What a Boomer Needs to Know about Solo Travel – 10 tips
This is a guest post from fellow baby boomer traveler Janice Waugh. As a solo traveler, we thought she might bring value from a perspective that we’re not acquainted with.
Whether by choice or by chance, there are more baby boomers traveling solo than ever before. This is not surprising as there are now more singles than couples in America for the first time in history.
But traveling solo is not just a Plan B for those without partners. It’s a Plan A for many people. The opportunity to pursue your own interests at your own pace without compromise are just a few of the great attractions of solo travel.
Are you thinking of heading out on your first solo trip? Here are a few tips to help make the trip safe and fun.
10 tips for baby boomers traveling solo
- Plan to arrive in a new location before dark so that you can find your accommodation in daylight and, if you’re not satisfied with it, have time to move.
- Pack light so that you can manage your own luggage. It is possible. And, it’s not only safer but will save you money because you won’t have to tip anyone for their assistance.
- Give yourself a day to settle in. The first day in a new city can feel awkward as you get your bearings. The second day is when I usually find my stride and have fun.
- Choose accommodation that is social. In hotels, people stay to themselves. At B&Bs people are friendly and the owner is more like your host than a hotel clerk. You may also want to try hostels. They are no longer only for young people. With private rooms and great prices in even the most expensive cities, I often opt for a hostel.
- Stay in public. This is my number one safety rule: public is always safer than private.
- If you need help, ask. Don’t stand around looking helpless. Walk into a restaurant, store or hotel or up to any safe looking stranger on the street and ask for assistance.
- Enjoy dining alone. Really! Sit at the bar and people watch or make conversation with the person beside you (who is likely alone as well). Go to a diner with a counter and ask a local to order for you – a conversation will start. Take a journal and update it with your day’s activities. Make friends with the staff by showing real interest in the food, how it was made and where the ingredients are from. There are more ways than reading a book to make solo dining enjoyable.
- Go out at night. Have fun! Take in the culture by going to the theater, a club to listen to a bit of music, the opera… whatever interests you. Just remember not to drink too much, don’t tell people where you’re staying and take a taxi home alone.
- Travel on the shoulder season. This is typically the spring or fall when the weather is still decent but most people are not traveling. The tourist sites won’t be as busy and you are more likely to find tours without a single supplement.
- Go slow. Meet people. If you can, spend a week or more in one location and enjoy the benefits of being a slow solo traveler. Go to the same coffee shop, restaurant or flower vendor every day. People will get to know you and notice that you are alone. Some will want to make sure that you are enjoying their city and give you great insider’s tips. Others will want to share their life stories which gives you insight into the culture. Going slow and meeting people can open up wonderful opportunities but don’t forget tip #5.
Tips from members of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook.
There is a group of almost 10,000 solo travelers on Facebook called the Solo Travel Society. When I was preparing for this post, I asked them what should I advise boomer solo travelers. Here’s what they had to say:
- Micheline – I would tell solo boomers that nobody cares if you’re by yourself. They don’t know you. And they’re too wrapped up in themselves to be judging you.
- John – Tourist couples at the next table are probably bored with each others’ conversation and would LOVE to have you barge in for a few minutes.
- Tracy – Yes! What John said! When I travel with my husband (which is rare) I’m always wishing to meet people like I do when I travel solo.
- Josh – Say yes as much as possible (as long as it’s safe). Take the opportunities that you can because they won’t wait for you!
- John – Traveling to South East Asia is safe and you can go either luxury or backpacker at reasonable costs. Book the ticket!
- Kim – It’s ok to stay in a so-called youth hostel….and it’s fun!
Janice Waugh is author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook, publisher of Solo Traveler, the blog for those who travel alone and moderator of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook with over 9,000 fans. She has spoken at The Smithsonian and elsewhere on solo travel and at a number of industry events on travel blogging. She has been quoted in many media outlets including CNN, the Oprah Blog, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and USA Today. On Twitter she is @solotraveler.
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Only couple of all these comments I still can’t do = go to REAL resturant & dine alone!! Have tried & it ends up being a waste of $$ which I have very little of anyway. It is very unpleasant no matter what I’ve tried. Besides traveling seems to 2 B only time I lose ANYweight!! OTHER thing is going out to have fun after dark!!!???!!!! Can’t afford any taxies EVER since can only go somewhere if i charge everything & pay off over yrs. So when have tried ended up being dangerous even when tried 2 B careful. Usually end up walking, not too good. Well night life is out, besides won’t go out alone at night in USA either! unless VERY local & can drive myself. IT IS JUST NO FUN GOING ALONE TO DO SOME THINGS NO MATTER WHAT TRIED&i have tried here in USA & abroad, really!! 😐 🙁 :-(( :-X
I’ve been traveling solo now for twenty years since the death of my husband and my girls being busy with their own adventures. I love it, to the point where if friends hint they want to join me, i play deaf! i agree with all of the tips offered, they are all useful to the inexperienced traveler. here’s my advice for the going out at night alone quandry-unless you feel absolutely safe and can afford those taxis, don’t do it! if i’m somewhere such as turkey or africa, i just make sure i get up early enough to fill my day with fun and adventure, so that i am too tired to do more than relax, journal, read, or have a beer in the place i’m sleeping. otherwise, i stick to the busy shopping streets after dark, and simply use street smarts just as i do at home. you can always ask the front desk for their recommendations, too. consider: i travel with an attractive wooden walking stick that i never leave behind! when out in the countryside, it provides stability and protection from free-roaming dogs (or the occasional snake!) in cities after dark, it gives me a sense of security, and everywhere the attractive carving is a conversation starter with all age groups. and honestly, it really has saved me from some potentionally nasty falls while distracted by the sights (i’m 63).