THE WANDER YEARS – Travelling on your own is the ultimate self indulgence. You can do what you want, when you want, and feel completely empowered by the experience. One trip can completely change your outlook on life.
As a single, it can be an unfortunate truth that you often have to pay double in life, and this is especially true of holidays. The cost of hotel rooms, cruises, and car hire can become a strain for the solo traveller. Well, not if you know where to look. Companies now specialising in singles’ travel, and mature-age singles’ travel no less, are plentiful.
How times have changed. What was once considered almost exclusively the territory of young travellers; retirees are now often seen on off-the-beaten tracks, on their own, with less chance of having health issues and a bigger thirst for adventure than ever before. Finally reputable travel agencies and cruise companies are designing travel tours to specifically satisfy the wanderlust of single retirees who are getting out and about to live lifelong dreams, or simply to take a well deserved break.
As there are a myriad of single travel options available to you, it pays to do your research. There is a list of websites at the end of this chapter. Be sure to take a look at the one on the top of the list, the New Young Travel site, which provides further information on the most popular options available. Written by Holly Richardson.
Single Group Travels
Travelling with a group of single travellers is often considered to be the best option. It is economical, secure, and there are plenty of socialising opportunities. Things to consider are the size of the groups they run, whether there is the option to communicate with other attendees before the trip, and how long you have to spend in each destination.
An Adventure World spokeswoman says small group tours are growing in popularity for the single traveller, as they offer more security than backpacking, are less ‘scheduled’ than a large tour, and usually provide a more interesting itinerary.
Companies such as Explore Worldwide, Trek America and Dragoman, give the option of sharing a room with another traveller, thereby avoiding the singles’ supplement
South Australian agency Singles Travel Connections (which makes it clear on its website that it is “not a dating agency”) organises small group tours with guaranteed single-room accommodation. Its itineraries include Broome, Africa, European river cruising, Turkey and Greece. The agency has clients from all over Australia, with most, but not all, being women aged between 40 to 60.
Odyssey Travel, which specialises in educational travel for over-45s doesn’t charge a singles supplement on almost half of its programs to Europe and the UK..
As with independent travel, there are positives and negatives to travelling as a group;
“As a single, it can be an unfortunate truth that you often have to pay double in life, and this is especially true of holidays.”
They can pair you up with another senior single (same sex) for your accommodation, avoiding the dreaded single supplement
- You are not alone at the dinner table
- Everyone is in the same boat as you – they don’t know anyone else either
- You will meet other people who share your travel interests and have the opportunity to make new friends
- You may be restricted with flexibility, with many tours offering little room for tailor made options. However, this is changing as travellers are looking for more independence in a tour
- If you opt to share with another person – they may not your ideal room mate. If you are not flexible, open-minded or open to accept the foibles of others, sharing with a stranger is not for you.
Cruising is a great choice for single seniors who love to travel. Single traveller cruises are gradually becoming one of the most popular modes of travel for retirees. There is a multitude of on-board and off-board activities and the one price covers almost all of your expenses. You can share a cabin with a person of similar age/gender or book your own private cabin.
There are many cruise lines that actively encourage singles cruise options making it easier in as many ways as they can for the single traveller. Some of the welcoming singles’ initiatives include:
- Providing purpose built single cabins that are cheaper than the standard
- Group departures for single travellers
- Tables hosted by the ship’s officers or staff for the single travellers
- Meet and mingle cocktail evenings especially for single travellers on the first night
- Dedicated singles’ lounges to help you mingle
- Providing gentleman hosts to ensure you always have a dance partner
The New Young Travel site advises that if you are thinking of cruising solo, bigger is not necessarily better for singles cruising. Choose a small to medium sized ship that will make it easier to bump into people you have met. The larger ships mean that if you strike a friendship with someone by the pool, you may not necessarily see them again.
As you may well already know, the Singles’ Supplement is the most irritating thing about travelling alone. Interestingly, the smaller, more luxurious cruise liners tend to be the ones that cater very well to singles’ cruising by offering the best single supplement deals. Often it will work out cheaper to cruise luxury than the middle of the road for a single – what a bonus. There are also great cruises for singles’ deals to be had for European riverboat cruising. Also, many companies have good deals for those who book well in advance and last minute, so try to scan the market as much as possible.
SOME SUGGESTED COMPANIES FOR CONSISTENTLY SINGLES’ FRIENDLY DEALS:
Single supplements just 10 per cent for selected voyages
Over 40 programs developed specifically for singles’ cruise and offering share with a stranger option
Ambassador host programs for singles
Unique luxury cruises which cater for singles
Norwegian Epic, Azura
Both with the latest in purpose built singles’ cabins
10 per cent single supplement all year round
Voyages of Discovery
Small discovery cruising with historians, explorers, naturalists and diplomats who will share their expertise with you
All Fred Olsen Ships
Fleet of small ships, homely atmosphere
If you’re not afraid to live, then book yourself a seat in an adventure tour and enjoy the ride.
In this bracket there is one stand-out company we should mention. G Adventure Tours set themselves apart from mass market tours and cater extremely well for single travellers. Their tours are especially designed for single people and solo travellers but their other differences are equally as impressive.
The groups are always small – generally not more than 12-15 people (regular tours have 45-50 people). This means you feel like you’re travelling with a group of friends and you really get to know your travel companions.
G Adventure Tours leave when the group is ready, not when the guide says 10 minutes are up. They insist on staying, wherever possible, at the smaller traditional hotels of the region. More time is spent at each destination so there is no blinking and missing an entire village, and meals are eaten with the locals as you experience small trattorias and traditional brasseries. They include impromptu stops, villages, and out of the way attractions, you can linger over a coffee or wine, and have a picnic under the vines – these are the memories that make a holiday.
You can avoid paying the extra money for single supplements as well as the bustle of a group travel by opting for shared travel. Sharing basic facilities with a partner can considerably reduce your travelling costs. You choose partners on the basis of gender and smoking preferences.
Travelling on your own is almost a spiritual experience. If you have the money to afford it and the health to support it, the best way to travel single is definitely to travel alone. You have the option to move when you want to and stop when you do not. You do not have to put up with travelling companions. You can join together with them and then leave them, whenever it suits you.
As with touring though, travelling as an independent has its pros and cons;
- The world is your oyster as far as flexibility goes – do what you want, when you want.
- You can be more open to meeting new people. You are more likely to strike up conversation or make an effort on getting to know others than if you travel with someone
- You have the final say on your itinerary – 5 star, budget, or a bit of both
- Sleep in! No early starts if you don’t want them
- The experience can often be quite empowering
- Eating out alone the first few times may be a bit uncomfortable, but take a book. And don’t let travelling solo stop you from eating out
- The dreaded single supplement. We can whine all we want, but it can sometimes be unavoidable
- No-one to ‘wow’ with or share the experience when you see those pyramids for the first time
- Taking photos
- It does get lonely sometimes on long trips is not for you.
Explore the world, immerse yourself in different cultures and make a difference, and all at the same time. Build schools or help protect sea turtles—the volunteer work may vary but you’re sure to come back with a deep and genuine connection, and memories you’ll never forget. Doing volunteer work on holiday is offered by numerous companies, and G Adventures has packages catering especially for singles.
Hitting the road
If you are considering taking to the open road on your own, take comfort from the fact that – ironically – you will not be alone. To connect with others contemplating hitting the road, take a look at the website thegreynomads.com.au for invaluable information and ways to connect while on the road or before you leave.
The Grey Nomads say that solos are often among the most sociable of the grey nomad travellers, anxious to meet new friends, share a joke or a cup of tea, and to garner information about the road ahead.
The Nomads also say, however, that as much you enjoy your own company, it’s still always nice to share a special experience with someone else or to create memories together. Therefore it makes sense as well that solo travellers travel for a while with other people they have met along the road. And when the time is right, you can simply part company again and add the name of a special new friend to your address book.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why you are considering travelling alone, as long as you can see what you want to see, go where you want to go, and do what you want to do. It’s a different experience and by all accounts, an absolutely wonderful one.
The Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia also have a travelling solo chapter that encourages single members to get together and enjoy the fun, friendship, and camaraderie of touring with other singles. They have regular rally departures and convoys for singles. Take a look at whether joining the Solos’ Network is right for you.
The feeling of security is an issue for any wary traveller, and for most people toying with the idea of hitting the road (or on your own on any adventure), security is a key consideration. This is particularly true if you are planning to be camping at rest areas or out in the bush. A Grey Nomad’s spokesperson said there is “…no substitute for experience, and experience will almost certainly teach you that there is very little to worry about.”
The Nomads inform us that your fellow travellers are almost without exception kind, adventurous, generous people … just like you. However, of course, there are the odd exceptions and that is why you must always listen to your instincts and apply the rules of commonsense. The chances of encountering any serious security issues when you are out on the road are fairly remote but it is important not only that nothing happens to you, but also that you are relaxed and comfortable; after all you are out there to enjoy yourself.
“In the end, it doesn’t really matter why you are considering travelling alone, as long as you can see what you want to see, go where you want to go, and do what you want to do.”
One of the things solo travellers are recommended to remember is that you have nothing to prove. If you feel more comfortable staying in van parks all of the time, then stay in van parks all of the time. If you don’t feel comfortable driving down a certain road that has been suggested to you – then don’t travel down it. While an element of fear is part of any adventure, remember that you are out there living your dreams and, and, you are already doing a lot more than the vast majority of dreamers still back at home.
If you are nervous about travelling alone, these rules might make you feel happier on the road:
- Don’t stay in a bush camping area if there are no other vehicles
- Always say hello to your camping neighbours
- Choose to stay in caravan parks or supervised camping grounds
- Don’t be afraid to move on if you are not comfortable in any camping situation
- Travel with some form of reliable communication i.e. a satellite phone, a UHF radio or a mobile phone
- Consider travelling with a dog for companionship and security
- Seek out people to travel with for certain sections of your trip
- Ensure your vehicle is in tip-top mechanical condition
Of course all travellers should ensure their vehicle is in tip-top mechanical condition and excellent roadside assistance coverage is crucially important.
A good travel insurance policy covers you for overseas medical emergencies (including evacuation back home), your luggage, cancellation, and a range of other general benefits such as liability, disability, rental car excess waivers. If you can’t afford the travel insurance, you can’t afford to go. Seriously, if something happens to you in a foreign country and you need any significant medical services, or even worse, an evacuation, you could be up for tens of thousands of dollars, if you don’t have adequate travel insurance.
As a mature age traveller, insurance companies can hit you with age loadings. If you check the more common policies on the market, you may find a cheap up-front quote, only to get slogged a few steps later when they find out you are over 60 years old.
Many insurers start to apply age loadings from travellers as young as 50 years. As a retiree, you’ve earned the time to relax, and you don’t need any worries or hassles. So look at travel insurance companies specialising in over 50s and find a policy that can take the worries away (and not take you to the cleaners).
While buying your travel insurance on line can be cheaper and more convenient, the cheapest policy isn’t always the best policy. You buy travel insurance to prevent a problem from growing into a disaster, so it’s wise to buy it from a company that you can trust.
These days it has never been easier to make travel and accommodation bookings. The travel industry has enthusiastically embraced internet sales. An internet search can find you anything from a ferry ride to an obscure island anywhere in the world right up to booking a 6 star hotel.
However, there are traps for the unwary! Here are some tips to make sure you actually get to travel or be accommodated as per your online booking. This list is not exhaustive but it gives you an idea of what to look out for.
- Number one rule is to make sure that, if prepayment is required by the site, that you check it has a secure method of payment.
- Check whether visas are required for the country you are visiting and how much time is on your passport before expiry (many countries require at least 6 months before permitting entry).
- Check the days/dates and times of flight bookings remembering international time differences.
- Make a list of what you want in accommodation and make sure it specifically meets your requirements (you don’t want to be hauling suitcases up 4 flights of stairs for example).
- Check the website’s/company’s validity. Most states and countries require licensing of travel companies to protect consumers.
- Keep all your travel documentation both in print and electronic form and keep evidence of the booking confirmations and payments.
- Register on the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website www.smartraveller.gov.au/. It also has a mobile website and an i-phone app.
And don’t forget that, even if you have to pay extra for their consultancy, travel agents can steer you in the right direction. Often, they can save you time and money in the long run.
This excerpt was taken from Happy, Retired and Single – Advice from over 20 leading experts, compiled and edited by Paul McKeon. It is available for purchase via www.mylifechange.com.au
FLYING SOLO COMPANIES
These companies are a guide only. You may prefer to use a travel agent you know or one close to home.
New Young Travel is an informative site for all things in mature travel, includes many links, tips, deals, and discounted travel see www.newyoungtravel.com.au
Single Travel Connections runs small group tours with no singles supplement. See www.singlestravel.com.au. Good for females aged 40 to 60.
Evergreen Tours has regular tour departures with huge savings on single supplements.
Odyssey Travel is a not-for-profit educational company that provides singles supplement-free tours to Europe and the UK. Phone 1300 888 225 for information on tours or see www.odysseytraveller.com. Suits active, mature travellers.
Adventure World sells a variety of small group overland tours with share accommodation for singles. Phone 1300 363 055; see www.adventureworld.com.au.
Intrepid Travel has small group tours with share accommodation for singles who prefer not to be completely alone. Journeys range from the unexplored to the luxury and cater for many special interests, including cooking, music, painting and walking tours. They also have a number of journeys that are exclusively for women. Phone 1300 360 887 or see www.intrepidtravel.com
Encounter Travel is a travel agency that specialises in travel for single people. If you want to travel with like-minded people, they have regular departures for both Australian and overseas holidays and cater well to the +45 age-group. See www.encountertravel.com.au or phone 1300 653 692.
Bill Peach Journeys charges no singles supplement on selected departures of its air cruises. Phone (02) 9693 2233, or see www.billpeachjourneys.com.au. Suits self-funded retirees.
FLYING SOLO TRAVEL AGENTS
Travel agents that you can trust to be +50 senior travel friendly, they may offer you a discount and/or exceptional service by specialising in +50 seniors travel:
Online Australia-wide travel agencies
Concierge Travel Group They specialise in premium holidays and exotic adventures like freighter expeditions. Sage Travel specialises in senior over 50’s travel. They offer relaxed fully inclusive tours with minimum 5 nights in each city. In many instances they offer single ensuite rooms at no extra cost. Seniors Holiday Travel is an online agency with 75, 000 club members. They offer discounts, incentives, specials and exclusive deals to seniors. It is free to join the club phone 1800 300 999.
Mobile Travel Agencies
MTA Mobile Travel agents is an Australian owned and operated company with mobile consultants Australia-wide. Travel Counsellors is an international franchise of independent travel agents nearly all of whom work from a home office – they come to you, home or work.