Solo holidays are no longer the preserve of the teenage backpacker or gap year student. A growing number of over 50s are packing their bags and setting off on a solo adventure.
Older, wiser and with more money to spend than their younger counterparts, older travellers are embracing the world of solo holidays, solo cruises and solo tours.
Travelling alone can be a liberating experience. Whether you set out on your own adventure or join like-minded companions on a tour, solo holidays give you the freedom to pick and enjoy the exact holiday you want.
Read our tips on how to make the most out of your solo holiday!
Choosing solo holidays
Think carefully about the type of holiday you’d like to go on. If it’s your first time travelling alone, start small with a UK-based holiday or a European city you’ve already been. Alternatively, look for an organised tour by a specialist solo travel company. Escorted tours by companies such as Riviera Travel and Titan are a great introduction to solo holidays, reducing the stress of planning and organising a trip. You can experience the tour destination in the company of like-minded travellers with the security and support of a knowledgeable tour guide.
Cruising is another excellent way to travel solo. Cruises offer plenty of onboard activities and social events to keep you from feeling lonely along with onshore excursions along with way. You can join in as much as you like with cruise activities or happily spend time in quiet solitude.
Many cruise lines cater to solo travellers, for example, Norwegian Cruise Line positions its studio cabins together with a separate lounge for solo travellers. Saga Cruises offer singles’ gatherings and a chance to buddy up with other solo travellers on excursions. Cunard provides gentleman hosts to dance with single women. Royal Caribbean often holds solo cruise mixers which is a great way to meet new people.
Escorted tours and solo cruises provide a balance between independence and security but take time selecting the right one for your needs to ensure you get the most out of your holiday.
Research your destination
Travelling solo to a foreign country can be a great learning experience. Be sure to research your destination carefully before you go to ensure you make informed travel decisions. Learning about the cultural and historical background of a destination is part of the fun of planning a holiday adventure. Search online or in guidebooks to learn about the local cultures as well as when to go, what to see and what to wear. It will also help you discover hidden gems and know the places to avoid or that are unsafe.
Check Government Travel Advice and World Health Organisation for travel safety and health advice. Travel forums, such as TripAdvisor, travel blogs and social media also provide useful information including other travellers’ insights.
Plan your solo holidays carefully
For a smooth-running trip, plan your travel and itinerary ahead of time. Book in advance to get the best price and if possible, look to travel off-season when airfare and accommodation will be cheaper.
Choose accommodation carefully; smaller, more intimate hotels may be ideal for a solo traveller who is interested in meeting people. Know the best way to get to your accommodation from the airport, train station or port – and try to schedule your arrival during the day.
While it is important to plan your trip, be sure to balance this with spontaneity and flexibility when you’re there for the best experience possible.
Avoid single supplements
Whether it’s a hotel room or cruise cabin, most companies charge a fee for single travellers who occupy a room designed for two. This can add significantly to the cost of solo travel.
Some travel operators that cater specifically for solo travellers won’t insist on a single supplement including Solo’s Holidays and Just You.
Tips to avoid paying a single supplement include travelling off-season or last minute. With hotels, cruises and travel agents keen to fill spare rooms, they may reduce or drop entirely a single supplement.
Another way to avoid single supplements is to share a room with someone else of the same sex. This is also a great way to meet a fellow solo traveller.
Hotels aren’t your only option. Look at staying in hostels, which are now popular with all age-groups. These are considerably cheaper than hotels and offer a friendly, inclusive environment with communal areas. One of the key benefits of staying in a hostel is the knowledge you can gain from the experience of other travellers. Some hostels will also offer private rooms with en-suites and fully equipped kitchens so that you can cater for yourself. When choosing a hostel, look for location and read reviews online to find one suited to you.
There are a number of alternative accommodation options, from apartment rentals through to camping. On Airbnb, locals can advertise spare rooms or apartments to rent. As a solo traveller, small flats and studio apartments may be ideal and are a great way to have your own space while travelling for less cost than a hotel in the same area.
Pack lightly on solo holidays
Travelling independently to one or more destinations may mean carting luggage to and from your accommodation. If so, opt for lightweight luggage and pack lightly. Look for multi-purpose clothing that’s suitable for the climate along with travel-sized options for towels and toiletries. The heavier your bag, the harder it will be to carry. Small hotels, bus and train stations often have a lot of stairs and no lifts so be prepared for this.
If you’re new to solo travelling, it’s natural to worry about being lonely. But travelling solo is the perfect excuse to make connections with others. Talk to fellow travellers en route and people staying in your accommodation. Choose busy restaurants, bars and cafés or try an exhibition, concert or local sporting event to meet others with similar interests.
If cruising solo, opt for a set dining time as typically you’ll be assigned a table with others.
Many cruise lines also let you request to sit with other solo travellers, including Royal Caribbean International.
Ask locals for advice
If travelling independently, don’t be shy about asking for help and advice. Local tourist information offices are a good starting point in any destination. They can help you plan your day and can offer organised day trips to certain landmarks.
Your hotel concierge and other staff may be able to offer invaluable insight into the best places to go on your travels, recommending places that are off the beaten track. Airbnb now matches travellers with locals to provide a tailored service during your holiday.
Staying safe on solo holidays
Safety is a key priority when travelling solo. Keep your belongings close to your person at all times when out and about, and wear bags/purses across the body. Tell your friends where you will be each day. It may also be a good idea to tell the hotel concierge of your travel plans for the day. Keep to public places at night and avoid unlicensed transport. Don’t flash expensive jewellery and be careful using your mobile phone, camera and wallet in busy areas.
Be aware of your surrounding at all time, use your common sense and trust your instincts if something does not feel safe.
To get the best from your solo holiday, experience your destination at a pace that suits you. You can stay busy and active, throwing yourself into all activities and sights on offer or seek out quiet solitude.
Whatever your choice, don’t forget to document your travels in a journal or with photographs, so you can share your fantastic experience with family and friends.
Look for a companion
If travelling solo is not for you, there are a number of websites that can help you find a like-minded travelling partner. Find someone who is compatible with you and shares a similar budget and goals for the trip.
There are also a number of forums on which you can connect with other solo travellers, such as TripAdvisor. Check out Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum Find a travel companion, where people from around the world of all ages post their travel plans looking for someone to join them.