Is this even a thing I hear you ask? How to eat alone? I appreciate that some people reading this will find the sentiment entirely laughable, maybe even ridiculous. I mean, you eat just like you would if you’re with someone right?
On the other hand there will be people, like me. People who will relate to the paralysing fear that can take over when thinking about this part of travelling alone. How on earth will you source sustenance without just heading to the nearest McDonalds 3 times a day?
Please try not to do that by the way. There’s plenty more fast food to try 😬
I can’t speak for all the cultural differences around the world, but I can feel assured that in the UK, unless you have a very particular reason for doing so, you’re unlikely to find many people willing to step out on their own for dinner on a Saturday night.
So if the thought of “table for 1” leaves you curling up in a tiny ball, read on for a few general tips on how to confidently eat like royalty when you’re travelling or holidaying by yourself. (This is geared primarily at North America though some apply generically).
DO: your research. Totally obvious but when you’re planning a trip, you might overlook a few of the points below, think about these when planning where you’ll eat.
DON’T: forget to scout the surrounding areas of where you’re staying as early as possible. You’re looking for supermarkets or convenience stores, anywhere that’ll help you pick up supplies should you find yourself completely frozen and unable to speak. If your room has a fridge, even better – if not, you can de-stock the mini-bar and re-fill it with all the nutritious cheese dip that you just picked up.
DO: Tell yourself you’re just on business. Trust me on this one. If you were at home but away on company business for the night, alone, would you think twice about nipping down to the hotel bar or restaurant to grab some dinner? Same applies on holiday. Chances are, unless you’re staying in a camp in the middle of nowhere or a standard holiday resort, your hotel will be occupied by at least some business people, they always are. Mental preparation is the key here – keep telling yourself you’re just there for a night on business and you’ll be gliding downstairs to eat in no time. Or maybe I’ll just get room service…
DON’T: feel guilty about staying in and grabbing room service. So you didn’t go to every fancy restaurant you read about on Tripadvisor. Who cares. It’s your trip and your choice and if you want to order banana cheesecake at 3am, then you go ahead and do it!
DO: on the other hand…Consider ordering out from the hotel restaurant/s to take back to your room instead. You’ll get the same fare without the additional (hotel) service and delivery charges. Make sure to still tip your server if it’s customary to do so.
DON’T: forget to download the Ubereats app before you go for quick and easy delivery. There are also other local State/city apps that serve a similar purpose. Many will deliver direct to hotel door but you don’t have to specify your room number if you don’t want to, you can just meet them in the lobby. Not all apps will accept international credit cards so you might need to play around a little to find one that will work if you’re not local.
DO: consider staying in a Bed and Breakfast. If you’re coming from the UK (and no offence intended, under 60), it’s unlikely to have crossed your mind to stay at one. But If you’re on your own, a B&B can be like a welcoming, ready-made community of people interested in wrapping you into their own vacations. Not to mention a fantastic way to sample local home-cooked breakfasts. Plus, you’ll spend more time thinking about sitting around a table full of strangers at your first breakfast, you won’t even have a chance to think about the fact that you’re by yourself. Wrap up of my B&B experiences coming soon!
DON’T: be afraid to ask the locals. Obvious but not always a question you’d immediately think to ask so specifically. Whether it’s the front desk or the girl in the local shop, just ask the question if there’s anywhere they’d recommend to eat that won’t make you feel particularly uncomfortable being alone.
DO: take advantage of buffets. In hotels or restaurants, buffets are like that favourite aunt who’s always happy to see everyone. You can’t possibly feel awkward sitting next to the family who have just refilled their plates 5 times. Just make sure to follow suit so you can skip lunch.
DON’T: miss tying in a mealtime to an event. Sporting events are especially good for this – no one cares that you’re standing by yourself and stuffing an entire pizza in your mouth when they’re all 10 beers down already.
DO: accept dinner invitations. This really depends on where you are, but if you’ve managed to make any friends at all…even just acquaintances…even just that guy who bumped into you on the street…try and suggest meeting for dinner. It’ll give you the perfect in to pick the restaurant of your liking.
N’T: give it a little Dutch courage. I’m definitely not saying get wasted, that’s just not sensible. But a couple of drinks before heading out for an evening may just give you the courage you need to finally step into that restaurant and ask for a table for 1.
But you know, if you get really stuck, just keep an eye out for those Golden Arches…
Where do you eat when travelling alone? Does the thought of eating out scare you or not phase you at all? Let me know in the comments!