Independence Day: INDEX's Tips For Solo Travel
The number of people taking solo holidays is up three-fold since 2011 with many of more of us travelling alone to do things and experience places in exactly the way we choose.
It’s taken a long time and there’s still much to be done when it comes to attitudes but the image of the single traveller as a lonely figure sat in a corner with a pizza and glass of Merlot has undergone a serious makeover. And with more than 16 million singletons in the UK and a further 6.7 million divorced or widowed, the travel industry is waking up to the fact this is a market to be ignored at its peril. When asked, people cite many reasons for choosing to holiday alone, from simply having no obvious travelling companion to those with partners who have differing interests.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) latest holiday habits report, the trend for solo holidays has been growing in recent years with more than one in six people (15%) choosing to go on holiday by themselves in the past 12 months, that’s almost three times as many as in 2011. Having the opportunity to do what they want is the most common reason people travel alone, with 76% citing this as their motivation.
The surge in solo travel has been attributed to a number of factors. As well as people wanting some ‘me time’, the increasingly widespread availability of wifi and use of smartphones and travel apps makes navigating the world alone less daunting. Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, says: “Going on holiday by yourself means you don’t have to compromise on your choice of destination, itinerary or activities.
“Whether they’re single or just want some of that ’me time’, people now have an incredible choice of destinations to choose from and it has become so much easier to explore the world. Travel companies have responded to demand by offering a diverse range of options for people booking by themselves.”
Going It Alone
Solo travel can be hugely liberating, offering the independence to holiday exactly as you wish as well as meeting like-minded companions. For the beginner though it’s often a daunting prospect. We asked Baldwins Travel’s Jo Britton for a few pointers:
“Think about a small group tour as many of these cater well for solo travellers and, if you’re doing something a little more unusual, you’ll probably be with like-minded people,” she says.
“If you’ve a passion for music or sport or want to learn a new skill then start small – book a weekend away to catch a concert or game in a foreign city, or sign-up for a hobby holiday. And some forward-thinking tour operators dispense with the dreaded single room supplement on certain tours and departures.
“Safety is often a worry for the solo traveller but there are simple things you can do to ease the mind,” advises Jo. “Leave full details of your itinerary with family or friends along with copies of travel documents (it’s also worth sending copies to an email account); get to know the tour leader or hotel concierge as they’ll often be only too keen to help.
“Meal times are often challenging for the single traveller so there’s nothing as good as a book or e-reader to stop you feeling self-conscious. And if the restaurant has seating at the bar, ask for a space there as there’ll be more going on and the setting can be sociable. The independence offered by solo travel can be educational, enlightening…and great fun.”
• Baldwins Travel runs events for single travellers. For further information, visit baldwinstravel.co.uk. Starling Safety (starlingsafety.com) is a new website in which travellers share safety advice with each other.
Ever wanted to capture stunning Italian landscapes on canvas, get that novel started on an idyllic Greek island, zone out in a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka or become a culinary genius? Then holidays combining travel with an interest are perfect for the solo traveller.
There are numerous specialist companies. Check them out:
The Road to Samarkand
Been inspired by Joanna Lumley’s latest adventure and fancy travelling the Silk Road? A 16th August departure with Jules Verne (vjv.com) – a company that offers no single supplement on a range of trips – costs from £1,995 including flights. It’s also available as a solo group with departures on 5th July and 25th October from £1,895.
Saddle-Up in Rajasthan
Wild Frontiers (wildfrontierstravel.com) has a 12-day desert ride showing off the best of the magical Marwar Kingdom. Riding Royal Marwari horses along flat, sandy riverbeds, through towering sand dunes and past age-old granite mountains, you will see ancient temples, unspoilt rural villages and meet local tribespeople. The trip departs 9th November and costs from £3,745 (excluding flights). There is no single supplement for those happy with a same sex accommodation share.
A Novel Idea
The Writers’ Lab on the Greek island of Skyros offers writers, thinkers and dabblers the opportunity to learn from distinguished authors, share the joys and struggles of the creative process, discover their strengths and polish their skills. Skyros (skyros.com) offers seven-night breaks throughout the summer for £795 (excluding flights) based on twin share accommodation.
Big in Japan
With the Rugby World Cup this year and the Olympics next, Japan is a hot ticket. Solos Holidays (solosholidays.co.uk) has a 14-day Journey Through Japan departing on 1st June from £4,799 including flights, single rooms included.
Also with Solos Holidays (solosholidays.co.uk) is a 15-day cruise from Tilbury with stops at Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tallin, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and Aarhus from £1,678, including a single, inside cabin, with three summer departures.
How about seven days of walking and gentle ‘me time’ on a self-guided journey through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, discovering impressive mountain scenery, colourful fruit orchards and distinctive villages with whitewashed stone houses? It’s on offer with Walks Worldwide (walksworldwide.com) between April and December from £789 (excluding flights).
If the pace of life is all too much then head for Sri Lanka – Lonely Planet’s top destination for 2019 – and seven nights of healthy living and rejuvenation at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary. With a full range of treatments and activities included, prices start from £1,481 with Wellbeing Escapes (wellbeingescapes.com) excluding flights and with single traveller discounts available.
Got those dancing feet? Then head on over to Cuba and a holiday that’s got your name on it with Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com)! Based in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second city, the trip includes 30 hours of intensive tuition over two weeks – and each person is partnered with a personal professional Cuban dance tutor. From £1,373 (excluding flights).
Into the Arctic
An epic five-day husky sledding adventure, staying in remote wilderness huts, travelling through pristine forests and across frozen lakes on the edge of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is offered by Mountain Kingdoms (mountainkingdoms.com). There are departures in March and April costing from £1,945 including flights.
Under African Skies
The African continent is one of magnificent wildlife, shimmering desert landscapes and colourful traditions. You can experience two of its gems – Namibia and Botswana – on a 21-day adventure with Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) from £3,625 including single supplement but excluding flights.
Strike a Pose
Destination Yoga (destinationyoga.co.uk) does exactly what it says on the tin with a range of holidays in idyllic settings from Italy and Portugal to India and Thailand with prices starting from £700 for five nights (excluding flights).
Photos: Silk Road © Jules Verne; Greece Creative Writing © Skyros; Sierra Nevada Walking © The Natural Travel Collection; Cuba © Caledonia - Language Culture Adventure; Husky Sledding © Christine Andrews; Africa © Tamlyn Wright.