Enrich your experiences with Volopa’s guide to travelling alone
When it comes to our holidays, travelling with the right people can make a trip truly magical, bringing families closer together or forging unbreakable bonds with friends. But travelling in a group does, inevitably, mean making some compromises.
Let’s be real: there’s always that one person in the group that doesn’t want to wake up in time to beat the tourist queues, or who’s too scared to go off the beaten track in favour of seeing the same old thing you’ve seen a hundred times before. There are the beach junkies who are happy to spend all day on the sand at the expense of your exploring, or the culture vultures poring for so long over the art of one museum that you miss all the rest. And even if your sightseeing interests do somehow perfectly align, there’s always the inevitable argument over where to eat to test your vacation-zen.
These small concessions are by no means reasons not to venture off with your loved ones, but for those who are looking for a travel trend that is all about you, then the rise of solo travel could be just what you’re looking for.
A new kind of adventure
Solo travel is no longer the remit of 20-something backpackers hostel-hopping through Asia on their Gap Year. In fact, as the world becomes ever more accessible and full of safer travel options, it’s become one of the fastest-rising trends of the last 18 months, and there’s no sign that it’s slowing down. According to the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) 2018 survey, more than one in six Brits chose to travel alone last year (compared to one in nine in 2017), with an impressive increase of 11% in the 35-44 year old age-group, and steady overall increase in the 45+ age groups.
In fact, 92% of these adventurous travellers said they were attracted to travelling alone because it meant they had the opportunity to do exactly what they wanted. Similarly, online behavioural researchers Hitwise noted that, from three million consumers across search engines in the UK, there has been a 143% increase in “solo travel” searches over the past three years – with the latest popular destinations including Costa Rica, South East Asia and New Zealand.
As well as having the freedom to indulge their interests, solo travellers also cited wanting to try something new, adding leisure time to a business trip, or simply wanting to take time to recharge with wellness and holistic trips all catching on to the influx of single-person bookings.
But if the thought of packing up and going solo has yet to hit your radar, knowing where to start can be a daunting concept. We’ve narrowed our top tips down to these easy steps from your booking to your break.
The mainstream travel industry has long based its pricing and infrastructure on the concept of two-person travel. Whether couples or friends, it’s a common trend to assume that people come two by two – but of course, this can mean that single travellers can find themselves getting stung by ‘single supplements’.
These charges, whether overt or hidden, can make travel costs build however you travel, with cruising reputed to be the worst offender, even charging you more for a single cabin than a pair would pay. This is ostensibly to make up for the expected losses the resorts or ship might accrue for a lack of bar, dinner or excursion spend.
Avoid these supplements by checking the small print of booking websites, or asking your booking agent when you secure your flights and hotels. To ensure your location and safety rating, always opt for accommodation with plenty of positive reviews from previous residents – very easy to find online – or request the exact address so you can check how central it is to your interests.
Birds of a feather
You might be travelling solo, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time alone. Organised tours and trips are a great way to meet new people while visiting a cultural must-do – check with any established hotel or review site to check whether your tour company is reputable. Even if you’re actively heading away from organised fun, apps like Meet Up will introduce you to like-minded people eager to an activity with a buddy or two – and offer opportunities to try something out of your comfort zone.
You can also find new friends by combining travel trends. Wellness holidays have long attracted solo travellers with up to 65% of fitness and health resort visitors reportedly checking in alone, according to The Healthy Holiday Company.
If that’s not your thing, music has always brought people together. A quick search for live music will often come up with cool jazz cafes, al fresco rock jams, and sophisticated cocktail lounges perfect for taking some time for yourself, in a new crowd.
While solo travel is becoming ever safer, there are a few things you can do before you leave to put your mind at ease and enjoy your trip. In addition to ensuring your travel insurance is up to date, simple ways to stay safe include sharing your itinerary – including your flight numbers, hotel reservation and any transfer details you may have pre-booked – with a family member or friend.
Take photocopies of your passport, insurance details and any other documents and ensure you have spare copies as well as those you’ve shared with your family at home. Finally, make a list of emergency contact information you might need and keep it with you, whether printed off or saved in your mobile phone, to ensure you can contact anything from a doctor to your bank even if you don’t have access to a WiFi hotspot.
Finally, have fun! The joy of solo travel is that you can do what you want, when you want, how you want, away from the many compromises of everyday life.