Solo travel is on the increase. In this article, we will try to answer some of your solo travel questions.
Who is the solo traveler?
Solo travelers came from every part of the population, but studies indicate that solo travelers largely come from two segments of the population. Millenials who are thinking about settling down, and want to do some traveling before they commit to marriage, mortgages, and children. The other large group of solo travelers is aged from about 50 and up. They are newly single (divorced, widowed) or recently retired with a spouse who is still working. There are subsets of subsets of these broad groups – adventure travelers, cruisers, volunteers, history lovers, partiers, the list goes on and on.
Most solo travelers seem to fall into two attitudinal groups. Those who prefer to travel in a group, and those who don’t. For those that do like a group, there are many reasons why. One company, Europe Express, says that about 85 percent of its solo customers are women. Because a large number of older women travel solo, many prefer a group setting for safety. Group solo travel makes the travel arrangements for you – basically you find a trip you like, and pay for it.
For those who want to be truly solo, customization seems to be key. Whether they make the arrangements themselves, or they use a travel professional, a truly unique vacation is what they want.
Will it cost me more to travel solo?
That depends. If you are willing to share accommodations with a stranger, then the answer is no. If you prefer your own room, then it will usually cost you more. But not always. Some travel organizations are tapping into the growing solo market by offering prices that are the same, or slightly higher than a room or stateroom that two people share. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line was the first line to build Studio Staterooms expressly for the solo cruiser; amenities also include a solo Lounge and singles meet-ups that make it easy for single cruisers to connect and socialize. NCL also offers a reduced single supplement on select cruises for those who want an affordable option on a more spacious stateroom.
What about insurance?
First, you must buy travel insurance. It covers many things that your existing medical insurance probably doesn’t cover, especially in foreign countries. Some credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer travel coverage, but they are usually second or third line, and require you to pay for everything up front before making a claim. They will require you to use your first or second line options before they will pay for anything. Check with your card issuer, and your health care plan, and ask very specific questions. If I need hospitalization or medical care, what is the procedure I need to follow? What will you cover, and what won’t you cover? If I am in a foreign country and I need medical evacuation to my home, am I covered, what are the procedures I need to follow, and how is that paid for?
Even if you do have other coverages, a good travel insurance policy is not that expensive, especially if you consider that a medical evacuation could cost you $20,000 or more. When buying a policy, you need to find out what the deductibles are, if any. Besides medical coverage , you need to decide if you want trip cancellation/delay, and lost/missing baggage coverage.
Allianz’s Classic policy provides $25,000 in emergency medical coverage, $500,000 in medical transportation coverage and coverage for lost or stolen bags, as well as travel delay coverage. For domestic trips, solo travelers can save money by selecting a plan that covers cancellations, but doesn’t cover medical issues as regular health insurance may provide that coverage.
The Essential plan for Allianz covers unexpected trip cancellations and interruptions, as well as travel delays, at a very affordable price. Both plans include coverage for existing medical conditions, which can be very valuable if you, a family member or a traveling companion suffers from an ongoing ailment.
What about safety?
With respondents to a recent Travelzoo study ranking terrorism, anti-American sentiment, and political unrest as among the top negative factors impacting their travel plans, solo travelers hitting the road may benefit from some tips on how to stay safe.
One of the most important things you can do is research – how to dress, how to comport yourself — the best advice is to meld in with the local population. A general tip is not to advertise. You don’t want to wear your big New York T-shirt, so you’re not standing out and being that stereotypical traveler with the camera and Hawaiian shirt on.
If you are approached, remove yourself from the situation. Don’t get defensive — silence is golden. Don’t engage.
Also before a trip, travelers should be sure to be aware of the local laws and legal system, an issue of particular concern to LGBT travelers. Additionally, travelers should avoid bringing compromising personal information with them on their phone or laptop.
Plan in advance how you are going to get around. Will a driver be meeting you at the airport? Will you be taking taxis — if at all possible, don’t hail one on the street unless in you are in some place like London where you know the black cabs are safe. Having your hotel get you a taxi is the safest bet.
Travelers should also make sure their purse and luggage are nondescript, and in the case of purses, carry a bag with a heavy strap that is more difficult to slash. If you are on public transit, take off your backpack or bag and put it between your feet where you can see it at all times. Stand on the strap which discourages thieves from trying to grab your bag and run. Be aware of pickpockets. People – sometimes little kids – will try to engage or distract you so they can steal from you. Common ploys are fake falls or injuries, fights, asking you to take a photo of them, etc. If something seems a little weird or off, then it probably is. Trust your instincts. Don’t be paranoid, but be safe, too.
Put a small amount of cash in a pocket, known as mugger’s money, so if you are approached on the street you can just pull out that little bit of cash and usually a would-be robber is appeased. Another thing you can do is carry an expired credit card with your mugger’s money so that if they want your credit card, you can safely give them one that is expired. Chances are that they will be in too much of a hurry to check the dates.
The best hotel rooms to book are between the second and seventh floors. Firefighting equipment often can’t extend beyond the seventh floor, and rooms on the first floor may prove too accessible. Travelers should also familiarize themselves with all evacuation routes and emergency exits, make sure the front desk doesn’t advertise their name or room number out loud. When going out, they should always make sure someone, even if it is just the hotel concierge, knows where they are going and when they expect to return.
While out, travelers should not accept food or drink from strangers, and avoid leaving their drink unattended.
Trust your instincts. If you start to feel uncomfortable in any situation out on the street, seek a safe haven.
Here are some helpful links.
Zoonie Travel is an affiliate of some of these companies and may receive a small commission from them which will not cost you in any way.
Overseas Adventure Travel
Caters to people over 50 through small group itineraries, and has long offered solo spaces on its trips.
Best Single Travel
Whether you’re looking to meet other singles or you are a solo traveler, you’ll find something that fits here.
Need to rent a car? Need travel gadgets, clothes, sightseeing tickets, train tickets? Find it all and more right here.
Zoonie Travel will put together a customized itinerary for you. Click here to get started.
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