Solo travelers can greatly enhance their trips by utilizing 3 social networking tools: Facebook, Meetup and Tripadvisor’s Forums. As Google+ broadens its reach, and new social sites are developed, your opportunities for connecting with people prior to your trip will vastly increase.
My first experience with using social networking for travel took place back in 2003, prior to my first Belize trip. At that time, Belizeforum was more active for travellers, and I met 5 people who I ended up hanging out with in Ambergris Caye. Every day we pursued our individual interests; every night, about 10 of us would meet for dinner.
Facebook is a very useful tool for connecting with people overseas. There are groups and fan pages for most destinations. In addition to finding travel discounts, you can meet fellow travelers and expats who live in the place you’re visiting.
In 2010, I met a guy named Randy when we both made comments on a Paris-blogger’s post about hamburgers. Randy connected me with more Paris-based expats, as well as Alec Lobrano (Hungry for Paris) and the Fabulous Beekman Boys. Although I have a French “family” in Paris, it was great to meet a new group of friends who love to visit restaurants and have free time to sightsee.
Last year when I went to see Waterfire in Providence, I finally got to meet Jerry and his wife Ginny; friends of a Facebook friend, who picked me up at the train, drove me around Providence, then brought me to one of the best Italian restaurants on The Hill for lunch.
On any given night in NYC, there is a Meetup event. Meetups are in most major US cities, and growing. If you join appropriate Meetup groups for the city you plan to visit a few months in advance, you will find a plethora of evening and weekend activities to keep you busy. Even if you’re traveling on business, you can find meetups for the nights you’re not entertaining. Some of the Meetup groups I belong to are Ethnic Dining, Wine Tasting, and Travel Massive – a national travel media group that meets around the country. If I was so inclined, I could attend a food, wine or cocktails Meetup nightly.
While I don’t suggest your first post on a Tripadvisor forum asks strangers to meet you, posters who frequent the forum prior to their trips tend to bond with people. After a few weeks on the forum, it’s likely you will meet other visitors, or locals. There are often dinners or drinking events for regular visitors from the UK, Australia and all over America.
In addition to the Tripadvisor forum for your destination, look for area specific forums. Lonely Planet also has an active forum, particularly its Women Traveller’s group.
For people like me who prefer to sightsee and shop alone, but would rather not eat dinner alone, bonding with people via social networking prior to your trip is the best way to expand your social circle. You’ll meet people to hang out with on your trip and develop lifelong friendships.
This article was originally posted on July 27, 2011.