You've picked out a tour and are ready to book your trip. There's only one problem – you have no one to travel with. Should you give up your dream and stay at home, or should you travel solo?
Traveling with a tour group can be a great way to enjoy a solo adventure, make friends and resolve safety concerns. There are many different kinds of tour groups, so you will want to consider all of your options before you book your trip.
Here are some tips for traveling solo with a tour group.
Decide Whether You Want to Pay a Single Supplement or Find a Roommate
Solo travelers usually have to pay a single supplement when they travel with a tour group. Hotels, cruise lines and tour operators base their per-person rates on double occupancy. The single supplement compensates travel providers for the absence of that second occupant.
Some tour operators help solo travelers save money by offering them a roommate matching service. Solo travelers who are interested in finding roommates are matched with another solo traveler of the same sex so that both of them are able to pay the lower double occupancy rate.
You will need to decide whether it is better to save money by rooming with a stranger or pay more to have a room to yourself. I snore, and I am an introvert, so I would rather save up and pay the single supplement so I can have a room to myself, but plenty of other people prefer to use roommate-matching services.
Choose the Right Tour
If you want to meet new people, do not sign up for a romantic couples' tour. Instead, look for itineraries that include not only visits to famous monuments and museums but also experiences that connect you to local cultures. It is easy to get acquainted with the other people in your tour group while participating in an art or cooking class, taking a nature walk or looking for a particular type of local cheese.
As you review tours, look carefully at the activity level of each itinerary so you can choose a tour that will not wear you out.
Above all, pick a tour that takes you to places you have always wanted to visit. Your enthusiasm will show, and will inspire other people in your tour group to want to get to know you better.
Study Your Itinerary
Before your tour begins, take a good look at your itinerary. During guided tours and group meals, you will not need to worry about companionship. "On your own" meals and free time will present more of a challenge. Be ready to explore on your own, and embrace the opportunity to see and do what appeals to you without having to worry about anyone else's preferences.
Your fellow tour participants want to meet new people, too. That's one of the reasons they decided to travel with a tour group instead of going it alone. Go into this travel experience expecting to make new friends, and you probably will.
Reach Out With a Smile
Solo travelers sometimes intimidate other travelers because not everyone is willing to travel alone. When I went to France with Go Ahead Tours, my fellow travelers' comments surprised me. I didn't feel particularly brave or intrepid, but, to them, my solo traveler status placed me in a special category.
I heard, "You're so brave to travel alone," and "I could never do what you're doing," more than once.
Be your friendliest self, say hello to everyone in your group and listen to your new friends' travel stories. Don't be afraid to start a conversation. Avoid controversial topics. "Have you been on a tour with [your tour operator] before?" is a good way to begin.
Plan to Spend Some (Enjoyable) Time Alone
One of the perks of solo travel is that you don't have to spend time with other people unless you want to. If you like being around other people all the time, you can sign up for a tour that offers roommate matching. If, instead, you like being alone now and then, you can pay the single supplement (or, better yet, find a tour that does not charge one) and enjoy some quiet time at the end of every day.
During your tour, you may find yourself eating alone or exploring on your own once in a while. Sometimes couples and small groups of friends traveling together get so involved in making their daily plans that they forget about anyone else on the tour, and that's fine. Choose a restaurant, museum or attraction and make the most of your time there.
You may pass by other members of your group; if you do, and you say hello, chances are high that they will invite you to join them. If you are sitting alone at a restaurant and someone from your tour group sees you, that person may ask to join you.
Even if you don't meet up with people from your tour group, you can still have a great time exploring. Go where your heart takes you. Ask your waiter for food recommendations when you dine – and try one. Find the tourist information office and ask where you can find the best views or the best local music. Head to a local park and people watch, or walk the pathways and enjoy the trees and flowers. At dinner or breakfast, share your adventures with your tour group friends and ask them how they spent their day.