Over the last week that my family has been traveling through Hawaii, I’ve received quite a few messages from friends and family on Instagram and through email. There have been a wide range of questions concerning my trip but one question has really stood out and, ultimately, inspired this blog.
The message read: “Been ‘following’ for years and remember when it was just you solo. How is traveling with your family? How is traveling with a toddler? Different than solo travel?”
My family has taken quite a few domestic trips over the last 1.5 years since my daughter was born, however, this was the first BIG trip. Although flying to Hawaii is still, technically, a domestic trip, 10 hours on a plane hardly felt domestic. That is why I consider it a BIG trip. So I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect about the pros and cons of traveling solo vs with others.
Traveling solo comes with a world of benefits, but it also presents a unique set of challenges that travelers are not aware of until they are already doing it.
Likewise, traveling in groups, with a romantic partner, and/or with family have their upsides but also present a unique set of challenges that travelers are not aware of until they are already doing it.
It’s a different experience if you’re used to solo travel and you start to travel with other people so let’s work through some of my most recent reflection points.
PRO #1: FREEDOM TO TRAVEL WHEN AND WHERE YOU WANT
Generally, many solo travelers (including myself) started because they were able to find “flight deals” at the right time. And many can attest that there’s nothing worse than, literally, watching the available dates of the deal disappear from the calendar while you’re waiting on another individual to commit to traveling with you. Ultimately, solo travelers can design their travel schedules to fit their jobs, calendars, and lifestyles. And traveling solo means you’ll never have to comprise on where to go and what you’ll do once you arrive.
CON #1: MORE PEOPLE = MORE COMPROMISE
Take the opposite of EVERYTHING I just said above. In my household, there isn’t a day that I don’t say to my wife “Oohh, that’s a deal. You want to go to [insert city]?” Deciding when and where to go was an easy decision when I was single (see Pro #1). It became a bit more complicated when I had to consider my wife’s calendar. It became even more complicated when we added a baby.
It’s do-able but I have discovered:
- traveling with someone else adds additional time to every task and;
- traveling with a baby will double the time it takes to normally accomplish a task no matter what you are doing.
If patience it not your strongest attribute, you may find yourself feeling frustrated. Take your time and recognize that everything is going to take longer and compromise is a necessity.
PRO #2: YOU’RE IN COMPLETE CONTROL OF HOW YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY
Prefer to skimp on accommodations and eat at 3-star Michelin restaurants or book a luxury resort and buy snacks from the local grocery store? Business class or low cost carrier? Go shopping or take a guided tour? Hiking or sit on the beach? Walk, public transportation, or taxi? When you’re traveling solo, you can determine where you want to invest your money, and you don’t have to worry about a travel companion not valuing what you value.
CON #2: IT CAN BE A BUDGET BUSTER!
When you’re traveling solo you will often find that the price of traveling (i.e. accommodations, meals, transportation, excursions, etc.) add up faster than expected. I can’t speak for everyone but, taking an uber from [Point A] to [Point B] for $30 as a solo traveler feels a bit more painful than taking it with 5 friends.
Additionally, did you know that cruise ship bookings are based on double-occupancy? Typically, the cruise line will require you to pay a supplemental fee to travel solo. These fees can often be as much as the amount you would’ve paid if you had another person in the room. Paying for two people when you’re traveling solo? Ouch!
PRO #3: YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO MEET NEW PEOPLE
A few weeks ago, I spent some time in Barcelona and stayed in a hostel. Hostels aren’t, typically, my go-to accommodation these days but I find hostels to be interesting in the fact that you meet individuals from around the world that are traveling for various reasons.
When you’re with familiar people (i.e. friends, family, etc.), generally, you focus on the group desires and less on meeting new people. However, I find that when traveling alone, it gives you a reason to be intentional about getting to know others. For example, you may recall the all the “interviews” that I did in Indonesia with the students that approached me. I doubt that would have happened if I would’ve been traveling in a large group.
CON #3: YOU WISH YOU WERE EXPERIENCING IT WITH FRIENDS (OR FAMILY)
While solo travel can be a rewarding experience, there will always be times when you wish a close friend or loved one was standing right next to you for that moment.
I’ve made friends abroad that I consider some of my closest friends today but there are a lot of times when I am traveling solo that I wish my wife and daughter were standing next to me.
Ultimately, traveling solo is a great way to see a foreign land in an intimate, exciting way. Regardless to the reason you are traveling solo, with friends, or with family, there will always be something new to gain from every trip.
What you every traveled solo? Have you ever traveled with someone else? What was your experience?