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"You meet such wonderful people when you travel alone." Whether you're doing so by choice or circumstance, travelling by yourself can be a daunting experience - but it needn't be. Feel ready to take on the world with these tips and tricks for solo travel.
"It’s worth typing single traveller into any holiday company website search box and see what appears. It is amazing what comes up! The 'no single supplements' may not be widely publicised, so you could also call the reservations department to find out."
"When companies, especially cruise operators, have last minute stock to sell, they will often do a very good deal for a single traveller. It's just a question of holding your nerve to book late, and being aware that your first choice may not be available."
"Always look out for last minute deals, and contact the company directly by phone to ask what is on offer for single travellers."
"Another option on some holidays is to opt for same sex room sharing, which might mean occupying a room with a stranger. This is not for everyone, but if you are very lucky, you get the room to yourself if no one else books the same deal."
"I have done a lot of holidays with companies such as Exodus. They will match up two single women (or men) who are prepared to share a twin room. Of course you could end up sharing with someone who you really don't get on with. I have come across other people who have had this problem, but over the last 10 years I have shared with some great ladies."
One of the best things about travelling by yourself is that you get to call the shots - all of them! Fancy eating at a certain restaurant one night? No compromise necessary, just make a reservation. Want to make an unscheduled pit stop along your route? The choice is yours. This also applies to where you stay and any activities you want to enjoy while you're away. Travelling alone really does mean you can have it your way.
"The best holidays have been those where I've organised my own itinerary and travel, and booked accommodation that charges per room and not per person per night. France is pretty good for this and I have a favourite hotel that I keep going back to in the south (although I'm not prepared to disclose which one!)"
While these are few and far between at the moment, there are plenty of over 50s who opt for budget accommodation in the form of hostels - and meet some fascinating people in the process. Hostels aren't just for the wide-eyed youth of today, though you'll meet plenty of them as well. Whether you stay in a dorm room, or book a private room in a hostel (of which there are plenty) odds on you'll be saving money and staying in a less isolated environment at the same time.
If you're someone who prefers cooking while travelling, there are lots of hostels that offer kitchens full of equipment as well. If you missed the backpacker experience the first time around, it's never too late.
"One of the most important things is to remember that you are not alone and many other solo travellers feel exactly the same way as you do."
The first time you strike up a conversation can be daunting, but with enough practice you'll find it becomes increasingly normal - travelling by yourself forces you to become a social animal at times, and it's amazing how rewarding that can be. Meeting people from all over the world, with different points of view can be an eye-opening experience (in a good way).
"If you want to travel solo and independently, pre-planning is the answer, especially if you are new to this. It is sensible to book your accommodation in advance, and check in with family or friends each day by text or email."
Also make use of these free travel apps - they'll make travelling a lot easier, especially on your own.
"Photocopy your passport and leave a copy at home with a friend, keep another in your suitcase, so if your passport disappears you do have the relevant information."
"Also be aware of your clothing, jewellery, accessories, sunglasses, electronic gadgets, credit cards, money you are carrying – it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, somebody would like to relieve you of your possessions."
"Bags and rucksacks need to be kept closed at all times and it’s worth thinking about taking a pre-pay currency card rather than your credit card."
"Travelling on your own requires a few simple safety precautions and a good dose of common sense! Should you get lost, do ask for directions saying you are meeting a friend."
"It's not a good idea to advertise that you're on your own. Likewise, clutching a guidebook can be a bit obvious too. Read up information before you set off and then enjoy the sights unencumbered."
"Remember to let the hotel or representative know when you're planning to be back, ensure that someone at the hotel or within the group has your mobile phone number, and always take their number with you."
"Some companies run forums so it's possible to 'meet' fellow travellers before departure, and it's certainly a good way to learn about the world of solo travel, even if you just read the posts and comments."
"How about a trial run on a UK group away day (theatre visit, coach trip, garden tour) so you can figure out what might work for you on a longer break?"
"An organised group is an excellent introduction to singles holidays and could provide the confidence to embark upon a more independent experience in the future."
"Would you perhaps prefer to be with your own age group or is a mix of ages better for you? Many escorted tours have both couples and singles on them."
"At the airport, aim to spot some fellow travellers (peek at the luggage tags) from your tour company. If you're not ready to chat to others yet, at least you will have someone to look out for at your destination."
"Once on holiday, if you are a bit shy, have a few snippets of small talk ready - discussing previous holidays or the journey are always easy opening topics. Talking about food, or your expectations of the holiday, are usually relaxed subjects too."
Airbnb isn't just about finding you the cheapest home from home any more - the site can now match you up with knowledgeable locals to provide you with a tailor-made 'experience' during your stay. From hiking in Hollywood to photography lessons in Paris, there are so many courses and experiences out there to take advantage of, all run by local people. If you're not excited by the thought of a group tour, this may be a great alternative.
"To enjoy an organised singles group, you do need to be comfortable in the presence of other single travellers, and be fairly sociable and willing to participate."
"The key is to relax and go with the flow. An organised group is an excellent introduction to singles holidays and could provide the confidence to embark upon a more independent experience in the future."
"If you are determined to give it a go, the key is to do as much research as possible before you travel – read reviews, join forums, ask questions."
"Book as much accommodation in advance as you feel comfortable with."
"Sometimes it can be good just to have time to yourself. If you’re eating alone, take a book and maybe pick a more informal bistro style restaurant where you can sit outside perhaps. Hotel dining rooms can be a little intimidating."
"Really think about where you’d like to go and what you’d like to do. Beach, city, touring... the options are endless."
Check out The Gransnet guide to cruising for more information on taking a cruise holiday.
"This is a fabulous way to see the world and make a difference to a local community or project within an organised structure."
"Be prepared for what will probably be a lower standard of accommodation and living than you are used to, and for working hard often in difficult conditions. The job satisfaction and feel-good factor can make it all worthwhile though."
"Walking holidays are a great way to make friends and share a common interest, as well as being outdoors all day. The same goes for any special interest holidays – photography, painting, dancing. The list is endless!"
"Often a group activity, cycling or visiting Italian art galleries for examples, can create a common interest. Consider where you will feel most comfortable."
These tips have been taken from our Single Travel Q&A with Silver Travel Advisor's Debbie Marshall.
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