Traveling alone (or even with your partner), gives you an ideal opportunity to make friends while on vacation. Obviously, you need to trust your gut and safely meet anyone new, but if you do it the right way you'll get a chance to meet new friends you wouldn't normally have had a chance to talk with. The key is always meeting people out in a neutral location and not giving out any identifying information (your hotel room number, last name, etc.) until you feel comfortable with the person.
Websites That Help Connect You With Other Travelers
There are several websites where you can obtain tour information before your trip as well as advice on how to connect with new friends while you're there. A good rule of thumb is to get acquainted with the forums on these sites and then ask about how to meet friends during your trip. People love to share their vacation tips, and some of them may even be traveling at the same time you are, so it's possible to meet a new friend that way as well.
Mingle Trips is a free site that launched in October 2011. The site has hundreds of members that have almost 500 registered trips. They have trips registered in over 100 cities worldwide, primarily in Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Singapore, London, Delhi and Mumbai.
Virtual Tourist started in 1999 as a way for people to share their travel experiences. The site is now part of TripAdvisor, and works as a way for people to network and chat about things like local customs, tourist traps, hotel suggestions, and more. People can get to know each other through an online forum, or meet during an offline event.
You can use Yelp one of two ways when it comes to planning your vacation. First, you can get recommendations on where to stay and things to do. Second, you can mingle on the forums to find friends who might want to go at the stay time.
Many of these sites work in conjunction with Facebook already, but if you don't want to log on to a separate site, you can always find friends directly within your network. This works well if you have a wide range of people in your friend list, especially a large number who travel. If your friend list is limited, you'll be better off logging on to one of the sites listed above using your Facebook login, because you will be connected with people targeted to your specific travel destination or request.
Couch Surfing has been around since 2004, and has progressed from a way to host (and stay) with others while traveling, to community events and forums. You can see who is traveling through your area and meet them for coffee, for example. Or, if you are traveling, see if you can stay with one of the locals or just meet them for a short afternoon seeing the sights. Couch Surfing is a non-profit organization that has listings in over 230 places around the world.
Meeting Friends While Traveling in Your Own Country
If you're traveling in your own country, a good strategy is simply to pretend you just moved to town and only have a day or two to connect with your neighbors. How would you get acclimated? Good ways to meet friends include:
- Dining out
- Taking a walking tour
- Asking baristas and wait staff about the best places to eat and visit
Use the same getting-to-know-you strategies you would use if meeting new people at home. Make small talk, comment on interesting things around you, and use clues that the person gives about themselves to ask meaningful questions.
If you see someone sitting alone or even with a few people, make eye contact. Ask if you can sit with or by them, and then proceed to make general conversation (such as asking about their trip and finding out where to see the sights). If the conversation flows well, you can suggest meeting again out for a drink or dinner.
Meet People While Traveling Abroad
If you're traveling outside of your country, you can use some of the same tips listed above to meet people combined with some additional legwork. Pay attention to others who speak your language or even have the same accent as you. If you're both from the south, for example, you can open with a comment such as, "Nice to see another Southerner here in Paris" or "Do I detect a Midwestern accent?"
You can also check with your hotel to see if there are others who are looking for dining or sightseeing partners. If you are staying at the same hotel for a week or more, go to breakfast in the hotel and take a look at who else is there planning out their day. Strike up a conversation and see if the people would be willing to attend an exhibit with you, or perhaps meet you back at the hotel for dinner later on that day.
Another good strategy is to stay in a hostel or bed and breakfast. Both of these places will force you to see and interact with other people on a daily basis, making it that much easier to get to know them.