It takes guts to go on holiday solo for the first time. Many singles worry about appearing a Sally-no-mates, the pitying looks of smug couples in French bistros, or experiencing an overwhelming loneliness. Recognising this, travel companies are working much harder to ensure solo travellers feel relaxed and happy, from hosted house-party style beach holidays to tours that include convivial dinners each night.
You don’t have to be outgoing or socially skilled to get on with new people. The travel experiences you share will automatically bring you closer to other members of the group. What’s important is to book the right holiday in the first place, one where you have the greatest chance of meeting people with shared interests and a similar outlook on life. To this end it can be helpful to book later rather than sooner, when the tour operator knows the age and sex of the other participants.
Here are ten suggestions for ways to meet other solo travellers, either on dedicated singles holidays or by joining a trip where care is taken to bring people travelling on their own together. All prices quoted below include the single supplement for sole use of a double room where applicable.
Join a house party
To avoid that Shirley Valentine feeling, Friendship Travel (0871 200 2035; friendshiptravel.com) offers sociable weeks for singles – most aged 40-60 – at a selection of small, friendly, family-owned beach hotels in Greece and Turkey.
New this summer is the island of Zante (Zakynthos) in western Greece. The 28-room, four-star Ionian Hill Hotel in Porto Davia has elegant rooms, a pool overlooking the sea, restaurant and bar and Friendship’s experienced hosts organise welcome cocktails, a boat trip and sightseeing excursions. A half-board week costs from £845 per person including flights, transfers and wine at dinner.
Walk in style
There’s something life-affirming about walking through a beautiful landscape – especially in the right company. For those who enjoy a good walk but want a comfortable bed, good food and wine at the day’s end, ATG-Oxford (01865 315678; atg-oxford.co.uk) fits the bill perfectly. Its meticulously researched walks, most in Europe, are escorted by a British tour leader and tour manager. Their lunchtime picnics are legendary.
Fellow walkers will be mostly over 55; professional, educated and well-travelled. Particularly convivial are hosted weeks based at medieval Pieve a Castello near Siena which ATG has restored; from £2,195 including all meals and drinks, escorted day walks and transfer from Pisa Airport.
Aimed squarely at solo travellers looking to explore a new corner of the world, Just You (01858 898433; justyou.co.uk) offers over 50 destinations from Norway to New Zealand. All tours are led by the company’s own experienced tour managers. The more active tours (Croatia, Mexico, Guatemala) tend to attract a younger 40-55 age group.
The company’s North America programme is its bestseller, appealing to a wide age range. There’s still space on its 12-day America’s Golden West, departing September 12, and taking in California, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. From £2,999 including flights, all sightseeing and b&b accommodation.
For top-end tours led by engaging lecturers supported by tour managers, Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com) takes special care of solo travellers and offers a choice of over 250 cultural tours and music festivals.
On two wheels
As more of us take to the saddle to improve our fitness, cycling holidays are booming. Newcastle-based Saddle Skedaddle (0191 265 1110; skedaddle.co.uk) has a programme of carefully researched escorted rides worldwide. It offers an impressive choice of rides, both on and off road, catering for both beginners (La Via Claudia in Austria is recommended) and experienced mountain bikers.
An exciting new ride wends through central Chile’s winelands, staying in restored colonial haciendas, with fine food and wines to put back the calories. Departs September 10; from £2,495 if you share a room (own room £415 supplement).
In the city
A city break is a good way to find your feet as a solo traveller. One Traveller (01760 722011; onetraveller.co.uk) reckons it has created the ideal introduction: a five-night holiday at a four-star hotel in Prague. The breaks are aimed at the over 50s, many of whom are newly divorced or widowed.
Group size is 18-28 and the itinerary is nicely structured with hosted dinners (there are two tour managers), lunch on a private cruise boat on the Vltava river, and leisurely sightseeing (a walk through the old city, visits to the spa town of Karlovy Vary, and pretty Karlstejn) as well as opportunities to wander on your own. Departures in August and October: £990 including most meals and flights.
On the ocean
Affordable cabins for single travellers on cruise ships are a rarity. Solos Holidays (0844 815 0005; solosholidays.co.uk) is working with four cruise lines – Fred Olsen, Thomson, Cruise & Maritime and Princess Cruises – to secure single cabins and good discounts on sole use of twin cabins.
Places go quickly so you need to book a year in advance for the best deals, especially on its popular Baltic Cities and St Petersburg cruises where single cabins are still available for its July and September 2017 sailings on Cruise & Maritime’s Columbus. A Solos Tour Leader accompanies the group. From £1,109 full board for 12 nights.
An overland adventure
If you are short on time and money but want a big adventure, consider an overland journey with Suffolk-based Dragoman (01728 861133; dragoman.com) in one of its robust, well-equipped expedition trucks. The trips are led by two British-trained Dragoman crew; group size is limited to 22 and most will be travelling solo. Its South America tours appeal to a younger under 40 crowd (silver gappers prefer Asia).
All itineraries have plenty of community engagement along the way. A particular favourite is its 22-day Lima to La Paz run, which includes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Regular departures: from £1,870 including all accommodation, meals and activities; flight extra.
For the love of wine
Convivial company and the chance to learn more about your favourite tipple, entices many solo travellers to join Arblaster & Clarke’s wine tours. They combine vineyard tastings and hosted dinners on top wine estates with guided sightseeing and a chance to wander on your own. On evenings when no meal is included, the tour manager is always available to dine with single guests.
There are still spaces left on a six-day tour of Rioja and Ribera in northern Spain in September, led by Master of Wine Conal Gregory, which includes a visit to the World Heritage city of Segovia: £2,345 including flight, most meals and wines. Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; winetours.co.uk).
Find inner peace
Many more of us are seeking a holiday to calm our mind and exercise our body. Some of the best retreats for yoga, meditation and fitness boosting holidays are featured by Wellbeing Escapes (020 3735 7555; wellbeingescapes.com) which won Best Specialist Tour Operator in The Telegraph’s Travel Awards this year.
Shanti-Som in the hills above Malaga is a big favourite and features a choice of yoga, pilates, fitness and de-tox breaks from £1,369 for a week including meals. India is another popular destination: the luxurious Ananda in the Himalayas offers a personalised yoga and Ayurvedic treatment programme from £2,973 for a week excluding flights. If you are on budget, Basunti (basunti-yoga-india.co.uk) is a beautiful yoga retreat beside a lake near Amritsar. Built and run by a British husband and wife team, a week costs £650-£750 including daily classes from visiting European and American teachers and delicious meals.
Give a helping hand
For the ultimate in altruistic working holidays, join a scientific research expedition run by Earthwatch (01865 318838; earthwatch.org) which brings together people from all walks of life and world-class scientists. The projects take place in fascinating corners of the world: monitoring Amazon dolphins in Peru from a restored riverboat, digging up history on the Tuscan coast, tracking lions on the Kenyan savannah.
There’s a great sense of camaraderie and many of the paying volunteers are successful professionals – European and American – looking for a different kind of holiday. There are still spaces on August departures to study the wildlife of the Mongolian steppes: £2,125 for 14 nights including all meals and accommodation; flight extra.