It takes some balls to go on holiday solo for the first time. Sure, the idea of travelling solo can be daunting at first, the worry of looking like a Billy-no-mates with pitying stares from smug couples and groups of friends wondering why you’re all on your own, or that fear of feeling loneliness with no-one to share moments with – but these fears quickly fade when you actually go solo.
Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been those where I have set off on my own or travelled with strangers. When travelling alone, you’re more likely to meet new likeminded people that share the same interests and passions as you, it’s easier than ever to make new friends, and you end up pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and get more ‘stuck in’ than if you have the comfort of a close companion with you. During my teens and early twenties, backpacking and travelling alone lead to some lifelong friendships (not to mention fun flings) and helped build my confidence and independence, and I still regularly travel alone today – even just to get some time and space for myself. As a freelance journalist I also regularly go on press trips (which are essentially organised trips for groups of strangers), and love the balance between doing excursions and sharing meals with other journalists, but having my own space too.
Because going on your own doesn’t mean being alone. You can either book to go alone but spend time with people you meet along the way, or you can book to go with a group of other solo travellers. These days, more and more travel companies are organising fun group trips for individuals, from hosted house-party style beach holidays to tours that include convivial dinners each night. Many of them focus on a specific interest or hobby, from surfing and skiing to food and photography, bringing together people with common interests – a pretty ideal scenario for meeting new people, learning new skills and hey – you might even finally find your elusive soulmate.
What’s important is to book the right holiday, one where you have the greatest chance of meeting people with shared interests and a similar outlook on life. Here are a few ideas to kick start your next adventure. What are you waiting for? Your sourmate might just be a plane ticket away.
1. For the backpacker
Want to go backpacking but don’t want to do it all alone? Backpackr is a free app that lets you check out other backpackers’ travel plans and itineraries to see if they match up with yours – whether you’re looking for someone to join you on a two-day trek into the jungle, or someone to travel India with for three months. And because it’s one of the most popular, you’ll be able to find fellow travellers in almost any destination. For female travellers worried about unwanted attention, Backpackr also lets you configure your settings so that only other female travellers can contact you. Alternatively, give Tourlina a spin – it’s the first female only app that helps you meet people to travel with. Another tip from fellow backpackers is to stay in hostels, as they often organise activities. From surf lessons to Russian dumpling classes, beach picnics to rooftop yoga classes, hostels offer lots of free events and activities. And guess what? They’re an amazing way to meet other travellers. Whether you’re sharing your love of food in a Thai cooking class, or laughing at how bad you both are at kitesurfing, you’re guaranteed to have fun and bond over the shared experience.
2. For the adventurous over 50s
There’s no shortage of fun-filled solo trips organised by Saga travel, from an all-inclusive two-week trip through Costa Rica or a cultural trip through Sri Lanka to a tour around Vietnam from the islands of Ha Long Bay to and the picturesque ‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’, to the incredible Cu Chi Tunnels and the unique atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City. Or how about a once-in-a-lifetime Australia trip from Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef to stunning Uluru? You could even make it a month-long trip with other solo travellers.
3. For the fitness fanatic
A holiday in the sun in St Lucia coupled with cycling, tennis, hiking and watersports plus pampering treatments? What’s not to like about that? A seven-night fitness break offered by Health and Fitness Travel is based at the BodyHoliday, a spa resort situated along Cariblue beach surrounded by rainforests and waterfalls. Activities on site are plentiful, ranging from archery and fencing to sailing and windsurfing. There are daily spa treatments and a coterie of group classes from combat fitness to spin. There’s time to relax, too. A hosted singles table every evening and a cocktail party on the Wednesday guarantee you won’t feel like a holiday extra.
Alternatively, their singles fitness holidays help you focus on your fitness goals with a personal training session or join in with social group events like hiking or Zumba, and their singles tennis holidays are a great way to connect with other singles over your shared love for the racquet wielding sport. Shape-up with private lessons, group coaching sessions and tournaments. There’s also singles bootcamp holidays, singles yoga retreats, weight loss holidays and group retreats for singles.
4. For the laid-back beach goers
House party style beach holidays more your thing? Friendship Travel take over small hotels entirely, with total group sizes of around 20 people, most aged 30 – 60. Offering flexible, unstructured holidays run by attentive hosts, they’re an ideal option for those who want to choose how much they socialise once they arrive, and don’t want to commit to what sights to see or which activities to do in advance. Trips can be booked to destinations all over the world on watersports holidays, cruises, safaris, beach breaks and more. There’s also a range of short breaks and long-haul options including the Caribbean, Mexico and Cambodia.
5. For the city explorer
Travel isn’t a one size fits all, and what you love doing on holiday is probably completely different to someone else. Contiki offer 8 different ways to travel, each one different from the next, from Greek island-hopping to festivals and even skiing, a bit like a Swedish Smörgåsbord of travel for under 35s.
Discoverer; see it all and do it all. Be prepared for some serious bucket list ticking as they show you their favourite highlights, from the obvious to the slightly more obscure. High energy; Consider yourself a 24-hour kind of traveller? Moonwalk your way across Europe in a flurry of bright lights, epic sights and late nights on this no frills adventure, perfect for fun-loving peeps on a budget. In-depth explorer; Sometimes to really know a place you have to understand its heart. You have to speak to its locals, explore its cuisine and get lost in its winding back alleys and secret green spaces. This is what doing an In-Depth Explorer trip is all about. Easy pace; Like the sound of long lie-ins, lazy lunches and afternoons spent under the golden sun with all the time in the world to explore? Why rush when you’ve got the option to take it slow and do things a little more sedately. Camping; Join a camping trip across the continent. Perfect if you’re on a serious budget but still want the full flavour of Europe. Sailing & cruise; Days spent snorkelling, eating local cuisines and exploring the Mediterranean’s sexiest ports. Winter & ski; Hit the slopes on boards or skis, explore the legendary Christmas markets or watch the world come to life on a fresh Spring morning. Short trips & festivals; Like the sound of dancing under the stars at the mighty Sziget festival, testing out the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin or going orange at King’s Day in Amsterdam? Tick them all off – you won’t regret it.
6. For the culture lovers
In search of some culture? Authentic Adventures offer painting, photography, food and wine, and singing holidays. For those looking to brush up on their painting skills, the painting holidays are in a mix of idyllic locations, and aside from helping you to achieve your painting potential, there’ll be plenty of free time to go swimming or shopping. There’s also singing holidays, walking holidays and sightseeing holidays to choose from. Around 70% of guests are singles with an average group size of 10.
Or, for the over 50s, Cox & Kings could be more up your street with their Sicily trip. The setting for much of Homer’s Odyssey, the alluring island of Sicily is dotted with Byzantine mosaics, Greek temples and ancient theatres, set against a backdrop of olive-strewn landscapes and endless stretches of beach. Highlights on a seven-day Sicily Explorer tour from Cox & Kings include the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s most important archaeological sites; the Palatina Chapel, the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily; and Ortygia, a small island that is the historical heart of Syracuse. Stays are at a glamorous hotel in Palermo, where the composer Richard Wagner finished his opera Parsifal, and at a five-star coastal resort in Giardini Naxos.
7. For the winter sport fanatics
Solo Ski & Board Weeks are designed for people who want to go on a ski holiday on their own. Whether it’s because your usual ski buddy can’t make it, you don’t know anyone else who skis, or you are single and want to make new friends, coming on a solo week means you have some skiing company during the day and a chance to socialise in the evenings. Ski World also offers solo ski travel, where you can stay in a catered ski chalet or a new generation of ski lodges. The dinner party atmosphere and like-minded conversation means that you can get as involved as you want, and you can ski or board with people at the same level.
8. For the cyclists
Whether you want to cycle The Chilterns or the Cotswolds or hike Hardian’s wall, The Carter Company has lots of UK based active trips that are perfect for the solo traveller. For example, starting in Bledington, a three-day cycling tour of the Cotswolds meanders along leafy bridleways and quiet country lanes through honey-hued villages and over rivers and streams. Local highlights include gardens, stately homes such as Blenheim Palace and Rodmarton Manor, organic food shops and Michelin-starred restaurants.
9. For the adrenaline junkies
Specialising in overland travel, Dragoman run trips for more intrepid travellers to countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas. The company uses its own purpose-built off-road trucks which, as well as taking passengers to all the must-see sights, also journey into less well-known and more remote places that might be tricky to access on your own. You can even take a trip lasting just over a week to seven-and-a-half months. Yes, you read that correctly – over seven months. Mixed into the journeys are activities such as trekking, white-water rafting and cycling, and these holidays aren’t for the faint-hearted – you’ll have to be prepared for roughing it, from camping in the deep wildernesses to staying in a village mud-hut. These are the kind of trips where lifelong friendships are made.
10. For the lazy
The benefits of travelling by train rather than by air are abundant. You can forget about your carbon footprint and your secret fear of flying while you whizz past vast, varied landscapes on epic journeys and arrive straight into the heart of cities and towns without the hassle of airport transfers. Great Rail Journeys cater very well for solo travellers. Guests can choose form all-inclusive trips to open itineraries for the more independent holidaymaker. Travel the east coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, discover Europe’s grand imperial cities or explore Swedish Lapland and witness the Northern Lights.