Travel writer Julia Hammond has been travelling solo for three decades. Here, she shares her top tips.
Solo travel is a fast-growing trend. According to ABTA, one in nine holidaymakers has travelled alone in the last 12 months. Hotel booking sites and Airbnb have reported a large increase in solo travel too, and cruise companies have started building more solo cabins with no single supplements.
Figure out whether you’re suited to going away on your own
Knowing yourself is a big part of having a successful solo holiday. While some relish solitude, others find it lonely and isolating. Test out how you’d cope with a big trip by first booking a weekend away in a familiar location.
Punctuate your itinerary with opportunities to connect with fellow travellers. For instance, try a Free Tours by Foot walking tour—they operate in a number of European and North American cities. Alternatively, book a place on an activity-based break where you learn a language, cook, or paint. Once you’ve got this trial under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether you’d prefer the safety net of a group tour or if you’re ready to spread your solo travel wings and go it alone.
You only have to please yourself
Embrace the chance to make this holiday all about you. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to explore but that your usual travelling companions would hate. Perhaps this solo trip could be the opportunity to volunteer with a charitable organisation overseas. Another idea is to set yourself a physical challenge such as climbing Kilimanjaro. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing the complete opposite.
If you’ve danced until dawn and find yourself lounging around in your pyjamas late into the afternoon, there’ll be no one around to nag you to get dressed!
Select your kind of accommodation
Hostels, with their communal kitchens and common room social activities, are a great way of meeting people. The days of being forced to endure smelly dorms are long gone, and many hostels now have ensuite private rooms which are as comfortable as a hotel.
However, solo travel doesn’t have to mean backpacking. Airbnb offers a good selection of both shared and single occupancy units, with the advantage of having a local host on hand for insider tips. Boutique hotels with their ‘home away from home’ ethos can be a real treat.
Why not pick a good value destination where your money will stretch further and indulge yourself with a suite or room with a view? For example, I stayed at Hostal Plaza Santa Cruz in Seville in an absolutely enormous suite right in the heart of the old town for 57 euros.
Be savvy about safety
It’s a sad reality that the world isn’t always as safe as we might like, and some novice solo travellers might feel vulnerable without the safety net of a tour guide or travel partner. Before you book, you can ask questions internet forums such as Lonely Planet’s well-established Thorn Tree network. Use it to work out the safest neighbourhoods in your intended destination.
Once there, make use of social media to ensure someone back home knows your plans. Pre-book airport transfers if you’re arriving late; check locally if it’s safe to flag a taxi down off the street. Keep your phone charged and your wits about you. But trust your instincts: remember, it’s often those unexpected encounters with welcoming strangers that make the longest lasting memories.