Top Tips for Going it Alone.
For many seniors and boomers, traveling is something to which they are looking forward when they finally retire and have more free time on their hands. Many have a bucket list that includes places they want to see and explore, and some have been saving for years to be able to afford the luxury.
According to the AARP, boomers were the most active travelers in 2016, taking an average of four to five trips per year for leisure. Forty-five percent of seniors and boomers traveled both domestically and internationally last year, and the trend is expected to continue into 2017. The AARP also reports that 62 percent of boomers traveling in 2016 were couples (married or living together) traveling internationally and 74 percent of those were traveling domestically.
But what about single men and women who wish to travel, but don’t have a companion to accompany them? This may pose more of a challenge to senior women than men, as women can face greater obstacles and safety concerns when traveling alone. If you are a single senior woman who wants to travel, there are ways to make your dream a reality.
Solo Travel Tip #1 – Just Do It
The most important piece of advice we can offer about traveling alone is to just do it. You should never miss an opportunity to travel to a destination you’ve always wanted to experience simply because you have no one to go with you.
Pennsylvania resident Karen Blackburn soon will be embarking on a solo trip to Alaska. The 65-year-old boomer said it’s one of those things that has been in the back of her mind forever, and she finally decided it was now or never where the trip was concerned. Blackburn said she has a simple philosophy when it comes to achieving her bucket list items: Just do it.
“Two years ago, I ziplined,” she said. “And I’m glad I did, because today, I couldn’t do it; I can no longer climb all of those stairs you have to climb to get to the top of the zipline (launch). If I had waited until now to try ziplining, I’d have missed out on the experience. Don’t wait for someone else to go with you, because it may never happen.”
There are many benefits to traveling solo. You can take your time, enjoying things along the way without worrying about boring a travel companion. If you are flying – and miss a connection or have other issues which cause you to miss your original flight – it is a lot easier to be re-accommodated as a single person traveling than as a couple or a group that must travel together.
Solo Travel Tip #2 – Explore Your Options
Regardless of whether you are traveling with someone or alone, you would hardly embark on a trip without planning first. One of the initial steps to take when planning to travel solo is to check your options for traveling to the destination you have chosen.
Depending on your destination, it may be possible to travel with a tour group. It is true that there is safety in numbers, so if traveling solo is something you just don’t feel comfortable doing, then check with a travel agent to see if your destination is among those offering a group tour option. Tour groups with single-friendly options offer low-cost single supplements or guaranteed-share options so that as a single traveler, you aren’t being penalized financially for traveling alone.
Some tourism groups that cater specifically to solo travelers are:
- Solos – This company caters specifically to trips in to the United Kingdom and Italy.
- Classic Journeys – This company offers a solution to those who often are penalized with supplemental charges for traveling alone. Classic Journeys only charges solo travelers the extra fee hotels charge for single travelers (roughly 15 percent), while other companies may charge up to 50 percent more.
- Overseas Adventure Travel – This company is ideal for those who are budget conscious but would still like to explore exotic locations. OAT also does not charge solo travelers supplements and offers to meet or beat competitors’ prices.
Among some of the safest places to travel if you are going it alone, according to this story in Travel + Leisure includes Barcelona, Spain; Munich, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; Stockholm, Sweden; and just about anywhere in Norway.
Solo Travel Tip #3 – Safety and Security
As we age, safety and security become more important in all aspects of our lives, but never more so than when traveling, especially if doing so alone.
When it comes to traveling, there are two things you should protect above all else: yourself and your money. It is always advisable not to travel with expensive belongings such as heirloom jewelry or other items that simply cannot be replaced if lost or stolen. When packing, keep it simple and take only the necessities.
Most hostels and hotels offer safes for guests at an additional cost. If you are traveling internationally, it is very important to protect your passport. Losing your passport can delay re-entry into the United States, costing travelers a pretty penny to not only replace the passport in an emergency, but to also possibly have to rebook travel arrangements and other accommodations while an emergency passport is being issued.
In addition to protecting your passport, make sure you also protect your financial documents, including cash and credit cards. This includes not only when they are being stored in your hotel or hostel, but also when you are out and about. Money belts are a great way to keep cash and other financial documents secure on the go. Money belts offer maximum protection against the most common types of pickpocketing and stealing because they are worn under the clothes, making it more difficult for thieves to get to them.
Protecting yourself from physical harm is also of utmost importance when traveling alone. In the past, we have written blogs about the importance of learning self-defense. Most police departments offer self-defense classes, as do many community centers and YMCAs. It’s very important to know some self-defense, as traveling with personal safety devices such as stun guns or mace are not permitted when traveling by air.
Also, be sure to leave an itinerary of your trip with trusted friends or family members, and devise a plan to check in often. Blackburn plans to blog daily during her trip to Alaska, and trusted friends have her itinerary and authorization to handle her medical and legal affairs if something should happen to her while on her trip. “My friends know if I don’t blog every day, that something is wrong,” she said.
Have you ever traveled solo? Have some tips you would like to share with our readers about how to ensure a safe and enjoyable solo trip? We’d love to hear about them in our comments.