The world is constantly changing, and with it, the way we travel. Long gone are the days where only the most intrepid travelers vacationed alone and it was looked on with sympathy to whip out your iPhone during a dinner for one. According to the Wall Street Journal, “now, all sorts - and not just single people – are traveling solo. And hotels, cruises and tour operators are easing the way.”
Nothing could be more true for Classic Journeys, where 40% of guests are embracing solo travel. The era of justifying why you’d want to travel alone is in the past. And now busy professionals, retirees, couples with dissimilar interests, and Boomers, X’ers, and Millenials alike see a solo trip as an opportunity to travel without the added labor of planning around others’ schedules.
And a luxury group tour makes it even easier. All of your accommodations, transportation, activities, and meals are all pre-planned, so you can simply focus on enjoying yourself. Better yet, when you feel like having company, you’ll find yourself in a group of like-minded travelers led by expert local guides who are more than willing to share a bottle of wine at dinner. It’s the best of both worlds, and a sure bet for having the trip of a lifetime in the easiest way possible.
But be forewarned; not all group tours for solo travelers are created equal. Solo travelers may find themselves relegated to smaller hotel rooms or charged extra for activities. At Classic Journeys, every guest enjoys the same level of comfort, service and itinerary options, whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with a friend. Your hotel room is just as big, you’ll experience all the same immersive activities, and you’ll already have a friend in your local guides. Classic Journeys deliberately encourages solo travelers, and that’s why you’ll find the single supplements are the lowest you’re likely to find anywhere.
To understand what to look for in a great solo trip and why so many travelers are making the leap to join luxury tours solo, we asked frequent solo traveler and company co-founder, Susan Piegza, her thoughts and pointers on solo travel.
Classic Journeys editorial staff: Admit it, solo travelers only join a group tour because no one likes to eat alone.
Susan Piegza: Without a doubt, the stigma of whipping out your iPhone at dinner is totally gone, whether you are reading a book or getting a great photo for your Instagram post. Yet, at the same time, solo travelers (like everyone else) want to get the story behind that Instagram post. So they are choosing companies like Classic Journeys that can provide a totally seamless and turnkey experience, while also giving them total immersion into a people, culture and place. They join our trips to be with a small group of like-minded travelers exploring with expert local well-connected guides.
Classic Journeys editorial staff: Can’t a solo traveler just do the ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ sort of travel and make their way around the world creating experiences on their own?
Susan Piegza: Of course, and that explains one key reason why solo travel in general is growing so fast. At the same time, solo travelers have the same FOMO as everyone else. And so, if you really want to cook pizza in a private home 1,000 feet above the Amalfi Coast, or stay at a private luxury encampment in the Moroccan desert, or have a private sunrise visit to Stonehenge, are those experiences even remotely possible if you have a budget of one? Joining a luxury tour in a small group of fellow travelers allows your budget to go further because these sorts of experiences are shared across a small group of travelers, and they’re possible because companies like Classic Journeys have long-standing relationships with the family of Amalfitanos, the Berber tribesmen, the right people at English Heritage, et al.
Classic Journeys editorial staff: That all sounds great. But everyone knows about the white elephant in the room, the single supplement. Why am I being ‘punished’ for traveling solo?
Susan Piegza: Ah, the dreaded single supplement. So often, first-time Classic Journeys guests who are traveling solo have been beaten down by industry tactics as many tour operators and cruise lines look at the single supplement as a significant profit center. And so our Guest Services team often has to reassure solo travelers that they are welcome and that ever since our founding in 1995, we’ve taken a completely different approach to solo than the rest of the travel industry. It starts with never marking up the single supplement. Then it includes always reserving ‘double for solo cccupancy’ at our hotels. That powerful combination means that our solo guests know that they are paying only an average of 15-20% of the trip price for the single supplement and they are getting the exact same room that two guests traveling together would receive.
Classic Journeys editorial staff: Will I still get time to myself?
Susan Piegza: You're never alone—unless you want to be! Or put it another way, you can be alone as much or as little as you want. That’s because Classic Journeys has created this really neat concept called ‘Choose Your Adventure’. That means that all activities on tour are included and fully supported with just the right gear and guides. So I never have to wonder if I will have the right wet suit for snorkeling with penguins and sea turtles in the Galápagos or hiking on a glacier in Iceland. I just choose my adventure that day on tour, and if I want to go snorkeling the guides know my size and have my gear ready for me, with no extra cost. It’s like having my own concierge everywhere I go! And then when I want my adventure to be laying by the pool, taking a nap, sipping an espresso in a village square or a glass of wine on a terrace, I can do those too and nobody looks at me like I am afraid of fun because Classic Journeys encourages everyone on tour to ‘Choose Your Adventure’.
Classic Journeys editorial staff: Are there any destinations that you particularly like as a solo traveler?
Susan Piegza: The easy answer that you’ll read on most message boards about solo travel is that you should stick to English speaking countries or western societies because that is where a solo traveler (and in my case a female solo traveler) are going to be (or at least feel) most safe. But I can throw that out the window when I am on a Classic Journeys trip. With an average of 12 guests on a departure (and never more than 18) exploring in the company of expert and uber-well-connected local guides, I can branch out to literally anywhere in the world. Don’t speak Thai? No problem! Classic Journeys guide Oomi is fluent in Thai, English and several other languages. And she knows everyone. Not sure how women may be treated differently in Morocco? Explore with Saida who is a professional journalist, mother of two daughters (both doctors by the way) and has guided presidents and prime ministers. You’ll see an amazing country through the eyes of an amazing woman. I like luxury small group travel because it literally opens a world of solo travel options to me.
For a chance to travel solo with a group tour in Classic Journeys style, take a look at our upcoming Culture + Walking, Multisport, Culinary and River Cruising tours.