Do you prefer to travel solo independently or in a group?
How do you define solo travel? Where do you set the line between solo and group travel? Does a trip which you take on your own and then continue with a group of strangers, qualify as a solo trip? Or does solo mean completely independently? What is the difference between solo and group travel?
These are all commonly asked questions in our community. Our members often discuss the pros and cons of solo vs. group travel and why they prefer one over the other.
Before we deep dive into the differences between the two, it’s important to state that however you travel, is the right way to travel and that there is no universal definition, and frankly it does not matter. You do you, and that is the best way to travel.
But for the purposes of this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of each travel style as well as some considerations around their definition, always from our perspective and drawing from the many discussions we have had in the group.
So let’s dive right into it and define solo travel vs. group travel.
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Does traveling with a group void the solo travel label?
We define solo travel as heading off to travel on your own, without anyone you know, whether that’s entirely solo for the whole time, or with a small group of strangers in a group trip. As long as you leave your house alone and have no travel companion you know with you, you are traveling solo.
From our perspective, we prefer to support an inclusive definition which empowers women to travel in whichever way they feel most comfortable.
Most travelers find small group trips are a safe, affordable and convenient way to visit challenging destinations or to test solo travel in a predefined way, and we do know that many members of our community have joined our curated group trips because they’ve never traveled solo, and want to work up the courage to do so.
A group trip is a great way to break down the barriers that may stop you from booking your first independent solo trip and dip your feet into solo travel in a controlled environment and still has a lot of the same challenges as traveling completely independently.
For example, you will still get to the destination on your own, not know anyone and have to make friends with complete strangers, will have to fill your free time (which most group tours usually include) and will have to spend lots of time with yourself.
It is true that there are lots of people around you on a group trip, but they are not people you’ve known for a long time so we consider the circumstances are still very close to a completely independent trip.
Solo travel independently
As defined above, we define solo travel as a trip that you take on your own without a travel companion, even if you are going to join a group. But for the purposes of this section, we will be referring to solo independent travel, that is, a trip you take on your own and plan end to end without joining a pre-set group trip. You’re completely in charge, you make all the decisions and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Traveling solo has many benefits, it gives us that independence and freedom some of us long for, and it’s by far one of the most enriching and self-fulfilling experiences in life. It is also one of the most revealing ways to learn more about yourself and what you are capable of.
It is very likely that you will come back from a solo trip and feel re-energized, with high self esteem and full of confidence; you did it, you conquered all your fears and the fears of those around you, and you can now face whatever other challenge.
But every good thing also comes with its challenges and considerations.
We ran a survey among solo travelers which had 5,000 responses and has since become the largest global survey on Solo Female Travel trends, and the results found that 73% of women traveling solo worry about their safety, even experienced solo travelers do (64%). You are alone in a foreign or unfamiliar place and naturally, you worry more than you do at home.
|You call the shots||You have to address safety risks|
|Traveling solo means going at your own pace||You need to pay for a single supplement|
|You choose your accommodation||You’ll have no one to share experiences with|
|You can travel on a budget more efficiently||You will have to plan everything on your own|
|You build your confidence||You will have to eat alone|
|You connect more deeply with the local culture|
|You make new friends|
Pros and advantages of solo travel vs. group travel
Traveling solo independently has a lot of upsides, and this is why it is fast becoming such a popular choice of travel style. You don’t have to wait up on anyone, depend on anyone or make any compromises, your trip is all about you.
Let’s look at the advantages of traveling on your own.
You call the shots
Perhaps one of the most important advantages of solo travel vis a vis group travel, is that you don’t have to make any compromises.
You don’t have to wait on anyone to set off on a new adventure and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Do you feel like waking up at 5 AM doing some work and setting off at 9 AM? You can!
Do you feel like watching a Netflix movie and falling asleep in bed with room service ice cream? You can!
Would you like to watch the sunrise and go for an early morning walk on the beach? You totally can!
You craft your itinerary based on what you feel like doing and change plans whenever you want. You have 100% flexibility to adapt and are open to any serendipitous moments.
Plan your trip, or go with the flow, that is entirely up to you. While we always advocate for researching a destination and planning a trip, at least a bit, because that helps account for a lot of the uncertainty and risks of traveling solo, you can absolutely plan nothing and do whatever you feel like when you open your eyes each morning.
It’s your vacation, and you don’t need to discuss any decision with anyone.
Traveling solo means going at your own pace
One of the most awesome feelings about a solo trip is that you don’t have to be rushing to get anywhere, catch your tour bus at 6 AM or be ready for dinner at 7 PM. Choose the travel style and flow as you please. Going at your own pace is enjoying the destination in a unique way, the way that makes you feel more comfortable and happy.
Maybe one day you just feel like walking on the streets and seeing where the city takes you, and another day you visit some artistic and cultural spots. That’s the beauty of solo traveling, it is up to you and how you’re feeling on each day of your trip.
Felise, our group member, shared the reason why she loves solo travel: “Realizing I could solo travel completely changed my world. I now know I can go and do whatever I want wherever I want. I’m not waiting on anyone to join me. I actually prefer solo sometimes because it’s my gift to myself, plus the bonus is I get to do what I’d like to do”.
You choose your accommodation
When you travel in a group, accommodation will be chosen and provided and you have no way to change that. When you’re traveling on your own, you can choose an alternative accommodation like hostels or airbnb, you can even find accommodation for free. These are great options and can often find affordable deals on centrally located parts of the destination.
Or go big and choose a really special luxury hotel or resort, such as the bubble hotel in Lapland, and treat yourself to a great stay. You won’t find these kinds of accommodations in group tours.
You can travel on a budget more efficiently
If you are on a budget, traveling solo may be cheaper than on a tour or group, depending on the destination and your travel style.
On your own, you craft your itinerary and accommodation so you can choose affordable options and look for free things to do or tourist deals. You have the freedom to decide how much you spend on sightseeing, food, transport, etc, and can do it according to your budget and interests.
“Definitely cheaper to organize things yourself and it gives you more freedom”, said Margunn, a member of our community.
It is true that group tours (especially those in larger buses) avail of group discounts and can offer a really affordable way to get around many countries in a short period of time, but you often cannot choose to get a refund for activities or entry tickets you are not interested in or bring your own meals to have on food, so if you are on a budget, independent solo travel will most likely be cheaper than group travel.
You build your confidence
Traveling solo is challenging and will get you out of your comfort zone, but it will make you grow as a person.
Ronni, from our group, reflects on her experience: “Traveling solo is peaceful and it helps build confidence and makes you more independent”.
She is absolutely right, when you travel on your own, you enter the unknown and do everything on your own, this builds up your confidence like nothing else will do.
You will face situations you have never been in before, and will have to solve challenges on the go, relying on yourself only, this will no doubt strengthen your self esteem.
“Nothing proves how strong, self sufficient and self reliant you can be than having to find your way around a foreign city in China where none of your apps work and where you don’t speak the language”, says our Co-Founder, Mar.
You connect more deeply with the local culture
Most solo travelers will report that when they travel on their own they simply immerse themselves more in the local culture. It’s unavoidable; because you’re on your own, you have no distractions, you are not talking to someone else, you are more attuned to what happens around you and you simply pay more attention.
As a result, you have a higher chance of meeting new people and chatting with locals as they will also see you as a more approachable person because they are not interrupting a conversation if they come up to talk to you.
Travel is the best way to build tolerance and gain perspective. Because traveling solo means you are more likely to do that, solo travel also helps break prejudices, smash stereotypes or bring cultural barriers down.
Solo travel widens the traveler’s perspective, helps build empathy towards the reality and the culture of the destination you are visiting and seeing it through the locals’ eyes.
Go ahead, make the most of your solo trip. Don’t be afraid to approach locals and ask them for recommendations on things to do, places to visit, events to attend, you might find some hidden gems that will make the most memorable part of your trip.
“Solo travel has changed my life by opening the world up to me. There are still a few places I would prefer to visit with other people but travelling has taught me so much about myself, the world and other people. My priorities are now different and I became a much more confident and no nonsense person”, shared Dawn, our group member, on how solo travel changed her.
You make new friends
Traveling solo is a challenge but at the same time a great opportunity to make a new friend and learn about a foreign culture. There are many other fellow solos who are eager to find travel buddies to go on day trips, hang out, go to dinner, or grab a coffee and by traveling on your own you are more likely to meet others.
Cons and challenges of solo travel
While we love traveling solo, not everything is about roses and butterflies, traveling on your own also has some downsides, or challenges as we prefer to call them, and when comparing group and solo travel, you need to bear those in mind.
You have to address safety risks
73% of solo female travelers worry about their safety, even those who have traveled solo before many times (64%) still worry about traveling on their own.
Many of our community members express their worries regarding safety when traveling solo in our community and consider safety the most important considerations when choosing a destination to travel to.
What is more, half of those who have not traveled solo before report that they would be more likely to do so in a small group tour.
In general, being by yourself makes you more vulnerable to, for example thieves, than if you were traveling in a group. But there is a lot you can do to keep yourself safe and following our safety advice will help you be better prepared. The unexpected can always happen, but you can mitigate the risk by understanding what can go wrong and preparing for it.
Additionally, we also know that some countries are safer than others for solo female travelers and those tend to be the ones most recommended by fellow solo travelers as the best countries for women to go on a first solo trip.
Lastly, on the topic of safety, we have created the Solo Female Travel Safety Index which ranks countries based on how safe they are for women traveling solo, and you can read reviews of fellow solo travelers there.
You need to pay for a single supplement
While the travel industry is slowly waking up to how annoying single supplements are for solo travelers, they still are a major issue.
But before we bash travel companies for charging this extra cost to solo travelers, we have to understand that some trips are cost on a per person basis, sharing, and so if you don’t come with a travel companion, you’ll have to pay as if you did. It’s the same as hotel rooms, which are priced per room usually with up to 2 people sleeping in it, so if you come solo you have nobody to split the cost with.
Thankfully, several companies have started offering solo traveler specials and reducing the single supplement charges. Group travel companies are also increasingly offering solo travelers the option to share a room with another solo traveler of the same sex to avoid the supplements.
You’ll have no one to share experiences with
One of the major downsides mentioned by our members who don’t prefer solo travel is the fact that they have nobody to share an experience with.
While this is technically true, you can’t forget that you are in fact sharing that experience with the best travel companion possible: yourself.
And because you’re traveling on your own with no one familiar by your side, you are more likely to meet new people!
And imagine the stories you’ll have to tell when you are back.
You will have to plan everything on your own
Traveling solo means you have nobody to share the travel planning tasks with, everything falls under your responsibility. That can be a lot of work depending on the destination and type of trip, unless you decide to go with the flow.
For many travelers, having to plan everything on their own is reason enough to book a group trip where everything is done for you.
To get around that and find relevant travel advice, you can complement your research and planning efforts with advice from travel Facebook Groups, official local websites or even a travel agent.
Travel agents fill the gap left by a group trip and should be able to plan everything for you. Just tell them what you are looking for, what you like and how much you want to spend and they should be able to put together an itinerary for you.
You will have to eat alone
One of the biggest challenges our members mention when traveling on their own is having to eat solo.
While a priori this may seem like not a big deal, we associate many elements to eating on our own, as do others, and many members worry about what others may think or about being refused service because they are solo.
There are many things you can do to enjoy eating on your own (we do!) but the most important one is to learn to enjoy your company, something that will be useful on every solo trip, whether you are eating, being on a bus, visiting a museum or any other solo activity.
Traveling in a group
As previously mentioned, 50% of the women who have not traveled solo yet would be more likely to do so in a group tour.
This is because it provides a safe environment, because it helps with the fear of loneliness or boredom or because it means you don’t have to plan anything. Basically, group travel addresses all of the challenges of solo travel and so it is a great alternative.
Let’s now take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of group travel.
|Avoid single supplements by sharing with someone||You are on a strict itinerary|
|Have a host take care of everything||Having to depend on others|
|The convenience of having everything done for you||You are subject to the group’s atmosphere|
|You’ll be safer||You miss out|
|The opportunity to visit challenging destinations||You can fall into a routine|
|Make new friends|
Pros and advantages of group travel
Solo travel is great but traveling in a group also has its advantages. Let’s take a look at it when compared to solo travel.
Avoid single supplements by sharing with someone
As mentioned before, many tour companies will pair you up with another traveler usually the same sex. You will both share a room that generally has two twin or queen beds. This allows you to hopefully make a new friend and avoid single supplements.
Besides the advantage of group travel when talking about accommodation, traveling in a group will also remove another of our pet peeves: minimum numbers for tours to run.
While accommodation providers usually quote prices per person sharing, many day tours or activities will often have a minimum number of guests to run which is never 1 but starts off at 2 guests, so if you are traveling solo you will need at least one other person for the specific activity to run. This can be very frustrating but is not an issue when traveling with a group.
Have a host take care of everything
One of the key advantages of booking a group trip is that you get a tour guide during your whole trip, that is, a person you can rely upon to have answers, all the time.
A great host will guide you every step of the trip and make sure you are safe, comfortable and having a good time. The guide is generally local or an expert in the area, so you can ask any questions and learn more about the local culture. He or she is like having a local friend whose job it is to entertain you and ensure you have a great time.
Our member Brittany shared: “To have all the transportation planned, tours planned, accommodations planned, some meals planned, and a tour guide and someone who speaks the local language (if applicable) was worth the extra I spent to just be able to relax”.
We know how important a host is so our tours are hosted by handpicked local guides who are female and uniquely position to provide our guests with a special experience, be it because they know of a specific subject that we feel will enrich the experience or because they can share their perspective with our guests and make the entire trip much better.
The convenience of having everything done for you
Perhaps one of the most important selling points of group trips which solo travel does not have is that everything is done for you, you simply book, pay and maybe get your flights and enjoy the trip.
You don’t have to plan your itinerary, book accommodation, or figure out how to move around or what is worth doing. All of this is taken care of and paid in advance by the travel company, so that’s a weight off your shoulders, especially when it’s your first solo trip or if you have to plan everything on your own.
Our member Abby puts it best: “It takes the fear and stress of planning away for me because I’ve never gone to another country alone”.
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to do anything at all, though we do recommend you spend time vetting the company you will be booking your group trip with so that you ensure the experience they provide is the right one for what you like and want.
You’ll be safer
Generally speaking, traveling on a group tour with an experienced guide provides a sense of safety and peace of mind because you will be cocooned by a group of other travelers and there is safety in numbers.
Additionally, the guide’s job is to ensure that you are safe and nothing happens to you and will know all the tips and tricks that potential thieves or scammers could pull so will advise you ahead of time.
In destinations where traveling solo as a woman is considered more challenging, for example where street harassment is prevalent or where crowds can be overwhelming such as in the large labyrinthic markets in Cairo, Marrakech or Fes, the comfort of knowing someone is there to keep an eye on you is enough to make most travelers feel more at ease.
Guides are prepared and have seen it all so they know everything that can go wrong and can help you avoid pitfalls or getting yourself into trouble.
The opportunity to visit challenging destinations
Group tours are a favorite way to travel even for hardcore solo travelers when they consider visiting destinations that are more complex or logistically challenging, or where an independent trip is not possible such as climbing Kilimanjaro or in certain destinatons that require a local escort like North Korea or Turkmenistan, or a local sponsor to obtain a visa.
In some cases, an independent solo trip is just not possible or much more challenging, requiring longer vacation time, which is usually a scarce resource, or a significantly more intense planning effort.
Make new friends
Group trips are ideal for meeting new people and making friends abroad. It’s incredible how connections during a short trip can transform into life-long friendships but we see this happen every time in our small group tours.
Guests come as strangers and leave as friends who then will meet again for a future trip, a weekend getaway or another of our tours.
What makes these friendships extra valuable is the fact that you started off with a similar frame of mind, with a shared interest and in an often interesting destination. You shared intimate special moments with the other travelers and this will lead to tighter connections.
Cons and challenges of group travel
Group travel is great and has a lot of advantages when compared to solo travel but it also has some downsides that need to be considered.
You are on a strict itinerary
Look back at one of the most important advantages of solo travel above: you can do as you please. Well, group travel is the exact opposite in that realm, you are on a pre-set itinerary and cannot just do as you please.
If you love freedom while traveling and doing what you like, this may be a big disadvantage. The majority of tours have predefined itineraries for guests to follow every day. Although some may give you some free time to wander on your own, in general, you can’t just do something completely different.
If the tour follows an itinerary and goes from city to city, you need to follow the day’s itinerary to get to your next destination so you can’t just decide to spend the day at the beach.
So the biggest advantage of group travel (not having to plan anything) can also be its biggest disadvantage if you like to do your own thing.
“I am not a fan of tours and really like to plan my own trips because I do not like being tied to schedule”, shared our group member Jodie.
Having to depend on others
Traveling in a group makes you dependable on the other members, for example with regards to punctuality, or an emergency situation happening to one of the guests and holding everyone else up. If you are impatient, or if the itinerary is packed and a delay at one place may mean you miss out on some other attraction later, this may become a bigger annoyance, big enough for many travelers not to want to book group tours.
Booking with a small group tour company means the above issue is minimised as there are just fewer people to have to wait up on and therefore the risk of such delays is smaller. Additionally, a good host / guide will know how to handle these situations so they do not negatively impact the group.
While it is harder for a traveler to assess this before joining a group trip, experienced group travelers will tell you that if you find a group travel company you like and who shares your approach in this matter, you should stick with it.
You are subject to the group’s atmosphere
Besides the fact that you depend on other travelers for the overall pace and diversions to the itinerary, a key element of a group trip is the overall atmosphere of a group.
Like with the above point, it is hard to assess this before a trip because even the travel company may not know the personality of each traveler, but you can mitigate this risk by picking a travel company that is clearly focused on a certain travel style so that you know those joining will be of the same mindset.
For example, you may want to travel with a company that shares your values, that shows those values on their itineraries and that support your same travel philosophy. A company’s perspective vis a vis responsible and sustainable travel, supporting local businesses, being mindful of the impact on the environment or providing a consistent experience across trips is more likely to attract the same type of traveler on all trips.
On the other hand, a large mass market group travel company is likely to attract a wider range of travel styles and guests and therefore there is a wider variation in the type of traveler you will meet.
This can be great, because you get to meet people different to yours, but can also hinder your experience if they don’t facilitate the type of atmosphere you like. If you want to meet like minded individuals, look for a group travel company that aligns with your values and travel style.
You miss out
Perhaps the biggest criticism of group travel by those who prefer solo travel is that by traveling in a group you miss out on things.
You miss out on the unexpected since everything is planned for you.
You miss out on serendipitous moments because you are always on your way somewhere and on a pre-set itinerary.
You miss out on learning things about yourself or the place you are visiting because everything is done for you; you don’t have to find ways to get somewhere, chat to the locals for directions or find out about things that are done differently to what you are used to because you don’t have to get anything done yourself.
With predictability and planning comes the lack of surprises and creativity. If you don’t like surprises, then group travel is perfect for you, but if you like your trips with a healthy dose of the unexpected, then independent solo travel is most likely your preferred choice.
Usually, this last consideration, along with the preset itinerary, is what determines if someone prefers solo or group travel.
You can fall into a routine
Traveling with a tour group can sometimes get repetitive and tedious, with the same dynamic throughout the trip. The way the tour company schedules every day might be similar, also places to visit or activities may be of the same style. Within the group, members can get used to each other’s behavior and personalities.
While this may be comfortable and bring you tranquility, you will have no room for the unexpected and spontaneous change of plans. Everything is already planned out and can feel like you have to follow a strict routine during the whole tour.
Which one is best: solo or group travel?
If you are asking whether group or solo travel is better, we have no answer for you, because there’s no right answer, the answer depends on your specific situation, budget, personality, interests and goals. It also depends on where you are going, as some destinations make group travel mandatory.
Some travelers love the independence of traveling completely solo, or may be on a budget and prefer to plan it all by themselves.
Others may be unsure about traveling on their own and prefer the comfort of traveling with a group, which gives you a sense of safety and removes any worry related to planning, transportation and accommodation.
But for the majority of us, a good balance between both travel styles is the best way to go; on some trips we may travel alone, on some others we may join a group and on some we may be joined by friends or family.
|You like to be spontaneous and see where the day takes you||Travel solo|
|You don’t like planning a trip and worry about how logistics, transportation and accommodation||Travel in a group|
|You want to craft your itinerary based on your interests||Travel solo|
|You feel safer traveling with other people||Travel in a group|
|You want to challenge yourself and build your confidence||Travel solo|
|You rather have a host or tour guide||Travel in a group|
|You like to choose what to visit, where to eat, where to stay, etc.||Travel solo|
|You want to go to a destination that is hard to move around in and known to be not very safe for solo female travelers||Travel in a group|
|You’d like to meet locals and know more about their culture||Travel solo|
|You are sociable and want to meet like minded travelers to share experiences with||Travel in a group|
|You don’t want to depend on others’ interests and attitudes||Travel solo|