It depends on who you ask, but according totravel experts, travel could mean anything from traveling entirely on your own or on a tour with people you don’t know.
Expedia found that 60% of travelers are planning to take a solo trip in the next two years, according to an online survey with more than 2,500 respondents from the U.S. And Mexico. More than three-quarters of 21,000 people surveyed by travel activities and services booking platform Klook have traveled by themselves or are considering it (across all age, gender and nationality subgroups). Klook’s survey was conducted online in October 2019 over 16 markets, including the U.S., Japan, Singapore, Australia, the Philippines and more.
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That said, the survey revealed a love-hate relationship with solo travel. Half of respondents had loneliness concerns, and 48% indicated safety was their biggest worry.
The market is certainly in travelers’ favor. “There are growing options offered by travel suppliers for individuals who enjoy traveling on their own,” Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko said in a statement in December highlighting the travel agency’s consumer trends survey. “We see more cruise companies offering single fares and more tour operators developing programs to entice solo travelers with special interests.”
Norwegian Cruise Line, G Adventures, Intrepid Travel and many more in the industry have taken notice.
You can even watch the trend in real time: More than 5.5 million Instagram posts have the hashtag #solotravel attached, and over the past five years, “solo travel” has become a more popular Google search term as well.
Why is solo travel trendy?
Those 5.5 million Instagram posts get at one possible explanation behind the trend: People want to express themselves as individuals. (And what better way to find yourself than by traveling alone?)
Social media isn’t necessarily a boon, however, for the solo traveler. Blogger Christopher Damitio, founder of Vagobond.Com, says that he’s been watching the trend grow since the 1990s — but has noticed how it’s changed.
“The loneliness and isolation that used to be hard for people to deal with no longer really exists because everyone can stay connected via smartphones,” Damitio says. “Unfortunate, because it was that very loneliness and isolation that used to drive strangers together and create new friendships — today, people are mostly eyes down on their phones and not all that interested in making new travel friends.”
This lines up with data from Expedia: One-third of American survey respondents, when presented with the option to travel with their phone or a companion on their next trip, picked only their phone.
And there’s one group taking full advantage of the trend: Women. “Women seem to consistently take more solo trips than men,” Jeff Klee, CEO of travel booking platform Qtrip, said. The company’s data shows that female solo bookings were around 53% of total solo bookings, compared to male solo bookings at 47%. “Year over year, this figure doesn’t change, which suggests that women take more solo trips,” he says.
Lane agreed: “Women’s travel groups have sprung up, and small groups of solo women are having fun all over the world.”
Tips for solo travelers
Figure out why you’re traveling solo in the first place. “When you can self-analyze where your desire to travel stems from, you can better decide on what kind of experience you need to have, where to go, when to go and what to do during your trip,” travel coach and consultant Sahara Rose De Vore told USA TODAY.
Be open to meeting people along the way. Stay in a hostel so you can easily chat with fellow travelers (who may be solo themselves). “For a solo traveler, especially, a good hostel can be a goldmine of friends, great stories and adventurous ideas about what to do and where to head next,” travel and remote work blogger Jenna Miller told USA TODAY. (And of course: put down your phone.)
It’s OK to eat alone. You never know how the night will turn out. Ashley Les, a luxury travel advisor for Protravel International, got to meet the owner of a restaurant in Paris after telling the wait staff she found it by searching “best pastito in Athens” on Google. “By the time dinner was over, I ended up finding out that he used to live in Astoria (in New York), which is where I live now,” Les said. “The night ended sharing stories of our favorite spots in Queens over homemade wine. Had I been traveling with someone I may not have had the conversation and then would have missed out on an epic memory.”
Keep an eye out for single-traveler fees. Don’t get bogged down by extra fees. “When booking accommodations as a solo traveler, look out for single supplement charges,” Klee said. “This is the fee some hotels and almost all cruise lines charge to offset the losses incurred because only one person is staying in a room.”
Be safe, be safe, be safe. There’s safety in numbers, but if you’re on your own, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. The U.S. Embassy just this month issued a warning about an increased risk of sexual assault in Spain (and it’s hardly the only country with a travel warning or alert).
“Get to know what areas may have higher crime rates and where it’s best to walk around in groups,” Rachel Hercman, a psychotherapist in New York said. She’s seen a rise in the solo travel trend from her clients. “Find out transportation options in advance so that you don’t end up in a desperate situation. Let friends and relatives know about your itinerary plans, especially as they change, so that someone knows where you are.”