Solo travel has grown in popularity over the past few years. When I started traveling, it was almost unheard of for anyone to go overseas on an independent trip. Even if I wanted, there weren’t (if any) options for solo travelers to take any sort of assisted tour. I’ve always accepted the process of planning to be a part of solo travel. But not everyone wants to plan a trip. The joy of traveling is being at the location and exploring. Planning the logistics of your trip isn’t that exciting. Figuring lodging, transportation, eateries, etc. and having to do it all alone isn’t the easiest part of solo travel. Add to any anxiety, nervousness, or uncertainty and solo travel can be outright scary. So what alternative is there for the solo traveler? Although it sounds counterintuitive, you could take a tour.
So why take a tour if you’re traveling solo?
- Don’t have to plan
- Avoid single supplements
- Safety in numbers
- Tour companies are listening
Don’t have to plan
The logistics of your plan can sometimes be the most frustrating and certainly the most time consuming. Although flights can be easy to book, figuring out the wheres and the whens of the trip can be an aggravating time drain. Unless you have the ability to move at whatever pace suits you, you’ll have to plan your trip to meet the time constraints of the amount of vacation time you can take.
By taking a tour, all the busy work is done for you. Once you pick a tour and the location you’d like to go, you can book a tour and all the mind numbing logistics planning is done for you. How great is that? You’re only required to book your flights and even that is made easier because you just have to show up before the tour starts. In this case, for anyone who doesn’t like the planning stages or anyone who just isn’t very good at it should really consider a tour because it’ll just make life so much easier with far less to worry about.
ANYONE who has ever traveled solo knows of the single supplement. The most dreaded and hated two words of the solo traveler’s vocabulary.
A single supplement is an extra charge that is charged only to solo travelers as a fee for using a space for one person when the space is meant for two. So, a hotel might charge a single supplement (a fee, penalty, tax…however you want to think of it) to a solo traveler since the hotel is expecting the revenue of two people for that space (revenue in terms of dining, bar tabs, activities, etc).
This all depends on the hotel and of course you have the option of staying elsewhere if you don’t want to pay the single supplement. However, hotels also have a way of screwing solo travelers because even though they might charge the same for a regular room, a solo traveler might be placed in a single room. I’ve stayed in rooms that were slightly larger than a closet and I could touch both walls at the same time. There was one hotel I remember where the bathroom door didn’t close because the toilet was in the way and you had to step on the toilet to get into the shower (yeah it was tiny).
By traveling in a tour, most tours will pair you with someone on the tour of the same sex and if that isn’t possible, you might just get your own (regular size) room. If you don’t want to share a room with a stranger, you’ll probably have the ability to pay a very low single supplement in many cases. So instead of being treated like a second class traveler, you’ll have the ability to travel the way you want without being overcharged at every hotel you stay.
Safety in numbers
There is certainly something to be said about safety in numbers. You’re less likely to be harrassed by scammers, a tougher target for would be thieves, others looking out for your things, etc. By traveling in a group vs. solo, you also have a greater sense of safety because mentally, you’re in a group.
From this perspective, traveling in a tour group makes perfect sense. You can get to each destination without worry of being haselled and more importantly, you have greater peace of mind as a traveler. Ultimately, you can’t put a price tag on safety and even if safety is only perceived (much like the seat cushions acting like a floatation device on an airplane), it’s comforting to have peace of mind. I think many of us would gladly pay a little extra to ensure your safety or at least think we’re safer than doing it alone.
Tour companies are listening
Solo travel has been on the rise and tour companies are realizing that solo travel is a fairly large industry now. Tour Companies understand that the solo traveler’s money is just as valuable as couples and there are certain companies out there who market to solo travelers. Companies like Contiki, Exodus, Encounter, etc. are all marketing to solo travelers with different age demographics, interests, and styles. It’s easier now than ever to find a tour company that fits your tastes and likes.
What’s also great is that tour companies understand the desire for solo travelers to have individual time so that individual exploration time is built into the itinerary. So if you’re worried about constantly being in a group and just being a solo traveler in a group setting, that isn’t the case. You’ll have plenty of time to explore so you’ll definitely have the solo travel experience.
Solo travel is certainly getting easier and gaining in popularity. But many people don’t enjoy having to plan the logistics of their itinerary. The stress of figuring out transportation, lodging, food, etc can be daunting especially if you’ve never been to the destination before. There are tons of things you worry because it’s about what you don’t know that worry you, not what you do know.
For those who want a stress free option for travel, solo travel tours are a great option. They take care of all the stressful parts of planning and make your vacation as seamless and easy as possible. Also, by being in a group, you might be able to stay with someone who is on the same tour as you so you can avoid the dreaded single supplement. If you go with a company like Encounter, they run “solo only” tours as well so you’ll be surrounded by like minded individuals and not be forced to feel like the third wheel at a couple only party.
Ultimately, it’s about taking the steps forward to go out and see the world. I never recommend to anyone to just dive in and make their first solo trip a three month tour through Asia. Oftentimes, those people are grossly underprepared and about two weeks into their trip, they’re trying to find a way home. If that seems too daunting for you, you might consider going with a tour company. There will always be new adventures to take if you want to go on your own. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ease into the process.