“Travel for singles over 40 can be daunting but incredibly empowering for any woman who takes the plunge. After 70 countries & 30 years of independent travel, here are my top tips & ideas for anyone going it alone for the first time.”
Everywhere… within reason!
Travel For Singles Over 40
Travelling solo for any woman is an undertaking but embarking on your first trip after you turn 40 comes with its own individual challenges. Once we get here, we have lived a life which has given us some scars but also an understanding of how strong we really are both physically & emotionally. For anyone who is facing life after loss or divorce. Or those women who have kids leaving home to pursue their next stage in life. For those who have partners who want different things from their holidays. Maybe you have spent your life being single & amazing & are looking for a different kind of vacation experience. Whatever your situation, it is no less daunting & my aim is to give you everything you need to know before you embark on your first trip alone.
I have always had a passion for travel since my first trip to Africa at the tender age of 22. By the time I turned 30 I was married & enjoying making the most of my 25 days holiday every year with my husband. He was the love of my life, my rock & my very faithful travelling companion. Tragically, I lost Terry back in 2014 & my world was thrust into disarray. In order to make sense of my new life, I turned to my passion for travel & went on a journey of self-discovery. Who was I now I was fast approaching 50 & on my own again? Travel has helped me to grieve & to heal. It has provided me with an endless array of distractions & a sense of who I am now. As I embark on solo travel over 50, I see a world of opportunities & exciting prospects to grow further.
My Introduction to Sue Where? Why? What? video tells you everything you need to know about the background to my blog & my hopes for how it will progress in the future.
What Have I Done So Far?
I have created a Life List which has been my literal & metaphorical road map. It has focussed me on where I want to go and what to see & to do once I’m there. If you would like to learn more, check out my About Me page. So far, I have learnt Spanish in Cuba, taken part in a sailing regatta in the US Virgin Islands, been cat sitting in the Cayman Islands, celebrated my 50th birthday by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, explored the Galápagos Islands, volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia & been on tours in Peru, Bolivia & Costa Rica. Where I can, I travel with friends & sometimes those I have met on my adventures, but I also regularly go it alone.
“Travelling solo after 40 can be incredibly empowering. I am not anyone special & would never consider myself to be particularly brave. However, I am a woman who has decided not to be defined by my situation or to let being alone restrict me from fulfilling my dreams.”
If you are keen to know more & wondering where to start, then you are in the right place! For more details on any of this then I have created a 40-page eBook. If you Subscribe to my blog now, you can get the book for FREE!
In the meantime, here we go…
Where are the best places for singles to travel?
The top of every list will be Where? The answer will depend on a large number of considerations including, but not limited to:
- How much do you want to spend?
- How long do you have?
- When are you planning to go?
- What will the climate be like?
- Will you stay in one place or do you plan to move around?
- Do you want to be alone or meet others?
- How safe is it?
- What kind of activities do you want to include?
- Do you speak any other languages?
- Do you need a visa or vaccinations?
I have a few ideas on where I think are good places to start but I have also read numerous blogs & articles from fellow female travellers. As a result, I have come up with a comprehensive list of where I suggest are the best places to begin your journey. The most important piece of advice I can offer is to choose wisely. Don’t make things more challenging than they really need to be. These locations have all been chosen based on a combination of safety record & ease of transport networks:
- Europe – Ireland, Iceland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Scotland.
- Asia – Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
- Africa – Zanzibar in Tanzania.
- The Americas – Canada, Hawaii, Cuba, Belize
There are a few essential considerations you need to have which may also help to decide where you go & how long for. Obviously, there is your passport & making sure that you have at least 6 months left before it expires. I always make sure I have print outs of all the important documentation, as well as a copy on my phone, just in case. Don’t rely just on your phone. They have a habit of dying just when you need them most (trust me on this)! Also don’t rely solely on having a WIFI connection as often this is not available until you have made it through all important immigration. In addition, please check:
Travelling in your 40’s, you may already have this included as a benefit somewhere. Therefore, the first thing to check is if you already have an active policy. I have had a credit card, bank accounts & employee benefits in the past which have included travel insurance. In my experience, this has been nice to have but the cover will often be minimal. As a frequent traveller, I usually opt for a 12-month multi-trip policy. This way I always know I’m covered for short-notice getaways. I use Trailfinders who have always served me well.
“Does it cover you for the full length of your trip? Does it cover for all activities you are likely to be undertaking? In particular the more “adventurous” activities like skiing, scuba or diving with sharks, bungee jumping, white water rafting, climbing a mountain? Does it cover all countries you are planning to visit?”
Check your visa requirements early. How long are you allowed to stay in the country? Is this multiple or single entry?
The advantage of being a bit older is that we may have more money at our disposal & backpacking & hostels may not be something we need to consider. The disadvantage is that you may also have developed a taste for a bit of luxury which will all impact how far you can go & for how long!
“I have to admit that I have always made it a rule to never add up how much I spend on a holiday. I believe it would scare the hell out for me & put me off going!”
However, I rarely travel high end, mainly use public transport, stay in 3-star style accommodation, eat in reasonably priced locations & bear in mind costs on a daily basis. So, in this respect, it is always at the forefront of my planning.
Travel holidays for singles mean that there is nobody to borrow money from or bail you out. My advice is that you always want to feel comfortable & never put yourself in danger. If you are sailing too close to the wind in terms of budget there is always a risk. I also like to make sure there is something in the pot for an emergency, to be kind to myself if things have been challenging, or if all goes wrong. I always have a bailout strategy. Thankfully this has never happened.
There are plenty of ways to save money on your holiday & make your money go further. For example, keep your eyes peeled for sales from travel companies & airlines. Booking ahead can help the expenses e.g. flights & accommodation can be spread over several months before you travel. Loyalty schemes are another way to get free accommodation & upgrades.
Other ways to cut down on costs & enable your budget to stretch further are dependent on HOW you book. I often organise my trips online. For accommodation, I use Expedia, Airbnb, Booking.com among others for comparisons. I will often go to a travel agent as well as they may have easier access to airline deals, especially if it’s a multi-centre trip that you are planning. If you fancy doing a tour, then it’s also worth shopping around & trying local companies which can save a significant amount in comparison to international tour agencies. The added advantage of this is that the money is also staying within the community you are visiting.
“The more flexible you are the better. If you want to travel at a certain time of year check the days & weeks either side of your ideal as there can be a big difference in flight price & availability.”
Many airlines & comparison sites offer a month’s view if you book online, with the prices displayed so you can see the cheapest & make your decisions from there. Also, the day of the week can have an impact, for example travelling on Tuesdays & Wednesdays is often cheaper.
The other biggest expense of any trip is your accommodation & the options to choose from are evergrowing. Flights are just the start & end of your journey, whereas especially when you are travelling alone at 40, where you stay can make or break a destination.
This post would be endless if I was to go into detail of all the different options, but it is just intended as an overview. My goto sites for booking accommodation are Expedia, Airbnb, Booking.com & Trivago among others, for comparisons. I always tend to book in advance as this gives more choice & the best options for availability & location.
Where To Stay?
A few key questions to ask yourself are these. They will not necessarily have the same answers in all locations & at different times in your holiday experience:
- How much have you budgeted/can you afford to spend?
- What kind of facilities are you looking for? If you want to cater for yourself you need a kitchen. Should you want to keep fit, it’s a gym. Would you prefer a place with a pool?
- Are you willing to share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen? Would you prefer these to be private?
- What time of day are you arriving? If it’s after dark, then make sure the place is easy to find & will have someone on reception/a host who can meet you.
- How long are you planning to stay? I often move on every 3 – 4 days to get the most out of my time, see more & make the whole trip feel longer.
“Moving regularly allows me to change up my accommodation preferences throughout. This keeps things interesting & my budget on track.”
- Would you like to be in a more residential or tourist area? If travelling alone there is safety in people.
Tourist areas tend to be busier at night, with plenty of bars, restaurants & people for safety. Residential areas are better during the daytime but may be quiet/less well-lit at night.
- Do you want to be close to the sights (daytime) or near restaurants (night-time)? Personally, I always believe that it is better to travel for the day’s sightseeing activities. I am happier to stay where I know there is a choice of restaurants in the evening. For getting around, you can walk or use public transport during daylight hours rather than more expensive taxis. I would be very careful about using some transport options on my own at night.
- Do you want to meet others or would you rather be on your own?
Remember, if you arrive & a place is not what you were expecting or you feel uncomfortable there, move. Once you’re in a location it’s much easier to find another. Make sure you always have money in the budget for this as an emergency.
So, in general here is my quick guide to accommodation choices:
All-inclusive Resort Hotels
I had my first experience of this in Jamaica & loved it…for 3 days! The advantage is clear, with all meals & facilities prepaid & everything you could ever really need on hand. The obvious disadvantage is the higher cost. However, remember that this is pre-paid, meaning you no longer need to worry about anything. It will also depend on how large the hotel is. Some are huge which allows a big choice when it comes to eating & entertainment, for smaller venues long stays could mean a lack of variety.
The biggest disadvantage as a solo traveller was that I felt quite isolated. Not many people travel alone to these kinds of venues & as a result, the opportunities to meet others are limited. However, this suited me fine for the 3 days I was there.
These are my preferred option if I am looking for facilities (usually pool &/or gym) & comfort but never if I want to meet people. I find larger hotels can feel more isolating. In terms of cost, they are usually more expensive. This escalates if you choose to spend your evenings in the hotel restaurant or take advantage of room service. Beware that sometimes larger hotels can be in more isolated locations so make sure you check for comments & reviews which mention the local area.
“For this reason, nowadays I prefer smaller, more independent hotels to the big chains. I often find they are in better locations with easier access for my needs. In addition, I find the clientele are more open to striking up conversation.”
This can cover all sorts of accommodation options nowadays, from hotels to rooms in apartments with shared facilities, to a whole house for yourself & everything in between. The key advantage is the authentic experience which is on offer. This can involve staying in a residential area with local knowledge & guidance on tap. The cost of a bed for the night is often much less than the hotel option.
Some of my best experiences have gifted me with a personal guide for my whole time on The Bahamas, a rooftop with a view of the Acropolis in Athens for under £40 & a community living
experience in Antigua. Here, I ended up moving between 4 different beds just so I could stay as I was enjoying it so much! On the flip side, I have had some of my worst experiences & find it can be more hit & miss than hotels in general. For Airbnb, you need to decide what you are willing to share. Rooms in shared houses can be great for meeting people but come with concerns for security & the “joy” of sharing a bathroom.
Guesthouses or Bed & Breakfast
I often prefer this budget-friendly option as I find they are more conducive to meeting others. Breakfast is a great time to strike up conversations & there are usually informal communal areas. You often have the owner on hand to give recommendations & advice. They can be more unique in character with personal touches which I always enjoy.
I spent many happy years staying in hostels in my 20’s but since I started my solo travel over 40, they are no longer my preferred option. The big advantage of hostels is the price. They are generally among the cheapest places to stay & even if you are not keen on taking the option of dormitory-style accommodation, most have single & double rooms also available at good prices. Don’t always expect to have private bathroom facilities, even if you do have your own room.
“Hostels also tend to have a more sociable atmosphere with communal areas & activities which are set up to get the residents mixing & keep them entertained.”
The downside of hostels is the age of the crowd. Check the reviews again & if the place is a “party” atmosphere or organises social activities which appear to be centred around heavy drinking (pub crawls etc) then they’re more likely to be a younger crowd…& less sleep as a result!
I have tried housesitting once in Grand Cayman. Housesitting offers travellers an opportunity to gain “free” accommodation while living like a local in locations across the world. They put animal lovers in touch with people who are away & would like someone to look after their pets. There is an annual subscription for all involved. The potential sitters can then browse locations & dates, select the ones that best suit their needs & apply.
Basically, housesitting means you get free (yes free!) accommodation in return for looking after the property & a pet for the duration of the owner’s holiday. If you’re lucky you will also get full use of the car.
“The advantage beyond the cost is that you will be staying in a truly authentic local home. You may also get introduced to the hosts friends so you have easy contacts should you need them, & you will have your pet for company.”
Where this may not be such a good option is location, depending on the facilities available near the hosts home.
Hosts open their houses & allow travellers to stay for free. Your bed for the night could be a couch, an air mattress or your own room. There is loads of information on the website about staying safe while taking part. This could be a fantastic way to get a genuine authentic local experience & meeting people comes with the territory. But again, it will depend on location for solo travel & brings in a whole other element of potential safety challenges.
With all of these accommodation options, my advice would be to ignore the reviews at your peril! If you are looking at the more personal hosting venues like (Airbnb, Couchsurfing) it can make a huge difference.
5. Travelling solo without being alone!
I believe that going solo is THE best travel for singles, however what if you are not comfortable to take the plunge & head off all alone? Don’t panic! I have lots of options for you & it’s why I created Sue Where? Why? What? in the first place. Here I can provide you with loads of ideas on how you can travel solo even if you don’t actually want to be on your own. There are lots more details in my blog post HERE:
Learning a Skill
There are numerous courses & opportunities to travel while expanding your skillset with like-minded individuals. For example, learning a language as you immerse yourself in the culture, dancing or cooking as stand-alone activities or part of an extended course. Why not try your hand at scuba diving, skiing or sailing?
There are numerous organisations which can help you to hook up with a volunteering opportunity. You could offer to teach in a school, help in a community-building project or work with animals. All will offer exceptional opportunities to have the experience of a lifetime.
Go on a Tour
Tours are great travel holidays for singles. If you have limited time but want to see the best a country has to offer, then they are hard to beat. If you don’t want to commit to a number of days, then why not spend a day wine tasting or most cities also offer free walking tours where you can meet fellow travellers?
If you have time to extend your trip, then a great way of meeting people & really getting to know a place is to live & work there. If you are older, then getting a general working visa for any country can be more of a challenge but with qualifications like TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), you will secure a job before you travel & they will apply for a visa on your behalf, making the process much easier.
Fitness may not be your thing, but I have now attended several yoga & fitness retreats around the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed each as an experience in itself, but also met plenty of like-minded people in the process. This kind of holiday, in particular, seems to appeal to women & is often the goto option for women holidaying solo.
Find your “Tribe”
“If you feel ready to indulge in a solo trip but are worried that you may find it lonely, then head for a likeminded community & you will always have common ground to start a conversation”
6. Safety & Security
So, do you still have concerns over trying your hand at solo travel over 40 or over 50’s travel? I know safety & security is a major concern for anyone thinking of travelling generally but travelling solo as a woman specifically. And rightly so! At this point, I have to say that travelling solo is when I have seen the strongest display of human kindness & generosity to strangers. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but these are just that, the exceptions & not the rule. I want you to be aware & as safe as you can be.
The ultimate goal is for you to feel secure to just go out there & enjoy discovering new worlds & experiencing new things. I plan to cover this in more depth in a future blog post. However, for now, here are some top tips. If you employ these, I hope you can do all this without being struck completely with paranoia.
What Can You Do Before You Go?
Do Your Research.
Plan Your Arrival.
I would always prebook my first nights’ accommodation beforehand, especially if arriving later in the day. The last thing you want is to be hunting for a bed with all you possess, as it starts to get dark.
Keep in Touch.
Share your itinerary with your nearest & dearest & send regular updates on your progress. Someone should always know where you are & where you are headed.
Learn Some Skills.
Language is the most important as it can enable you to communicate & stop feeling so isolated along the way. Also, consider some basic self-defence lessons before leaving home to give you a little more confidence.
What Can You Take?
There are loads of travel accessories available now which can help you to protect yourself, your money & your stuff. Have a look & treat yourself to anything you believe will help you to feel safer. Here are a few things you may want to consider:
Safes & Locks.
Always use a safe if it’s available in the room. If not, then make sure you have a couple of locks to keep your valuables secure.
Money & credit cards.
Never keep all your money in one place. Keep cards & cash separate too. Never carry more cash with you than you actually need. If you don’t need to make a withdrawal, leave your cash card behind. Always have an Emergency Credit Card & keep it separate to your usual ones, just in case.
Many travellers swear by the use of money belts, neck wallets or bra clips to keep their cash safe. I always use a cross body handbag design. I carry it on the front always & keep my purse in a zip pocket inside.
“If someone is that determined to steal from you then they will. The trick is to make yourself a less easy victim that the next traveller.”
Fake Wedding Ring & Photos.
I have never done this but many solo female travellers use this tactic to stay safe from unwanted advances. If you feel it will help you, then put a ring on your wedding finger to protect yourself. Also, think about carrying a photo of the “husband you are meeting later” with you. You never know when you may need them!
Basically, use the same principles overseas that you would at home, with a bit of extra caution thrown in. What I mean by this is don’t walk alone late at night; drink alcohol moderately & don’t take drugs. If you are alone, you need to keep your wits about you at all times. Don’t accept drinks from strangers & don’t leave your drink unattended. Don’t tell anyone you are on your own (this is especially where the fake husband you’re meeting later, wedding ring & photos can come in useful).
Since I have travelled so much solo, I now have eyes in the back of my head! I never wear earphones while travelling. It is important for me to keep an awareness of what is happening around me at all times.
“I also never like anyone walking too close behind me. If this happens, it makes me uncomfortable & I will stop suddenly, walk in the opposite direction, go into a shop or pretend to look at something. This takes them by surprise & draws attention to them if they are actually planning anything suspicious”
Ideally, keep this vague & don’t necessarily publicise specifically where you are or make updates “live”. Nowadays you never know who is watching.
DO NOT take anything valuable in terms of cost & emotional attachment. Be prepared that anything you carry with you on your travels is dispensable or replaceable. If it’s not, leave it at home. Keep valuables with you at all times when you’re in transit but don’t have them on display. The less you have on your person, the less you need to worry about. When travelling on public transport keep body or eye contact on your stuff at all times. Never use the overhead luggage racks or put your bag under the seat. Ideally, try & get a double seat for yourself & sit in the aisle with your bag next to you in the window seat. Keep one hand on it. If you need to sleep, use your bag as a pillow. If you are in a single-seat, keep it on your lap.
“I walk everywhere as if I own the place – shoulders back, bold stride, eyes in front…even if I know I’m going in completely the wrong direction!”
Never study a map while you’re walking. Instead, find a spot where you can sit, stop in a doorway, rest with your back to a wall. Check your map, plan your route & then walk equally confidently in the correct direction. Again, there will be far easier & more obvious victims than a woman who clearly knows where she’s going & is moving with a purpose!
When using a taxi, photograph the ID badge of the driver (& make sure he sees you doing it) then share this with friends. In addition, use Google Maps to track the route so you know you are being dropped at the right place & heading in the correct direction.
I am aware that this all sounds like hard work & a horror story. I do not want to put you off or make you scared to go out there & explore the world on your own…just more alert!
“The biggest advice of all is FOLLOW YOUR GUT! If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you don’t feel safe, stop. Listen to your instincts. They are rarely wrong.”
Holidays for single travellers over 40 can be daunting but I hope you now have everything you need to make your first trip successful. Believe me, the hardest part is making the decision to go it alone. Planning everything is key & having to do it all yourself can be a challenge, but an exciting one. Once you have completed your first flight, found your bed for the night & spent your initial day getting to know a new place, you will already be wondering why you never did this before. You may also have made a few new friends. Some could be in your life for a long time to come, either as precious memories or lifelong companions. The fact is, you never know…& you never will unless you try.
Going solo when things have gone wrong, means I have dealt with them myself & my confidence has grown to levels I never thought possible before.
On my own, I have struggled with vulnerability. However, this is way overshadowed by the feeling of invincibility that comes with every step as you explore your new surroundings, & your own abilities.
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