50-Plus Solo Travel-The Adventure Continues: I had begun traveling solo by the time I was sixteen years old. In the decades since then, my love of solo travel has only grown Each year I look for new destinations and unique adventures. However, I am now a “fifty plus” solo traveler. According to tour, cruise and travel providers, that is one of the most active travel sectors today. In addition, anecdotally, women often lead the charge for adventure travel.
In the recent past, my journeys have taken me:
-Wandering through the Czech countryside;
-Exploring both Sri Lanka and India;
-Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef;
-Joining ski classes in Norway and Andorra;
-Going Up River on the Amazon River in a small boat for only fifteen passengers and
-Toasting the New Year in the bright sunshine in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
There can be benefits that come with the passage of the years.
- Even for those of us still working, our budgets tend to be more generous than our student day. While it is true that in many ways “less is more”, sometimes it is worth it to indulge in a little luxury. After flying in economy in the world’s longest flights to South Africa, SE Asia and Australia, I was elated to find an almost half-price flexible business class ticket for this August. Having Christmas Eve 2019 flown home from Prague in the most crowded flight of my life, I felt I had earned it.
- We tend to have more flexibility and control over our holidays. I remember well the days in my twenties when friends bemoaned that their law firms were so buy they had just cancelled all vacations!
- Fortunately, there is no exact “sell by” date for those doggedly pursuing their bucket list.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly recommend travel insurance if you are going abroad. InsureMyTrip.com provides in-depth responds to common questions on travel while the pandemic and its aftermath continue to linger on. (See also our March 19, 2021 detailed guide on “Choosing Solo Travel Insurance“.) Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance or “CFAR” policies have has gained in popularity in light of border closings and changing travel requirements. A key plus is that it even allows for cancellation because of a mere fear of travel or fear related to the pandemic. This is in contrast to typical travel insurance policies that have more specific reasons for cancellations.
50-Plus Solo Travel-The Adventure Continues! How to Choose a Destination:
Here are the questions you might ask yourself as you consider 50-plus solo travel:
Have you been everywhere?
Do you want to enjoy only your tried and true favorites? I must confess that I am very partial to New Orleans. For most of my life, I have had family living there. However, it is independently my favorite United States city to visit and in some ways feels a little foreign. For actually going on a short trip outside the US, I have had eight trips to the Old City of Quebec. I always say it has the feel and flavor of France at half the price and half the travel time! So, do not feel bad if you find yourself revisiting your favorite places.
Do you prefer to try something new?
How can you have the best of both worlds? My solution has often been to take a trip that combines a week to re-explore a special past site but tagged on at least a week in a totally new location. This can make for some mind-boggling travel connections. On my first trip to southern Africa, I first flew to London to visit a college friend. She had arranged it so that we would join a historic group for a formal lunch. Sometime before dessert, I had to stand up and excuse myself only saying: “Excuse me, but I have to leave for Africa!” Of course, you need to allow for drastic changes in climate if you combine two such different trips. When I left London it was twenty degrees Fahrenheit and 120 degrees when I arrived in Botswana.
How much time do you have to be abroad, including travel time?
Will your budget cover your destination?
Is your goal to just relax or have an active trip experiencing new things?
50-Plus Solo Travel-The Adventure Continues: How to Travel Solo as a Fifty Plus:
There are at least
I often travel alone without connecting with an organized tour or cruise. However, I have found top day tours as well as private guides. Hotels generally have an array of brochures and regular pick-up’s for bus tours or smaller vans. While it pays to plan ahead, spontaneity can work, too. After arriving at my hotel in Sydney after an endless flight from Washington, I found a van waiting out from for a city tour. I checked my roller bag and was off without checking out my room first!
There are so many great solo travel deals at unheard of prices today with no single supplement. However, beyond price, an escorted tour is often an economical alternative to a piecemeal approach. An often overlooked benefit is that someone else has to do all the planning! In today’s world with the COVID-19 pandemic, a tour/cruise operator has to sort through the labyrinth of constantly changing border closings and governmental restrictions.
-River cruise/Small Sip Expedition:
This has many of the benefits of an escorted land package. I have been on four such cruises: (i) Nile, (ii) China’s Yangtze River, (iii) the Mekong River and (iv) the Amazon Brazil. It is an easy way to have a ready-made group for meals and sightseeing but with time alone when you want it.
-One of each: This can give you the benefit of making your own choices part of the trip but having a chance to let someone else take care of the rest.
-Signing up for a class: This is an easy way to have a new group of friends while pursuing a personal interest from languages to sports. I have joined Intermediate ski classes in Norway and Andorra. It was a real adventure and did not have the feeling of “going it alone”.
-Volunteering: There are multiple organizations around the world that provide opportunities in-country to make a contribution and have an authentic experience. In recent years, I went to the Dominican Republic to visit and volunteer in activities at an orphanage. It was a wonderful way to see beyond the beach front hotels to the broader community.
How to Save on Solo Travel:
Here is my checklist for 50-plus solo travel:
- Off-season travel: Even 4-star Paris hotels are half the price in winter. In the “dog days” of summer, the Caribbean is much cheaper than at the pricey winter time.
- University dorms and hostels for all ages: This are gaining in popularity and easy to find from New Zealand to Europe. (See our free solo search tool, the SoloTravelPricingTracker.).
- Apartment or house-swap with a resident abroad.
- Dog-sit for local vacationers abroad.
- Budget hotels/B&B’s: They are always cheaper in the suburbs outside the city center.
- Airport motels: I recently saw on in Warsaw, Poland, for $30/night!
- Meals: (i) Make lunch your make meal of the day. (ii) If you must eat out for dinner, find an early, fixed price offering. (iii) Visit the local deli, and have your own picnic. When I found myself at a 5-star hotel advertising dinner with wine for $110/person, I had my own “buffet” in my room after a trip to a full-service grocery store.
- Senior discounts: They start earlier in Europe than in the United States. In addition, the age defined as “seniors” vary tremendously.
- Shopping for gifts: Find out where local residents go beyond the tourist’s area. In Slovenia, I took a public bus to a shopping mall and found great deals.
50-Plus Solo Travel: Health and Safety:
Accidents can occur at any time of life. When jet lag combines with the distraction of fabled sights, it is either easier to happen. That leads to my first of several recommendations:
- Check your health insurance coverage, and also get travel insurance.
- Before travel abroad, make an appointment with a travel clinic or your doctor.
- Research conditions at your destination. In many parts of the world, tap water is not safe. Many hotels provide bottled water daily.
- Ask questions about access to medical care. The latter can be a big issue. While I checked out potential risks like malaria to go up river, I never thought about what help could be available in an emergency. When I arrived, our small boat of fifteen people were constantly warned to be careful since we were “10 hours by fast boat from the nearest hospital”.
- If you have to drive, be sure you have an international license and know the rules of the road. Be aware that there may be age restrictions on renting a car in some countries. One such true story circulating in DC, concerned eighty-year old twin sisters. When they were refused a rental car to drive from Western Europe to the former Soviet Republics (“Stans”), they reached the perfect solution. They bought a Mercedes and drove themselves! (It helps that they were wealthy heiresses!)
- Don’t let pick pockets ruin your day.
- For more serious incidents, wear a referee’s whistle on your wrist. The shrill sound will cause a crowd to form quickly.
- When you arrive at your hotel or other lodging, find the fire exit. Check out the best way from your room there in the dark. While this may seem rare, when I traveled with a ski group, part of our team had to trudge out into the snow when a fire broke out in the middle of the night. Luckily, there was no injury. However, this is an important safety issue.
- Consider your needs for accessibility. Watch out in the shower since many hotels don’t have safety mats or grab bars. If you plant your feet firmly and avoid sudden movements, you are less likely to have a fall.
- In winter, from Norway to Russia, I have found that sidewalks and parking lots are not always cleared. Even if you are not a skier, go to the Internet and get a pair of crampons to put on the sole of your boots.
For more safety tips, see our earlier posts on:
For more tours and cruises with no single supplement and solo-priced lodging, go to our free SoloTravelPricingTracker.net.