Many of my clients are women over 50 who choose to travel solo for various reasons. I recently spoke with several clients that are starting to book their 2022 trips in hopes that COVID-19 will have calmed down some. With this in mind, I wanted to share a recent lunch conversation about women traveling solo that I had with one of my clients, Janet W., a professional travel consultant.
Donna: I always enjoy hearing about your latest travel adventures. How did you become a travel professional?
Janet: I was a flight attendant in my early career. My company flew MAC flights from Travis Air Force Base to Saigon on a regular basis. While based in Japan, I flew all over Southeast Asia on a smaller aircraft delivering the “Stars & Stripes” (USA) newspaper to each country. I later became the Director of Training for a charter airline.
It wasn’t until after my husband passed away that I had to think about traveling solo. A friend who owned a travel agency taught me some of the business, and I earned my ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor Certificate) to sell travel. So, I have spent decades counseling people who love to travel as much as I do, including women who travel solo.
Donna: What travel tips do you have for single women travelers, especially regarding ocean and river cruises?
Janet: There are several:
- First, pack light! I would pack your suitcase, then remove half the contents. It’s best to bring 3 basic colors you can mix and match, like black, white, and beige. Add color with a lightweight scarf or vest. Bring one pair of black dress shoes and one pair of comfortable walking shoes.
- Use a travel agent. Cruise lines pay commission and will charge you that commission if you book the cruise yourself. Tapping into a travel agent’s expertise can save you time, stress, and even money.
- Book early. It is best to book at least 6 months to 1 year ahead. Single cabins for cruises go fast.
- Dig for deals aimed at singles. Cruise fares are based on double occupancy, and most cruises add a surcharge (which can be as high as 100% of the per-person rate!) to fares for single travelers. Some cruises reduce this surcharge to 25% for singles, and a few trips have no additional charge.
- There are no bad rivers in Europe. Any river cruise would be scenic and enticing.
- Take advantage of shore excursions before and after an ocean or river cruise.
- If you are driving long distance, keep carbohydrates to a minimum – they can make you tired!
What do you think are the best ocean cruises for solo travelers?
Janet: I really like Silversea Cruises for ocean cruises. The company welcomes solo travelers and offer special fares for singles. These cruises typically have at least 40 single people on board and cater to that group every night for happy hour and dinner. There are also hosts available with whom you can dance or dine! These hosts are paid by the cruise line to entertain the guests. My friend and I met such lovely people from all over the world on our Panama Canal cruise.
Donna: Are there any river cruises that stand out as the best for single women travelers?
Janet: I think Tauck and AmaWaterways are the best. Tauck really caters to single women. I’ve found that the average age is around 65, but normally ranges between 40 and 90. The trips are all-inclusive—the room, food, beer, wine, and excursions are covered. They also have ambassadors on the boat to make sure everyone is having an enjoyable time, and no one is on their own (unless desired!). The riverboats are very stable, so those with motion sickness need not be concerned.
Donna: Where are the best places to go on a river cruise?
Janet: In my opinion, Europe has the best selection of rivers and cruise ships. There is something for every taste on a European river cruise, especially in mid-November or all of December, when prices are lower, festive Christmas markets are open, and Europe is dressed in its holiday best. If you love anything French, try a Rhone River cruise!
Donna: Tell me about the shore excursions.
Janet: They have walking, hiking, biking, trips to local points of interest, and even wine tasting! For example, AmaWaterways offers several levels of land excursions. Fast for active travelers (such as hikes or bike rides), medium (a mix of bus and walking tours), slow (a gentle walking group), and handicapped (for guests with a walker, cane, or wheelchair).
Be sure to consider shore excursions before and after your cruise. It makes no sense to fly long distances for only 7 days. Take a couple of days before the cruise to acclimate to the new time zone, and time after the cruise (plan at least 2 to 3 days) to enjoy excursions offered by the cruise line. Most cruises are 7 to 10 days, but plan to go to Europe for at least 10 to 14 days, if you can!
Donna: What companies specialize in land travel for single women?
Janet: Tauck is a great option for singles, as they offer small group travel in the U.S. and abroad. They are high-end and cost more than most other companies but believe me, you get what you pay for…and more! Tauck is a 5-star operation, as I’ve experienced first-hand.
For instance, Tauck offers the best land tour to the Rose Parade and Santa Monica. We drove past 40 buses to our parking space, and we were first in line at the Rose Parade! It was an easy walk to our first-row seats in the bleachers. This week, my friend is traveling solo with Tauck on a wonderful, scenic tour of Michigan’s lakes and Mackinac Island. My friend only uses Tauck!
Overseas Adventure Travel offers a different experience. They offer personalized, small group adventures aimed at hikers and adventurers, and is a bit more casual. Book directly, as Overseas Adventure Travel does work with travel agents.
Donna: Several of our female clients have used Overseas Adventure Travel and reported particularly enjoyable experiences. They cater to middle-aged to older women, and many travelers go solo and end up meeting wonderful and interesting people.
I truly enjoyed my conversation with Janet. My biggest takeaway from all of her travel experience is to start planning at least 6 months ahead of your vacation, especially if you are going on a cruise since single cabins sell out first. Also, use a travel agent since it does not cost you more, plus, travel agents often have discounts and perks you could never find on your own.
Solo travel can be a truly rewarding experience, and a great opportunity for women to explore the world and meet new people.
Disclaimer: The content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.