Many empty nesters take the opportunity to travel once their children have left home. They are healthy, have some disposable income and want to enjoy life while they can. Some of them have even sold their homes and all their possessions. They live an adventurous life, moving from place to place (like the Gypsy Empty Nesters). Other couples make a point of taking frequent holidays. However, for singles, a long holiday to a far-flung destination is not undertaken so lightly. This is not like venturing out in your own backyard. In the past, singles holidays also cost much more but this is beginning to change. Many more singles, particularly those over 50, are finding that traveling is now not only affordable but that companies have caught on and are tailoring experiences just for them.
Many people do not mind traveling solo, and there are many advantages to doing so. You are able to do whatever you like, whenever you like, without having to cater to anyone else’s preferences. There is no protesting from a partner that this is the third art gallery you want to see in one day. I have a family member of over 60 who enjoys traveling solo all over the world from Nepal to South Africa. However, traveling completely solo can be intimidating, particularly if you are older.
I would love to think that I am an intrepid solo traveler but I have to be honest here. Now that I am nearly 60, going on a guided tour is an option that appeals to me far more than going it completely alone. The idea of traveling alone seems not only intimidating but rather lonely too. You are always likely to find at least one person you can relate to on a tour. Planned activities, lack of flexibility and being part of a group does not sound that bad anymore.
Benefits of a group tour
Tours offer many benefits, especially if you are new to traveling. If you are not a seasoned traveler, I think it is far better to ease yourself into the art of traveling by going as part of a group. Traveling alone does require certain skills, some of which only come with experience. Traveling, to me, is essentially about pushing your boundaries, experiencing new places, encountering different cultures and meeting new people. Whether you do this solo or as part of a group is immaterial.
When you are part of a group and the itinerary is planned for you, it takes away some of the stress and you can simply sit back and enjoy the trip. You don’t have to worry about what to do next.I also enjoy the idea of not having to worry about transportation. My friends, Johan and Jennifer, go on frequent trips to foreign countries and their mode of transportation always has to be carefully planned. They are about to head off for Croatia and they are planning to take bicycles with them. This involves all kinds of fact-finding and planning. As a single person, I would rather not try to negotiate traffic on a bicycle or risk having it stolen. I would much rather have no worries about how to get from A to B and no fears about getting lost. It is confusing to deal with taxi drivers who do not speak your language or attempts to use public transportation can be difficult when all the signs are in a different language.
The social aspect of a tour appeals to me now, whereas in the past I might have thought twice about being at the mercy of group activities for a lengthy time period. Now that I am older and on my own, I like the idea of spending time with others seeing sites and exploring other cultures together.
The fact that most tours come with an experienced guide is another advantage. You can see the sights through the eyes of someone with local knowledge. This can make a huge difference to your experience. The guides have often been doing the job for years and they have built up a repertoire of entertaining facts and stories.
Types of Tours
When people think about tours, they often have an image in their minds of tourists pouring out of a bus, snapping photos, listening to a guide explain a few facts, and then jumping back in the bus to head off to the next destination. It is possible to have a nightmare tour if you do not do your research properly. However, with many great options available, it is not difficult to find a tour that offers you the best possible experience for your money.
A cruise is a great option for a single person. Vacations to Go, the world’s largest cruise agency, has cruises for singles. Every year, they select about 15 itineraries in different regions of the world and negotiate an extremely low rate for their single customers. They send trained hosts to organize get-togethers, cocktail parties, dinner seating and you travel as part of a large and fun-loving group of singles. Fred Olsen and Norwegian Cruise Line are companies who accommodate singles.
A cultural tour is another great option for a single person. If you love cooking, painting, food, wine, art or language, you can choose a tour where your mutual interests matter more than your age. An archeological tour, for example, seems to attract mostly people in their sixties. Vidados is a company that offers cooking and wine tasting, health and fitness, creative, cultural and language holidays.
So, what factors do you need to take into account when looking for a suitable tour?
Age spread: Some types of tours, like activity tours, will inevitably attract a bunch of youngsters although you will find some older adrenaline junkies too. On cultural tours, cruises and touring holidays you will usually find a good age spread and some tours, like archeological ones, tend to appeal particularly to people in their sixties.
Group size: The size of a group is also important. Do you prefer a large, sociable group or a smaller more intimate one? Intrepid Travel is a company that offers small groups but big adventures. They use local guides and you eat, sleep and travel like a local. Their trips depart regularly to over 100 countries, so you are spoilt for choice.
Company experience: An established company with a good reputation is essential. Reading reviews on the website is helpful, as it gives you a good idea of what others have experienced. See how long the company has been operating and check the experience of their guides.
Price: What about the dreaded single supplement? In the past, many singles were discouraged from traveling alone because they were charged more. Tour operators, cruise lines, and hoteliers would add money onto the bill to make up for the fact that they were losing out on a second occupant. Fortunately, the industry is waking up to the fact that singles are traveling more today. In many instances, singles no longer have to pay almost double the price. Affordable supplements are offered, some tour operators offer to match you up with a suitable roommate and in some cases, you can even get a supplement free room of your own due to companies trying to match supply with demand. Some cruise lines are even building new ships with single cabins and on others you may even be able to find a supplement free double cabin.
All ways of traveling have their place and organized tours can be a great way to experience a singles holiday, especially when you are over 50. If you are over 50, do you still have the guts to travel solo or do you, like me, feel that a group experience is often better when you are older? I would love to hear your comments.
If you can’t afford to go away on a long holiday, a hands-on cooking class, such as the one offered below, may be just what you need to meet like-minded people and break out of your comfort zones. The one below takes place in Canada but it is not difficult to find such classes wherever you live.