Holidays barely over, the new year brings with it dreams of travel to yet more destinations. But what if you’re procrastinating, without a travelling companion, yet keen to lock in dates, book and go? Fear of missing out on your own window of opportunity – be it a precious gap year, peak season for skiing or the best climate – can leave just one option: go your own way and do it alone.
The past decade has seen tour operators identify the solo tourist market as one for catering to, or exploiting, but mainly mere token efforts to offer realistic value options or significantly reduce the costly “single supplement”. Many purport to sell a singles ticket but it’s soon evident this means sharing sleeping quarters with a – same sex but nevertheless – stranger. Then too, packages such as “Pay 1, fly 1 free” and consolidator offerings for two or more have only proliferated. Gradually, though, singles are nudging their way into being fully recognised as an important sector. Equally, tourists of all ages are now more prepared to strike out solo; modern attitudes see them no longer subject to so much pointing, prying and the pity of fellow travellers. And eager to enjoy the benefits of an individual itinerary: among them, no conflicting agenda with a partner and the freedom to explore on your own terms – change plans, stay longer, leave earlier, add a stopover – at personal whim, no one else to consider.
Prominent travel writer Ben Groundwater this month has published Go Your Own Way, (Hardie Grant RRP $29.99) a manual of essential tips and tricks for successful voyaging as a “loner”. The volume covers all the basics and, while inclined toward the first-time traveller, school-leaver or young backpacker, nevertheless constitutes a useful pre-travel checklist and on-the-road aide-memoire for older venturers too – who, newly divorced or widowed perhaps, might not have travelled widely in the past. For all comers, the practical advice is interspersed with author anecdotes of his experiences while travelling alone: “the people you meet along the way” … somewhat counterintuitively then, how to link up with others. But the stories create an inspiring scenario to remind readers of the serendipitous encounters travellers can have (and that could occur when travelling as a couple or in a group, as well.) They encourage expectation and may well strengthen confidence to set out solo. The book includes detailed profiles of ten world cities and how to attack them alone: when to go; where to stay, eat and drink; what to do. Ideal for eager young adventurers.
Another just-released publication is a superb primer for those new to cruising and seasoned cruisers alike. (Solo travellers: cruising’s the group you have when you’re not having a group: sail on your own terms, yet surrounded by the security of fellow passengers.) The Cruise Handbook, by travel experts Lonely Planet, $29.99, includes a concise but valuable section on cruising for singles ready to mingle and lists cruise lines offering studio rooms for solo sailors.
In general, take care to check “solo” packages carefully: still many holidays billed “for singles” don’t mean single accommodation. Many follow youth operator Contiki’s formula of batching single travellers into roommate duos or bunk/dorm groups, with a hefty supplement for your own room.
Intrepid Tours, currently highlighting solo specials, is worth investigating. It’s designed group tours it insists may be booked strictly by singles only. If you’re a couple/group Intrepid says you can follow the same itinerary but not on the singles group tour. Again, these solo specials will pair you with a same-sex roommate but most allow for you to specify a private room. An example given seems reasonable: eight days in India including Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (Taj Mahal) in 2019 is from $975 for singles sharing, an extra “from” $225 for your own room.
While hostels have always welcomed single youngsters, a solo travel prospect for mature travellers is B&B accommodation. Many cooking and language schools market themselves to singles, too, although the basic cost can be high.
Travel Editor, Susie Boswell.
MAIN PICTURE courtesy Intrepid Travel.
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