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Get Social while Travelling Solo

As travel opens up after a long shutdown, opportunities for domestic travel abound, from day trips to multi-day tours. Traveling solo lets you go where you want and when you want. There’s no night owl vs. lark wakeup time issues, and no tagging along while someone else indulges interests that leave you cold.

Sometimes traveling with a friend or partner narrows your trip, since you often end up talking just to each other.

Drink in some Fun

For free local day trips, look on Meetup for walking or biking groups in your area, including 50+ groups. For wine country day trips, Napa Valley Wine Tours offers tours that visit three wineries by van or coach, with pick-up and dropoff service in San Francisco. Or meet in Napa to tour four wineries on a replica of an 1890s San Francisco cable car on the  Wine Trolley.

“For solo travelers, the Wine Trolley is a great way to meet people. Generally by the end of the day riders are chatting and laughing like they’ve known each other for years,” says Janette Maack of Visit Napa Valley. “We also have a pre-planned itinerary for solo travel for inspiration.”

Learning on the road

If you prefer multi-day tours with your age group, Road Scholar tours are for people 50+ only. Options range from National Parks, to walking in Vermont to healing in Sedona.  (There are many health benefits to communing with nature.) It recommends some specifically for solo travelers. Its roommate-matching option on many tours is a great way to meet people (and perhaps find a future simpatico travel companion). Some tours have no single-room supplement.

“Our group leaders encourage people to sit with new people at mealtime, so by the end of the week everyone knows each other. We also have ice-breakers, where we ask past guests to talk about their favorite experience with us.  Those end up being great conversation starters,” says Christopher Heppner of Road Scholar, noting about 25% of guests travel solo. “So people can stay in touch afterward and share photos, we have online discussion boards.”

For Women Only 

Beth Santos, founder of Wanderful, a women-only travel community with 50 chapters worldwide, suggests picking your lodgings carefully and connecting with locals. “Where you sleep can be just as important as where you travel when traveling solo. A hostel can be a way to make travel buddies; often, they plan tours and outings for guests. Many hostels aren’t just for college kids but welcome seniors and families!”

Members of varied ages meet at Wanderful’s supper and brunch clubs plus monthly chapter meetings, but it also has an online group for women 60+. Its Global Hosting Network pairs members with locals who can host in their homes or show you around.

“Sometimes just having a meal is the thing you don’t want to do by yourself,” she adds. “That’s why I love how you can connect with other travelers and locals over a home-cooked meal on platforms like Traveling Spoon and EatWith. “I’ve heard of people who have planned their entire trips around what and when they’ll be eating!”

On Traveling Spoon, you book a private meal or cooking class in someone’s home, after searching by city, food type and date. You see descriptions and photos of the food, host and home (e.g. apartment high-rise, house, garden), read the menu and pay in advance. EatWith is a dinner-party experience: your meal or cooking class is with a group (not just the host or family).

Go solo and get social tips

For a rewarding solo travel experience:

  • Talk to people. At group meals, table-hop to meet different folks. Mingle!
  • Pick trips based on your interests and comfort level. Read activity levels (stairs, miles, steepness) carefully.
  • Research your destination, from top places for local food to public transit. “You don’t have to have every detail hammered out, but the more you know in advance, the more you can make the most of your experience and relax,” says Heppner. Plus, it’s more fun.
  • Group tours vary greatly. Look at the amount of free time if you enjoy making discoveries on your own, meals covered, group size, average age and guest reviews.

Photo by Tommaso Pecchioli on Unsplash

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