solo-senior-travel

Seniors Traveling Solo: Some Great Solutions

Today, more older Americans are traveling solo — and that doesn’t mean they’re looking for a mate. Solo travelers say they love their own company, want to make their own itineraries and prefer to travel at their own pace. Traveling alone also makes it more likely that you’ll interact with the locals.

Still, for many women especially, the thought of venturing out all alone can be intimidating. We worry we’ll feel lonely or unsafe. We dread sitting by ourselves at a café or restaurant.

It doesn’t have to feel that way.

We’ve come up with interesting international choices for solo travelers who want the option to connect with others — or even to be a part of something bigger. They’re not beach vacations; they are adventures.

1. Voluntourism 

“That 2-week package tour of Peru would cost far more than you are paying to spend two weeks making some toddlers’ lives happy in a Peruvian orphanage. And what you bring home from your volunteer experience is priceless.” Global volunteer Dorothy Conlon.

Merging overseas travel with volunteer service, voluntourism is a way to learn while you’re traveling, immerse yourself in another culture and give back in a tangible, significant way.

The opportunities to help are endless. You could provide care for orphaned children, teach English, build schools or assist in field research on coral reefs or among nesting sea turtles. Whichever you choose, you’ll be part of a specific project, allowing for both together time and opportunities to go it alone.

Because you’re older, you’ll probably find that the skills and patience you’ve developed will prove extremely useful all over the globe. And many voluntourists create lasting friendships with fellow project volunteers and the locals they serve.

The Basics

How long?  Trips can last anywhere from a few days to months.
How much?  As a voluntourist, you pay your own expenses, including a built-in donation to the project. If the voluntourism organization is a nonprofit, your costs — including airfare — may be deductible. Costs vary, depending on destination and trip length. Program fees in Peru or Costa Rica through the Global Volunteer Network: $250 application fee; $495 per week up to the first four weeks, then $200 per week. This includes housing, meals, airport transfers, supervision, training and coordination. Flights, travel insurance, Visa (if required) are not included.
Single supplement? Varies, but in most cases there is no single supplement. (Some organizations pair single travelers with other singles in a double room.)

Links

We recommend picking an organization that is member of VolunteerInternational.org. Among them:

Habitat for Humanity Global Volunteer NetworkTransitions AbroadTravel With a Challenge

A Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer describes her experience:

2. Hosteling

“New friends and fresh knowledge: that’s what the hostel experience for an older independent traveler is really all about.” Bill Hrick 

When you think of hostels, you probably think of students backpacking around and sleeping in dorms. But after the summer, when students are back in school, hostels become a low-cost and community-centric alternative to hotels for seniors. Many offer single rooms, and the global locations and variety of accommodations, from remote country cottages to historic castles and downtown buildings, means there’s something for everyone.

Hostels emphasize the communal. While some ask visitors to pitch in with cleaning help, making for an all-in-it-together atmosphere, the global chain Hostelling International has abandoned that practice. But HI hostels do offer communal kitchens, and most have TV lounges, bars and cafes for leisure time. Others offer themed activities, such as environmental study, local cultural tours, special events and performances. And most hostels offer a range of accommodations — you can choose from a mixed or single-sex dorms and private rooms (in this case, you pay less for single occupancy, not more).

A few “cons” to consider: possible nighttime noise from the common areas or dorm rooms, even though there are quiet hours, and strict curfews — don’t be late getting back in the evening, because they really do lock the doors!

The Basics

How long? Book one night or up to several weeks at a time.
How much?  Varies depending on destination and length of stay. With Hostelling International USA, senior membership for ages 55+ is $18 annually. Rates for hostels in the HI chain or independents start from $17 + tax per night for a dorm room with 8 to10 people, to up to $99 + tax for a single room per night, which includes breakfast.
Single supplement? Not in a single or bunk room!

Links

Read Bill Hrick on the senior hostelling experience, along with his senior hosteling tips. 

3. Hosted Accommodations

“Couch surfing has enabled me to meet some amazing people and have experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve sailed with a host who is a skipper in La Rochelle, France and stayed in a hamlet in the Welsh countryside.” Stephen Bugno

Through so-called sharing economy’s “hotel alternatives,” Airbnb and Couchsurfing, you get to enjoy the advantages of travel solo without being so alone. Both options involve staying in someone’s home, and not only are seniors the fastest growing group of hosts — they also, according to a recent report, tend to be the most welcoming and friendly.

Couchsurfing International is a global network of people who offer a spare room or just a sofa for free to travelers as a way to connect with people from around the world. AirBnB is also worldwide (including, most recently, Cuba) and hosts charge per night. Both services require hosts and travelers to fill out detailed profiles that offer a sense of who they are and their lifestyle. Traveler and host review one another, too. Some hosts make a point of saying that they’ll leave you alone, so if you’re looking for company, read the profiles and reviews carefully.

The Basics

How long? Couchsurfing has no minimum or maximum stay, but you are taking advantage of someone’s hospitality; on AirBnB, some hosts stipulate a minimum of two or three days, and prior bookings by other travelers might limit the length of time you can stay.
How much? Couchsurfing is free. AirBnB is cheaper than most hotels. The 300-plus options listed for Vancouver, Canada range from $20 to $157 per night, with an average rate of $99.
Single supplement? AirBnB hosts generally charge the same for one or two people — but if you’re alone you don’t get to share the cost of the room.

Links

Read the SeniorPlanet article about Airbnb
Read SeniorPlanet’s article about Couchsurfing

4. Special Interest Tours and Cruises

“I’m dancing on the top deck with a 71-year-old feminist and psychotherapist whom I’ve come to think of as the Twirler. We’ve spent two days attending seminars on The Nation magazine’s Alaska cruise…. Now, at almost midnight, my fiercely intelligent and opinionated new friend Charlotte is putting all the heady political talk behind her by bodily twirling.” Henry Alford

Have a hobby or interest you’d like to indulge in while traveling? Find a niche tour or cruise by entering “[your hobby or interest] + tours or cruises” into your Google search bar and surf the options.

These groups are usually small. Tours typically limit capacity to between 10 and 24 people, and cruises are on smaller passenger or expedition ships or might be a sub-group on a larger cruise ship.

A niche cruise could be the perfect travel solution for a first time solo traveler. You book a private cabin but have a community of people who share your interest right outside your stateroom door. You control the mix.

You can find niche tours geared for seniors only (Road Scholar — formerly Elderhostel) and LGBT travelers (Brand g Vacations). Some options include tours for theater lovers and literary tours to Italy or Paris that explore where a favorite author lived and wrote. You can find non-traditional cruises online for interests such as motorcycles, reggae, history, wine, Big Band and even craft beer.

The Basics

How long? Varies depending upon trip, but most are 7 days minimum and some are as long as 2 to 3 weeks.
How much? Varies based on destination and length of trip.
Single supplement? Tour operators and cruise ships have drastically reduced or altogether eliminated single supplement charges, but be sure to read the fine print before booking. Some will pair you with a roommate — a chance to make a new friend (if you’re lucky).

Links

More Resources

Which if any of our options appeal to you? Share your thoughts — or your tips — in the comments section below.

32 comments
  • Ravi S S
    REPLY

    Hello ;

    I am Ravi, a male Senior 64 on a 2 week Solo Trip to Italy commencing from April 19 and proceeding direct to Venice. I am a Vegetarian from India and first time to Europe. Would like to team up with any other willing Solo traveler for the remaining period from April 21st. Want to visit Florence and other places to understand and appreciate local lifestyle, culture, art – all mixed with Travel.Like to travel on similar footings to other places in Europe and everywhere.

  • Cheryl Owens
    REPLY

    I would like to meet up with seniors who like to go camping. Nothing elaborate (rent an RV, cabin, large tent or…) I live in southern California where there are great campgrounds, even at the beach. My favorite area is Yosemite (yes, I know it’s tricky to reserve a campsite there), the redwoods, beach sites. Fish Camp (near Yosemite) let’s you ride horses, camp, and explore.

  • Hellen
    REPLY

    Travelling by yourself means you are left to navigate your place in the world, to embrace or shun the ever-changing call of the wild. No matter where you go and what you do, it will change you.

  • Victoria
    REPLY

    Hi
    I would like to travel , but with group and tour guide.
    if you can help ,..it will be terrific. It always better to share what makes you happy…but not to enjoy alone.

    Victoria

    • Pat
      REPLY

      Hi Victoria
      Did you get any replies? Like yiu, I prefer the tour guide kind of travel. Love cruises and other countries with a tour group. Please let me know what you have learned. I don’t like the idea if paying the “single” rate mark up.
      Thanks
      Pat

  • Ramona Brigmond
    REPLY

    I am a senior who loves to travel but find it more affordable to have a sole sister and also more fun
    I know it is scary to hook up with a stranger but would like to email for a while to get to know. Is this the site to find someone like me?
    Ramona B. Ramjune@yahoo.com
    I am in Florida

    • Carol Soriano
      REPLY

      Do you know of any volunteer site’s where they
      pay you to travel to do volunteer work! Plus have a few days off. Unfortunately I only have my SS to live off of, and on a tight budget. I’m 74 female
      live alone, and got laid off my job. After 10 years,
      but would love to venture out. I have 4 grown children who all own their homes and are hard workers. 6 beautiful grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. But they have their lives to live and have always helped if I’m in need. But I would like to do something without asking for their help. Thank you

      • Terry Doyle
        REPLY

        Actually stitch.net – I’ve just joined and scribbled a profile, need a picture or yourself.

        Plan to check it out and see if there are seniors that’d like to travel with one or more like minded seniors.

      • Ida
        REPLY

        I’m glad I came across this site. And I’m going to also going to check out stitch.com
        I’m ,61 I’m already faceing depression of being alone and ignored by siblings as if im not worst being in invited .specially holidays has been hard to be alone now all 3 pets of my no longer with me 2 pass away and one they not allowing me to bring to my supportive houseing even when I submitted a emotional.support letter from my doctor and this is my 12 year old family cat. Now she’s stuck with a lady that rescues pets. It hurts.

  • Mike
    REPLY

    You keep saying ” for women especially” when referring to seniors. What about the single senior male? We aren’t ‘t lonely as well? Yes we are. I at least am not looking for another life partner. I enjoy human interaction when traveling, and don’t want to be treated any different. What I really dislike is being charged extra for being single! I avoid those travel companies.

    • Jenayvonne Fruge
      REPLY

      i am facing the same problems as others. Recent Widow for over 2 years and all my friends are still married. Tried church groups but not interesting enough. Looking for a traveling companion. Had plans to go on a cruise to Alaska before spouse passed away. Still interested in taking that trip. Don’t want to travel alone. Are there any groups for women over 70 in good health. Love photography, horse back riding, cooking, short hikes. fishing, camping.

    • Linda Abbit
      REPLY

      Hi Claire,

      Stupart raises important issues to consider which I didn’t come across in my research for this article. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  • Susan Wexler
    REPLY

    Good article, Linda. I would add one more solution: Study programs. I did a study program a few years ago to learn Italian. It was great! I had my own apt. (I could have shared for less $), morning classes, and evening activities. I loved it!

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