10 Mistakes To Avoid As A Solo Retired Traveler
Consumers are now taking the plunge into solo travel, despite rising costs and higher interest rates.
Traveling alone during retirement is nothing new, and millions of retirees and more mature adults are enjoying the excitement of experiencing a new country or culture by themselves.
Most recent statistics indicate that 16% of people in the United States have taken a vacation by themselves, that’s more than 53 million Americans embarking on a solo adventure. More surprisingly an additional 83 million of them are planning a solo trip in the coming months and years even as the cost burden weighs on their budgets. Although it is more difficult and more expensive to travel solo, many consumers find it easier. They have greater freedom and flexibility to go to the places and experiences they want. With the rise in travel, more and older Americans are now exploring solo travel. However, it can be difficult to plan for.
The most recent data from 2016 suggest that out of the 32 million Americans older than 65 years that live alone, more than 10% of them tend to travel alone or embark on a solo adventure at least once during their retirement.
Going back even further to 2014 we see that travelers aged 45 years and up were highly satisfied with their solo experience, and a majority – 81% – said they were already planning on taking another single-person adventure in the 12 months that followed after the survey was conducted by The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
David Stewart, CEO of travel aggregator Guide to Europe tells that, “consumers shouldn’t feel restricted to travel because of their age, we see all sorts of people taking advantage of solo travel these days, regardless of their age and that shows to us as a team how we can make a difference in other people’s lives through the services we provide them.”
Age is indeed just a number, but that number does come with a lot of challenges and risks if you end up booking the wrong holiday or not doing proper research. To make matters easier, here’s a look at some of the mistakes many retirees come face-to-face with when they plan for a solo trip.
1. Not knowing your physical limitations
At any given age or period in your life, you have encountered an activity that has pushed you to your limits. Whether you’re a young 20-something, or recently stepped out of the workforce and into retirement – we all have our limits. As a retiree looking to take a solo trip in your golden years, it is important to know your physical limitations and how you can plan a trip to meet them. Before you begin planning, consult your doctor for a professional opinion about your health. You might feel as if you’re in the best shape you’ve ever been, but it’s best to be prepared and know what you can and cannot do while you’re on holiday.
2. Not effectively planning
Traveling comes with a lot of planning, from choosing a destination, booking tickets, deciding on accommodation options, and looking for fun, yet applicable activities to do within your means. If you ask any travel professional or someone who travels solo, they will tell you about the benefits of planning ahead. There is good reason for it.
First, last-minute travel deals can be expensive. Second, it is important to plan ahead for your trip. Once you have a clear idea of where you want to go, it is time to consider how you will get around or if you are able to travel alone.
Additionally, you need to think of things such as clinics and hospitals in case of a medical emergency, or if you need a prescription refilled while abroad. If you are a first-timer, you may need to renew or apply for a passport. This all takes time and requires some upfront money to cover the costs so it’s best to start planning early.
3. Ignoring budget-friendly group options
While you may be thinking of taking a solo trip, often due to financial or personal limitations, you will be required to make some adjustments. Do your research to see if there are any group travel options that are affordable.
Group travel packages are often specifically designed and planned around senior citizens, to ensure they can get the most out of their experience and the best bang for their buck. You may also find other people with the same wanderlust passion, depending on where you travel groups may be.
Travel agents and several travel aggregators have travel groups that visit some exciting and interesting places, both abroad and back home as well.
4. Skipping the travel insurance
The chances of you ever using your travel insurance are somewhat unlikely, but you can never be too safe, especially when you’re traveling by yourself. Travel insurance is a safe and simple way to protect your belongings and cover unexpected costs like a cancelled flight.
In some cases, travel insurance can also be helpful in the event of a medical emergency or if you are admitted to a hospital in another country. In some cases, you may need insurance to cover you for losing your passport or if you have to fly home.
There are a lot of reasons why travel insurance is important, and it’s best to follow up with your health insurance provider, or credit card company about the type of coverage they may already be offering in your current policy, or if you will be required to take out a temporary policy while overseas.
5. Choosing the wrong destination
Once you have some idea of where you want to go, you will need to start researching whether they cater to your needs and meet all your requirements.
Most destinations cater to travelers of all ages. While this has allowed travelers to roam freely, there are always some things that could cause inconveniences.
If you plan to visit a remote location, think about how you will get there. This includes whether you will travel by plane, train or boat. Also, how long it will take. How will you get around the sights once you are there? Are the locals fluent in English? If so, will they be able to help you?
Make sure to choose a destination that’s closely related to where you’re from, as this will not only help you get around easier but also make the trip more enjoyable.
6. Going all out from the start
Now that you’re retired, you might be looking to squeeze in as much traveling as possible. Although this is possible, it is easy to go too far on your first trip, which can leave you with a bad taste in the mouth. As you plan your solo trip, consider how you can balance travel and relaxation without getting too involved in the whole experience. While you want to see and visit as many places and as many places as you can, it is important to make a list of the most important items and then narrow it down to a few choices.
Take enough time to make sure you are in the right shape to travel alone, not only for your safety, but also for things such as carrying your luggage, standing in long queues at the airport, or having to walk long distances.
7. Breaking the bank
With travel costs up across the board, from airline tickets to lodging and even car rental, you will need to have a travel budget at hand to make sure you don’t spend all of your savings on a single trip. Once you have a clear idea of where you want to go, it is possible to create a budget that includes transportation and accommodation, car rental, food, and food. You will also need to budget for excursions and activities, such as admission to museums and parks. Senior travel packages and promotions are available all year for retired people. More so, if you have a travel rewards card, you can make use of the senior citizen benefits, or look for deals that are specifically tailored to your age group.
8. Not properly making use of technology
Nowadays it’s possible to book an entire trip in one single click. Even more amazing is the fact you can book, book, and pay for your holiday using one mobile app.
Technology and digital tools have brought the world closer together, and it has made it easier to travel more conveniently.
Before you travel, make sure to research the best travel apps for abroad. You can also play with the app to ensure you feel confident enough to use it on your own.
Technology has done incredible things for us, and not properly utilizing it will result in costly and inconvenient mistakes.
9. Assuming things are still like they used to be
Often we have a certain level of expectation before we embark on an exotic holiday. Even though things may have been different when you were younger, it is unlikely that they are the same today.
There is a lot that can change through the years, and you will be able to notice it within your retirement community as well. It’s important to set realistic expectations when you travel abroad. You can do some research or ask your friends if they have been there recently.
If you have an idea of what you might encounter, it’s best to consider that through the years things may have changed a bit, regardless of the current state of affairs.
10. Not doing it sooner
A lot of mature adults will often leave traveling until retirement, simply because they will have more time and money to do so once they leave the workforce. Single retirees are more likely to not travel alone because they feel limited by their health or lack of companionship.
While these are valid reasons to travel later than usual, it is better to plan ahead and make sure you have as many experiences as possible.
Retirement gives you more freedom and flexibility to travel whenever and as often as you like, for as long as it suits you. This is the best time to take in the simple pleasures of life and make the most out of your golden years.
The bottom line
Traveling solo has its perks, but it does come with some considerations at the same time. Retirees who want to travel solo will need to be aware of all the latest trends and information. This will help them plan memorable vacations.
Solo travelers should have a plan of where they want to travel, what it will cost, and how they will explore the area once they’re there. You should also make sure that you have arranged accommodation before you travel and that you have informed your family and friends back home about your plans. A well-planned holiday will make your retirement more enjoyable and relaxing.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.