solo travel: woman alone on great wall of china
Almost one in four leisure travelers is voyaging alone – and that number is predicted to grow

Have you ever gone on a trip by yourself? If so, you’re not alone.

More and more people are choosing to travel on their own. Solo travelers make up about 23% of all leisure travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The solo travel trend is catching on for a number of reasons. And it’s expected to keep growing.

Why is solo travel booming?

One reason why people are taking off on their own: they’re not in a relationship. In the U.S., for the first time in at least four decades, singles (50.2%) outnumber married people. More than one-third – 35% – of all households in developed countries are one person.

That means people are more comfortable with and willing to do things on their own. That includes solo travel.

Who’s traveling solo?

You can find every type of person opting for solo travel. But a significant number of those voyaging on their own are older women. They’re followed by younger female professionals.

Interestingly, a study by AARP found that 53% of solo travelers over 45 are married. Sometimes one partner craves a golf getaway in Scotland and the other a shopping trip in Hong Kong. Also, busy work schedules mean it’s harder to get away at the same time. And technology makes it easier to keep in touch with loved ones who aren’t along on the journey.

Solo voyagers tend to be well traveled. And many have journeyed on their own before. The AARP survey found 37% had traveled alone in the past. Those people had taken an average of four solo travel adventures in their lifetime.

Why do people travel on their own?

solo travel: woman alone overlooking water and colorful town
People travel alone for many reasons, including personal reflection and learning something new

The AARP study found that:

  • 57% of solo travelers couldn’t find anyone available to go on a trip they wanted to take
  • 45% wanted to go somewhere they wanted to go
  • 35% sought a trip just for themselves
  • 18% wanted time for personal reflection
  • 17% went to pursue a hobby or interest
  • 12% traveled to learn something new

The benefits of solo travel

Solo travelers praise many advantages of journeying alone:

  • It’s easy to design the trip. All that’s needed is your own buy-in for the plan.
  • You get to do whatever you want to do. You’re making all the decisions and choices. And that gives you a sense of freedom.
  • You can make last-minute adjustments to your plans based on how you feel that day.
  • You’re more likely to meet new people – locals and fellow travelers. That means more genuine experiences with people of diverse backgrounds.
  • You’ll develop more as a person. And you’ll gain a new sense of confidence and empowerment.
  • You’ll also test your limits and discover new abilities. The bonus of those: an increased sense of self-awareness and accomplishment.

The AARP study reported that 97% of those who take solo trips are extremely satisfied with the experience. And 81% plan on taking another in the next year.

Solo travel options growing

Traditionally, solo travelers in hotels, on tours or on cruise ships have had to pay a single supplement. That’s anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of the rate that two people would pay.

But travel companies have noticed the growth in solo travel. They’re responding with offerings to attract travelers on their own. Many tour companies and cruise lines waive or reduce the single supplements for select journeys. Some also offer roommate programs, where they’ll match up solo travelers of the same gender.

solo travel: norwegian cruise line single cabin
Cruise lines like Norwegian are creating cabins for one to meet the solo travel demand

Some cruise lines are going a step further with single staterooms. Cabins on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic, Breakaway, Getaway, Pride of America and Escape are the industry’s first staterooms designed and priced just for one person. Each also features a sleek Studio Lounge exclusively for solo travelers. The Lounge offers large-screen TVs, a bar, coffee, comfortable chairs and tables for socializing, daily pre-dinner gatherings, and a public board for connecting with others on their own.

Royal Caribbean International offers studio interior cabins on its Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas ships, as well as virtually all its Radiance-class ships. Some have real balconies and others offer virtual views through the cabin’s flat-screen TV.

Cunard Line currently offers solo cabins and continues to roll out more of them. The Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria offer single staterooms, with the Queen Mary 2 on track to feature them in 2016. Most of Cunard’s solo cabins are outside staterooms with a large window.

Holland America Line is also debuting single staterooms. Its Koningsdam will feature 12 single oceanview cabins. The line also offers a Single Partners Program on most voyages, with events aimed at solo travelers.

Three river cruise lines – AmaWaterways, Tauck and Viking River Cruises – also have a small number of single staterooms on select ships.

Solo travel tips

solo travel: woman alone enjoying beach
One tip for solo travelers is to treat themselves to a once-in-a-lifetime experience
  • Decide how you want to travel. On your own? Or with a group? On a cruise? A group just for solo travelers? Or a women-only or singles-only group? Your decision depends on your comfort level with traveling alone, your travel experience and your destination. For example, somewhere off the beaten path would likely be easier with a group, especially if you’re new to solo travel.
  • Check out the demographics. Do you want to be with travelers in a similar age group? Do you want a smaller or larger group? Both have advantages: it’s easier to get to know everyone in a smaller group. But larger groups offer more potential new friends.
  • Decide on a destination. Less experienced travelers or those new to solo travel may choose Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America or the Caribbean. Places with more developed tourism infrastructures will be easier for a solo traveler. Southeast Asia is popular with solo travelers, as is South America.
  • Meet fellow travelers along the way. Post about your trip on social media before you go to ask for connections. Once your trip is underway, ask for locals’ recommendations on where to eat and visit. Join a day activity or volunteer opportunity to mix with people who share your interests. Bring a game with you (a simple pack of cards works) and challenge other travelers to a match.
  • Splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences or adventures. Seize the opportunity as the memories will last a lifetime.
  • One of the toughest parts of the journey for some solo travelers is dining. There’s even a name for the fear of dining alone: solomangarephobia. Sit at a counter, bar or communal table. That makes it easier to strike up conversations with other patrons or the bartender. Bring something to read to keep yourself entertained. And choose more casual cafes or outdoor dining options for a more relaxed solo dining experience.
  • Stay safe. Ask locals which areas are safe and which should be avoided. Travel with new friends when possible. Walk confidently with a purpose, be alert and notice your surroundings. And trust your gut.
  • Partner with an expert Virtuoso travel advisor to plan your solo travel. They can offer invaluable advice on everything from the best destinations for solo travelers to how to stay safe.

What’s your favorite destination to travel to on your own? Please share it with us in the comments section.

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