Solo travel has become a hot topic. Unlike “single(s)” travel, it is a broader group. It can include those who are single, married or have a partner/significant other. It may be a business person looking to add a leisure weekend or extension to a trip for work. Two stumbling blocks to solo travel can be: I. whether it is lonely to vacation as a “party of one” and ii.whether eating alone, especially dinner, is really uncomfortable.
Now having visited 68 countries and all 50 states, I have found 5 good ways to go alone without feeling you are “going it alone”.
1. River Cruise and Small Ship Cruises
I highly recommend river cruises and small ships. They are especially a good fit for a first time solo traveler. However, they are also great for well-traveled solos in two cases. That is where destinations like Cambodian boat villages are not otherwise easy to reach. Secondly, they work well in places where security is an issue.
Here are the key advantages of such river and small ships for solo travelers, they:
- Give you time alone but a group for tours and meals
- Can be competitively priced when compared to a piecemeal approach
- Make unpacking a one-time chore
- Work well with land packages
- Often have discounted package pricing including flights
2. Select your own lodging, and take day trips.
Here are the key advantages of this independent approach:
- Affords you the opportunity to select your own interests and travel style.
- Provides more opportunity to interact with local residents.
- Gives you a “day-off” when you need it.
- Works with a range of budgets.
3. Combine both of the above approaches.
I really favor this approach when I travel. On solo travel for 17 days at New Year’s, I toured Southeast Asia. I started with a private taxi tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I then joined a top Mekong River Cruise on to Vietnam. On the last leg, I had five days in a 5-star hotel in Bangkok. In my last stop, I tried all 3 ways of sightseeing: 1. A large bus tour 2. A private guide and 3. Self-directed subway tour.
This blended approach puts you in the driver’s seat and:
- Will let you set your own course while being free to pick and choose
- Gives you a part-time group of travel mates but also time alone
- Makes it possible to follow a budget (or splurges) tailored to what works for you
4. Sign up ahead for a class abroad.
This has become very popular now for cooking classes in France and Italy. However, for decades, language classes abroad have lured students for short-term or full summer programs. Add to that options for photography classes, skiing and scuba diving.
Here are the key benefits to this approach:
- Provides you with a ready-made group
- Gives you a local contact to hear what not to miss off the tourist path
- Make it possible to connect with classmates for meals or sightseeing
- Results in providing local contacts in an emergency
5. Join a volunteer group or exchange program.
I have done this twice. My first trip out of the US was at 18 joining 5 other girls on a summer YMCA project in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the best way to learn about day-to-day life in another country and participate in community activities.
The benefits were endless. They included:
- Meeting local residents outside of the typical tourist path
- Seeing distant and often more unusual destinations
- Providing volunteer efforts to communities than may have experienced natural disasters or other hardships.
If you are new to solo travel, take a look at each of these options. You will be surprised how fast solo travel gives you the chance to make new life-long friends from around the world so that you feel you are solo to more.