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Saturday, February 10, 2024

Solo Seniors: What to Travel With

Singleton seniors have money to spend and they’re traveling both near and far. Tips on how to do it safely while still having a blast, whether you’re a timid traveler or ready to backpack across Mongolia.

Nearly a third of all seniors live alone, according to stats from the US Census Bureau, and many of them are taking off on solo adventures. Many more choose to travel alone due to a spouse’s disinterest or inability to explore. For many, the beauty of traveling alone is doing exactly what you want, when you want, where you want. Go to Rome and skip the museums, or island-hop through the Caribbean. Explore the Nordic countries … just for the exotic restaurants. Bike through Vietnam at your own pace. 

Newbie Senior Solo Travelers

If you’re new to solo travel, you might want to start by checking out a nearby city or tourist town. You’ll have cell coverage and a hotel or Airbnb base, Google maps can guide your way, and you can easily research where you want to explore. Maybe you’ll go to Santa Fe for the art and amazing food, or drive to Saint Louis to explore the crazy but wonderful city museum.

What to Carry to Stay Safe

  1. Sling pack. The Travelon Anti-Theft Sling Bag works well. It can be worn on your chest or your back and keeps valuables close. 
  2. RFID blocking wallet or card. This will ensure that your contactless credit cards are not compromised. 
  3. Tag for keeping track of your luggage, wallet and you. Try Apple AirTag or Tile.
  4. Portable phone charger. 
  5. Mini flashlight so you don’t have to run down your phone battery.
  6. Personal alarm. The birdie is simple and works well. This one is essential for all women, but guys, it’s a good idea for you to have one, too. 

You can also choose to travel only to countries where the native language is English, at least to start with. You’ll feel more comfortable, but there are many countries in the world (such as Costa Rica and most of Western Europe) where it’s fairly easy to find English speakers.

Another way to dip your toe into the world of traveling alone is to have a ready-made group around you. Solo Traveler World specializes in those of us traveling by ourselves, whether men or women, young or old. Here, you’ll find organized trips just for single travelers, with the opportunity to meet other like-minded people online. There’s a mountain of articles on where to go and what to do, with helpful comments from a community who has been there and done that. 

Solo Traveler World searches out trips where the dreaded “supplement” - a surcharge for a single person booking a room or cabin that can hold two - is 20% or less, and very often zero. Some recent topics from their library of articles include: Why women should travel alone, how to enjoy Sydney on a budget, and how to book a trip at the last minute. 

It may be true that there is nothing new under the sun, and Solo World Traveler has the resources to guide your wanderlusting footsteps with the expertise of many who have gone there (wherever it is you want to go!) before. If you prefer safety in numbers, you may want to try one of their recommended cruises, including ones that are for singles. 

They also have a Facebook group so you can chat away with your new buddies, find others who are going where you are, you name it. Oh, and did we say they have a group for older adults?

Hosted Stays for Seniors

Another way to find your people is to enroll in the Freebird Club, an organization for people over 50. They’ll connect you with other members who live where you want to go so you can chat about the best pub in Dublin, what areas to avoid, or where you can catch a local bus. 

Plus, many members offer homestays all across the globe that have a social element. Your host will take you out on a nearby footpath, tell you local legend or introduce you to a few friends at their favorite hangout. Or maybe they’ll just sit with you over a glass of wine and tell you their favorite things to do in the area. The “pay what you think is fair” fee to join the Freebird Club is a wonderful way for the service to be affordable to all. 

Travel Tips for Older Adults

There are a few ideas to keep in mind before you embark on your next trip. Number one is packing. Everything you need will fit in a small overhead-size suitcase, no matter where you’re going. You want to be able to manage your luggage on your own, without straining. Keep it small and light. A backpack may work even better for outdoor trips. REI is a great place to find outdoor gear, with clerks who can make recommendations based on experience. 

Don’t be hesitant to stay at a hostel. There are often older people and families there, and even the younger crowd will get a kick out of talking to you about your journey. Find a hostel at Hostelworld.  Stay away from those that talk about a party atmosphere, unless that’s what you want. Book directly with the hostel to ensure there are no misunderstandings. 

Use WhatsApp for free international calls and texting. Download it before you leave. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Download maps for any foreign countries you’ll be traveling to while you’re in the US. You’ll still be able to use Google Maps for navigation, even when you’re offline. 

Go out and have fun! Be aware of your physical limitations, but otherwise the sky’s the limit. Train travel is generally excellent in other countries. People are almost universally kind and helpful, especially since you’ve got a few silver hairs. Get cozy with Google Translate and you can talk to anyone. Try to memorize a few key phrases in the native language of your destination, and people will appreciate it. Be a kind traveler, and you’ll find you’re treated very well.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors