Overcoming the Fear of Dining Alone
Solo travel and dining alone are a given that they go hand in hand. But is the fear, or dislike of dining alone mean you’re missing out? Or worse – you’re not travelling solo because the idea of dining alone is stopping you in your tracks? Just because you’re travelling solo, shouldn’t mean you forfeit a dining experience that you’d otherwise do if you had someone to share it with.
For many travellers, travelling solo is one challenge, and dining alone is the next. You got past your own mental challenges of taking a trip on your own, but the reality of dining alone doesn’t hit you until you are on location. And you’re not feeling brave with the idea of eating out on your own.
Everything else has been just fine, and better still, you’re enjoying yourself. You’ve planned your trip solo, you’re happy sightseeing on your own, and you’ve found ways around being alone from joining group tours and guided sightseeing experiences. However, when it comes to meal time, it’s a road block and your tossing up some takeaway or room service because you’re not used to asking for a table for one.
For many of us, one of the highest hurdles to jump when you’re travelling solo is dining solo. The good news is, there are ways to ease into it, and also enjoy it. I’ve jumped my own hurdles. Here’s some handy tips to help you get over your own, from what I’ve learned over my years of solo travel.
Take It Easy
Start small. Lunch time dining out can be more casual and if you’re in a bigger city or town you’re likely to find many solo diners, locals and tourists, grabbing a casual bit to eat at a café or bistro. You won’t be the odd one out.
One of the best tables for one is street side dining – French bistro style. Find a restaurant or a café that has outdoor tables seated French style. Stare out to the world, and watch the world go by. In any big city this can easily keep you occupied.
Sitting, and people watching is a nice distraction but sometimes it can only last so long. Use your phone for a distraction, take a book, take your guide map, bring a travel diary, plan the rest of the day or your next day, write a travel blog.
Take A Seat At The Bar
Many restaurants, and more in big cities have bar sitting. Take the option to enjoy a drink on your own. Then, if you’re at ease, order your meal to the bar. There’s also a chance of some wait staff interactions or a person next to you for a chat or interludes of conversation. But even if you don’t have those conversations, a bar spot can feel more relaxed and it may make you feel more at ease.
Try a google search before heading out for meal. Search ‘find restaurants with bar meals, [insert city]’ or something like that to see what Google turns up.
Find Friendly Dining
More and more, restaurants have communal style dining – it’s become far more common these days to accommodate a growing trend to dine alone. Communal tables are popular with solo travellers, people working from home who like to get out of their home office, and diners on the road for work. Even if you don’t strike up conversation you will feel like you fit it when it’s shared tables for dining.
There’s ways to find new friends, even if just for a meal. The meetup.com website is a fantastic option if you want guaranteed company. They have lots of city locations around the world and it’s just a case of joining and finding dining meet up groups. It also extends to activities and hobbies so it’s great for solo travellers for so many reasons.
And eatwith.com is a new option. Their website explains it stating ‘Join dining experiences, cooking classes and food tours in 130+ countries’
Pick Your Time
I’ve always been more comfortable picking dining times before or after, the peak dining time slots. You avoid worrying if you have to wait for a table, and also feeling conspicuous in a restaurant that’s more likely to be full of dining groups or couples.
Enjoy Hotel Dining
Many hotels, especially 4 and 5 stars will have a hotel restaurant. It’s already going to be a more likely place to feel comfortable dining solo as there’s a fair likelihood other travellers will be in the same position as you. Feeling like you fit in goes a long way to making you feel comfortable.
Make A Reservation
Hopefully you can avoid the dreaded ‘table for one’ question when you’ve made a reservation. Call in advance or take the option to book online on a restaurant’s website.
You Need A Comfort Stop
If there’s one reason that can make you exit stage left, and hurry your meal is when you need to visit the bathroom. You’re in the middle of the meal and if you get up, it can look as if you’ve finished your meal. Particularly if you’ve paid in advance at a more casual dining spot. Think of ways to ‘hold’ your table. Leaving an item of clothing on your chair or a book is easy. Just don’t leave anything behind of value if there’s a chance it could be pinched. Better still, tell the wait staff to hold your table.
The tips above will help, and will ease some fear of dining alone but if you’re new to it then a bit of courage plays a part in it. You may need a ‘self pep talk’ to get your started. And remember, take it easy, with small steps and build up to 3 course fine dining solo, if that’s what you want to be doing.
What About Solo Travel Tours?
Like to skip all the worry about dining solo? Then join a travel group for solo travellers. Look for itineraries with group dining included. Plus when joining a travel group for solo travellers you’ll find others in the group will also want to head out to dine together.
And if I can leave you with one final thought. Don’t be shy to speak up if you feel you’ve been ushered to the least appealing table in the restaurant and you’ve got that feeling it’s because you’re dining solo. Always ask for the table you’d like.
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Travelling with us,or thinking about it, or just curious? Join our Facebook Tribe of solo travellers.
You can avoid dining solo when you join a Cruise Circle for Solos for group, with cruises departing from Australia, or join the Facebook group.
Solo Traveller Dining Events
Check out our events in Sydney and then from time to time, other cities in Australia including Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Getting Started For The First Time?
Check out my book, How To Travel Solo But Not Alone