Though we've been asked many times, we have always stayed away from helping people find travel partners.
We've been asked by:
- Solo travelers who want to find a travel companion for a tour or cruise to avoid the single supplement.
- Solo travelers who simply want a travel companion for independent travel.
- People behind websites and apps that help people find travel partners.
This has been an issue since I started Solo Traveler 10 years ago. I've had time to think about it – over and over again. And while I think that some services are fine, others make me anxious.
Let's be clear, I have met and traveled with people many times. I have found travel buddies. It can enhance the travel experience as you discover a new destination through your own cultural lens and that of your new travel companion as well.
But there are safe ways to do this and ways that I feel are less safe. What are they? Read on.
Finding Travel Companions: Why Would You?
While in recent years we have received fewer requests for help finding travel partners, they are still coming in. Back in 2015 there was a lively discussion on matching services for solo travelers on the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. There were three main perspectives.
- The majority of people considered this service counter to solo travel. Karen wrote: “I don't want to connect with anyone, love being solo.”
- Some thought that there was definitely a place for it. Danielle wrote: “when it comes to hiking or camping remotely while solo, that's a little nerve wracking and I'd love to meet up with people who are in the same mindset.”
- Some liked the idea as a means of getting around the single supplement. Mary wrote: “I like the idea of being connected to someone sometimes to avoid that “single-occupancy tax.”
Perspectives two and three hold merit and, fortunately, there are safe ways of meeting these needs.
Apps/Sites for Travel Buddies: My Concerns
There are a number of apps and sites online that will help you find a travel partner. I have concerns about them for the following reasons.
- Compatibility. Just because you're going to the same destination does not mean that you're compatible with your new travel companion. You may not discover until you're into the trip that you don't share the same interests or ways of exploring, never mind the rhythm of your travels. This can make for a miserable trip.
- Catfishing*. A catfish is someone online who pretends to be someone they're not. Without a real life connection, there is no way to know who is real and who isn't on social media. This could put you in a vulnerable situation where the person you thought was going to be your travel buddy is actually expecting to hook up or worse.
- Misunderstandings. The potential for a serious misunderstanding is another reason I don't promote the idea of finding a travel partner before you go. Your new travel partner may not have had any intention of deceiving you and may not mean to cause you any harm, yet they may have different hopes for the trip than you do – hook-up hopes.
- Telling the world you're solo. By participating on an independent matching site and sharing your itinerary you are telling the world that you are traveling solo and where. While I don't hide the fact that I'm solo while I travel, for safety reasons I don't broadcast it either.
- Sites/apps can get too much personal information. In an effort to increase member safety, some sites go through a variety of verification steps, including gathering government ID information. This raises identity safety concerns.
Because I won't promote these sites that help you find a travel partner I'm not giving you a list. However, if you are still interested, Google is your friend. If you do so, I hope you'll be cautious and read the Solo Travel Safety section of the site before leaving.
Safety First When it Comes to Traveling with a Stranger
Despite my concerns about travel apps and sites for finding a travel companion, I do believe that there are safe ways to meet people for a day, a week, or more. These methods give you the freedom of being solo and yet connect you with interesting people along the way.
Before jumping into the ways that you can meet travel companions, here are a few safety essentials:
- Stay in public. When you are with someone new, stay in the public sphere for at least a few days so that you get to know them. If you're staying at a hostel, spend the days together in public where you're safe to assess the person and the evenings together where, again, you're safe. Eventually, determine whether this is a person with whom you'd like travel.
- Be proactive. Choose who you want to spend time with or get help from. Make your own decisions rather than respond to invitations from others who might have agendas of their own.
- Don't be rushed into a decision. If you are considering traveling with someone, don't be rushed into the decision. If the idea comes up but they say that you must decide by a time that is less than comfortable for you, decline the opportunity.
How to Find Travel Companions: Methods I Can Recommend
- Get a warm introduction from a friend. One of the best ways to find a travel companion is through a friend or family member. Being concerned for your safety, they will only connect you to people they trust. Hopefully you will be geographically close enough to meet each other a few times before setting out.
- Meet someone along the way. This has happened to me most often in hostels, but it doesn't really matter where you meet them. The point is that you meet a travel companion as you travel, not before. You get to meet them in person and spend a few days together before committing to anything longer. Spend the days in the public sphere and return to your own safe accommodation every night. Eventually you can decide whether this is the right person for you to travel with.
- Let your tour/cruise company connect you. If your goal is to avoid the single supplement on a tour or cruise, ask for them to partner you with another solo traveler. Most companies will and, if they can't, they'll give you your own room for no additional charge. See our Deals page for tours and cruises with no or low single supplements.
- Use Meetup.com Meetup.com is a fabulous resource for solo travelers to meet people of similar interests. These are most often locals, not people to travel with. But locals! How great is that? I used Meetup.com and found people to hike with in Hong Kong.
- Get a greeter. The Global Greeter Network connects you with locals who volunteer to show off their city. I've used this service in Paris, New York, Kyoto, and Chicago.
- 5W. This is an international community of 2,400 people in over 80 countries. They are mostly women over 60 who want to travel more often and meet locals, so they host one another for a tea or a stay as they travel. Read Women Welcoming Women: A Gateway to International Friendships.
- Take a day tour or a class. If social is what you're looking for, schedule in time for social activities. Read How to Travel Alone Without Being Lonely: 10 Tips & 12 Posts and 7 Ways to Find a Free Tour Guide When You Travel.