So you are thinking about taking a trip by yourself, unaccompanied, single, solo, en solo, en solitario, enkelt, sengl. But everything you’ve looked into is based on ‘double occupancy’, has an added ‘singles supplement’ or some drawback for traveling unaccompanied. It often seems cheaper, safer and less lonesome to just give-in and GO with your cousin Terry who snores, gets carsick, and can’t read a map. Or you might be leaning towards that budget ‘singles tour’, you know – the one where you’re on and off a bus 6 times a day, have to share a room with a complete stranger, eat where your taken and attend attractions like the History of Dryer Lint? Please, I implore you, give that solo trip a try. I believe the advantages are plentiful. Here are my top 5.
You are in control.
You choose destination, itinerary, budget, time and method of travel. You can move on, linger an extra day or change a destination altogether. Have lunch in a five-star, take a sandwich to the park or eat nothing at all if you choose. Stay in for the night, dance till dawn or attend a cooking class. Solo travel is an uncompromised present you deserve to give yourself at least once. It’s a learning experience. Following your own instincts and desires teaches you volumes about yourself.
It’s so much easier to dig-in at your destination when you can do it at your own pace and your own style. If you love to prowl the farmers market and your companion wants to visit designer shoe stores with you in tow – well you get the idea. While traveling solo engaging with local people and events is what I have come to love. Attend a sporting event, a musical performance, food fair, art show, theater – choose something you are interested in or always wanted to try or learn. Make it truly local, small and a hometown favorite. Years ago I was told about the local ‘sheep dog trials’ in Italy while waiting to have a flat tire repaired. I was transfixed by the skill of the dogs and their human partners. I’ve been a devoted fan since. Ask those you encounter what they recommend for a meal that is the specialty of the area. Ask where you can buy local fruit, wine, cheese or bread. Consider a farm or ranch where you will lodge with a family and learn about their life and work. Show an interest in a community and most locals are eager to step-up and offer an idea. It pays off with great information, wonderful memories and often a new friend.
A wonderful way to dig-in is walking. You can take your time and absorb the sights, sounds, textures, history and much more. While not designed specifically for soloist, many cities have walking and biking tours that can be printed or downloaded to your Smartphone. There are loads of web sites to choose from. Some self-guided tours are free, while others have a modest download fee. I like, iTunes City Maps & Walks and Fodor’s Every Trail.
Cinderella rooms are your best friend.
Older, non-cookie cutter hotels frequently have what is called a ‘Cinderella room’. It’s a room tucked away in the attic or wedged into some unusual architectural oddity in the building. They are often tiny, with a twin bed. Some have very limited views. What they do come with is a much reduced price tag. I’ve found these type of rooms on booking sites such as Expedia and Trip Advisor, but have had more luck contacting a hotel directly and asking if they have any ‘small single rooms’. I’ll be honest they weren’t all amazing. A ‘no view’ Cinderella room I booked in Venice, Italy turned out to have no window. I didn’t stay. Many of my Cinderella rooms were gems filled with light and air, charm and refinement. Bed and Breakfast are especially good sources for these sweet finds.
One seat is often easier to acquire.
As a solo diner I’ve been seated immediately in a busy restaurant without reservations while others had an hour wait. The same can be true for making a restaurant reservation. That small table will be a tough sell on a busy night when groups and couples make up most restaurant’s patrons. Theater seats are the same. There is always a single seat open somewhere, even for sold out performances. Last minute cancellations happen nightly for large theaters. While working in New York City I wanted to see the musical Contact as did everyone. It was sold out for months. The hotel concierge said my best bet was to jump in a cab, head to Lincoln Center and GO to the season ticket holder office right before showtime. I got a 6th row isle seat for $80. The nosebleed section was going for $125. The show was fabulous. The lady in the seat next to me was friendly and welcoming. Her husband couldn’t make it at the last minute, so she turned his ticket in and I got lucky.
Trains, buses, tours, shuttles – travel related services will often have an odd seat or last minute cancellation available. It never hurts to ask and usually pays off.
Solo travelers are on the rise.
As a result so are services and accommodations catering to the unaccompanied. Some cruise lines now offer singles suites. Small, but well-appointed cabins are designed and priced for unaccompanied voyagers. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ‘Studio Stateroom’ passengers have exclusive access to the studio lounge where they can relax or engage other solo travelers.
If you’re thinking a guided tour is right for you, many now offer ‘no single supplement’ rates and single occupant rooms. You can do a little research and discover the savvy hotels, tour companies and other services that are really working for the solo traveler business without tagging on extra costs or restrictions.
RESEARCH TIP – In your favorite search engine type ‘solo travel’ or ‘unaccompanied travel’, not ‘singles travel’. This will help avoid the ‘singles hookup’ type of sites. One of my favorite general information sites that focuses on solo travel is Independent Traveler. It’s loaded with information on every aspect of traveling unaccompanied.
Your safety while traveling should always be your number one concern. I stress research, research, research. Decide what interest you, then look for as much information as possible. Read what others have to say about accommodations, restaurants and destinations. Sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp genuinely help you see the good, bad and ugly. So like your teacher said, “Look it up already”.
No matter where or how, take a trip solo. It’s the only way to GO.
Thanks for stopping by,