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Solo travel is booming. In one of the biggest social recalibrations of all time, the pandemic changed many things in our lives, including how, when and with whom we travel. While some people became solo travellers through the loss of their travel partner, others – coupled or uncoupled – have simply made the choice to seize the day, without delay or compromise.
“Solo travel used to be pegged as something you had to do if you lost your travel partner or were single,” says Beth Santos, founder and CEO of Wanderful, a membership community of thousands of travel-loving women worldwide.
“Now we realise anyone can do it. After the pandemic many of our community members realised that there were certain trips that were high on their bucket list and they simply didn’t want to wait for anyone else anymore.”
The travel industry is taking note. Solo travellers are now being courted by cruise lines, tour companies, hotels and destinations. Single studio cabin accommodations are now part of every new-build Norwegian Cruise Line ship, for example, while other lines including Celebrity Cruises and Avalon Waterways, regularly waive single supplements. Tour companies that charge reduced single supplements, or none at all, are attracting more interest than ever.
“Cruise and touring is popular with single travellers as there is still a chance to enjoy and share with other like-minded people, even though you go alone,” says Royal Automobile Association of South Australia’s (RAA) Gina Norman.
“Cruising makes it very easy to travel solo, with accommodation, meals, sightseeing, drinks and interesting destinations all taken care of in a single, easy booking.”
Norman says there has been a significant increase in interest from solo travellers, with close to a quarter of all trip inquiries now for one passenger.
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“They are biting back with revenge travel and they’re happy to go it alone, share with others on the journey, and enjoy exploring the world, solo,” she says.
Santos points out the growing trend of “solo travel in a group”, where small groups of individuals go together on customised journeys according to their interests, making solo travel easier. She recommends Intrepid Travel’s Women’s Expeditions to places like Jordan and Iran, while a co-branded Wanderlust/Intrepid journey to Antarctica planned for next January is almost completely sold.
“There’s a lot of value in doing a trip like this surrounded by other travel-lovers,” she says.
Data from booking.com indicates that pre-pandemic, 14 per cent of travellers were booking solo stays, while the number had almost doubled by mid-2021. Keen to tap the growing market of lone wanderers, hoteliers are laying on everything from social happy hour drinks to reduced rates when one guest stays in a double room, though in some European three-star hotels, you might suffer the indignity of receiving just one towel and one pillow in these circumstances.
Contemporary hotel design now includes the option of compact rooms for single guests that are smaller and more affordable, with full access to all of the hotel’s upscale amenities. For example, at several Ovolo properties in Australia, Go Go Snug rooms target the solo experiential traveller looking for indulgence at a lower rate.
Turns out the pandemic may have had a silver lining, introducing many of us to the pleasure of our own company.
The Agua volcano looms behind Antigua, Guatemala. Photo: iStock
THE LOWDOWN So, you’re keen for flower shows or extreme hikes or World War II history but your friends and family don’t share your passion. Resist the temptation to drag along unwilling companions (they always make you pay later). Opt instead to join a group of like-minded travellers on an organised tour.
THE TRIP G Adventures specialises in travel for solos aged 18-39, matching single travellers with a same-sex roommate. They don’t charge a single supplement. Special interest tours include volcano hiking in South America, wildlife-spotting in India and Latin music vibes in Havana.
INSIDER TIP If you prefer to have your own room, it can be booked for a reasonable supplemental fee.
ESSENTIALS Volcano Trail: Waves & Local Ways, 17 days from Guatemala to Costa Rica. From$US1359 (A$1980) a person, no single supplement. See gadventures.com.au.
Sabi Sabi Game Reserve.
THE LOWDOWN There are only so many country drives you can pretend to enjoy when your heart is set on a blow-the-expense exotic adventure. From African safaris to sunrise at the Taj Mahal and northern lights in Iceland, the world is filled with unforgettable sights. Take the trip, even if your partner won’t join you. It’s cheaper than divorce.
THE TRIP For animal lovers, there is no greater spectacle than a luxury safari at Sabi Sabi in South Africa. A stay at this deluxe property includes escorted open-top vehicle safaris by day and night to see Africa’s big game as well as fabulous meals, beverages and transfers from the Sabi Sabi Airstrip.
INSIDER TIP Sabi Sabi is currently offering a ‘book four nights/pay for three’ promotion for travel until December 2023.
ESSENTIALS From 16,000 South African Rand ($A1380) per night at Bush Lodge. There is no single supplement for up to a maximum of two suites per booking (excluding Deluxe, Presidential Suites and Luxury Villas). See sabisabi.com.
Norwegian Cruise Line caters for solo travellers.
THE LOWDOWN Cruising is an ideal holiday for solo travellers, whether that’s a first-timer or someone who’s notched up more nautical miles than the captain. A cabin to yourself, company when you feel like it, logistics taken care of, unlimited surf ‘n’ turf. Happy days.
THE TRIP Pioneers in catering for solo cruisers, Norwegian Cruise Line launched its first solo studio cabins in 2010 and now offer solo cabins on seven ships, including Norwegian Prima, the newest in the fleet. More affordable than paying a 100 per cent single supplement for occupancy of a double cabin, the solo studios are featured on itineraries to beautiful ports including in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
INSIDER TIP A dedicated Studio Lounge is available for the exclusive use of solo cruisers who want to meet their fellow solo adventurers.
ESSENTIALS Norwegian’s fleet offers hundreds of itineraries around the world each year. Pricing is dynamic. Phone 1300 255 200, see ncl.com
Stay in the heart of Manhattan at Park Lane Hotel, New York on Central Park South. Photo: Michael Kleinberg
THE LOWDOWN Contrary to what you may have seen on The Love Boat, cruises aren’t fantastic hunting grounds for fresh romance. Ditto, honeymoon resorts and spa retreats. You need a city with an active dating culture, a very sexy city, a city like none other than New York City.
THE TRIP Dating is sport in NYC, so get in the game. Solo travellers won’t find it difficult to strike up conversations sitting at a bar, mingling at a comedy gig or waiting in line at the Met.
INSIDER TIP If your plan is to connect with potential dates on apps like Bumble, use Travel Mode to start those conversations ahead of arrival.
ESSENTIALS Stay in the heart of Manhattan at Park Lane Hotel, New York on Central Park South. The rooftop lounge, Darling, is a perfect first-date spot. Rooms from$US395 (A$572) per night. See parklanenewyork.com.
Ovolo South Yarra.
THE LOWDOWN These savvy travellers make the most of work trips by arriving early or staying later to explore the destination at their own pace. This cost-saving strategy gives the benefit of a paid-for flight and something fun to look forward to after days of presentations.
THE TRIP There’s always a new gallery exhibition to explore or restaurant to try in Melbourne and Canberra. Ovolo South Yarra and Ovolo Nishi boutique designer hotels have rolled out “micro rooms” known as Go Go Snug rooms for solo travellers. They suit the budget-conscious, who still love a bit of indulgence.
INSIDER TIP Go Go Snug Room guests still have access to Ovolo’s signature perks, including free minibar in room, complimentary breakfast and Loot bags.
ESSENTIALS The lead-in rate for one night in a Go Go Snug Room is $199, including all-day snacks, self-service laundry and Social Hour. Sign up to receive hotel news and receive a further 10 per cent discount on select rates. See ovolohotels.com.
Escape Haven is an award-winning wellness resort in Bali.
THE LOWDOWN If you believe silence is golden and you crave more balance in your life, a wellness retreat might be the solo trip for you. All that ommm-ing and ahhh-ing discourages conversation, except with the butler who is ready to run a bath for you. Indulge in daily spa retreats and nourishing food for a wellness cup that runneth over.
THE TRIP Reboot at Escape Haven, an award-winning wellness resort for women in Bali. Designed for the solo traveller, there are no solo supplements on six-night retreats that include accommodation in the newly opened Canggu resort with butler service, yoga, meals prepared by a wellness chef and unlimited spa treatments.
INSIDER TIP Add-on experiences include surfing sessions, detox treatments, Ayurvedic healing and fitness training.
ESSENTIALS From $US2595 ($3760) for six nights in a superior room for solo use. See escapehaven.com.
See some of the most beautiful places in Europe with Avalon Waterways.
THE LOWDOWN You shrugged off the first nervous flutters of going it alone years ago, earning the confidence and satisfaction that comes from being self-sufficient. When friends ask if there’s room in your suitcase for them, you tell them you only take carry-on. You value trips where you can learn something, try a new activity or see a new place, before retreating to your own room or cabin for peace and quiet.
THE TRIP Avalon Waterways’ Active & Discovery cruises offer an average of 22 included excursions. In some of the most beautiful places in Europe, travellers can participate in group kayaking, a painting class or e-bike adventures.
INSIDER TIP Regular promotions waive the single supplement on Avalon Waterways’ river cruises. Sign up for emails to be among the first to hear about upcoming deals.
ESSENTIALS During promotional periods, book select 2022 and 2023 Europe departures and save up to $7686. See avalonwaterways.com.au.
Hitting the road by yourself can be liberating, exciting and surprisingly easy. Follow these tips for an unforgettable party of one.
Some destinations are safer and more comfortable for solo travellers than others. Check for latest government advice and warnings on smartraveller.gov.au. Ensure vaccinations are up to date. Always have travel insurance.
Relish the thrill of no compromise. If you love to plan out every detail of a trip, make bookings months in advance. More of a spontaneous type? Land and then figure it out. Splurge on Michelin fare or fuel up on inexpensive pizza. It’s all up to you.
Who says you have to visit the Sistine Chapel when in Rome? It’s your trip and if you want to skip every monument and museum in favour of people-watching or licking gelato, now’s the time to indulge your whims.
Ask questions, be interested and interesting, learn a few words of the local language. By engaging with others when you travel alone, you’ll learn more about the destination, stave off occasional loneliness and meet new friends.
Yes, solo travel can sometimes be more expensive than splitting the cost of a room or cruise cabin, but don’t ruin your trip by being a tightwad. Accommodations booked should be clean and safe at a minimum. Many European hotels on booking.com offer a lower price per room for one guest than for two.
A seat at the bar for dinner is often a great spot to chat with the bartender, strike up a conversation with other patrons and watch the room. Plus, bar seats are often available in restaurants where dinner reservations are hard to secure.
Joining a tour for a few hours or a few days as a solo traveller gives you the best of both worlds, alone but not lonely. Group travel can be a smart move if it’s to a destination you don’t know well or where you don’t speak the language.
There are many great apps available to make solo travel easier. I always download city maps on maps.me, which uses GPS to provide offline directions. The Eatwith app eatwith.com can connect you with locals in more than 130 countries for dinner parties and food tours. Meetup Meetup.com brings together like-minded people.
We can waste so much time worrying about what others think of us, when they’re probably not thinking about us at all. Having experiences and making memories is more important than any temporary moment of self-consciousness as the lone solo diner in a room full of honeymooners.

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