“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
– Freya Stark
Is solo travel for you? It’s been cited by Travel Agent Central as one of the top travel trends since 2012 and all indications are that its popularity will continue to rise.
People travel alone for many reasons. Sometimes a travel partner (much less a compatible one!) isn’t always available. Others enjoy the solitude and freedom of being a solo. This freedom, to make your own choices and not feel or be responsible for someone else, can be quite liberating.
And it isn’t only singles who travel solo. Often couples who have diverse interests will choose different vacation options – he wants to go fishing, you want to see the south of France – you can have it both ways! Doing something you’ve always wanted to do and with like-minded travelers can be extremely rewarding. Sometimes we just have to step out of our comfort zone and be prepared to be amazed!
Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Sicily. As a single with no friend who was ready to accompany me and not wanting to do an independent trip, I decided that a tour was my best bet. I wanted a small, experienced tour with an itinerary that matched the destinations I wanted to visit. After extensive research, I found a tour that matched all of my priorities. I took the leap and it was absolutely the best decision I could’ve made.
It was a small fun group of experienced travelers with some other solo travelers. We all quickly bonded and looked out for one another. Not having to make all the stressful day-to-day decisions that face a traveler, let alone a solo traveler, were eliminated. In addition, I enjoyed the privacy of my own accommodations and the camaraderie of the group during our meals and our travels together.
Dipping your toe in solo waters: Where do you start?
- Find groups and tours with common interests: Whatever your interests, cooking, wine tasting, photography, adventure sports, cultural excursions, shopping, improving language skills … you name it and there is a group offering excursions and tours. Look at their photos and testimonials to see if it’s a match for you. Check out objective input on TripAdvisor or Yelp.
- Research local groups and organizations who offer outings and trips for their members. “Test drive” by going on a local day trip or excursion with them before making any big commitments. One way to meet people with similar interests who live near you is MeetUp.com. Maybe you’ll start your own group! You may even find a compatible travel partner.
Escorted tours and cruises offer safety in numbers with a degree of independence. Solo travel is definitely a niche that cruise lines and tours groups are recognizing and quickly responding to. Many are re-vamping the dreaded (and very expensive) “single supplement” policies as well as organizing events and get-togethers for singles to mingle.
- Mingle with your fellow travelers: Since you chose the same cruise/tour/destination, you automatically have something in common. It’s a great ice breaker and I have found that most travelers are friendly, helpful and happy to engage in conversation. It’s a big world! You’ll meet interesting and experienced people. On my trip to Sicily I met a lovely woman from Australia.We stayed in touch and later reconnected on a tour of Italy.
- Singles only and gals or guys only tours or cruises: You can even choose a singles or same gender only tour or cruise. Often they are divisions of a larger company.
- About those “Single Supplements”: Once upon a time, you paid significant supplements for being a single. Today, more and more tour and cruise companies are reducing and waiving these fees. Some offer roommate programs as well. Examples are: Flavours Holidays, Abercrombie & Kent, Globus/Cosmos, Uniworld, River Cruises, Avalon River Cruises, Norwegian and Crystal Cruise Lines. Again, it takes some legwork and research, but it’s well worth it.
- Choosing Accommodations: Large hotels can be impersonal. Consider bed and breakfasts, agriturismos (working farms) and family run accommodations. They often include breakfast in a common area and sometimes an evening get together. In a more intimate setting, it’s easier to become acquainted with fellow travelers.
- Learn a few words and phrases in the local language. It’s a great way to practice your foreign language skills and to get to know people. I find that locals love it when you try and are more than happy to help you with your vocabulary as well as suggestions on where to dine, etc.
25 Ways to Be Solo and Safe
As a solo traveler, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to observe some basic safety guidelines. If you are a single, you probably already know many of these suggestions to keep your person and your belongings safe and secure, but just in case…
1. Avoid accommodations on the first floor.
2. Use elevators.
3. Blend in. Don’t wear or flaunt expensive jewelry, lots of cash or your hotel/accommodation key or information.
4. Don’t fumble around looking for your room key/card.
5. Don’t advertise the fact that you are traveling alone.
6. Don’t share where you’re staying or your travel plans with strangers.
7. Ladies: Carry a purse that you can drape diagonally across your chest.
8. Never set your purse or bags down or leave unattended. This goes for smartphones, shopping bags, etc. as well. Slide your arm or leg through the straps, try not to lose physical contact.
9. Gents: Carry your wallet in your front pocket.
10. No fanny packs or back packs, please!
11. Don’t pack/bring more than you can schlep or carry single-handed.
12. Always lock your room/stateroom door and don’t open it unless you are absolutely positively sure of who it is.
13. Always check that windows are closed and locked when you leave the room.
14. Only carry enough cash for that day. Keep extra in room safe or hotel safe.
15. Watch your back – at ATM’s, when pulling out your wallet or key, when window shopping, etc.
16. Always always always always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
17. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. It’s soooo easy to be distracted when we’re admiring the view!
18. Do NOT wander off alone in secluded, remote areas. You love to jog? Go to a well-lit, well-populated park or along a well-traveled path/roadway. And please take ID and a map with you…
19. Carry ID (copy of passport) and information on where you’re staying and who to contact in case of an emergency at all times!
20. Stay in touch with someone at home – share your itinerary and check in with them.
21. Know neighborhoods where you will be staying. Read carefully and research. Go with respectable, reputable sources.
22. Be respectful in your attire (no shorts, tank tops, etc.) and blend in.
23. On a cruise or tour, have a buddy system.
24. Be confident and alert and always appear as if you know exactly where you’re going.
25. Develop these habits NOW and they will become habits wherever you go.
Have a fabulous adventure!!
And here are some other great solo sites – tell them I sent you!
Leyla’s Women on the Road
Janice’s Solo Traveler Blog
Barbara’s Hole in the Donut
Have you ever traveled solo? Would you like to? Please share your thoughts and experiences!