Traveling solo was a learning experience, because I quickly realized I had to make an effort to become part of the group. I couldn't stay inside my normal comfort zone as I do when traveling with my husband and friends.The suggestions that my friends who travel solo taught me a lot and following them made the trip more enjoyable.
First, I learned that in group meals and during activities, it was easy to join the conversations. Next, I discovered that as I made friends, it was okay to ask if I could join them for dinner one night, or if they wanted to wander through a neighborhood with me during our free time
Who Are Solo TravelersAccording to the U.S. Travel Association, solo travelers, those who travel alone with no companions, comprise 11% of all U.S. adult leisure travelers. 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, so they don't have to do any planning. Some are singles actively seeking mates, so they choose "meet other singles" trips aimed at this goal.
One friend loves to hike in such remote places as Tibet but her husband would rather play golf, so she joins trips planned by such groups as the Colorado Mountain Club. Yet another friend loves to simply take off for weeks at a time to visit exotic countries in Africa and explore on her own. She often includes time volunteering on local projects. She is a perfect example of how adventure travel is a high for solo travelers.
Do You Have To Pay a Single Supplement?Most companies still require a single supplement, if you want to be sure to have a private room. (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 who to pair with whom? Can you connect via email or phone with the person in advance? Make sure you're comfortable with the answer.
If you pay extra for a private room and it turns out you are the only solo traveler on the group, you'll wind up with a private room. If this happens, ask the company to consider giving you a refund. I did and the company returned the amount that I paid for a private room, since there was no one they could have placed with me.
Companies That Encourage Solo TravelersA growing number of companies are trying to lure solo travelers. Some don't charge a single supplement on certain trips. Others offer a reduced rate off the normal single supplement charge during certain trips and cruises.
- Trusted Adventures, a group of adventure travel companies, offers several trips for solo travelers. The companies include 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 Santiago, Chile-based adventure travel company explora waives the single supplement for solo travelers for a few months every year. From May 15 to October 15, the fee is waived at 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 solo travelers from time to time. This fall, for example, single supplements have been reduced or waived on certain trips to Africa and Italy.
- GoVoluntouring.com is source for travelers seeking a volunteer vacation. Many companies offering the volunteer trips are reporting that more than 60 percent of their clientele are solo travelers.
- Road Scholartravelers tend to be in their boomer years 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 50plus age group, have free or reduced single supplements on some trips. These companies also have a roommate matching service, and an online "Travel Companion" site, where travelers can find like-minded travelers and roommates.
Web Sites for Solo TravelersSeveral solo travel Web sites exist. Some have been created to exchange information about planning trips, offer suggestions about where to go, and advice on traveling safely when going alone. Others are travel agents and companies who focus on solo travelers.
- CruiseCritic.com has a good article listing 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, and the singles who want to meet other singles.
- Solo Traveler Blog, written by Janice Waugh, is a good source of tips for traveling alone, traveling safely, and destinations.
- SoloCruisers Resource is run by Amber Blecker, who is an agent with CruiseOne. She has a handle on which cruise companies will offer a reduced single supplement.
- 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.