TOKYO 2020: Travel Agents Tips for First-Timers
February 26, 2020
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Have you ever wished you could click your heels three times and find yourself peacefully ensconced alone in a luxury villa somewhere remote—no kids or colleagues pestering you for anything?
How’s the serenity? Credit: Artem Beliaikin from Pexels.
Or are you the type of traveller that likes the company of others on a small group tour but without a specific companion? Do you like exploring cities or wild places on your own, just you and your thoughts in sync? There are many reasons why someone might travel alone, and it's a style of travel that's gaining in popularity. More and more, travel agencies, tour and cruise operators are creating experiences and options for solo travellers, offering reduced 'single supplements' for example, which is great news.
We certainly understand the appeal of solo travel, but what are the downsides? What else should you consider before venturing off on your own?
To find out, we asked some ATAS-accredited travel agents for their personal solo-travel experiences and thoughts on the subject. Here's what they had to say.
"The real beauty of solo travel is that the only person you have to please is you! You can spend every minute satisfying your own travel interests," says Jenny
Farrell – Corporate Travel Manager at Sanford International Travel, a travel agency in Sydney.
Jenny Farrell enjoying a solo adventure. Credit: Jenny Farrell.
And while that might sound indulgent, Jenny says that solo travel provides a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself. As she puts it, "You never really know how amazing you truly are until you only have yourself to rely on."
Having said that, Jenny notes that there's a social upside too, if you're open to it. "If you do want to make connections, it can be easier to meet people and mix with the locals when you're on your own as you're more approachable than if you're in a group or with companions," she says.
There are some practical benefits, too, as Jenny points out: "When you're on your own, there's never any unpleasant haggling over split-bills or taxi fares."
For Jenny, there's only really one downside to solo travel: the selfie.
The solo selfie. Credit: Hassan OUAJBIR from Pexels.
"The selfie screams 'I have no friends!'", she quips. Her top tip for a solo traveller considering a small group tour?
"I always recommend that solo travellers pay the single-supplement for their own room. Small group tours are a lottery, and that's part of the charm—a mixed bag of random folk often from all over the world who come together to share a travel experience. But I don't think you need to share everything with strangers—least of all your room!", says Jenny.
A sometimes-solo traveller herself, Petrina Frankham, a Travel Specialist from ATAS-accredited MTA Australia, has seen the solo travel market grow in the most unexpected places.
As she recalls from a recent solo trip to the Maldives: "I was a bit nervous about heading to the Maldives on my own. I needn't have been. It was surprising just how many solo travellers there were in a place you'd expect be teeming with honeymooners and couples."
Petrina making the most of ‘me’ time in the Maldives. Credit: Petrina Frankham.
Petrina has travelled alone and with small-group escorted tours, and found both experiences empowering.
"I think travelling alone lets you put yourself out there, be in-the-moment and connect with people and cultures," she says.
But there's a downside to those very same moments as a solo traveller: "You don’t have anyone special to share the 'moments' with as they happen," she laments.
Peta Godfrey, Director at Travel Focus Group (a travel agency in Gerringong NSW) had travelled with family, friends, and even a trip with her Mum but, until recently, had never ventured out on her own. Her solo adventure was a doozy—a journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Peta about to take on Mount Kilimanjaro. Credit: Peta Godfrey.
"I decided to take on Kilimanjaro by myself. Well, not completely solo. I joined a small group expedition along with 10 strangers and 40 amazing porters, cooks and guides who helped get us to the summit!", recalls Peta.
Peta says the experience of travelling solo for the first time was an immensely positive one. "It took no time at all for the group to be well-acquainted and everyone got along famously," she says. Peta shared a tent with another female traveller, something she acknowledges can be a bit of a gamble. So, how did it turn out?
"She was an incredible person, and I have now made a friend for life—along with the rest of the group," says Peta.
For Peta, much of the motivation behind the trip was a desire to push herself physically and mentally. And travelling solo meant she could really focus on getting the most of the experience for herself.
Peta sums it up like this: "It was a really demanding journey. If I had to keep checking on or being concerned about a loved one, it may have been even tougher – and perhaps I couldn’t have done as much inward reflection as I did. That being said I was solo but not alone. We strangers became true friends over the course of the journey and all took turns encouraging one another."
Peta (left) at the summit of Kilimanjaro. Credit: Peta Godfrey.
If there were any downsides to her solo adventure, they didn't last long.
"There were definitely some butterflies, guilts and doubts as I first sat down at the airport all alone. But they quickly disappeared with each conversation I had with airport staff, baristas, cabin crew and, of course, my Kilimanjaro travel buddies. But there were certainly some moments on the tour when I wished my husband and kids were there with me," Peta recalls.
Peta’s group taking a moment. Credit: Peta Godfrey.
It would seem that some portion of the solo travel 'revolution' is being driven by people like Peta and her husband.
"My husband couldn’t think of anything worse than climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, but hiking is my thing. Likewise, I have friend who will hit the ski slopes for days on end, but her husband doesn’t share that level of enthusiasm. So once in a while they take separate trips, and everyone is happy!", she notes.
Nicole Bryan, Director at Helloworld Travel Ocean Grove in Victoria has travelled solo, and knows it can be daunting at first.
Nicole and the team from Helloworld Travel Ocean Grove. Credit: Nicole Bryan.
"It definitely takes some people out of their comfort zone," says Nicole. "But in my experience, if you pack your 'most people are nice' mentality, and open yourself up to meeting new people, you'll quickly make new friends if you want to," she adds.
For Nicole, the only real downside to solo travel is eating alone. Her solution? Take a book to read so you don’t feel awkward, and it's much less isolating than being on your phone.
"And, if you see another solo-diner, ask if feel like some company. If that doesn't work out, you've always got your book to escape to," suggests Nicole.
Sage advice, indeed.
Whether you're planning a quick weekend away or a complex round the world adventure on your own or in a group, chat to your favourite ATAS-accredited travel professional - experience you can trust.
Looking for more insights from ATAS-accredited travel agents? Try these on for size: ATAS Accredited Agents share their top travel tips for 2020; Family holidays that won't send you (or the kids) around the bend; and A world of festivals in 2020.
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