Looking for a travel companion who shares your love of river cruising, fine wine and Paris flea markets? Look in the mirror. Traveling solo might seem daunting, but it's easier — and more rewarding — than you think. These 11 tips for senior singles travel will help you create the perfect solo vacation.
If you want to join a group, look for one that promises to attract like-minded travelers. Here are just a few senior singles travel tour companies:
While you're still likely to pay a single supplement when cruising, "the tide has been turning for solo cruisers, and some of the newest ships out there are now accommodating those traveling alone," Cruise Critic reports.4Crystal Cruises recently began offering female dance hosts, for instance, and Norwegian made a splash with its stunning studio staterooms for solo travelers. River cruise lines offer smaller groups and sometimes omit the supplement charges.
Many cruise lines and tour companies offer cruises for 50+ singles, called escorted or hosted cruises. On-board hosts arrange singles excursions, cocktail parties and activities. With these cruises, you can avoid paying the single supplement, but you'll be matched with a roommate. These cruises are a great way to meet other over-50 singles, but do your homework to make sure the trip meets your expectations. Some senior singles cruises are all about non-stop partying, while others are social but more sedate.
On senior singles cruises and tours, it's a sure bet you'll meet many available singles. Most of them will be women, however.5 Instead of planning a trip hoping to meet a romantic partner, do something you love. Sign up for a ski trip with the Over the Hill Gang International. Hike through Burma with ElderTreks. Meeting other single senior travelers who share your passions is far more likely on trips like these.
When you don't have an extra set of hands to help lug your luggage, you need to be extra thoughtful about how you pack. Invest in high-quality rolling carry-on luggage and make that your go-to bag, so you're not wrestling with multiple suitcases. Put together a versatile travel wardrobe that's easy to wash and wear again and again. (One secret? Quick-dry travel underwear.)
While you want to minimize your luggage load as much as possible, it's wise to double up on things you truly can't live without. These include:
The conventional wisdom is that single senior travelers, especially women, should travel with a tour or a companion. But traveling alone can be meditative, exciting, rewarding and perfectly safe, as long as you use common sense and caution. Rick Steves has compiled a useful list of tips for solo women travelers in Europe.
Some travelers enjoy both the guided group experience and solo adventures, so they combine them. Many tour companies will let you select a later date for your return flight for no extra fee. That way, you can get familiar with a new country by traveling with a group and then spend a few days or weeks exploring on your own. One traveler on TripAdvisor used this technique to turn a three-night London trip into a two-month ramble around England.6
"Recently widowed I would love to travel, but fear that I would be a 3rd wheel at a dinner table on a cruise," one woman wrote in Fodor's Travel Talk Forums.7 Experienced travelers know that there's no need for single senior travelers to fear awkward conversations. Group tours and dinners provide abundant opportunities to make new friends. Ask about the cruise line's dinner policies first, however. Some seat single cruisers with a group, while others will seat you alone.
"I've watched women who climbed Everest or worked as war correspondents cringe at the thought of walking into an eatery by themselves," writes Leyla Alyanak, author of the Women on the Road blog and book about senior singles travel. She offers tips to help single travelers feel comfortable, including dining at the bar or on the terrace and dressing up for the occasion. You can also try using a service such as Eat With a Local, which is exactly what it sounds like.
While comprehensive travel insurance is a must for any trip, it's especially important for senior singles travel. Travel insurance protects your financial investment in your vacation, in case you need to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason. Emergency medical, dental and medical transportation benefits protect you from getting stuck with exorbitant medical costs should you become seriously ill or injured overseas. And when you have travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance, you get peace of mind from knowing that you can call the 24-hour hotline for help anywhere in the world.