Some things are better for singles. And believe it or not, travel can be one of them. If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, it’s the perfect time to look into flying solo, literally. I’ve seen too many people decide that because they don’t have anyone to go with, their dream vacation has to wait. But read on – if you don’t have someone to come along, you can have an even better trip.
My trips to the Amalfi Coast and Northern Spain were, hands down, the best travel experiences I’ve ever had – and I went by myself. What made my solo travel so great? I met more locals, learned more about the culture, was forced to speak the language and made my own schedule. But even more than this, I gained a real sense of self-sufficiency and freedom by doing it on my own. It’s hard to put a price on that, and it wouldn’t come easily from a trip for two.
For those of you ready to get out of your comfort zone, here are some tips to keep in mind:
•Plan trips around your passions. When opposites attract, it’s almost impossible to plan a trip both will enjoy. So this is your chance to indulge in something you’re passionate about without having to worry about keeping someone else entertained. Cooking schools, wine classes, golf coaching and biking trips are all things you can do solo, and you can get more out of them this way.
•Pack only what you can carry. You never know when you’ll have to haul your bags yourself, so be prepared. Take only bags that you can carry all at one time, and use carry-on-size suitcases with wheels. Try to pack as lightly as possible.
•Ask for an upgrade – you’re more likely to get it. Frequent fliers rejoice! It is much easier to get an upgrade by yourself than as a couple. And if you’re still traveling in coach – even if you already have a seat assignment – ask the gate agent if there are any parts of the plane with empty seats – you may just get a row to yourself.
•Join a walking tour on your first day in the city. I’ve found that walking tours are a great way to meet people and get acclimatized to the city. And because these last only a few hours, you don’t run the risk of getting stuck with a weeklong tour group you may not otherwise choose to hang out with.
•Do not order room service. This is a big no-no in my book. Make sure you sit at bars whenever possible, and make friends with the bartender. Alternately, make sure you have a good book on you at all times, and find a café with outdoor seating. In places like Paris, this is a great opportunity for meeting people and taking in the city.
•Take advantage of single rates at hotels. Many tour companies and cruise lines will ask you to pay the dreaded single supplement – if you are booking a group tour, this is completely normal if you want your own room. However, hotels are a different story. If you are booking a room abroad, single rooms are often priced lower than doubles. Be sure to ask about this.
•Eat what you want, when you want. When no one else is calling the shots on which restaurants to go to and when to eat, you have a great chance to explore the places you want to try. And I always recommend stopping for those gelatos and espressos. Little treats during the day keeps the energy level up and give you more opportunities to observe the local way of life.
•Take a guided wine-tasting tour. Not only will you meet other likeminded people, but you’ll also avoid driving and be able to make the most of the tasting appointments. Holme Grown tours, in Napa Valley, for example, offers a luxury wine-tasting day trip with an expert guide. You’ll join up to five other people and visit some of the “hidden gem” family-owned wineries that you might not otherwise know about.
•Try an overnight getaway first. If the thought of a long-haul trip is still a bit scary, try a weekend or an overnight to warm yourself up to it.
If you’re home alone on Valentine’s Day and pondering your single life, take it as a reminder that you need to put your travel plans in gear. Put your thinking cap on. and let me know what’s on your travel wish list @mindyjoyce.