The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel

Over the last two years, I have solo travelled through nearly 15 countries. It wasn’t always ideal. I had plenty of mishaps that reminded me of getting lost in Amsterdam three years ago. But with those issues, there was freedom!

This post is part of a collaboration with Emilio Marcos Sierra of 3TravelBug. Our different travel styles inspired us to share the pros and cons of solo travel and group travel with you.

 

When I began solo travelling, I was 16 and only joined group tours. There was no planning to do, but that also meant I wasn’t really controlling my solo experience.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Baby (16 year old) Nina on a Group Tour in Costa Rica

I wanted the flexibility that came with designing your own trip and the independence of doing it alone. That’s why I decided to spend 8 months in Europe on my own last year.

Solo travel has its own pros and cons, but the cons can be mastered.

Now, I’m sharing my top 5 pros and cons of solo travel.

 

Top 5 Pros of Solo Travel

1. Flexible Schedule

Solo travel means you only have one schedule to worry about: your own. When do you need to get back to work? When do you need a rest day? When do you feel up to hiking that mountain?

Everyone is different and needs different things for them to enjoy their holiday. For me, I need a rest day before I do something big like swimming with dolphins. Other people may need a break right in the middle of the trip.

Instead of having to plan around other people, your schedule is entirely your own.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
View from the top of a fortress on Hvar. A day trip I took on a whim

 

2. Activities

When you’re travelling, there are specific things you want to see and do. If you are travelling with others, they may want to do something different.

There are no compromises with solo travel.

This also adds more flexibility. If you change your mind about visiting a museum or going on a tour, that’s ok. There’s no one else’s plans to worry about.

Solo travel ensures that you can go where you want, when you want.

 

3. New Friends

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Dress up party with my new friends in New Zealand

There’s a misconception that solo travel means always being alone. While there are some truly solo times, solo travel is often done with other people.

Staying in hostels or joining organized tours can result in many new travel buddies. In hostels, being alone often forces you to talk to other people. Sometimes couples or groups can seem like an impenetrable unit. Solo travellers seem to invite other people to start chatting!

On organized tours, many people are originally solo travellers. You may even start to travel with them after the tour. However, being a solo traveler means you can also break off from the group when you need/want to do your own thing.

 

4. Builds Independence and Maturity

As a solo traveller, you learn to handle problems by yourself. There’s no one else with you to handle them for you. When I got lost in Amsterdam or got sick in New Zealand, it was on me to solve those problems.

It’s never fun to have something go awry, but learning to handle the issues really develops character.

Solo travel helps you mature and realize your own inner strength. You learn what you can accomplish in challenging moments that you have to face alone.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Smiling because I’d managed a Turkish night train, a flu, falling off a horse and going to the wrong train station in Vienna

 

5. “Me” Time

As an introvert, I tend to need a lot of “me” time.

When you travel with a group, it’s hard to get that. From shared rooms to group excursions, you’re never alone.

I get stressed if I spend too much time with people, even if I’m enjoying that time. Every seven days on my tour of New Zealand, I made sure to have a few hours where I was totally alone.

Travelling with a group, as a couple or with kids make it hard to find “me” time. How do you just leave them alone for hours to do your own thing? If you’re on your own, you don’t have to worry about that. You get to take the time you need for your own wellbeing.

Being alone also helps you get to know yourself. Eating dinner or hiking alone put you in touch with your own thoughts.

Solo travel means you can have more “me” time.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Hiking is one of my favourite “me” time activities

 

 

Top 5 Cons of Solo Travel

1. Lonely

Being alone doesn’t mean feeling lonely all the time, but sometimes you do get lonely.

This was a big struggle for me last year. I stayed in Airbnbs alone, ate by myself and did my own activities. For the most part, I didn’t try to meet other people.

That can be a huge challenge, especially when you want to share things with someone. When I was at my first German Christmas market, I desperately wanted to point out the interesting candies to someone, but there was no one there.

To combat loneliness, stay in hostels or go on day trips to be around other people. It’s much more fun to share things in the moment than to save the photos to share until you get home.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
My favourite Berlin Christmas market

 

2. Expensive

Unless you are staying in a hostel, where they charge by the bed, accommodation will cost more. Airbnbs charge the same for a room whether two people or one person is staying there. Renting a whole house on Airbnb can be cheaper than a room when divided amongst people.

I regret not caring about this last year and spending a fortune on a double bed in Switzerland.

Food can also cost more. Cooking for one often means ten days of the same meal or vegetables going bad before you can finish them. Cooking with friends and splitting the cost can be a great way to save some money without eating ramen every day.

Solo travellers often miss out on discounts offered by companies. Travel companies often discount second or third tickets. If you’re on your own, you have to pay the standard fare.

 

3. Potential Safety Issues

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Solo travel at the El Badii Palace in Marrakech

Safety is one of the concerns most often raised for solo travellers. While there are some activities (like hiking advanced paths) that require group travel, everyday travel is usually no problem.

Some countries are said to be unsafe for solo travelers, especially for women. In Marrakech, I did get more attention from vendors when I was alone, but I never felt unsafe.

Actually, group travel can be more dangerous as you stand out as being “tourists.” When I was in Italy, group travellers were pickpocketed more than solo travellers.

As long as you are a reasonable and responsible traveller, you will be ok. Do some research, ask at your accommodation for tips. Be aware of your surroundings.

 

4. Worries Family

Worrying my family was a pretty big con of solo travel, since they never fail to tell me how worried they are. It takes extra work to contact my family more often to assure them that I am safe and happy.

Group travel has a sense of security with it. It is assumed that you are taken care of by your tour guide, so you must be safe.

The most cared for I’ve ever felt on a trip is when I got sick as a solo traveller in Turkey. The hotel checked up on me and offered to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy, without me asking.

When I got sick in Barcelona on a group tour, my tour guide shoved me in a cab to go to a Spanish hospital alone and left me with no way to get back to the hotel.

People back home may not understand solo travel, which will make them worry more about you. Finding ways to calm them down without hindering your trip is important. Honestly, it can be kind of nice to have someone checking in on you.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
Posing post-flu in Turkey

 

5. Photo Challenges

Getting pictures of yourself is one of the most annoying things for a solo traveller.

I hate asking people I don’t know to take photos of me. Often times the person doesn’t take a great photo and you’re too embarrassed to ask them for another one.

That’s why almost all of the photos of me from my trip last year are selfies. I got very good at straining my arm and shoving my head into the corner of the screen to avoid asking others to take my picture.

Group travel has the benefit of friends to take your photos. I definitely get better photos when I know people!

Going on day trips with a guide or staying in a hostel help you meet people who can take photos of you.

The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
The types of photo I would have had at Hobbiton if there was no tour guide

 

There are positives and negatives to every kind of travel. You have to find ways to work with the negatives, as I have done.

For a look at 5 pros and cons of group travel, check out 3TravelBug’s post on The Pros and Cons of Group Travel. Check out 3TravelBug for some awesome articles that cover Emilio’s group travel adventures around the world!

 

Do you prefer solo travel or group travel?

 



48 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel”

  • When I travel alone it’s usually for work so not so fun. I totally agree that you have to find the right balance for yourself between time with others and time for yourself whether you travel solo or with others.

  • Your posts are excellent! I am with you…I can only take so much together time with others and need a certain amount of me time alone every day. I prefer to travel on my own (for business and personal travel) and hook up with others as and when the spirit moves me. Enjoy the balance of your New Zealand adventure. I will hook up with you somewhere along your travels before you return to Canada and then jet off to the U.K. for school.

  • I 100% agree with all of these! I love solo traveling but I do admit having my moments of discontent… but then again I have them while traveling with friends as well! All of your points are well said!

  • Great post! I’ve found all of these to be true on my solo travels. It’s definitely worth it though! I think the hardest thing is family worrying about me because I hate that something I love brings them anxiety. But it’s the kind of thing that if you feel the call you just have to do it!

    • It is hard to worry your family. But you have to follow your heart! I’m glad you’ve managed to enjoy your solo travels.

  • I absolutely love traveling solo, so much freedom! I actually found it really hard to get some alone time during my last solotrip in Peru (I was staying in hostels), there were so many people who wanted to talk to me haha!

    • That’s a very good point. My dad often says “I wouldn’t go there alone” (granted he says that about like 80% of the world), but I find for myself there are only a few places I wouldn’t go solo.

  • A vert interesting post. solo travel is an enticing idea but it comes with its own challenges. I want to go for a solo trip some time but with my adsent-minded attitude I dont know where I’ll get lost.

    • I’ve definitely struggled with that. A good way to handle it is to schedule a few “free walking tours” in new cities to get used to the place and come up with some ideas of stuff to do. I also always try to download a free offline map and have a paper map with me (I’ve been burned by low cellphone batteries before). Trust me, if I can manage with my terrible sense of direction and tendency to wander the opposite way I need to, you can definitely do it!

  • This really is a hot topic at the moment and it was refreshing to read your very honest perspective on it. I have only ever taken short trips on my own, but I liked the liberation of it. Overall, I prefer travelling with my partner as it’s so special to share the experiences with someone.

    • I’m glad you’ve found your travel groove, Alex! I feel like having a partner is a great mix of solo and group travel, since you’re autonomous within the relationship to do what you want, but they’re also a part of you.

  • I really lobve travelling – solo, in a group, with a partner, you name it! I think I enjoy travelling with my husband the most, because it has most of the advantages of solo travel, and gets rid of some of the disadvantages! Two birds, one stone! 🙂

    • Exactly! That’s a great way to view it. Romantic partners also tend to know you well enough that it’s ok to ask for solo time and you tend to gel enough to overcome kerfuffles.

    • Hi Jazz, I really recommend giving it a go. A good way to start is just doing a solo day trip. Or get dinner alone. Then expand to weekend trips and longer journeys. The great part of solo travel is that if you don’t like it, there are so many ways to find friends on the road!

  • After reading this post, I came to conclusion that you are brave enough to travel solo. I didn’t find this courage in me. Of course, comes with some cons but still a worthful task in itself to do it solo.

    • I’m sorry that you don’t think you’re able to, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me when I first started. After years of solo travel, I’ve gotten really good at it. It definitely takes practise. Maybe try some solo day trips first to test the waters?

  • All great reasons to travel solo. I was hoping to do more solo vacations last year but sadly cut down on travels towards the end of the year. I miss the flexibility of just doing what I want and when I want. Hopefully more of that this year.

  • It is good that someone talks openly about cons of solo travel. I have seem many posts about traveling solo and people only mention advantages. I don’t like solo traveling to be honest and agree with all the things you tell.

    • It’s very much up to personal preference. I do think it’s important to be realistic about the negatives when considering it.

  • My niche is solo female travel – so what can I say?! To me, there are two disadvantages to solo travel: I do not spend long evenings at restaurants and bars – or at least rarely. And getting sick really sucks. I’m avoiding latter by staying healthy 😉

    • It is a bit awkward to sit at a restaurant for hours by yourself, especially if you’ve already eaten and don’t feel like nursing a bunch of drinks.
      I wish I could just stay healthy and never have the sick problem!!

  • The struggles of solo travel are real, but I think as you’ve written, the benefits outweigh it, especially the part about the “Me Time”. Really nice post! 🙂

    • It definitely does. I think, like everything, you have to weight the pros and cons. For me, I benefit a lot from solo travel for long periods of time. Group travel is a more short term thing that I enjoy.

  • The “Me time” you get while you are on a solo travel is really rejuvenating. I have done short solo travels twice and it has been wonderful being testing too sometimes. My family used to get worried and ask me about my safety. So, these were big cons for me. But I totally agree with the pros too!

  • Totally agree with your thoughts, Nina. I love both – solo and travelling with other people. Sometimes you need time for yourself so 2-3-4 weeks travelling in new country alone is great time for that. But sometimes you need to build stronger relationship with your girlfriend or friend and then you go together. Also, when I am travelling solo I always meet different people in hostels or cities. You are never alone if you don’t want to.

    • Exactly, Joseph. You really can make any kind of travel work if you need to. For me, right now solo is the best way to go!

  • There are so many pros to solo travel, but it definitely does make some things harder! It’s something that terrifies me but that I should probably do at some point!

  • HI Nina, I do share some of your pros’ and cons’ observations in solo traveling. Similar to you, I am also an introvert so traveling by myself is not a challenge. However, I do share some of your shortfalls such as loneliness and missing your loved ones is what I hate the most. Perhaps this is why I hate night time because that is when I feel lonely the most.

    • I find that’s the benefit of travelling to Europe from Canada – nighttime is when my family is awake to chat. Here in NZ it’s different since 4pm for me is about their bedtime. It’s good to find nighttime activities or treat that as your meditative “me” time.

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