You don't need a travel partner to take a memorable vacation. In fact, traveling solo can be a rich and rewarding experience in its own right. Solo travel can be an opportunity to learn about yourself as well as about the destination in different ways. It is also a good way to push yourself outside of your comfort zone too.
Following a little advice from people who regularly travel solo can help make the experience even more enjoyable.
Here are some tips to help you plan your next solo vacation, plus some info on who else travels alone and some companies and websites set up to support them.
Who Are Solo Travelers?
Of all leisure travelers in 2015, 19.5 percent were solo travelers, according to TravelsAmerica by TNS. That declined slightly to 18.5 percent in 2016. When looking at total travel (both business and leisure), 25.3 percent were solo travelers in 2015 and 23.7 percent were solo travelers in 2016, TravelsAmerica found.
These solo travelers appear to be a mix of ages and sexes, but they all have something in common: a desire to explore the world. Some are single adults who have never been married, others are divorced or widowed and prefer trips where all the arrangements are made for them, allowing them to avoid doing any of the planning. Some are single people actively seeking partners, so they choose "meet other singles" trips aimed at that specific goal.
A study by AARP found that most solo travelers simply couldn't find someone to accompany them on their trip. That study indicated that 37 percent of its audience (people 45 and older) had taken a trip alone, and on average, they had taken four solo trips in their lifetime. Eighty-one percent of those travelers said they were planning on taking another solo trip sometime in the next year.
For some people, the travel bug might involve different interests than their loved ones. For instance, one partner may like to hike but the other prefers to golf. Others may want to volunteer with a group instead.
Do You Have to Pay a Single Supplement to Travel Alone?
Some travel companies still require a "single supplement," if you want to be sure to have a private room. (Tip: You can always ask for a discount on the supplement.) Some companies offer the option of not paying a single supplement if you're willing to be paired with a stranger. If that's the approach you choose for economic or other reasons, ask the company how they decide on the pairs and whether you can connect via email or phone with the person in advance. Sharing a room with a stranger can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but travel is a bonding experience, and you may end up finding a new travel companion for future journeys as well.
If you pay extra for a private room and it turns out you are the only solo traveler in the group, you probably would have wound up with a private room anyway. If this happens, ask the company to consider giving you a refund.
Companies That Encourage Solo Travelers
A growing number of companies are trying to cater to solo travelers.
Some don't charge a single supplement on certain trips, while others offer a reduced rate off the normal single supplement charge during certain times of the year. Here are a few to consider when planning your next solo adventure.
- Trusted Adventures, a group of adventure travel companies, offers several trips for solo travelers. Over the years, those companies have included the likes of ROW Adventures, Western River Expeditions, Wildland Adventures, The Wayfarers, Myths & Mountains, InnerSea Discoveries, Ciclismo Classico, Austin-Lehman Adventures, Great Alaska and American Safari Cruises.
- The Chile-based adventure travel company, Explora, has waived the single supplement for solo travelers for a few months every year. In the past, this has applied to all of its lodge destinations in little-explored regions of South America, excluding Explora Travisias nomadic journeys.
- Exodus has Solo Holidays, a series of trips designed for solo travelers.
- Abercromie & Kent offers incentives for solo travelers from time to time. For example, single supplements are often reduced or waived altogether in an effort lure those who prefer to travel alone. This company also offers a selection of Solo Journey's as well.
- GoVoluntouring.com is a source for travelers seeking a volunteer vacation. Companies offering volunteer trips have reported that more than 60 percent of their clientele were solo travelers.
- Road Scholar travelers tend to be Boomers or older and the majority are women. Solo travelers like this program because many of the trips offer learning opportunities and adventurous activities, but in a group setting.
- Overseas Adventure Travel, and Grand Circle Travel, companies that promote travel for the 50-plus age group, have offered free or reduced single supplements on some trips. These companies also have a roommate matching service and an online "Travel Companion" site where adventurers can find like-minded travelers and roommates.
- Many regular travel booking websites – such as Expedia.com – also offer resources to help you build a solo vacation.
Websites for Solo Travelers
Some solo travel websites have been created to exchange information about planning trips, offering suggestions about where to go, and providing advice on traveling safely when going alone. Others are travel agents and companies who focus on solo travelers.
- CruiseCritic.com offers a list of the 10 Best Cruise Lines for Solo Travelers. The piece has lots of details about how each line treats travelers just interested in a solo cruise.
- Solo Traveler Blog, written by Janice Waugh, is a good source of tips for traveling alone, traveling safely and which destinations are best for the solo wanderer.
- Solo Mate Travel offers trips designed for single travelers.
- Solo Travel Network is a not-for-profit, international group of travelers who share tips and info about single-friendly trips.
- Also don't miss the Solo Traveler website, which is packed with useful info.