General Tour Advice
- Smaller is better: Go with the smallest number of people your budget will allow. The smaller the group the easier it is to build camaraderie and receive personal attention. The larger the group, the less intimate the experience.
- Consider the mix: Avoid tours that cater to couples. When you speak to the tour operator, ask them how many solo travelers they tend to have per trip.
- Read the fine print: Be sure to look through all the information thoroughly, especially where it talks about what’s included in the tour and what additional costs you’ll be responsible for. For example, international flights are typically not included.
More travel tips you might enjoy
Be mindful of single supplements (the extra fee many companies charge to offset the cost of accommodations which are priced at double occupancy).
A number of tour companies — including Rick Steves’ Europe, Backroads, Intrepid Travel and G Adventures — attempt to take the sting out of single supplements by offering a halfway measure, they will waive the supplement if solo travelers agree to be matched with a roommate. In some cases, if the travel company cannot find you a roommate, you get the room to yourself. Singles travel companies like AllSinglestravel.com offer roommate matching. No matter what, be sure to read the fine print. For instance, SinglesCruise.com notes that it “accepts no responsibility for roommate matching incompatibilities such as sleep patterns, snoring, noise or age differences.”
If you’re speaking to a company that charges a single supplement, don’t take it as a fait accompli, ask the representative if they’ll forgo the charge or at the very least reduce it. You may be pleasantly surprised. (Hint: Tours looking to fill up their slots are more likely to be flexible closer to the departure date.)
A Great Resource
Solo Traveler is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in traveling on their own. Janice Waugh, author, public speaker and one of the nicest women I’ve ever met and her partner Tracey Nesbitt, have put together a comprehensive site that offers advice on trip planning, personal stories, and great travel deals, many with little to no single supplements.
She put together a wonderful handbook you may find useful.
General Travel Tips if You’re Going Solo
- Provide a friend or family member with:
- A copy of your itinerary and the contact information for the places you’ll be staying.
- A copy of your travel insurance policy in case you can’t access your information.
- Check in periodically with people back home.
- Take photos of your passport, credit cards, and insurance information for easy access. Be sure to keep print copy versions with you too should your device run out of juice.
- Never keep all your money in the same place.
- Don’t take stupid chances or drink heavily when out and about.
- Write down the address and phone number of wherever you’re staying and keep it with you in case you need to find your way back and you don’t speak the language. If you’re at a hotel, just grab a business card from the front desk.
- Because dinners can sometimes feel more lonely than other meals, choose restaurants that cater to travelers and, if possible, have big bars you can eat at. It’s less solitary than sitting alone at a table, it’s easier to chat with strangers you think are interesting, and bartenders are good conversationalists if you feel like a chat. Plus, always have a good book on your phone (or in your luggage) that you can indulge in to keep yourself occupied if there’s no one around that you want to talk to.
I’m a big fan of travel insurance, especially if I am going someplace remote and want to be confident that I gave proper medical care or flown out should I have an emergency. My dad and stepmother canceled a trip to Russia at the last minute due to a close friend’s illness and received full reimbursement. It’s just a smart idea.
To find the right coverage, I recommend insuremytrip, a site that enables you to compare policies from multiple companies at once. Medex is worth checking out too if you only want medical and evacuation assistance. Note: Medex does not provide policies to recoup trip expenses.
Don’t Travel in a Bubble
Don’t be shy: Proactively engage in conversation with those around you, especially locals. Ask them what activities they love to do in the area. Where they like to eat. Are there any special festivals or events taking place you should know about.
Get an insider’s view. (Don’t let not speaking the language inhibit you. Ask those who are likely to speak your language: A concierge, a staff member at a museum or other popular tourist attractions, taxi drivers.
Connect with tradition: Try at least one new cultural something every day of your trip. It can be large or small: a new type of food, shop a unique store, try a traditional activity.
For more ideas, check out my piece Best Travel Advice: 10 Tips to Help You Break Out of Your Bubble.
The Most Important Advice I can Impart for Traveling Alone for the First Time.
Have fun. Embrace the adventure. Take things in stride. Yes, something will go wrong but whatever it is it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Truth be told, some of my fondest memories are the result of getting lost, missing a flight or my car breaking down.
It’s all part of the journey both inside and out.
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