Tip number 1. NEVER tell anyone you are traveling alone. Whether it is the baggage person, the person sitting next to you, someone standing in line, someone on a train, etc. etc. What should you do if someone asks "are you traveling by yourself?" State that you are with someone, meeting someone at the next stop, in the next car, or meeting at a place where it is crowded or with visible officers. The world is not nice anymore and you do not want to be a victim. Be sure the hotel has a 24 hour desk as well. Keep your eyes and ears open. Look for possible contact people are making with one another as this is one way children in foreign cities prepare to rob or injure a person. This usually comes with some distraction such as two people arguing, a small fight, children crying, etc.
Never feel that you must talk to someone just to be nice if they start talking to you. You do not know these people and will most likely never see them again. Manners are one thing, safety is another.
Tip number 2. Research the area you are visiting beforehand. There is usually someone at the hotel you are staying at that can give you directions as well as a map as many hotels supply maps for their clientele. Ask about the restaurants where the locals eat to avoid the tourist traps. Is there a free shuttle they supply and if so, note the times for pickup (especially the last one) as well as the
exact location for drop-off and pickup. Don't just ask for restaurant names but make a list of the top gelato, pastries, etc. etc. which you will most likely be munching on throughout your stay. During one of our stays in Milan we asked the hotel manager and found a tiny coffee shop adjacent to the hotel tucked away in the back of a grocery store where we had some of the best homemade pastries and coffee!
Tip number 3. Do not stick out like a sore thumb! When traveling you want to try and fit in and not look like a tourist. Don't wear the t-shirt you just bought or flashy jewelry and expensive labeled clothes. You want to be as normal as possible (although some will have a problem with this as my wife tells me). Keep a copy of your passport with you at all times as well as in the hotel safe box because most foreign hotels require you to leave your passport with them when checking in. Don't forget to leave your itinerary and a passport copy with friends or relatives at home as well.
Try to mingle with other families you see or couples. Many restaurants seat family style such as Il Latini in Florence. Don't be afraid to talk to others but never let your guard down.
Tip number 4. Solomangarephobia. Yes, that is the name by which "eating alone" is listed. Have no fear, as it is not all that bad. In fact, it can be quite enjoyable if you look at it from a different perspective. By this I mean, why say "ho hum I have to eat by myself" when you can be saying, "HEY, I am going to treat myself to a meal and take my time enjoying it!" Become your own food critic. Take notes while eating, try to list the spices and flavors of your food with each bite then ask the waiter to see the chef and see if you were right! Sometimes in foreign restaurants you will be seated with a group. This can be a blast as speaking with others over a meal is relaxing as well as gratifying when you hear them speak about their travels and experiences as well. If you NEED to speak to someone when eating, ask for a seat at the bar if they have one, as the bartender usually lends a good ear. Most of all, think about what you are doing on vacation or during your business trip, relaxing, and enjoying a good meal or even a coffee or espresso. Alone with a good read in a cafe is easier than in a large restaurant as well, some wanting to sit in a booth rather than at an open table. Make yourself as comfortable as possible before sitting down and you will have a much more enjoyable meal.
Tip number 5. Be one with your travels. Disregard the cell phone, the computer, social media, etc.You are there to take everything in. Write down your steps, your overview of the area, drinks, meals, pastries, ice cream, etc. you have had. Who made the best pizza and the worst spaghetti, and who had the best and worst service? Write down everything you see, the museums, cafes, peoples' names you have met, where they were from, what clothes you wore, the temperature and weather. You will be surprised when you come home and discover pages full of everything you did to put with the images you took. What a storybook you have just created! Seizing the moment does not just mean an extravagant time or costly trip. It is the small things we pass by and take for granted. Often when we are back home we wished we had remembered the name of that gelato shop, the awesome cannoli, that crispy baguette, that waiter/waitress ........... You get the point!