Solo travel on organised tours

Gap year backpackers and empty nesters, office workers in search of calm and retirees wishing to learn a new skill – solo travelers don’t fit a single mould. Some are fearless serial adventurers; others are venturing out alone for the first time. They may be on a mission to spot wildlife, to get fit, to cycle across a country or simply switch off from busy lives back home. But happily, for every single one of these people, from teens to octogenarians, there is a vacation to fit.

Small group vacations for solo travelers bridge the gap between fully independent travel and traditional organised tours. They’re not about coach trips and umbrellas; they’re about bringing together a diverse group of people to conveniently explore a new destination, many of whom will be traveling by themselves.

While some places lend themselves perfectly to traveling solo, in others having a bit of extra support can help you get around more confidently. “When it comes to some areas such as central Asia, there are a lot of people who are used to traveling independently who say that they’d prefer a group tour,” says Liz Anderson from our partner Sundowners Overland. “There’s a security around small group travel. People like to know that everything’s been thought through.”
Travel Team
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The benefits of traveling solo on organised tours

Small group tours offer many of the benefits of true solo travel. You can go whenever and wherever you like, and you can pick a theme – salsa dancing, scuba diving, bird watching – that suits you. You also get to cut all ties with home life for a week or so and immerse yourself fully in a new country or activity – the ultimate mental break.

This kind of trip has other advantages, too. All the planning, logistics and bookings are taken care of, so you can switch off completely when away, and not have to worry about things going wrong, as there is always someone on hand to make sure you’re ok.

You’ll be around people who share similar interests or a fondness for the same parts of the world, and making new friends is virtually guaranteed. You can share sociable meals and hit the town together in the evening, if you wish. And you can reach off the beaten track places that would be either too difficult, or far too expensive, to reach on your own, using pricey taxis, boats or rental cars.

Will I be the only one traveling solo?

More and more people are discovering the joys of traveling solo on organised tours. Many of our travelers have told us that their friends envy them for their independent adventures, and the new sense of adventure and confidence that they come back home with.

Small group tours attract people from widely varied backgrounds, at all stages of their lives, and it’s likely there will be more than one other solo traveler on your tour. In fact, some types of trips tend to particularly attract solos, such as yoga and wellness retreats or ‘learning vacations’ where you can pick up skills from photography to Spanish. The more niche, the more lone travelers there are likely to be, as interests are not always shared with friends or partners. Learning and wellbeing vacations also offer participants a sense of purpose, which takes the edge off any concerns about being alone.

Our partners may be able to give you some details about the makeup of particular groups before you book. Perhaps one has more couples, while another already has a few solo travelers booked onto it – and they can recommend, therefore, which departure might suit you best.

Who else will be in my tour group?

Age-wise, these vacations can easily span six decades in a single tour group. Some people are frequent travelers; others may have saved up for years to take the trip of a lifetime. Needless to say, the more niche your trip (snow leopard tracking, Greek archaeology, Thai cooking), the more likely you are to find yourself surrounded by fellow aficionados.

But even general interest vacations will put you together with a bunch of curious travelers, all looking for a similar adventure. Finding yourself chatting around a campfire with a group of strangers from all walks of life may turn out to be one of the highlights of your trip.

One group of people you aren’t likely to be around though is children. Most small group tours have a minimum age, usually around 16 – and tour operators tend to have departures specifically for family groups. The exception being multi activity tours, many of which are small group trips based in one location and which naturally appeal to families as much as they do to couples, groups of friends and solo travelers.

Will I be with the group the whole time?

One of the joys of solo travel is the sense of independence. On a small group tour, you will be following a set itinerary – you won’t quite have that sense of total freedom, of waking and wondering ‘where should I go today?’ However, that is more than made up for by the fact that you don’t need to plan, book or worry about anything going wrong – this is the perfect opportunity to relax.

Although our small group vacations follow fixed routes, most also have free time built in, allowing for solo exploration, snooze time or optional extra activities. Do read your itinerary carefully to find out how many activities are included, how many are optional, and also how many meals are included in the tour price. This will give you a good idea of group time vs. solo time, as well as what else you need to budget for. Many people find that they enjoy hanging out with their fellow travelers; you may want to spend an afternoon browsing a market alone, but regroup in the evening to share tales of your exploits.

Free time and optional meals will depend very much on the nature of the trip. If you’re hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro, you can’t very well wander off to a local restaurant for lunch. Small ship cruises, too, involve much more group time, as do trips which take you deep into the wilderness, whether that’s jungles, deserts or polar regions. So do take this into consideration if you crave your own space and independence.

Do I pay more if I travel alone?

Small group tours tend to be very budget-friendly, as solo travelers are often hit with higher prices, from hotel rooms to taxis. On these trips you’ll typically be sharing a room (or tent or cabin) with another traveler of the same sex.

If you’d like your own space, then this is usually available for a supplement. However, given the growing popularity of solo travel, some of our partners will give you your own private room at no extra cost – find out more in our guide to no single supplement vacations.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Cristina Cerda] [Intro: toxawww] [Will I be the only one traveling solo?: Nat Fernandez] [Will I be with the group the whole time?: Crispin Jones]