my trip—I was traveling to a timeshare owned by my aunt—and they realized that I was going despite my friends' cancellations and wished me well. My family knows that I never back away from any travel opportunity. I flew only a few weeks after Sept. 11. I was one of the last to leave Ft. Lauderdale when Hurricane George almost swept away my timeshare resort and the surrounding beach. I completed my 50th birthday trip in Mexico after tearing all four muscles in my right knee. I respect the occasional natural pushback and provide somewhat cautious optimism in the face of adversity. And yes, I shared pictures on Facebook of my amazing view of the Strip from my hotel room.

Karen, 52, St. Louis, Missouri

I went to a tiny cabin through Getaway with my younger dog. No TV. No distractions. Just time outdoors doing some hiking, sitting by the campfire, reading, and enjoying being away from it all. The tiny cabin was simple yet had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t. It was perfect, and I can’t wait to go again.

Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York,

Wendy Stone / Contributor / Getty Images

Kelly, 38, New York, New York

I wanted to explore other parts of New York State I've driven past hundreds of times but never had the time to go there. Because of COVID-19, I found myself with a few extra vacation days left in October, so I took time off. I told a few people—I love traveling solo, but as a single woman, I think it's important to share with at least one person where you will be for safety reasons. You just never know. 

I spent five days and four nights in Beacon, New York, an adorable, kind of hipster town on the Hudson River. I went hiking around nearby Cold Spring, ate at several yummy restaurants and coffee shops, went to three breweries, visited the Dia Beacon art museum, went to Benmarl Winery(a beautiful spot even on a rainy day), and ended my stay with a visit to Storm King Art Center—a place I had been dying to visit for years. 

New York State was actually a little less restrictive compared to New York City. Indoor dining was open at a higher capacity—I was actually able to sit at a bar for the first time since March 2020. I also think COVID-19 affected my Airbnb rental policy—I had to commit to a four-night stay when normally I would have just planned to stay for a weekend. 

In the end, I'm glad I had the extra time because I was pleasantly surprised with how much there was to do in Beacon, and I wouldn't say the COVID-19 restrictions hurt my trip. I actually love the fact that there was limited capacity in Dia and Storm King to avoid crowds—can we keep that forever?

Sunset in Mount Moran, Snake River, Tetons, Oxbow Bend, early autumn

Daniel Viñé Garcia / Getty Images

Dana, 26, Washington, D.C.

My brother and his wife live in Southern California, and they had their first child over the summer. I was dying to meet my nephew! I had a few weeks off between jobs, and I always dreamed of backpacking through Europe for a month. That wasn’t an option with COVID-19, of course, so I set out through some U.S. national parks. I planned to fly to Lake Tahoe and embark on a two-week socially distant road trip through Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada, Sequoia National Park, and end in southern California. 

But this was in September, and the West Coast was on fire, and the state of California more or less shut down. With 48 hours until my flight out, I replanned and rerouted the entire trip to drive east through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado—and it was epic. I saw aspen trees turn bright yellow in Great Basin National Park. I saw hundreds of bison in Yellowstone. I hit my brakes to avoid hitting a moose crossing the road in Wasatch National Forest. I watched the sunset on the Grand Tetons after an incredible 12-mile day hike. I camped and slept in my car and cooked the majority of my food to avoid people. To see my baby nephew, this was the deal. 

The grand finale of my trip was in Vail, Colorado, where I reunited with my brother after not seeing him for 10 months due to the pandemic—and finally got to meet my two-month-old nephew! Seeing family and getting to hike every day made driving 2,700 miles SO worth it.

Erika, 48, Atlanta, Georgia

Every year for my birthday, we go skiing—but if we can't, my husband drops me off at the airport for a weekend getaway. I don't know where I am going until I get to the airport, so I pack super light. Picking up what I need while there is part of my birthday gift. This year, he sent me to Philadelphia for the weekend. It was great. I slept, Netflixed, shopped and ate at every veggie restaurant I could get into in Philly.

Rob, 35, Dallas, Texas

I was laid off from my job due to COVID-19, and I needed a break from the real world. I flew to Portland, Oregon, then got a rental car and drove to the Oregon coast. I camped in several different campgrounds and cooked my dinner each night under the night sky with a fire on the beach. I loved trying the local markets for fresh fish and oysters. It was much needed. I loved hiking amazing trails throughout Oregon and truly got to see America’s beauty.

Zagreb main square and cathedral aerial view, Croatia

xbrchx / Getty Images

Anonymous

I have withdrawal pangs if I can't travel to Europe each year. So I went to Croatia, specifically Zagreb and Split. I went there because they allowed U.S. tourists. I had to have a negative test within two days. Zagreb was incredibly common sense about COVID-19 restrictions. Croatia was not that high on my list then, but it is now. I loved it and plan to return and explore more—but I didn’t tell anyone—I want to keep it a secret.

Dawn, 38, Tallahassee, Florida

After moving to Florida a few years ago, there are still many places I had yet to explore. With international travel ruled out, I thought a trip close to home to see a new city would be a great plan. St Augustine is only a few hours away and seemed like a good choice for a long weekend trip.

I stayed in an Airbnb with contact-free check-in and check-out about 15 minutes outside of town. I could have stayed in the city, but I wanted to be on the water. The place I stayed had amazing views from a balcony and the bedroom; it was tucked away in the woods and so quiet, perfect for recharging after a long week at work. It was worth the drive to the historic city center. In town, I explored all of the historic sites, did some shopping, and visited museums. I tried to be as safe as possible—I always chose outdoor seating at restaurants, and most of the historic sites were outdoor.

A woman taking a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge near sunset.

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Carolyn, 36, Iowa

I was going on five months stuck in the U.S. due to COVID after I was supposed to relocate to Australia for my job, and my cat died.

So I took the Amtrak California Zephyr train from Iowa to San Francisco! I would have never thought of that type of trip, but due to COVID, I didn’t want to fly. Amtrak had 50 percent capacity limits at the time, but my train was only booked 30 percent. It was fantastic—I got a Roomette, so I had my own space, could lay down to sleep during the two nights I was on the train, all of my meals were included, and the scenery was AMAZING through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Northern California. The best part was there’s nothing to worry about once you’re on the train—you just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride! #slowtravel. 

I spent two and a half days in San Francisco. Hotels in California were at 25 percent capacity, so I stayed at the Hyatt near Fisherman’s Wharf. I just ordered Doordash in SF for dinner and ate on a patio—socially distanced—for lunch. I took a city tour the first day that included a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and up to the Muir Woods to walk amongst the redwoods. The tour company needed business so badly they gave me a private tour for a group tour price. The second day, I roamed through Fisherman’s Wharf, rented a bicycle, and rode through Golden Gate Park out to Ocean Beach.

The private room on the train, capacity limits, and mask requirements overall made me comfortable enough to take the trip. My expectations weren’t great for a trip during COVID-19, but I was pleasantly surprised and have recommended it to so many people.

Danielle, 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I live in Philadelphia, which has one of the highest rates in the country. I live alone in a tiny apartment, have high-risk family members I couldn’t risk staying with, was single, and most of my friends have been taking precautions—so I was very lonely and depressed being alone all the time.

At the time of my trip, I was volunteering in Indiana for a month at a hostel when my position ended early. Since I didn’t need to be home for another month, I took advantage of it and saw a part of the U.S. I had never been to. I went to northwestern Tennessee, then down to Chattanooga, Red River Gorge in Kentucky (twice), Louisville, and Mammoth Cave National Park. I also house sat three horses and two dogs on a farm in Kentucky and spent a few nights in Indianapolis and Morgantown, WV. 

I picked places that had decent hiking and outdoor activities. Other than Indianapolis, I avoided big cities. I also stuck with areas with low rates of COVID-19 and was ready to change destinations if cases spiked in the area I was in. When I wasn’t house sitting, I stayed at Airbnbs that had limited contact with others (though I did stay in private rooms in hostels in Indianapolis and Red River Gorge). I had a lot of driving and hiking time to enjoy myself and ponder what is next for me, as I have been at a crossroads.

I don’t want to be selfish and give the virus to someone from being reckless, so I was a little hesitant about my adventure. I decided to take very extensive precautions—I didn’t go to restaurants or bars for the most part, geared up just to pump gas, got groceries delivered, used bottles of sanitizer, etc. I stayed active and was a lot healthier than I would have been alone in my apartment. I also didn’t get COVID-19. I have no regrets.

I shared some of my trip on social media, as I’m an independent travel agent and I want people to know it’s possible to travel during COVID-19 responsibly. I did see a friend in Indianapolis, but it felt disrespectful and irresponsible to mention that. I told some friends and family about my trip, but travel is a sensitive subject (understandably) to many right now, so I tried not to brag about it or post too excessively online. I have had a few people make comments, but people were relatively positive about my travel for the most part.

Zach, 36, Reno, Nevada

I went to Escalante, Utah, to hike new trails and visit undiscovered (to me) treasures in one of the nation's greatest monuments. I hiked to the Golden Cathedral and marveled at this oasis in the desert, an aptly titled place to worship the solitude and majesty of nature. I took my dog, Max, and hiked around the canyons off Highway 12 above Calf Creek Falls, as well as going out to an overlook of the Escalante River. I traveled more roads and trails, but some things are only going to be memorable to me.

I safely visited a friend in Escalante, but I didn't share my trip on social media. I had to tell my employer to get approval for time off, and I told people after the fact, but it wasn't something I broadcast at the time. I wore masks as required and distanced when necessary; otherwise, I didn't feel that any part of my trip presented a risk to others.

Mother Black bear looks for her cubs as she walks along the Wonderland Trail inside Mount Rainier National Park.

DCrane08 / Getty Images

Lori, 57, Massachusetts

At the age of 56, after my 26-year marriage ended in divorce, I discovered a love of camping, hiking, and national and state parks. 

With my lease in Bellingham, Washington, up on Sept. 30, I left the state to move back to Massachusetts. Because the pandemic kept me from seeing people (and I wanted to avoid winter weather in Massachusetts), I decided to take six months to drive cross country and it was amazing!  

I was new to hiking and hiked at Crater Lake National Park, Lake Tahoe, Joshua Tree National Park, Zion, Grand Canyon. and many state parks. An amazing start to the trip was seeing a mama bear and her two cubs while hiking at Mount Rainier National Park. All on my own and for the first time ever, I didn’t make any reservations more than five days in advance. Also for the first time, I went car and tent camping, and stayed at amazing campsites oceanside and in the Redwood Forests.

I’m an outdoor person and rarely have interest in shops, restaurants, museums, and indoor venues in general. Outside was the safest place to be and I loved it.

Anonymous, 70s, Indiana

I was scheduled to fly out to Colorado in April to see my new grandson, but COVID-19 exploded and shut down our world.

Last August, I made the two-day, 1,500-mile trip from Indiana to Colorado to finally see my grandson and, of course, his parents. I have made this trip many times with relatives or my dog, but in 2020, I was totally alone.

Because of COVID-19, I didn't know how many hotels, gas stations, rest stops, and restaurants would be open. In the past, I drove until I was ready to stop for the night but to avoid any unpleasant surprises, I made a reservation at a motel in western Oklahoma.

The pandemic limited my activity on the road trip. I didn't spend time looking around in tourist shops like I usually did. I was extra careful in my hotel room, wiping down places I would be touching. I took my own pillow to use in the hotel and in the morning, I put it in a laundry bag to wash before reuse. Usually on the road, I have an early morning breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but that was not an option. They provided coffee and pre-wrapped breakfast pastries, which weren't appetizing. 

But when I got to Colorado, I was happy to spend my time getting acquainted with my grandson.

Seattle Skyline and Space Needle
Joel Rogers / Getty Images

Wendy, 53 Tennessee

I’ve been a NICU nurse for 32 years, so I ran away, if you will, primarily to escape the hospital setting.

My first flight took me from Memphis to San Francisco. I stayed a few nights in San Francisco. My favorite adventure was a pre-booked sidecar tour of the city. It was fantastic! From there, I flew to Palm Springs to see my nephew (who is an ICU nurse). After a couple of days with him, I flew to Seattle for five nights (Pike Place Market is a fave!). I also booked a Kenmore air tour of Mt. Rainier and other mountain ranges. The pilot tipped the wings when we circled the top. I also booked a two-hour nighttime spin in the Space Needle lounge with beverages and appetizers! I could not get into the Seahawks game due to COVID-19 but had an eagle-eye view of the stadium from the rotating Space Needle.

Theresa, 62, Saratoga Springs, New York

With the local areas beginning to reopen, I needed to get away. I also wanted to draw attention to my “own backyard.” Writing stories about travel spreads the love to places around me, and I feel that's important—especially now.

I traveled to a town about two hours away from me. I stayed in a beautiful historic inn and wandered around waterfalls in the area. Breathing in the fresh air—and being able to stay socially distanced—was quite a relief. I took a private tour through a museum that wasn’t open and enjoyed an amazing outdoor art space. I was nervous, for sure—but also impressed with all of the safety measures taken wherever I traveled those few days.

Was this page helpful?