This week, we hand over to Diane Squires, a Melbourne-based writer, travel blogger at Allabroad.com.au and tour host with Two’s a Crowd, an award winning travel company catering exclusively for solo travellers. Diane tells us that travel, especially solo travel, can seem daunting, but she guarantees you’ll never regret the first trip you take. “You may, however, regret that you waited so long to take it,” Diane warns. Let’s finds out how to do this solo travel thing like a boss! Over to you Diane…
Solo travel. The very words can spark fear into even the most seasoned traveller. Visions of sitting alone in a crowded restaurant, of struggling to read a map or work out the local currency or wandering down a cobble-stoned street with no one to share the experience can deter even the most adventurous.
Or worse, the fear of safety issues and the dreaded single supplement, a surcharge put on travellers occupying a room alone. The supplement can be as much as 100 per cent which means solo travellers can end up paying the same price for a hotel room as a couple.
The fears are valid, but for those who choose to go it alone, solo travel can provide an exhilarating experience of solitude, discovery and the ability to travel exactly how and where you want to travel. In fact, more and more people are choosing to go it alone instead of waiting until they have someone to see the world with.
A study of more than 20,000 travellers from around the world in 2018 by Bookings.com found solo travel was one of the top five things people had done that they would do again, with 34 per cent of those who had previously travelled solo saying they would do it again. Meanwhile 39 per cent of Australians who used Skyscanner had travelled solo, according to a study by the company.
And it’s not just millennials or the younger generations choosing to travel solo. According to the Bookings.com study, 40 per cent of baby boomers had travelled solo and 21 per cent planned to travel solo in the future. And almost one in five people (19 per cent) over the age of 60 using Skyscanner had travelled solo.
According to the 2011 Australian Household census, about 1.3 million Australians aged between 40 and 69 live alone. That’s a lot of potential, solo, Aussie travellers. And it’s not just singles. At Two’s a Crowd, we regularly have guests who are married but whose partners, for whatever reason, have chosen not to travel.
But before you head off on your grand solo adventure, here are some tips to keep you safe and to ensure you get the most out of your solo travel experience:
- Do your research before you go. Know the local customs and protocols, understand how to get around, learn some local words, know what are the absolute must-sees for you.
- Be open to new experiences. You just never know what opportunities may come your way, and the benefit of travelling solo is you can think about what you, and you alone, feel like doing and then act on it.
- Know how you like to travel and what kinds of things you enjoy. This is your trip and your opportunity to think about what you would actually like to do and act on it. Don’t like museums? You don’t have to go, and no one else will try and drag you along. If you prefer parks and gardens to galleries, choose the gardens. Make a list of the things you don’t want to miss. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realising you missed something you’ve always wanted to do because of all the new opportunities that came your way.
- Keep an eye out for special solo deals where the single supplement is waived. Check out regular travel lift-outs like Escape and Traveller. Also, solo specialists (like Two’s a Crowd) often have independent-solo specials on their website.
- Pack light – don’t be tempted to buy a huge suitcase and fill it to the brim. A medium case or larger backpack is ideal. Remember, you’ll probably have to do all the lifting yourself and you don’t want to struggle getting it off the airport conveyor belt or up the stairs to your Tuscan villa.
- Book a flight that arrives during the day – it’s much easier to find hotels, airport buses or drivers during the day. And you’ll feel less intimidated standing alone outside the airport in a new country in the light of day than at night.
- Book a hop on/hop off bus when you get to a new city. It’s the best way to get your bearings and identify the best the city has to offer. Do a full loop of the bus route before getting off to check out the highlights.
- Keep safe – don’t tempt local thieves with fancy watches, gold chains and diamonds. Either leave your bling at home or in the hotel safe. Unless local law requires it, don’t travel with your passport. Leave it in your hotel safe or have the hotel keep it in their main safe.
- Book into a couple of day trips or destination-specific local classes, such as a cooking class in Italy, or a salsa class in Cuba. It’s a great way to meet new people and share at least part of your trip with others.
- Keep in touch – use Skype, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp and other free apps to keep in touch with those at home. If you want to have web access on the move, buy a local SIM with lots of data, or check out local cafes and restaurants – they often provide free wifi if you buy a meal or a drink. Most hotels also have free wifi; just ask for the password and share your travels with family and friends.
- Download a map app for your chosen destinations before you go. Apps like Google Maps or CityMaps2Go allow you to use maps of specific destinations offline so you’ll never get lost and won’t have to stop to pull out a huge local map. An app like GPSmyCity allows you to read up on your destination on popular travel blogs before you go and download maps with GPS locations for the top spots mentioned in the blog post.
- Download a currency converter app (like XE Currency) so you’ll always know how much you’re actually spending.
- Register your trip with SmartTraveller – just in case. They’ll also send you government updates about your destination.
- Book a trip with a solos-only tour company like Two’s A Crowd and travel with like-minded individuals.