1 of 5 | Kat Fleischman (L), 36, an American public relations professional who has been taking international solo trips since she was 18, said websites like Meetup and Fun JetSetter can help break the ice with others who share your interests.
Photo courtesy of Kat Fleischman
Feb. 7 (UPI) -- More and more, women are leaving their partners, boyfriends, kids and pets at home as they venture out to explore the world on their own.
Over the past two years, women have embraced traveling alone or with female friends, searching for a break from daily life while unlocking a new level of independence, spontaneity and freedom.
The solo travel trend has seen a boom in the last decade and is expected to increase. In 2017, 27% of travelers preferred exploring new places on their own. In 2019, that rose to 39%; in 2021, it jumped to 47%. Today, the share of solo travelers is more than 50%, according Solo Traveler World.
More than half of those travelers are women, most of whom aren't waiting for someone to accompany them or give them permission to take these experiential trips.
A report by Road Scholar, a Boston-based tour operator of educational group travel for older adults, found that 60% of its solo traveler customers in 2022 were married women heading off without their spouses.
Kelly Kimple, CEO of Good Company in Colorado, said the all-female-adventure tour company has a 79% repeat customer rate.
"Small-group trips with other women who share similar interests offer a structured space to foster social connectedness and a more comfortable environment to open up and share their goals, fears and joys with each other," Kimple told UPI.
Catalysts for this travel include significant life transitions such as breakups, retirement or change of residence, but can be as simple as wanting to explore the world.
Brittany Betts, a travel expert at HawaiianIslands.com, said traveling solo provides women an opportunity to get to know themselves.
"When I travel solo, I find that I focus more on little things that make me happy rather than worrying about what makes my spouse happy," she said. "I focus more on immersing myself in the culture and doing small things like visiting local coffee shops and talking to locals."
According to RateGain, a global provider of travel and hospitality data, the trend of "friendcations" is expected to rise, with solo travelers coming from different places to stay with other solo travelers at a destination.
RateGain President Peter Strebel said the solo "set-jetting'' trend -- visiting a location featured in movies or TV shows -- also is expected to grow this year.
He said Thailand (featured in The White Lotus Season 3), Malta (the setting for Gladiator 2), the Scottish Highlands (as seen in Outlander), South Korea (anticipated for Squid Game Season 2) and Greece (spotlighted in Argylle) would likely emerge as prominent tourist destinations in 2024.
Phyllis Polaner, a travel specialist with SmartFlyer, has been organizing solo trips for herself, friends and customers for more than a decade. At the end of a girls' trip in Lake Tahoe, where she is skiing with friends, Polaner said more options are available for women traveling solo than ever before.
"We see so many requests from 30- to 70-year-old women after being either stuck inside, going through a change of couple status or just wanting to explore a personal passion," Polaner said.
After a while, she said, hotels and resorts have finally caught on, offering more small-group promotions for women. Some hotels even have women-only floors.
Polaner said she's heard lots of reasons women want to venture out alone, but some are the most common.
"'The kids are finally back at school or university,' 'My husband doesn't want to do anything,' 'I need to find a place to just be myself,' 'I want to meet others and party,' and the desire to check off bucket-list items like cooking in Italy are some I hear a lot," she said.
Megan Grant, founder of Cherish Tours, said 75% of the travelers she works with sign up to travel by themselves.
"The women who sign up alone do so because they are either single, have a spouse who isn't interested in traveling with them, and/or don't have a friend or group of friends to travel with," Grant said.
"Women are no longer letting these factors hold them back from making the choice to travel. With or without a travel companion, they are getting out there to explore and travel the world."
Grant said this trend started around the 1970s, and women from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations are traveling alone because they weren't allowed to when they were younger.
The pandemic also created time for people to reflect on what they truly want for their lives, which has led to more travel, she said.
"Women have transformational experiences when they travel solo," she said. "They learn new things about themselves, about other women traveling with them and the world around them."
There are also added advantages to traveling alone, including single-occupancy discounts at hotels, faster-moving singles lines at amusement parks, discounted seats at shows and performances, and even hot restaurants where solo diners without reservations can sometimes squeeze in at the bar, according to Do-Tell Publicity President and CEO Kat Fleischman.
Fleischman said solo travelers can use sites like Meetup and Fun JetSetter that help break the ice with others who share interests. But there are tricks to help navigate solo traveling, including not oversharing personal information, using a financial "safe word" and stepping into a store or cafe instead of standing on the street to use a cellphone.
As a TedX speaker, travel lifestyle and business coach, Heather Markel has shared the story of her travel adventures since 2018, traveling to 39 countries, including being marooned in New Zealand for two years during the pandemic, where she was on her own and had to find a community to avoid being alone.
"When you travel on your own, you make a lot more of an effort to be outgoing, and others make a lot more of an effort to welcome you into their circle," she said.
Markel suggests women traveling alone be aware of their surroundings and behavior, paying extra for a taxi home if they're coming back at night and staying in high-quality hotels.
"Always learn what areas to avoid, the same way you do at home, and don't go there," she said. "Try a free walking tour. The guides are great, and I almost always meet someone else who is solo, or a couple and end up grabbing at least a bite to eat after the tour."