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No Compromises Necessary: Solo Travel

Freedom. Empowerment. No compromises. These are some of the benefits that inspire solo travelers to head out to fascinating places far and wide with an intrepid attitude of adventure.

A small segment of the traveling public has always been comfortable traveling alone, but the trend has been gaining significant ground in recent years. More travel providers are catering to the needs and wants of single travelers, and some travel advisors are even specializing in this niche.

What’s the appeal of solo travel?
“I like the freedom to do as I want. I like that I’m not waiting for someone else to do something,” said Ralph Iantosca, owner of Iantosca Travel, and a seasoned travel advisor who has been around the world many times and who focuses on curating authentic travel adventures for his upscale clients.

One of the main draws of solo travel is being able to enjoy a destination on one’s own terms, free of the demands and obligations faced in our daily lives, free of the needs and schedules of others. Simply put, you can do what you want, when and how you want.

In my discussion with Iantosca about traveling alone, we kept returning to the theme of, as he said, “Singles don’t need to compromise!”

We’ve hit on something here, as Cindy Chambers, owner of Beyond Group Travel Inc., actually used those very same words in describing solo travel, which she sells a lot of: “I love traveling alone. I rely on myself and choose my own route - and there’s no compromise required.”

Chambers continued to explain the benefits of solo travel, noting that it “pushes you out of your comfort zone to meet people, including other visitors if you’re on a group trip or locals if you’re traveling independently. I believe that solo travel also boosts your confidence. Travel requires flexibility and always thinking about a Plan B. As a solo, you grow when you have to overcome obstacles that are presented – and travel does that.”

Iantosca commented that everyone should try traveling as a single. “You learn a lot about yourself as a single. You learn how to make decisions quickly. I just spent seven days by myself in Rwanda, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. You’re in control of designing your own day … You push your limits and become a bit more intrepid.”

Some might think that solo travel is for loners. But the opposite is often true. Experienced solo travelers say they prefer to travel on their own because they meet and engage with more people when traveling alone than when they are with a companion.

“There’s always someone you meet that you have something in common with, especially on an expedition cruise,” noted Iantosca. And, many cruise lines today host singles’ welcome gatherings onboard. Plus, there are usually group excursions to take part in.

When traveling solo, one thing that can be a challenge is eating alone. “Yes, having dinner alone can be difficult for me, as I do love people. With a cell phone, it’s easier, but what I usually do successfully is eat at the bar – it’s easier to engage others if I’m feeling friendly,” said Chambers.

And, as Iantosca pointed out, on ultra-luxury cruises, an officer will usually escort a single woman to her table, and they host singles for dining. Expedition cruises also often host singles.

Another benefit is that single travelers on a cruise tend to get more attention and more invitations from the crew, to trivia, to wine tastings, and other activities.

Who is today’s solo traveler?
While solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to travel for people of all ages and walks of life, Chambers believes there is a market segment that is particularly suited to it. “Generally speaking, people who are 40-plus have had more life experiences and will appreciate solo traveling more. And, they can really validate the need to ‘get away from it all.’ I find also that life-learners are more apt to travel, and they are usually well-read or interested in history, culture, food, etc. I love the line that I hear from solo travelers: ‘Yeah, I pretty much don’t sit by the pool anymore.’”

Some studies have also shown that a much greater percentage of women than men venture out on single travel experiences.

What about single supplements?
Travel suppliers are increasingly recognizing the value of the solo traveler, and they are providing a revenue category for this segment. A complete waiver of single supplements is rare, unless there is ample capacity. But many vendors now offer supplements and deals for singles at attractive savings.

It is also often much easier for singles to book flights, and to make decisions on when and where to book their trips, since they only have their own schedule to contend with.

How can you sell more of it?
A tip from Chambers: “If you’re selling cruises (deep water or river and/or expedition cruises) and you’re not selling solos, you’re missing out on wonderful opportunities. Find women’s organizations to align with or a local chamber of commerce. Solo travelers are everywhere. Many of our solo travelers have husbands at home who no longer wish to explore. Be curious and always ask for referrals. We find women, generally speaking, are more willing to travel alone.”

And from Iantosca: “Focus on holiday departures. It’s the most expensive time to travel and it’s the hardest time to find space. And, if they’re a single traveler, they might not have a family or a place to go. It might be nice to go to something like a Christmas Market. It adds meaning to what they’re doing.”

What tips can you give your solo travel clients?
Here are some important tips to share with clients who opt to travel on their own:
- Make sure friends and family know where you’re going and what you’re doing. Post on social media, so you have your support system from home with you as you travel.
- Blend in as a local. Clothing really does matter when touring solo. And don’t stand around with your map out.
- In an unfamiliar city, only travel during daylight hours.
- Even in a city that you know, stick to public places. And always move with an air of confidence.
- Have a plan but be prepared to adjust to allow for interesting opportunities that catch your attention.

Iantosca summed up the solo travel experience: “Traveling as a single should be appealing to people,” not something to be afraid of or to avoid. “Single travelers should always say, ‘I’m the one that I want!’” Anyone who enjoys their own company knows exactly what he means.

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