We may have had the same sense of humour but when it came to holidays we were poles apart. I loved to travel, globetrotting up to 15 times a year; my boyfriend had been abroad once, to Paris, and had reached the age of 35 without setting foot on a plane.
We probably wouldn’t have lasted the five years we did if I hadn’t been prepared to holiday solo. I visited friends in Eastern Europe, enjoyed off-season sightseeing in Med and to top it all, I became a I became a travel journalist.
Fast forward to the present day and my present partner shares my wanderlust, but I still often find myself travelling alone for work. Only last March I was enjoying a candlelit
dinner on a Sri Lankan beach, just a book and the sound of the waves for company.
As my experience shows, reasons for travelling solo are not as clear cut as they may
seem. While some lone holidaymakers are divorced, widowed or otherwise unattached, others have interests not shared by partners and some have different financial or family commitments to those they might otherwise have hit the road with. Tour operators have even noted a rise in solo bookings from people who’ve taken voluntary redundancy during the recession.
Whatever your reasons for taking the plunge, travelling solo for the first time can be a daunting experience. However, there are many ways of making it easier.
Firstly, many solo travellers are only alone as far as the airport – because they join groups of like-minded travellers on holiday. Some companies cater specifically for solos but, pick the right regular tour and you’re still unlikely to find yourself the only singleton on the bus.
Grand American Adventures, whose customers are generally aged over 30, sees around 80% travelling solo. “People are often nervous about joining a tour group on their own, but our past passengers consistently tell us that it is more like travelling with a group of friends than on an organised tour,” says marketing manager Toby Butland.
“Sharing campsite duties, participating in adventure activities and experiencing those unique travel moments with a small group of like-minded individuals is the perfect environment for making new, life-long friends.
You’ll also benefit from the safety and security of the group, and save money by sharing costs.”
Other tour operators aiming at “active professionals” and offering both camp and hotel-based trips include Acacia Adventure Holidays, which sees a solo majority on its tours, and Exodus and The Adventure Company, which each attract a roughly equal solos and couples split.
Coach tours and river cruises, favoured by the over-55s also see a relatively high lone traveller count; for instance, sister companies Trafalgar Tours and Insight Vacations welcome about 27% solos per trip.
Special-interest holidays are another solution for solo travellers who naturally bond with like-minded people while they cook a curry, paint a watercolour or learn to sing. Niche passions can even be a motivator for going it alone. My boyfriend’s a great skier while I quake at the thought, so he’s been known to hit the slopes solo. Likewise, walking specialist Ramblers Worldwide points out that the lone travellers who make up 45% of its clients are not all single. Noting many were married but with different interests from their other halves, the company has introduced Cruise and Walk holidays where couples can split by day for rambling or poolside relaxation then spend the evening together.
Despite all the attractive options, it seems there are still many who need encouragement to travel solo. A survey last year by leading market research company Mintel revealed 38% of the adult population is single yet accounts for only 6% of holidays taken.
Of course, it’s not only lack of confidence that is the deterrent but the dreaded single supplement. Few hotel rooms are singles and as hoteliers don’t want to sell their doubles and twins at half price they levy an extra charge on solo bookers. The good news is, there are several ways around this problem. These are:
Solo specialists: Companies specialising in solo travel like Solo’s and Just You usually offer a room of your own at no single supplement, there’s just one upfront price for the holiday.
Room shares: Companies which attract a high solo count, including The Adventure Company, Exodus, Grand UK Holidays and The Imaginative Traveller, have a “no single supplements policy” on all or the majority of their tours. They usually endeavour to pair
travellers with a same-sex room-mate and those who don’t get matched may still be given a single room at no extra cost.
Pal finders: Some independent solo travellers put classified ads in travel magazines seeking like-minded companions heading to the same parts of the globe. You can do the same online at www.someone2travelwith.com, which was founded by a travel agent.
Dedicated solo departures: Some companies, including The Adventure Company, Exodus, Grand UK Holidays, Great Rail Journeys, Saga and Titan HiTours dedicate certain departures for solos, with room-shares and no single supplement typical.
Cheaper destinations: If you’re travelling independently your destination can help. In regions like Asia, good-value accommodation makes the supplement less painful, while in Spain the huge volume of hotels means you’re more likely to find single rooms.
Specialist rates: Some solo-friendly operators manage to negotiate low single supplements with hoteliers; for instance Ramblers asks around £38 extra a week on
Italian holidays and £30 in the UK.
solo holiday facts
Friendship Travel: 0871 200 2035, www.friendshiptravel.com Just you: 0800 5677393,
www.justyou.co.uk Solo’s: 0844 815 0005, www.solosholidays.co.uk One Traveller: 0844 800 5053, www.onetraveller.com Someone2travelwith: 01271 862626, www.s2t2.co.uk and www.someone2travelwith.com
high solo count
coaching, trains, river cruising
Leger Holidays: 01709 833805/0845 4080769, www.leger.co.uk Grand UK Holidays: 01603 619933, www.grandukholidays.com Great Rail Journeys: 01904 521 936, www.greatrail.com Insight Vacations: 01475 741203, www.insightvacations.com Saga Holidays: 0800 096 0074/0078, http://travel.saga.co.uk Titan HiTours: 0800 988 5823, www.titanhitours.co.uk Trafalgar Tours: 0207 8288143, www.trafalgar.com
Acacia Adventure Holidays: 020 77064700, www.acacia-africa.com The Adventure Company: 0845 609 0889, www.adventurecompany.co.uk Exodus: 0845 863 9600, www.exodus.co.uk Grand American Adventures: 0845 313 2615, www.americanadventures.com Imaginative Traveller: 0845 077 8803, www.imaginative-traveller.co.uk On The Go Tours: 0207 371 1113, www.onthegotours.com Ramblers Worldwide Holidays/Ramblers Countrywide Holidays: 01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk and www.ramblerscountrywide.co.uk
activities and learning experiences
Arts courses: The French House Party Experience: 01299 896819, www.frenchhouseparty.co.uk
On the Menu: 08708 998844, www.holidayonthemenu.com On the Go (see above)
Ramblers Worldwide (see above) The French House Party Experience (see above)
Journey Latin America: 0208 747 8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk
All prices and details were correct when published, please check before you travel.