Solo travel over 50 and you will find new interests, gain new confidence, and discover new ways to manage a major life transition.
More people over 50 are traveling solo than ever before.
More than a quarter of the respondents to our annual reader survey are over 50. The percentage is similar on Facebook where we host the Solo Travel Society with over 270,000 participants. Dozens, sometimes thousands of people engage with other solo travelers there every day.
Whether you're in a relationship or are fabulously single, solo travel delivers so much more than the typical travel experience. And whether you are traveling independently or with a group, solo travel does not necessarily mean that you are alone. Taking a cooking class, a walking tour, or attending a meetup on a subject you are passionate about are all great activities for solo travelers. They can connect you to people of all ages from all over the world.
But before we get into the best reasons to travel solo over 50, let's look at the major life transition you may be facing, some of the questions that are arising now, and why this might be the perfect time of your life to head out on your own.
Travel Solo to Navigate a Major Life Transition
If you're over 50, you are likely facing a major life transition. As a 50+ you may:
- be content with your career and no longer looking for challenges there.
- have adult children who are no longer at home.
- be part of the sandwich generation with parents and children requiring your attention.
- have a relationship status that is complicated.
In the many-faceted world of those over 50, life is changing. You are facing a major life transition and it may not be clear what you're transitioning to.
Where will you redirect your energy?
Perhaps you're experiencing one or a number of the situations below. See how solo travel can help.
- 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.
- Is your spouse or partner uninterested in travel? Going solo is your answer. See the world and return refreshed to your relationship.
- 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.
- Are you suddenly single, either by divorce or loss? Solo travel is a real confidence builder, a great way to make a comeback.
- 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 work dull with little hope of things changing? Solo travel over 50 will inject some challenge into life.
- 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.
- 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.
- Is it time for change? Travel alone, reflect, analyze, and explore your possibilities without the influence of others.
Best Reasons to Travel Solo Over 50
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 over 50 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.
Different Options for Traveling Alone
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! Most of what we write here is about independent solo travel. Here's a guide to over 500 posts on Solo Traveler.
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 our exclusive list of solo-friendly tours with no or very low single supplements from multiple companies. 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 65, 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 A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers.
- 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 with Ease
- 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 50+ Travelers
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 and Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers. 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.
- 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 15 Great Solo Road Trips: All Solo Traveler Tested.
- 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. Read 12 River Cruise Tips for Solo Travelers: How to Make the Most of Your Journey.
- 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 Creative Travel Tips: Discover More of a Destination and Yourself.
Some Additional Solo Travel Tips
Traveling solo 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. 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 liven up an evening for people. I have enjoyed many a coffee or meal with travelers and locals who welcomed 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 The Hostel Experience for Solo Travelers: What to Expect. How to Stay Safe.
And one final comment: don't hesitate to return to places you visited when you were younger. One of the great benefits of solo travel over 50 is that the knowledge gained and life lived over the years will take you to a deeper understanding of a destination than you could possibly have had before.