If the concept of solo travel conjures hazy visions of hostel bunk beds and monstrously heavy backpacks, you’ve been away too long.
The ticket-for-one trend is booming – and not just for the gap-year cohort. Google searches for ‘solo travel’ have quadrupled since 2020, the hashtag has increased tenfold in the past three years on TikTok and searches for solo flights spiked with a 36 per cent increase last year, with a sizeable contingent aged between 40 and 50.
In the case of going it alone, the data proves that finding a right companion is no longer an obstacle to taking a trip.
“I've observed a significant increase in solo travel,” confirms Monique Farmer, founder and CEO of Women Want Adventure, an Australian-based tour company focused on solo female travel offerings.
“Particularly after the pandemic, people are realising that they can't always coordinate with others, know where to go or wait for others to get organised. Solo travel offers the flexibility to adapt plans as needed.”
After restrictive lockdown periods and reduced travel capacity, the Australian appetite for new experiences is clearly back in a big way – with or without a companion. Where pre-pandemic travel plans may have paused in the hopes of calendars coordinating, holidaymakers aren’t stalling to search for a travel buddy.
“A key change I've seen, especially from a woman's perspective at Women Want Adventure, is the eagerness to not wait,” she echoes.
Going solo doesn’t mean always being alone, however. In the case of Farmer’s customers, tour groups are composed of women choosing to travel solo… for the purpose of making friends along the way. “Many choose solo travel to find like-minded friends, and that's precisely what we facilitate,” she says.
Anyone who’s ever planned a trip on an incessantly pinging group chat will appreciate: the other notable drawcard to travelling alone is being able to plan a trip based on your own preferences, no notification-heavy tech necessary.
“Solo travel allows for more flexible planning,” Farmer says. “You can tailor your trip to your interests, like hiking or camping, offering more opportunities.”
It’s also a fabulous way to build confidence and opportunities for social connection, forged through shared interests.
“Our focus is not just on imparting essential skills but also on fostering relationships within the group. Our goal is to transform a gathering of strangers into a circle of friends through adventure and outdoor experiences.”
Intrigued? Here are five ways you can guarantee successful solo travel.
Consider Where You'll Crossover With Others
Solo travel doesn’t mean spending your whole holiday alone (unless you want to, of course). If company would be welcome, look at what on-the-ground opportunities there could be to connect with others, from cooking classes, walking tours or city-based meetups that can more easily facilitate connections while you’re enjoying your chosen destination.
Don't Forget the Budget Factor
Costs can certainly creep up when you’re travelling solo, when everything from rooms to cruise ship cabins are geared towards two-person prices. (Some travel experiences can even cost a solo traveller up to 97 per cent more than a single person travelling in a pair, according to one UK-based inquiry discovered). That means you’ll need to be a little more discerning when it comes to budgeting for your trip. Weigh up where you can (and likely can’t) save money – eating out typically doesn’t attract a two-person supplement, for example, even in the nicest restaurants, while accommodation is obviously cheaper for a pair.
Look For Connectivity
If you’re new to solo travel, choosing a destination that’s well connected by public transport can be crucial for ease, safety and budget reasons. Skip solo taxi trips or the necessity to tug your suitcase over non-wheel friendly footpaths without a helping hand and head for destinations that are well connected, whether by train, tram, bike sharing or foot. (Copenhagen, New York or even the tuk-tuk-friendly Bangkok are easier on the back pocket when it comes to getting around).
Do You Need a Goal?
Some trips lend themselves perfectly for lone rangers. Long, multi-day hikes – such as Spain’s Camino de Santiago or summiting Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro – give your travel plans a purpose, which might be the perfect way to focus your holiday. Most bucket list sights, from Peru’s Machu Picchu to Jordan’s Wadi Rum attract other travellers, so if you’re looking to cross paths with others, this could be a great way to do both.
Consider Other Types of Company
Depending on your plans, there may be times you’ll be alone on a solo trip. Long plane or train journeys, solo dinners or quiet wanders around a city give you an opportunity to really enjoy your own company. It’s always good to give yourself the option of having a companion, though – and that doesn’t have to be in the form of a human travel partner. An enthralling book, a well-kept journal or even a handy camera and a photography habit can be all the company you need when there are stretches of solo travel.
If tours conjure images of Contiki, you’ve been away too long. Tours are as varied as travel is, with a tour for every travel appetite. Here are four of the best for solo travel.
Best For Women: Women Want Adventure1/5
Created in the interests of consolidating community and a feeling of belonging, Women Want Adventure’s founder and CEO Monique Farmer wanted to create female-focused opportunities for connection amid new experiences. Women Want Adventure now leads women on specialised adventures from Ningaloo to Nepal. All ages and abilities are welcome, with ‘easy’ to ‘challenging’ trips available, spanning whale shark diving, hiking and canyoning.
Best For Adventurous Travellers: G Adventures2/5
Veteran tour company G Adventures specialises in small group tours; ideal for those who are hoping for a little more face time with new people. Not only that, but the company’s network of tours is impressively varied – meeting gorillas in Rwanda, swimming with turtles in the Galapagos or a wellness-focused meandering through Iceland could all be on the agenda, depending on your travel appetite.
Best For Younger Travellers: FTLO Travel3/5
There’s a distinctly Millennial feel to the tours offered by FTLO Travel, a company that focuses on experiences for 20 and 30-something travellers. Only this gen would even consider a Phone-Free Tour to Havana, for example, (but also have tour leader Instagram handles in their bios). If you fall into this age category, you know you’ll be in like-minded hands as you traverse destinations such as Bali, Barcelona or Belize with fellow young professionals and creatives, with a packed schedule of adventures from cooking classes to boat trips and guided walking tours through ancient city centres.
Best For True Solo Travel: Black Tomato4/5
Every trip with Black Tomato is unique, tailored to you and your personal travel needs. If you want to take a solo trip without getting lost in all the logistics, Black Tomato is the tour company for you. A typical trip is based on your preferences, all punctuated by luxury accommodation. This is blow-the-budget, indulgent solo travel – think Four Seasons, Aman or Mandarin Oriental stays and boat trips for one.