Vacation Alone Like a Pro
Whether you want to make new friends or find solitude, you can travel solo and have the trip of a lifetime—without paying a premium.
The wonders of solo travel can best be summed up by the Kander and Ebb song “Ring Them Bells.” In it, Shirley Devore, single at 31 and living in her parents’ New York apartment, decides to take off to Europe to find a husband. Finally, on a beach in Dubrovnik, she discovers love at first sight—a man who “took her reason away.” A man who, it turns out, lives in the Manhattan apartment right next door to hers. But had Shirley not flown solo, they would never have met.
Solo travel—the romantic idea of venturing out into the world on your own—has always captured the imagination. These days, you don’t have to be an intrepid explorer to embark on your own. In fact, in traveling solo, you’ll be part of a movement. Traveling by oneself has become much more popular in recent years, according to numerous sources.
Some people travel alone to meet others and socialize. Others seek solitude. Whatever the motive, you can craft a strategy to make the most of a solo vacation.
The bane of the single traveler: the single supplement. This hospitality practice requires a lone guest or tour member to pay roughly the same rate as a couple would in a hotel or on a cruise ship.
There are plenty of opportunities for the solo traveler to save, however. If you’re setting sail, many AAA cruise partners offer staterooms either with no single supplement or with a reduced fee. Plus, you can use your AAA Member discounts for everything from restaurants to car rentals to stays in AAA Inspected or Diamond-rated accommodations. (Go to AAA.com/Diamonds to search for accommodations by search for your Diamond-designated hotel by cleanliness, location and even ecofriendliness.)
Book a guided tour to Spain and Portugal (just as an example) at a discounted member rate. Ask your travel advisor about these options and many more.
Those who travel solo may have no intention of being on their own the whole time—nor do they have to be. In the relaxed environment of a trip, without the pressures of home and work, travelers are more apt to open up and prime themselves for fun and social engagement.
“Traveling solo makes you more outgoing and approachable. I always meet more people when I’m traveling alone,” says AAA Member Anna Mazurek, travel writer, photographer and creator of the blog travellikeanna.com.
“I met one of my best friends on the street in Laos. We were up early in the morning to watch a procession of monks, and we just started chitchatting. Another time, I was on a ferry from Colon, Panama, to Cartagena, Colombia, and I met a woman in her 70s who calls herself the traveling granny. Every year, she takes off on her own for six months. We started talking on the ship, and we’ve kept in touch.”
How best to find social opportunities? “Start with your dream destination,” says Darcy Grimes, AAA director of travel innovation and business development. “Why do you want to go there? What are your interests? Then find the itinerary that fits. Do that, and you’re more than likely to meet friends who have similar interests and tastes.”
Guided travel is a great option—Grimes recently escorted a group trip to Dubai consisting of women traveling alone or with a friend. “You have the support of the group without losing independence,” she says.
Staying in an all-inclusive resort with a long list of activities is also an option. Or consider going on a themed vacation, such as to France’s wine country or to visit ancient sites in Egypt and Greece, to travel with people who have similar interests.
AAA Inspiring Journeys offers several guided vacations a year with options from hot air ballooning to visiting PBS's film sites of Downton Abbey.
What if you’re a solo traveler firmly committed to getting away from it all? Perhaps you’d like to be at one with nature? An all-inclusive resort on a beach offers enough space to spread out your towel, splash in the water and marvel at the expanse of open ocean. A guided hiking trip to one of the lesser-traveled U.S. national parks will bring you to the most glorious vistas but also leave you time to write in your journal or just gaze in awe. For inspiration on where to go and what to do, look to AAA Travel Guides.
Technically, traveling solo merely means buying one plane ticket or reserving a ship cabin for one. What you do with your solo status after that has no limits.
“I think the biggest thing you can do is just decide to go,” says Mazurek. “Get on that plane and go by yourself. Once you do that, it opens you up to people and places that you couldn’t even imagine.”
Cruise lines are doing their part to court solo travelers. Here are what a few cruise lines and tour companies are doing:
Royal Caribbean: Single staterooms are available on many of its ships. On Quantum class vessels, such as Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, some solo staterooms boast private balconies—a rarity in the industry until recently. Royal Caribbean also doubles frequent-cruiser points for Crown & Anchor Society members, which can raise status levels for perks quickly for those who book traditional rooms and pay a single supplement.
Celebrity Cruises: As part of a fleetwide revitalization, Celebrity added dozens of single staterooms to its ships—Apex has 24 and Silhouette has four. Other vessels feature solo rooms with verandas, including Edge with 16, as well as Beyond and Ascent, each with 32.
Holland America: Holland America now offers solo cabins with ocean views on its newest Pinnacle class ships, like Koningsdam; Nieuw Statendam; and Rotterdam, launched in 2021.
Oceania: Oceania has made a considerable investment in drawing solo cruisers. Four renovated ships that debut this fall—the Regatta, Nautica, Sirena and Insignia—will each feature 14 staterooms for one. Next year, the most spacious solo staterooms in the industry (270 square feet with a balcony) make their debut when Oceania’s Vista is launched. Discounted single supplements are also offered for standard cabins on select sailings.
Tauck (tour operator): Traveler savings are available on Tauck’s European river cruises and on select land itineraries. On European river cruises, the single supplement will not apply to Category 1 cabins, meaning solo travelers could save up to 50% off the double occupancy rate. On certain departures, solo travelers can also save $1,000 per cabin in select categories on select river cruises.
Looking to travel solo? Consider these destinations, chosen by the AAA Travel Team based on overall country safety, logistics, culture, cuisine, architecture and art.
Wine country in Saint-Emilion, France.
An aerial view of Jaco, Costa Rica.
The Puerto Vallarta skyline in Mexico.
Dotonbori is a famous destination for traveling and shopping in Osaka, Japan.
Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, shot from Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn New York.