Tips for solo travelers
Friday, January 7, 2011; 2:18 PM
All you solo travelers out there, take heart: You're not actually alone.
According to market research firm TNS's TravelsAmerica Study, solos make up 10 to 12 percent of all U.S. adult leisure travelers.
Some go solo because they're single. Some have partners who don't share their wanderlust. And some simply like the freedom of traveling alone: You set your own schedule, choose your own activities, eat where and when you want to, sleep whenever you feel like it.
But you also face unique challenges: You and you alone are responsible for your safety. You don't have someone to share expenses with. And you might occasionally get lonely.
So if you're going to leave home on your own, you'll have a few extra things to take into consideration.
"A lot of stuff can happen when you are alone, and it can be extraordinary," said Janice Waugh, who blogs at SoloTravelerBlog.com. "But you have to be careful and read people and understand what they want from you."
Which type are you?
First ask yourself: Do you want to be a solo traveler or an independent traveler? There's a difference.
Solo travelers can join a community of like-minded travelers so that they don't feel entirely alone. Want to learn how to cook in Italy? Take in Montreal's International Jazz Festival? Tango in Brazil? Volunteer in a Mexican village? There's probably a group tour company that offers such arrangements.
The downside is that most tours charge single supplements to make up for losing money on a second person. But occasionally, a company will waive that fee. Abercrombie & Kent, for instance, is waiving the single supplement on a $3,120 Feb. 22 trip to Costa Rica booked by Jan. 15, a savings of $760. Waugh also points out that if you book at the last minute, you could simply ask that the fee be waived. And if you're willing to share a room with a stranger, some companies will find you a roommate.
Cruises also charge a single supplement, but some are coming around to solo travelers. In July, the Norwegian Epic debuted with 128 studio staterooms, all with access to a two-floor singles-only lounge.
Independent travelers, on the other hand, want DIY vacations and shun tour groups. But that doesn't mean that they don't want to connect with strangers. Consider hostels and bed-and-breakfasts, which have a built-in mechanism for meeting people. In a hostel, you'll probably be sharing a room. At a bed-and-breakfast, you'll have the innkeepers and other guests to keep you company, at least during breakfast. Or you can try membership communities such as Couchsurfing.com, where you stay at another member's home free or for a small fee, or Airbnb.com, whose prices are higher but still less than most hotels.
Like it or not, when traveling alone, you're more vulnerable because you have no one to turn to if you get into trouble.