The frequently asked questions are based on those I had when I started, what other people ask me all the time, and a few I really wish I had thought to ask. Feel free to post any questions and I’ll update this section.
Q: Who travels solo?
This may seem like a silly question, but there are a lot of different people who travel solo and for different reasons.
Of course there’s the obvious – I’m single and no one wanted to come. But I’ve also seen spouses with different interests that vacation separately.
For example, I met a woman whose husband was retired and had time for trips, but she was still working. He had such a great time on one trip that she decided to go on the same trip one year later which is where I met her.
I’ve met people in their twenties exploring the world before they settle into a job, and I’ve met people in their seventies enjoying their retirement.
They all seem to have similar traits: a bright spirit, a sense of ownership for the planet, and an appetite for adventure.
Q: If I’m on a trip where they assign a roommate, what if I don’t like them?
This is that fear again. The “what ifs” that we’re taught to worry about. What if your roommate snores, or is obnoxious, or a slob?
Here are the two main things to keep in mind:
1. You won’t be in the room except to sleep.
2. They’re probably thinking the same thing.
Remember that you are both traveling solo and you both chose the same trip. Right there, you have two things in common and will probably have a sense of camaraderie.
Rest assured that there will be other people around. There is bound to be someone that you hit it off with and enjoy spending time around.
Personally, I’ve never had a bad experience with a roommate. While you may not be best buds, keeping in touch the rest of your lives, you’ll likely have enjoy the company on the trip.
The bottom line, don’t fret about your roommate. Get excited about the adventure. When you get there, meet people and have a great time.
Q: What are the advantages/disadvantages of traveling solo?
I’ll start with the disadvantages:
1. You’re responsible for everything.
This means you are planning the trip and doing all the research. In additiona, you’re responsible for making all the arrangements: figuring out flights, packing, getting around where needed, exchanging money, speaking the language, and navigating.
Even if you are using a travel agency, it’s still on you to make sure everything is getting done and you’re ready to go.
2. There can be a sense of loneliness, especially if you see all the families and groups of friends out and about and you start wondering why you couldn’t get your peeps to come. (Which can then turn to thoughts about lame friends and needing to find new ones. I’m just saying, I hear this happens sometimes).
Instead of focusing on the solo part, I prefer to think about all the new friends I’m making. A lot of the loneliness factor really depends on the type of person you are and if you are comfortable being alone.
3. Don’t expect people to be excited about your pictures and want to hear about the trip.
Seriously. I get a lot of “how was the trip”, “I have to see your pictures”, but then when you talk about it or bring out the photos, people don’t pay attention. I think there’s a tendency to discard it as “not a real vacation” if there weren’t at least two people there.
Now for the advantages:
1. You’re responsible for everything (note this is also the first disadvantage — it’s all in how you look at it).
In this scenario you get to plan the entire trip: where you are going, when you are going, it’s all up to you. No restrictions except those you put on yourself.
2. No fighting and no hurt feelings.
Think about your last group trip. I guarantee that someone wanted to go to the beach but someone else wanted to shop and a fight ensued with a third person getting thrown in the middle. At the end of it, everyone was miffed and for the rest of the trip the person who didn’t get their way would just say “why are you asking me? Obviously my opinion doesn’t matter.” Good times.
On a solo vacation the choices are yours. On top of that, you don’t have to see your fellow travelers again if you don’t want to. That lessens the stress and makes everyone happier.
3. The trip is at your pace.
If you want to stop and take a picture, you can. No one is off to the side sighing and hinting that they may be hungry. If you want to talk to the woman running the zucchini stall at the market, you can talk to her all day.
4. You can try new things and if they don’t work out, no one has to know.
That hot pepper soup you tried where you basically turned red and spit it out? That’s your little secret. There wasn’t anyone around to video the event and gleefully share with others upon your return.
5. There is a sense of Zen. A sense of re purposing yourself.
I always come back with a renewed sense of priority and a better sense of who I am and who I want to be. It’s a good way to re-center.
Q: Do you encounter any creeps?
All I can say is that I have not encountered any creepy dudes on any of my group trips. I don’t think they travel far.
If you were to encounter someone, just ignore and go on your way.
I’ve noticed that if other people thought I had an issue, they always offered to be a buffer and help. Fellow travelers always watch out for each other. If someone does get a bit annoying, tell them you’re not interested in company. Most people will back off.
For those a bit more resistant, go ahead and lie if you have to. There are people out there that think I’m married and/or gay. Hey, don’t judge me. I got to enjoy my trip.
If someone is making you nervous on a trip, TELL SOMEONE. Fellow travelers, crew members, hotel front desk personnel, anyone. People will intervene and stay with you if necessary. It likely won’t come to that, but just having others on alert is a good idea.
Q: Will I find the man/woman of my dreams?
Solo traveling is the most expensive, least successful way I can think of to find your soul mate.
It’s easy to see how people fantasize about finding the love of their life on a grand trip. An exotoc location with pretty pictures, pretty people, pretty sunsets can be alluring. Everything is magical and your fairy godmother is waving her wand granting eternal happiness.
This is where reality slaps you in the face. When you think about it, the love of your life (for the moment) could be from any country, meaning you’re destined for a short-term, long-distance relationship. Once you part ways, you probably won’t see each other again. Also, most travelers are there to have a vacation, not find love.
My best advice is to treat your trip as an adventure and enjoy wherever it is you’ve decided to explore. Don’t go into this thinking you’ll find your soul mate or you will increase your odds of having a disappointing trip.
If finding eternal love is your goal, you really need to rethink your game plan.
Q: Are all solo trips expensive?
Absolutely not. There are many inexpensive trips. Trips run the gamut of backpacking to taking a three-week adventure cruises with options at every price point.
One thing to keep in mind as you research trips is that many guided vacations have a single supplement. I’ll talk more about that below.
If you need gear for a trip, you can either give your local outdoor shop a boost by buying a ton of stuff, or you can borrow. Ask around and I’ll bet people you know have things they would be happy to loan you.
Many shops also have loaner programs for things like tents, backpacks, and sleeping pads. Most adventure trips also partner with a local store that rents equipment locally so you don’t have to carry larger items with you.
Q: What is the single supplement?
Most guided adventures that have overnight stays in a hotel, tent, or ship, book per person and assume two people will be in a room. If a couple decides to travel, they each pay the $4000 for the trip and stay in the same room. This means the company gets $8000 per room.
With a solo traveler, they would only get half that amount so they charge more for a solo traveler to make up the difference. This is referred to as the solo supplement.
I’ve seen solo supplements of 20%, 50% and even double the price of the trip. Understanding this is a deterrent, most companies also offer the option for a solo traveler to pay just their portion of the fee ($4000 in this example) if they are willing to share a room with another traveler of the same sex.
This is a win-win for everyone. You get to pay for just you, and the company gets the full amount they were anticipating for the room.
It can be tricky if there isn’t another solo traveler to pair you with. Some companies will waive the single supplement if they don’t have another traveler to share the room with you, and others won’t allow you to book the trip unless you pay the single supplement. Make sure to read the fine print and ask before you book.
Q: What is trip insurance and why do I need it?
There are two reasons to get trip insurance
1. The cost of the trip is significant enough that you feel it’s a good idea to have protection in the event something happens. This is especially important if you’re booking far in advance.
2. Your travel agency requires it because you need medical evacuation coverage. This is common in areas where getting medical assistance is difficult and expensive.
Insurance is usually about 10% the cost of the trip. Be sure to shop around because many companies offer plans for the same price, but the coverage is different.
If you do decide travel insurance is needed, it’s not something I would skimp on. There are plans that offer “cancel for no reason” clauses and if you’re booking a year out, this could be important.
Also, think about the medical evacuation if you’re going to a remote area. Most insurance plans cover anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000 for medical evacuation.
Evacuations can become expensive if you consider paying for a helicopter followed by personal medical airplane transit and going through multiple countries for assistance. Suddenly that $400 for insurance doesn’t look so bad.
Q: Is it safe traveling solo?
I like to counter this one with “is it safe traveling in a group to the same location?”
Research the location, decide if you feel you can navigate it safely with some precautions, and then determine if it’s a good destination for your travels.
I was in Quito, Ecuador which gets a lot of negative press for not being safe. Knowing the issues, I booked a hotel in a residential area and followed instructions from the US State Department, other travelers, and the staff at the hotel. It was fine.
Just do your research and ask. There are places I don’t think I would be comfortable traveling to, but I don’t think I would go there even if I was in a group.
It’s really up to you — everyone’s comfort level is different. You may find as you begin to travel more that your sense of what you consider safe shifts a bit. That’s great. It’s all part of the learning experience.
Q: I planned my trip and now that it’s here, I’m nervous and thinking of backing out. Is that normal?
I don’t know if it’s normal, but I do the same thing. EVERY. TRIP. You’d think I would know by now that I’m going to have a great time and would get over it, but there it is, every time.
You have the moment of bravery where you book the trip. Then you are all excited as you prepare. Then the day before you leave — Panic.
I can only assume it’s just the years of conditioning we all receive saying that solo traveling isn’t safe. You just have push through it and get going. For me at least, once I’m on the plane or in the car, it goes away. I blame my parents.