Retirement is often when people finally have the time and money to explore the world, whether that be travelling to far-flung destinations, enjoying a city break, or relaxing on a cruise. But for those travelling solo, the idea setting off without a companion can be a daunting proposition.
Happily there are plenty of holiday firms that offer breaks of all sorts specifically designed for the more mature traveller on their own, so if you're considering jetting off to your dream destination, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Choose your holiday
It's likely that you already have either a destination or type of holiday in mind, whether that's city touring, a cruise, or an activity break. Companies such as Solos Holidays, which has specific age guidelines so you won't be holidaying with a group of rowdy youngsters, offer everything from beach breaks to group getaways centred around an activity such as tennis, cycling, or involving tours of art galleries or gardens - and all are aimed specifically at the single traveller.
Cruises are another great way to potentially meet like-minded folk, and while the big cruise ships often provide the real luxury, smaller operators such as Noble Caledonia or Star Flyer have smaller passenger numbers, and this often makes meeting others a less daunting experience.
Unfortunately, singles are often penalised when it comes to accommodation, with many hotels and cruise ships insisting on a single room supplement. However, the likes of Solos Holidays often provide double rooms for single occupancy without the extra charge, and it is worth checking with any cruise company before you book. Some do have single cabins, although there are very limited numbers so early booking is a must.
Alternatively, some escorted holiday firms allow you to share accommodation. It's clearly not for everyone, and there's always the possibility that you get stuck with someone you don't particularly care for, or even someone that snores... but by the same token, you could make a fabulous new friend with whom to share your travel adventures.
Meeting and greeting
Some people are blessed with an innate ability to converse happily with anyone and everyone. Others are not. If you're new to solo travel or are on the shy side, meeting the group with whom you'll be holidaying can be nerve-wracking. Some companies do run forums where you can chat to fellow travellers before departure, which is a great way to find friends even before you set off.
If that's not the case, keep an eagle eye out for others on the same holiday once you get to the airport. Most will have luggage tags that show they're with the same tour operator as yourself, and if you don't feel comfortable chatting to them just yet, at least you'll have a recognisable face to look out for when you reach your destination.
Where shyness is a real issue, it's an idea to have a few small talk subjects in the memory bank to get the conversation moving - anything from previous holidays or excitement about your destination, to food and activities, or other related subjects. Remember, there will certainly be at least one like-minded individual on the same trip, and most holidaymakers are only too happy to engage in friendly chat about the journey ahead.
Make use of the tour guide
On some escorted tours, the tour guide will join you in all the activities and trips, and these professional travellers are adept at getting strangers to 'gel' together as a group. Since they make it their business to know a little about everyone, and they have all the information about the itinerary, not to mention great places to eat or visit, they can often introduce you to others looking to go on the same excursions or heading out for a bite to eat, so don't be afraid to pick their brains a little.
Group holidays can be great fun, and the chances are you'll meet at least one or two people with the same attitudes and interests on a singles holiday. But there are moments when you need a little 'alone time', whether that's a quiet meal or a wander around the city. If you're keen to get away from the group for a while, do so by all means, but do make the hotel or tour guide know when you plan to be back so that someone is aware that you are heading out on your own.
As with any holiday, it's best not to advertise your tourist credentials by carrying a guidebook or map. If you lose your way, mention that you are meeting a friend when you ask for directions, just to be on the safe side.
For any mature single, the idea of travelling solo can be scary, but find the right holiday and you could make some great friends, so take the plunge and book. If nothing else, you'll still be able to enjoy those amazing places you've dreamed about.
Do you regularly travel solo? What advice would you give to other seniors holidaying alone? Leave your comments below...