Six Tips for Single Vacationers

Traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely. Here’s how to have a great time — including where to go and what to say to attract some company your way.

By Jennifer Cox

t’s not the most relaxing feeling in the world: You’re lounging on a beach, sun on your face, piña colada in hand... alone, surrounded by lovey-dovey couples who only serve to remind you that you have no one in your life with whom to share this trip. Indeed, it’s a situation many single people dread, one that keeps some from traveling at all unless they can convince a pal to join them.

But for all of you who are dying to see some sights this summer but are sick of scrounging for
Vacationing solo is actually a great way to meet people—even someone special.
a travel buddy, know this: Vacationing solo is actually a great way to meet people—even someone special. That’s what I found out when, a few years ago, I decided to embark on a six-month global travelling tour of 18 countries spanning four continents.

How did I meet other single people while traveling alone? It’s not like I’m super-outgoing; it’s just that during my jaunts, I picked up tons of tips on where to go, what to say, and how to schedule my itinerary so I’m primed to have a terrific time and meet people. Here are some pointers that may make your next solo trip your most exciting (and maybe even romantic) one ever.

Travel tip #1: The beach isn’t always best
Many people equate “vacation” with “beach”: That’s fine if you have a partner or pal to catch some rays with, but if you don’t, meeting people here is far from easy. If you don’t have your nose buried in a book, they do; if you’re not self-conscious about how you look in a swimsuit, you’re alarmed at the sight of people getting sunburns.

So rather than automatically heading for sand and surf, try a more dynamic destination with plenty to see and do, since they’ll give you plenty of opportunities to interact with others. Sign up for an “activity vacation”—one spent restoring castles in Scotland or horseback-riding through the American Rockies... the options are endless, and nothing starts a conversation like scrambling up a rock face tied to your climbing partner. You don’t need to be an athlete to embark on activity vacations; cooking courses in Italy or even a cruise through the frozen waters of Alaska can also provide plenty of entry points into a conversation. Keep in mind that some activities break down the barriers faster than others. You’ll bond more quickly in a two-person bobsled hurtling down the slopes of Colorado than you will sedately learning watercolor painting in Tuscany.

This doesn’t mean that all beaches are off-limits, they just need to be somewhere with more going on than sand and sunsets—like South Beach in Miami with its film festivals and art fairs, or Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with its rainforest safaris and surfing lessons. (Beware: Places described as romantic hideaways or paradise will often have great beaches... and nothing else.)

Travel tip #2: Try a singles package
If you absolutely want to guarantee you’ll meet other unattached types, consider a singles vacation package—just don’t assume it’s a cheesy scene.

Travel tip #3: Reserve a room in a smaller hotel
Precisely because they are so fabulous, high-end hotels like The Four Seasons or W Hotels are not good places for extended solo vacations; people are too busy luxuriating in their gorgeous rooms to spend time mingling with other guests. (And, of course, they can be quite pricey.) Likewise, hotel chains are often populated with people on business trips who just want to do their job and head home. Instead, try reserving a room in a smaller B&B or a boutique hotel, where socializing feels more natural and is often actively encouraged with wine-tasting hours and cozy sitting rooms where people read the paper and plan their day.

Travel tip #4: Don’t plan your whole vacation in advance
Traveling solo means you can be more flexible with your plans—a huge plus if you’re trying to meet people. To take full advantage
Traveling solo means you can be more flexible with your plans.
of this perk, book a hotel for just the first few nights. That way, when you’ve had a chance to explore, if you have accidentally booked into Honeymoon Central or you hear of a big festival in the next town, you’re free to follow the fun.

Travel tip #5: Find other tourists to talk to
While locals are usually friendly, keep in mind they aren’t on vacation, so don’t expect them to drop what they’re doing to show you around town. The most enthusiastic minglers you’ll meet on the road are other tourists, since they’re relaxed and often hankering to swap notes about where they’ve been and what’s down the road (and like you, they may also be traveling solo and up for sharing an adventure with you). The trick is being able to easily spot them—a cinch if you’re in a Thai marketplace or some other country where you stand out or don’t speak the language. If you’re traveling in a place where tourists blend in more, head to Internet cafes, tourist information offices, and the guidebook sections of bookshops (I’ve probably met more people in bookstore cafes than anywhere else in the world).

Travel tip #6: Try these easy ice-breakers
As a solo traveler, you have a slew of excuses to strike up a conversation with strangers and see where it leads. Asking for advice or help is the most natural way: Can they direct you to the subway; can you borrow a pen to write a postcard; would they mind taking a photo of you standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa...? From there, it’s easy to keep the dialogue rolling with “I’m on vacation and have just arrived—got any suggestions of destinations I should definitely see? Which are overrated?” or “Do you know of a good coffee shop/bar in the area? What’s it like there?”

As with any journey, use common sense when it comes to personal security: Don’t accept lifts from strangers, for instance, and don’t say yes to invitations to non-public places, including coffee or a cocktail at someone’s house. By adhering to a few precautions, you can socialize safely, and not only discover a new town but maybe some new people along the way.

Jennifer Cox is a travel journalist and author of Around The World In 80 Dates: What if Mr. Right isn’t Mr. Right Here, an account of her 6-month global search for Mr. Right during which she dates 80 men. She now lives in Seattle with date #55.
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