Travelling in pairs or in a group makes sense when you’re young and perhaps have kids, but as people get older they often find it’s easier and more relaxing to travel alone, particularly if daily life is busy with family, work, colleagues and friends. And it’s becoming increasingly popular as single people in midlife or older have the money and time to hit the road.
Read on for our top tips on planning and enjoying a solo trip as an alternative to travelling with friends or family. (Our tips are useful for anyone travelling solo, not just those over 60.)
1. Pack light to travel with ease
You’ll want to be able to move easily between locations, and the best way to do this is to think carefully about what you bring along.
- One bag is plenty, and if you can, make it one that’s small enough to fit in the overhead luggage compartment of the plane. Many frequent flyers swear by a backpack, especially one that can convert into a valise-style bag. Even better if it’s a clamshell type, which makes it easier to pack and unpack. You can find backpacks of all styles in most luggage stores in Australia. We like the look of the Yeti backpacks but haven’t tried them yet. While your standard wheelie carry-on bag is great for solo travel, a backpack means you can keep both hands free.
- Pack solid shampoo and conditioner. You can cut them to size for shorter trips to keep the weight down, and you won’t need to worry about liquid limits.
- If you do take a suitcase, be sure to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage that you can mix and match with what you’re wearing on the aircraft, and a sarong to use as a towel, sheet or pillow. Also pack a toothbrush, mini-toothpaste and a small soap so that if your flight is delayed or your luggage goes missing, you’ll be able to brush your teeth and wash until you find a shop.
- Evade liquid restrictions for water by going to a ‘$2’ shop and picking up some 100 ml liquid containers. Fill them with water and you’ll have just enough to keep you from feeling thirsty until you can get water on the aircraft. (This might not work for every country and airline.)
2. Look for opportunities to meet new people
One great bonus of travelling alone is that you are naturally more open to talking to people outside of your usual bubble. Airbnb hosts are often great to chat to and can offer you lots of local tips that you won’t get from staff at a bigger hotel chain, while smaller hotels with pools are often friendly and relaxed for solo travellers, especially if they have an on-site restaurant.
Be prepared to speak to strangers and ask for help when you need it (while still taking care and trusting your instincts, of course.) If you really are nervous about staying safe, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, bodyguard to the stars, gives fascinating tips and practical strategies for looking after yourself in any situation.
Free guided tours are available in many tourist destinations, generally with tips given at the end, and are a great way to learn more about where you are and meet fellow travellers. In cities, the hop-on-hop-off bus is a great way to familiarise yourself with your new city, and you might meet another traveller while you’re exploring. If you want some other activities, look for a cooking or arts and crafts class and pick up some new skills.
3. Back up all-important documents
Make printouts of your credit cards and passport, and note the phone number of your bank for calling from overseas. Also bring a copy of your birth certificate in case you lose your passport or credit card, and keep digital copies of everything in your email account so you can access anything you need easily.
4. Find your online tribe
The wonderful thing about travelling solo is that there is now so much online advice at your fingertips (provided you have access to Wi-Fi, of course). Private groups are another way to tap into a community and pick up useful tips and inspiration for your next adventure. Here are some good ones:
Solo in Style is a Facebook group for women over 50 who are travelling solo. With more than 184K members, this private group is sure to give you the confidence and inspiration to hit the road.
Award-winning travel writer and blogger Bridget has a wealth of information on her up-to-date website, The Flashpacker, including blog articles, short trip suggestions and regional categories, all geared towards solo travellers on a mid-range budget.
Ask yourself an important question
When you’re travelling alone you don’t have to compromise on activities. Ask yourself what is your long-held dream place to visit or thing to do, however obscure. Walking the Camino de Santiago? Visiting Uluru? Seeing the White Garden at Sissinghurst or Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria? Learning more about archaeology or modernist architecture or Japanese flower arranging? Whatever you’re interested in, a holiday alone is the opportunity to embrace your passion, so do your research in advance, book tickets ahead to save queues or disappointment on the day – and enjoy!
Want to learn more about making the most of your next 30 years?
We’re committed to making life better for the over 55s. Check out downsizing.com.au for more insights and great advice on living life to the fullest.