Solo travel — curating a vacation perfectly suited to you and no one else — is the ultimate idiosyncratic experience.
For some, the goal is to fully test their limits and develop confidence. Others say the allure of traveling alone lies in wholly embracing their desires and their own pace. It can also be about rediscovering joy after a particularly challenging period in one’s life.
We spoke to eight readers about their recent solo sojourns. Here’s what they told us. (These interviews have been lightly edited and condensed.)
Reader: Heather Hodges, 52, New Orleans
Where she went: Seville, Spain
Tell us about your trip: I booked the trip two days before flying out to Spain. I spent every day sightseeing and every night at a flamenco performance. Everything about Seville reminded me of New Orleans, and it is one of three places I have visited in the world as an African-American Southerner where I felt completely at ease — and at home.
How much did it cost? About $3,000 for a week last December. The largest expense was airfare. There are not many direct international flights out of New Orleans, so I had to take several connecting flights.
Most surprising cost: No real surprises.
Why did you choose this trip? I wanted to see flamenco and learn more about the long African presence in Iberia and Andalusia. It’s important to understanding the history and culture of where I live and the broader African Diaspora from which I am descended.
Was this your first solo vacation? No. When I first started doing it almost 20 years ago, people still found solo Black women travelers unusual, especially at the holidays. First I ventured to Caribbean destinations. Then, as I became more comfortable traveling alone, I went to bigger European capitals. And I haven’t stopped.
I always think about whether I will be safe — who else will be there? — and about the intersection of both ethnicity and gender. That’s a reality for solo travelers.
A widow’s Caribbean cruise
Reader: Barbara Boykin, 76, Alexandria, Va.
Where she went: Eight Caribbean islands on a Viking cruise: Puerto Rico, Tortola, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, St. Martin and St. Thomas
Tell us about your trip: My husband died a year ago, and I decided to take a solo cruise rather than spend Christmas alone at home. We used to enjoy going on cruises together. It was great. It was just what I wanted. The ship was luxurious, and the people were very friendly.
How much did it cost? About $8,000, including trip insurance, for traveling solo on an 11-day cruise last December.
Most surprising cost: I had to pay a single supplement on the cruise. (Single supplements sometimes double the cost of standard cruise rates.)
Why did you choose this trip? I thought going on a cruise would also be a good way to travel solo. I really didn’t want to face Christmas here without my husband.
Was this your first solo vacation? I had never cruised by myself. I was worried I would feel lonely, but I really didn’t. I’ve booked another cruise for May 2024 in Alaska, which I might attend solo.
Reader: Cort Harlow, 29, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Where he went: Buenos Aires
Tell us about your trip: I booked the trip two weeks in advance — it was pretty last minute. I am a software engineer and wanted to see how I felt working remotely in a foreign city. I flew nonstop overnight from New York (I splurged a bit on a premium economy upgrade) and stayed at an Airbnb condo in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood for seven nights.
How much did it cost? About $3,200 for a week in January.
Most surprising cost: My round-trip flights accounted for more than half of the entire cost of the trip. Everything else was extremely affordable.
Why did you choose this trip? It had been a long time since I spent an extended amount of time alone. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, to flex my autonomy and self motivation. I also wanted to get out of cold and gray New York City, and had been reading about urban development in South American cities.
Was this your first solo vacation? I’m a 29-year-old gay man, and this was my first solo trip. I loved it. I walked away feeling so much more capable — and empowered. I am very keen to try it again.
Reader: Alison Heebsh, 49, St. Paul, Minn.
Where she went: El Paso, Texas, and San Lorenzo, N.M.
Tell us about your trip: I volunteered with an organization that provides hospitality to asylum seekers in the United States. I went a couple of days early to see the New Mexico desert, visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and driving down through the Chihuahuan Desert.
How much did it cost? Between $800 and $900 for about two and a half weeks last November. Lodging for most of the trip was provided by the organization I volunteered with. I rented a car to explore New Mexico and stayed at a couple of Airbnbs there.
Most surprising cost: The $500 flight to El Paso was higher than I anticipated.
Why did you choose this trip? It was a chance to step out of my daily life, serve alongside interesting and generous people and spend time getting to know migrants on the final stages of difficult journeys. I also loved the chance to explore new places solo. The sunny skies of the New Mexico desert and mountains did not disappoint!
Was this your first solo vacation? No, I’ve done a whole lot of solo backpacking trips, including along the Colorado Trail in 2018.
Reader: Mary Wiley, 60, Minneapolis
Where she went: Monaco, Switzerland, France and Italy
Tell us about your trip: I plan one big overseas trip each year. I look for cheap fares and saw some good prices in France, so the planning started there. I had never been to the Côte d’Azur, and I love Formula 1 and wanted to see racing sites. I saw the tracks in Monaco and Monza, in Italy.
How much did it cost? About $7,000 for 11 days last November. The trip was more than I would normally spend. It was a birthday trip, so I really didn’t hold back when it came to meals.
Most surprising cost: The price of food in Monaco and Milan was higher than I expected.
Why did you choose this trip? I celebrated my 60th birthday there.
Was this your first solo vacation? No. I like to take myself on international trips and became comfortable with being alone because of business travel. I like being able to set my own agenda, to feel like I fit into the city. And I really have met some interesting people.
Fulfilling a Mexico dream on a budget
Reader: Sandy Snowe, 73, Merritt Island, Fla.
Where she went: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tell us about your trip: In February I went to gorgeous San Miguel Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mexico’s northern highlands. It was somewhat impromptu; I booked my tickets in January. I particularly enjoyed the walking and food tours, and visiting the local thermal springs.
How much did it cost? A little over $800 for six nights last February. I used United Airlines points to fly.
What was a surprising expense to you? No surprises. Eating mostly in the local market kept food expenses low.
Why did you choose this trip? I’d heard of San Miguel de Allende from a friend’s mother and had always wanted to visit. I’m glad I finally did. It’s an amazingly beautiful and rugged colonial city.
Was this your first solo vacation? No. I lived in Latin America in my 20s and backpacked many times. I prefer traveling solo! You know you’re well accompanied when you go by yourself. You don’t have to make any compromises.
Finding solace in the Faroe Islands
Reader: Meg Christensen, 37, Portland, Ore.
Where she went: Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye, in Scotland, and the Faroe Islands
Tell us about your trip: I got to the Faroe Islands by traveling through Edinburgh, and at the end of my trip I took a three-day tour up to the Isle of Skye. Because there are so few restaurants (and hotels) on the Faroe Islands, I stayed at Airbnbs with kitchens so I could cook for myself. I rented a car to island hop.
Some highlights: kayaking on a big lake and taking in a beautiful waterfall in the sunshine — one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
How much did it cost? About $3,500 for two weeks last October.
Most surprising cost: I decided spontaneously to travel to the Isle of Skye ($520), an add-on that I booked while I was in Edinburgh.
Why did you choose this trip? I wanted to be outside surrounded by natural beauty, and I wanted to enjoy my own company. I chose the Faroe Islands because I love Scandinavia, and they seemed spooky and beautiful. It also seemed safe for solo female travelers.
Was this your first solo vacation? No, but it had been a decade since the last one. It’s important to me to have a good friendship with myself, and being alone on some tiny islands in the North Atlantic felt really powerful in that regard. I had a great time. I took measures to stay safe — really grippy hiking boots, venturing out only in the daylight hours, communicating often with my husband.
Reader: Gordon McHardy, 65, Lafayette, La.
Where he went: Paris
Tell us about your trip: I went to Paris for 25 days. It was my fifth visit to the city but the longest I’ve ever been there. I stayed in a small hotel near the Cluny Museum and was able to walk to a majority of the great attractions and explore the best neighborhoods. I visited many museums, some several times over the course of the trip. I rediscovered my favorite parts of Paris and explored new areas, too.
How much did it cost? About $7,300 for nearly a month last November.
Most surprising cost: I found daily gym passes, at $30, to be fairly expensive. The museums were very well priced.
Why did you choose this trip? It had been about 15 years since my last visit to the city, and I’d long dreamed of returning to immerse myself in the Parisian lifestyle.
Was this your first solo vacation? My favorite way to travel is solo. It opens doors that normally you wouldn’t always get asked to go through. It keeps me grounded in what I believe: that we all need to take care of each other and be open to new people and experiences.
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