7 tips for traveling solo as a senior

It's never too late to see the world

A traveler.
(Image credit: YakobchukOlena/iStock)

Retirement offers the perfect opportunity to travel; you have the time to set out and indulge in your curiosity about the world and its people. But for many, not having a partner to travel with is enough to keep them at home. Setting off on a trip on your own can seem intimidating. Happily, the opportunities for solo travel have never been better. Hotels, travel companies, and cruise lines have kept pace with increasing demand and added options to ensure that a trip for one is just as fulfilling and affordable as a reservation for two.

Still, for many of us, the thought of venturing alone to points unknown can be daunting. Worries range from getting ill or lost, to being stuck next to a boor on an endless bus trip. There are some types of holidays that are better than others for offering solo travelers opportunities to meet new people (and to ditch them if they're not a good match), develop new skills, or to have an adventure. With a little research, and the following tips, you can plan a trip that suits you — whether you're looking for culture, education, or wellness, or ticking something special off your bucket list:

1. Seek out the deals

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Wanting to head to a resort, or to take a cruise? Keep an eye out for companies that cater to solo travelers (not "singles" — that's a whole different market). You'll find that not only do they make all-inclusive life more enjoyable by offering meet-and-greets or group dinners, but they make it more affordable by waiving, or reducing, the single supplement fee. Additionally, several cruise lines now offer single occupancy cabins. They cost a bit more than the per-person cost of a double occupancy cabin, but they are more affordable than the single supplement.

2. Pack light

It might seem obvious, but when it's just you there's no one else to leave your bags with if you need to slip to the washroom or grab a bite to eat. You don't want to be schlepping a cumbersome suitcase through the airport, so if it's been a while since you last traveled, spring for a modern lightweight suitcase with great wheels. Then get some packing tips for a flexible travel wardrobe that's stain resistant and easy to mix and match. Don't neglect your footwear. Opt for a stylish pair of comfortable walking shoes that can do double duty as dress shoes when needed.

3. Think central

When you can, choose comfortable lodgings in the thick of the action. This way if you're visiting a city you can explore more of it with less energy. You'll want to spend your time walking through the galleries and gardens you've been dreaming about, not stuck in traffic getting to and from the must-dos.

4. Use your skills

There are numerous NGOs around the world looking for help on everything from building houses to protecting the environment to working with community activists. And thanks to your years on the job, you'll probably find that the skills and patience you've developed will prove extremely useful. Many programs require that you cover your costs for travel, accommodation, and meals but in return they offer you a chance to immerse in a local community and do something useful.

5. Pursue your interests

Special interest travel is on the rise, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up that long-dreamed about post-retirement hobby. Want to work on your painting skills with a master artist in Venice, or take a culinary course in Thailand? Maybe you're interested in a yoga retreat or an advanced scuba diving course. Educational travel is as diverse as your own interests. It's also a great way to meet people with similar hobbies and goals.

6. Make new friends

If you're worried solo travel will leave you more lonesome than fulfilled, consider seeking out a suitable travel partner. You can check out prospective travel companions by using one of the websites that cater to senior or women travelers, or you can opt for local homestays or hostel lodging. Keep in mind while some hostels cater primarily to youth, especially during school holidays, many also serve seniors. The communal spaces are great for low-key interactions and for making travel plans.

7. Stay healthy

Jet lag can get worse as you age, so don't over schedule yourself — especially for the first few days. Even after you've arrived, plan a few rest days into your schedule so you don't feel like your missing out if you need a quiet day. While you're taking it easy, keep the same attitude about food — less is sometimes best when it comes to unfamiliar food and drink. Don't forget copies of any prescriptions and a basic first aid kit. It can be hard to find familiar OTC cold or stomach medicines in a new country.

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