This is the time of year when many people travel. Vacations from school schedules, more comfortable weather, package deals and the urge to get away from the familiar and learn something about how others live, all conspire to encourage us to hit the road, or the rivers and seas or the air and go somewhere. And finally there is good news for the solo travelers among us. Party of one is no longer as expensive and difficult to book as it has been.
According to a recent New York Times article, one in four travelers on overseas vacations went alone last year, up from 15 percent in 2013 based on the latest Visa Global Travel Intentions Study. With the numbers increasing, travel companies are paying attention. Companies that have long been in business are finally offering guided trips for singles and at accessible prices.
Solo travelers are not necessarily singles who are looking for other singles but rather more often marrieds or those in committed relationships who, for one reason or another, might be traveling alone. Sometimes a couple owns a business together, and only one can leave at a time. Or perhaps a couple might be caretakers for an elderly person or one with special needs and can only get away individually. Sometimes trips have a singular theme, like tennis or rappelling, that doesn’t appeal to the partner. Then there is the familiar situation where one member yearns to travel and the other dislikes leaving the comforts and predictability of home for the uncertainty of the road. Traveling solo may save that relationship.
Among first-time travelers, The Times tells us, solo travel has jumped to 37 percent from 16 percent in 2013. This change alone has got to offer encouragement for the widow or widower who hankers to go off on a trip but is intimidated by the prospect of being without a companion. And guided tours among solo travelers are up almost 300 percent since 2013.
Look at some details of contemporary living. Over half of American adults are single. Does that surprise you? It certainly excites travel companies serving that market. As recently as 2012, one in five American adults had never married. Compare that with the one in 10 of 1960. And that is not just the trend for Americans. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, are not far behind. Further, among Americans 45 or older who traveled solo, 53 percent are married while 39 percent are single or divorced, according to AARP.
Some companies are reducing or doing away altogether with the despised single supplements. To mention names, Tom Harper River Journeys, a river cruise company near Boston, offered the information that in 2016, it would have a ship with supplement-free staterooms. The Majestic Line, a small-ship cruising company in Britain, announced that two of seven en-suite cabins on a new ship would be for singles without additional supplements. Holland America, of Seattle, is planning to add 12 new ocean-view cabins for singles on a ship coming in 2016. Companies such as Zegrahm Expeditions and Tauck are offering some relief to those saddled with single supplements, Then there is Solos Vacations, the American arm of one of the oldest British companies, Solos Holidays, whose attendees average 55 years of age.
Here is another comforting statistic from AARP: More than 80 percent of people 45 and older who have traveled solo plan to do so again within the next 12 months. That’s close to a unanimous endorsement. I would certainly be in that 80 percent. While I have never planned an entire trip alone, I have been on parts of a trip unaccompanied and have discovered what I really already knew: That the world is filled with people and that most who travel are interested in meeting and chatting with others similarly inclined.
There are some advantages to being alone. People might be hesitant to engage in conversation with two or more people, but they will readily do so with someone clearly alone who might initiate some chatter about the weather, the food, the accommodations or any other common experience. And that exchange might even lead to getting a cab together at the final destination or having beneficially shared time.
It is getting easier and cheaper to travel alone at last.