9 Reasons to Travel Solo in 2021

From getting space to gaining confidence, now is the time to plan a trip alone

Solo female traveler

Getty Images / Jordan Siemens

We’re celebrating the joy of solo travel. Let us inspire your next adventure with features about why 2021 is the ultimate year for a solo trip and how traveling alone can actually come with amazing perks. Then, read personal features from writers who have traversed the globe alone, from hiking the Appalachian Trail, to riding rollercoasters, and finding themselves while discovering new places. Whether you’ve taken a solo trip or you’re considering it, learn why a trip for one should be on your bucket list.

Traveling alone is one of the great pleasures in life, and after a year of lockdowns, quarantines, and being way too close with your immediate family or roommates, a solo trip may be just what the doctor ordered. Even in non-pandemic times, the benefits of solo travel are many, including making your own schedule; not being beholden to anyone else’s needs, desires, or bad habits; increasing your self-confidence; and finally taking that bucket list trip no one ever seemed to be able to join you on. If you want to eat supermarket sushi at 3 p.m. for lunch, no one will stop you. Feel like sleeping in and lingering over a cup of coffee instead of going an early-morning hike? No one will make you feel guilty about it.

Solo travel has been picking up speed in the last few years, and the pandemic has given it another boost. According to online travel agency CheapOair, solo travelers have increased from 15 percent in January to 25 percent in March. And a January 2021 survey by American Express Travel revealed that 43 percent of respondents want to take a solo vacation in 2021, and 1 in 5 respondents would prefer to travel solo for their future travel plans.

In response, many travel companies are trying to attract solo travelers with special offers and more options. For example, Cox & Kings has eliminated some of its supplemental charges for single occupancies. The river cruise company Ama Waterways is offering up to 25 percent off its single supplement on select cruises. Intrepid reports that more than half of the travelers on their group trips come alone and now offer solos-only group trips.

So what are the top reasons to travel solo in 2021? We break it down for you.

Call the Shots—for Everything

Solo travel gives you freedom like nothing else can. Whether you want to catch the sunrise, stay out late, go to a movie instead of dinner, skip the museum because it’s a nice day outside, or take a chance on bungee jumping, the only person you have to convince is yourself. Solo travel means not having to beg your companion or family to do things the way you want, and no compromises are necessary. And after a year of being stuck at home, quite possibly with people you’re a bit sick of, pleasing only yourself probably sounds pretty good right about now.

Make That Bucket List Trip Happen

If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s not to push off travel because you never know when it might get taken away. So now is the time to take that trip to Antarctica, Greece, or Japan that you’ve always wanted to, and if you go by yourself, there’s no need to wade through scheduling conflicts or convince someone else that it’s their bucket trip, too. Because let’s face it, after this year, we (should) all have our own bucket lists, and we should all get to accomplish them. And the fastest way to do that is probably by setting out on yours alone.

Worry Only About Your Needs

Any parent who has been doing remote learning this year or spouse trying to work from home while their partner is doing the same thing can tell you that they’re utterly sick of worrying about what someone else needs or wants. Forget about getting snacks, squeezing in bathroom breaks, staying entertained, keeping quiet, providing technological assistance—unless it’s for you. So many of us have put ourselves second (or third, or fourth) during the pandemic as we shared tight spaces with everyone at home, so doesn’t a getaway where you only have to be concerned with yourself sound ideal? It doesn’t matter what others want for dinner or how many museums they can handle. It’s all about you.

Take a Break From Your Pod

While you might love your family and roommates, you’d also probably love to leave them (temporarily) after a year of living in close quarters with everyone always at home. Because no matter the quarantine situation, if you live with other people, you need a break. And while maybe solo travel seemed too lonely before the pandemic hit, now you’re probably desperate for some alone time. Heading out on an adventure by yourself is just the ticket for renewing your sanity so you can return to your crew refreshed and ready to provide for others once again.

Exercise Financial Control

A common issue when traveling with others is that you might have different budgets. So while one traveler is ready to splurge on luxury hotels and Michelin-starred tasting menus, another might need to stick to more affordable Airbnbs and street food for lunch. And in a year where so many people lost their jobs, budgets are more sensitive than ever. When you travel solo, you’re in complete control of the budget and can choose what and how much you want to spend.

Build More Self-Confidence

When you travel with others, it’s easy to take a back seat to planning, speaking the local language, and deciphering a map. But when you’re alone, you have only yourself to rely on. Time to make those dinner reservations, purchase timed observation tower tickets, and carefully follow the hiking trail all on your own. And if you get lost or forget your tickets, you’ll have to figure out how to resolve the issue, giving you a chance to flex your problem-solving skills, which will boost your self-confidence and give you a sense of accomplishment. Best of all, these confidence boosts can last even after you return home. According to a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer, overcoming challenges while traveling strengthens the “openness” part of your personality, and this can make you less negatively reactive to everyday changes, improving your emotional stability overall.

Meet New People

While we may still need to wear masks and be socially distant, that doesn’t mean we can’t interact with other people at all. When people travel alone, they’re more likely to meet new people since they don’t have a built-in friend already. You might find yourself being more chatty than usual with the barista at the coffee shop and more willing to approach a stranger in the park who seems like a friendly walking companion. And, if you sign up for a group trip as a solo traveler, you’re almost guaranteed to end your trip with a handful of new friends.

Engage With Your Surroundings

Whether you’re traveling with a friend, partner, parent, child, or someone else, it’s unavoidable that part of your attention will be on them. When you’re alone, you have only your surroundings to interact with, giving you a deeper engagement with the place you’re in. Instead of chatting over lunch, you can people watch and observe the local culture and customs. Whereas before, you may have focused on your partner’s enjoyment during a long hike, now you can fully concentrate on the landscape around you. Solo travelers tend to engage more deeply with the environment around them, allowing them to be immersive travelers, which sounds like a win-win!

Do Things You’ve Been Putting Off

Have a stack of books you’ve meant to get to or a list of Oscar nominees you’ve been trying to see? Or maybe you’re trying to do more yoga, write in your journal, or go for a jog every morning and haven’t been able to find the time. Especially during the pandemic, when it’s been easy to let things slide, you might find yourself neglecting your self-care. Luckily, a solo journey is the perfect time to accomplish some goals, cross things off your want-to-do list, and practice self-care like never before.