Solo travel is for those over 50 just as much as it is for those under 30.
In fact, solo travel over 50 is one of the hottest travel demographics. The number of people going solo in their fifties and older is growing.
If you're over 50, you may:
- have 2+ adult children and possibly a few grandchildren.
- be part of the sandwich generation with parents and children requiring your attention.
- have an ex-spouse and a new spouse to be concerned with and, by extension, step-children and step-grandchildren.
In the complicated world of those over 50, relationships are everywhere as are the demands on your schedule. These relationships provide great satisfaction and meaning to life. However, they don't always allow one to feel lighthearted. This is where solo travel can help.
Ten Midlife Changes that Improve with Solo Travel
There are many changes that happen midlife. Health, career, and relationship changes abound. Perhaps you're experiencing one or a number of these situations that call for a solo travel solution.
- Are you facing midlife? Is it time for change? Travel alone, reflect, analyze, and explore your possibilities without the influence of others.
- Have you been in the same relationship for decades? Is it getting a little tired? Take separate vacations and return with lots to say to each other.
- Are you suddenly single, either by divorce or loss? Solo travel is a real confidence builder, a great way to make a comeback.
- Have your kids just left the nest? Then it’s time to find out who you are again. You can’t really do this with a companion who knows you and expects you to act in certain ways. Get away. Travel alone and rediscover yourself.
- Is your spouse or partner uninterested in travel? Going solo is your answer. See the world and return refreshed to your relationship.
- Are you concerned that people at work see you as old? Head out on a solo adventure and people will quickly adjust their attitudes.
- Is money tight? Solo travel can be inexpensive. It’s much easier to save on hostels, hospitality stays, great deals, and cheap flights when you travel alone.
- Do you have health problems? Stress is a major contributor to most health problems. Plan a solo holiday where you set the schedule and take a break from the stress in your life.
- Is work dull with little hope of things changing? Inject some challenge into life by traveling solo.
- Did you retire early? Do you have time to travel but family and friends don’t? No need to sit around and wait for them. Go solo and enjoy.
10 Benefits of Solo Travel Over 50
Happiness can be elusive. The number of self-help books on the subject confirms this. Maybe we all need a little time to ourselves, to make decisions, discover our strengths, and experience more autonomy. Maybe we all need to travel solo.
- Enjoy your freedom. If you have spent most of your life surrounded by and responsible to others this is your chance to be responsible to no one but yourself. Go to bed when you like. Get up when you like. Eat, drink, wander, explore what you like. It's all up to you.
- Gain confidence from that independence. Whether you're traveling solo on a tour or independently, there is a confidence-building element to solo travel for having jumped into a somewhat unknown situation on your own.
- Discover who you are when you’re not meeting the demands of a spouse or children. When responding to everyone else, who has time to get to know oneself? Solo travel gives you that opportunity. Do what you couldn’t afford or didn’t have time to do when younger.
- Explore new interests. Solo travel can be a gateway to new interests. Whether it's music or hiking or discovering like I did last month that I like champagne, try something new. Maybe you wouldn't go to a bar by yourself at home but on the road in a town like Nashville, how could you possibly stay in with all that music around you? Perhaps hiking is not part of your lifestyle but if you find yourself in the Lake District of England you may just find a new love. Solo travel is a chance to try something new.
- Model a different kind of aging. I find that many people in their twenties and thirties are really curious about me. They seem to look at me as the kind of person they want to be when they get to my age – which, in their mind is very, very old. They see me as bold and welcome me into their conversations. And they often tell me that I am not like their parents at all. It seems I'm an alternative model for their future.
- Expand your world with cross-generational conversations. Talking with people younger and older than me breaks me out of my limited world and gives me a better understanding of the issues faced by others. And they amuse me. I remember walking down a street in Italy with an American man in his twenties. He turned to look back at a beautiful young woman who had passed us and said to me, “I love Italian women. They have great junk in the trunk.” Really! Whatever I think about his comment, to have such access to young attitudes is wonderful, if not curious and sometimes disturbing.
- Enjoy the respect age receives in other countries. My hair is grey. Given the courtesy I receive in some countries I have thought that I present as older than I am. Then I realized that it's actually about age being respected more in other cultures. Traveling on a train in India a young man wouldn't dream of moving me from my seat even though I was willing (insisting) and had, by means of a seat shift, taken his. No, his response was, “but you are our guest.” I suspect someone younger may not have been treated quite so well.
- Reboot your life that may otherwise be on autopilot. Feeling a bit bored? Need to shake things up a bit? Need new stimulation? Solo travel can give you this. Fulfill lifelong dreams that may not be shared with a partner. Many partners take separate vacations to pursue their personal dreams. Go for it.
How to Travel Solo Over 50
There are two basic ways to travel solo.
- Independent solo travel
- Solo travel on a tour
Independent Solo Travel
Independent solo travel is when you plan, navigate, and negotiate everything yourself. The downside is all that work and responsibility if you don't enjoy it. The upside is freedom and independence. It's exhilarating!
Solo Travel on a Tour or Cruise
This is solo travel in a group where the planning and organizing is all taken care of for you. Every day you have a guide and the group heads out to another activity. No fear of being lonely, eating alone, or your safety. The tour takes care of everything.
Most companies organize tours and have a few solos on them. There are a few companies that just cater to solo travelers. Check out our Deals page for the only list of solo-friendly tours from multiple companies that we know of. You can also receive our monthly Newsletter and Advisory of Deals by email. Just click here and sign up for the Solo Traveler Newsletter.
Solo Travel Safety Considerations
Every week, people reach this blog by using the search term “solo travel after 50.” These words are frequently paired with concern for safety. There seems to be some concern about age and solo travel. From my perspective, there shouldn’t be.
Being 63, I think I'm qualified to address this issue. And, as you might imagine, I believe that it is not only safe to travel solo after fifty but also, for all the reasons above, important.
That said, at a certain age we become more aware of safety issues. When we were young, optimism prevailed. Concerns were tossed into the wind. Not so much now. So, here I have a few safety tips specifically for older solo travelers.
- Get travel insurance. If you're over 65 this can be a problem. It gets more expensive the older you are but it can also save your bacon. Read how travel insurance has saved me a number of times in Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must.
- Put medications in your carry-on luggage. Eliminate the possibility of being separated from your daily medications should your baggage go astray. Pack all medications in your carry-on. It's always recommended to keep all meications in their original containers from the pharmacy. Read How to Get Through an Airport by Yourself
- Request special services in advance. I've walked more than a kilometer from my plane to the airport exit. For some, this may be too long a trek. Consider your abilities and request any special support you need a few days in advance of your flight.
- Travel light. There's nothing worse than being in a position where you can't get help and you can't manage your bags on your own. Read Bare Minimum Packing: Here’s Your Packing List.
- Wear quality shoes. Balance starts to go after a certain age. It's a subtle process. Not obvious at first but, under the right (or should I say, wrong) circumstances, a twisted ankle, or worse, can easily happen. I gave up my beloved Merrell sandals for my more stable Eccos a couple of years ago.
- Have back-up glasses. I lost a pair hiking once. It's simple to do. Best to have a backup pair.
- Keep the bling at home. At this stage of life you may have some beautiful jewelry but that doesn't mean you have to take it traveling. Keep it at home where it's safe and you won't attract attention to yourself.
- Don't promote the fact that you're away on social media. It may be exciting to be going on a solo adventure but don't announce it to the world. You want your home to be safe as you travel as well.
Great Destination Ideas for Solo Baby Boomers
In reality, the best destination for any solo traveling boomer (the baby boomer generation is generally defined as people born from 1946 to 1964) is up to them. You might want to climb Mount Everest and if you're up to the challenge, it's a great destination for you. So what can I offer in terms of destinations? How can I generalize? Here are trips that just about anyone can enjoy and they don't involve learning another language.
- Spectacular Western Canada. I traveled Western Canada by plane, train, and car a few years ago. The grandeur of the mountains, the friendliness of the people, great hikes, and small towns made it a great trip. It was simple to plan and affordable. You can read about it here: Western Canada Itinerary: Top Things to See and Do and British Columbia by Train: Budget or Luxury. It’s Your Choice.
- The United Kingdom. The UK has so much to offer. The culture is different but the language is the same, making it interesting and easy. London is a top destination for most of us. I find the center of the city to be very safe. I've walked at night and had no problem. Read Solo Travel London on a Budget: Top Tips for Free and Cheap, Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers, and Exploring London Solo with Ease. I'll never tire of Northern Ireland's glens and its dramatic Causeway Coastal Route. Read Solo Travel Northern Ireland: Tips for Belfast and Beyond. There's also Scotland and Wales. I could go on and on.
- Road trip! I love a road trip. I especially love a road trip along the coast and through a rugged landscape and one that drops me into small towns and villages to meet locals. I've taken two such road trips in Canada, one in New Brunswick and the other in Nova Scotia. Both provinces are very accessible by car for those who live on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Read The Great Acadian Road Trip: Itinerary, Tips and Lots of Pics and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: 32 Tips for a Great Trip.
- An educational holiday. I set a goal for myself to become fluent in French. I have improved greatly by using holiday time for French immersion classes in Quebec City, and Lyon, France.
- A river cruise. A river cruise covers many destinations in one trip with only one unpacking and repacking involved. That makes it easy. But I suggest that you select your river cruise carefully according to your own tastes and interests. I've been on two. I went from Nuremberg to Vienna with Uniworld as booked through Premier River Cruises. It was the more luxurious of the two cruises I've taken. The food and accommodation were elegant, the educational component was fine but secondary. The second was with Grand Circle Cruise Lines on their 12-day Eastern European cruise. The food and accommodation were fine but the educational component was excellent. It was also significantly less expensive. For my tastes, I'd go with Grand Circle. Here are some photos from that trip.
- Walking trips. I really enjoyed my walking trip on the Isle of Skye. On the path, I would stop, take in the view, and find a huge smile stretching across my face. I smile a lot but smiling just because the air and view and exertion are so wonderful is not part of my regular day. I really suggest walking trips. You can be as adventurous as you like. I encourage you to read this post by Susanne, a reader from Austria. Solo Travel Destination: The West Highland Way, Scotland.
- Creative travel. Creative travel is travel for the express purpose of learning something new. It may be cooking or a language, dance or painting. Creative travel helps you enter your destination through the local culture and by meeting locals and learning from them. Read Solo Travel to Creative Destinations: 10 tips to go creative!
Some Additional Solo Travel Tips
Traveling late in your second act (or maybe in your third) is a wonderful experience. Whether you go for luxury or budget travel, it's all available to you when you travel solo over 50. I'd like you to remember a couple of things.
- Others will welcome the excitement of you. You are, by the mere fact that you're traveling solo, adventurous to many. You'd liven up an evening for people. I have enjoyed many a coffee or meal with travelers and locals who welcome me into their conversation. I enrich them as they enrich me.
- Hostels are not just for the young. Once referred to as youth hostels, today they are just hostels. Some, like the YHA hostels, are still non-profit but others are part of hostel chains. Yes, just like boomers, hostels have grown up. As the hostel clientele of the 60s and 70s has matured, so have hostels. To get a sense of staying at hostels as a boomer, read Sleeping with Strangers.
Some more tips posts that you'll likely find interesting
- Tips for Shy Solo Travelers
- Eating Alone is Easy When You Know How
- What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone
- Solo Travel Safety: 50+ Tips for Those Who Travel Alone
- Travel Alone and Love it: 50 Tips for Successful Solo Travel
- Best Solo Travel Advice: Top Tips from Janice & Tracey
And one final comment: don't hesitate to return to places you visited when you were younger. Knowledge gained and life lived over the years will take you to a deeper understanding than you could possibly have had before.