Travel Basics 100: Types of Solo Travel

I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years. I would characterize much of it as solo travel despite all of my trips not fitting a traditional definition of solo travel. Solo travel is not just you going off somewhere wholly alone. I would argue that there are actually about 3 different types of “solo” travel. Each presents its own pros and cons, but all can provide a great travel experience.

Solo Work Trip

Traveling for work can be the lease flexible solo travel option, and potentially the least fun. A lot of people leave out work trips when they think of solo travel. This is likely because other employees from their company might be there; they might have to check in with other staff members, so they don’t feel completely alone/”solo”; or because these destinations typically aren’t far from home or glamorous. I say none of these things disqualify work trips from being considered solo travel. Regardless of where your job takes you – whether it’s Wisconsin or California, Ireland, or Barbados – try to add in something for yourself. Work trips can potentially alleviate one of the biggest fears of solo travel. The fear of being alone. If there’s an opportunity to add on a tour or excursion or do a little exploring with people with your industry/company, take advantage of those options.

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Solo Group Trip

If you sign up for any group tour travel package and you don’t know anyone else in the group, I would still count this as a solo trip. Why? Because being in a group doesn’t mean you’re not alone. Group travel can vary dramatically based on what is actually included and excluded from your package. Some companies only provide group meals together, and everyone is free to explore on their own for the rest of the time. Some packages don’t include meals but offer a limited amount of group activities. Some tours rent out whole houses to accommodate guests. Some offer single occupancy arrangements, while others put the group in hostels allowing for outside people to intermingle with the tour group. And, in all of this, you might not like a single soul on the trip. Or, you might just want to do your own thing the whole time. If you’re afraid of going somewhere entirely on your own, booking yourself a spot on a travel group tour in a viable alternative. There are sssooooo many companies and tours and packages out there, browse around to find the one(s) that’s as solo as you want it to be.

Traditional Solo Trip

This is the solo travel most people are familiar with. This is where you go far off the grid and disappear into some exotic land somewhere for a couple days. Or, that’s how the internet makes it seem. (Not accurate by the way.) Exploring a new city or part of the country you live in, on your own, still counts as solo travel. The biggest concerns many people have regarding solo travel are safety concerns and fear of being alone. If you want to start solo traveling but you’re nervous about traveling the world alone, start closer to home. It’s ok to take things in stride.

My first traditional solo trip was an accident. Someone canceled on me last minute, and I ended up in Toyko alone. I didn’t cancel the trip because I didn’t want to lose my money, and I forced myself to go outside and do things thinking that if I did nothing, I might as well have forgone the trip. Ultimately, that experience was really positive and taught me a lot about myself and solo travel. I realized very quickly that things weren’t scary, and finding people to talk to and hang out with wasn’t hard.

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Several questions to ask yourself when planning your own solo trip:

  • Where do you want to go in the broadest sense? Do you want to go to the beach? Do you want to go to amusement parks? Do you want to be in a more urban space or out in nature?
  • What climate do you want to go to? What types of clothes do you want to wear on your trip? How much luggage do you want to bring?
  • Are you willing to work around language or technology barriers? Are you willing to go through a visa application?
  • Do you have a goal on this trip? To write a book or complete a project? Unplug and recharge? Treating yourself?
  • Can you convince someone to travel with you in the future, to X destination or to do Y activity? Or, have you been trying to get to Disneyland for all your life and just need to concede and go it alone?
  • What’s your budget? Could you add a short layover after your work trip?
  • Even after doing research online. Knowing yourself – where would you feel safe traveling entirely alone? Where would you feel safe traveling in a group, even if you didn’t know the other group members? Where would you not feel comfortable traveling to at all?

This list is not conclusive, but it’s definitely someplace to start if you want to start traveling more and on your own. If you have any additional tips or thoughts, leave them in the comments. And if you know someone who needs some solo travel inspiration, send this their way.

Fun fact: The thumbnail photo is of me and a statue of a young George Washington at the George Washington House & Museum in Barbados. It’s the only house outside the USA where George Washington ever resided. 

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