Tell me about your experiences with group travel for "solo travellers"
August 13, 2022 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been seeing ads for Flash Pack, Intrepid travel and other group travel packages for what they call "solo travellers", what are these actually like?

I am not single but my partner hates travel and my friends just aren't into food and local flavour in the same way I am, so I thought that this sort of group travel might be worth exploring. If you have direct experience with these kinds of packages, I'd love to hear what it was like. I'm particularly wondering how queer-friendly these groups are - I'm not looking necessarily for a queer focused trip, but also don't really want to be stuck in a group of hyper heteronormative suburban moms from the middle of Indiana (yes, massive stereotype, but I think it conveys a certain type). Also, in the realm of stereotypes, are these likely to be all white groups? My media consumption has left me with the impression that group travel from North America is for/about white people.

Final note: travel questions seem to elicit responses about how great it is to travel by oneself. I appreciate the sentiment and am glad some people enjoy that. I've done plenty of travel by myself, and just don't find it as rewarding as sharing the experience with someone, so I'm not looking for encouragement to travel by myself.
posted by Ensign to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I do love solo travel but sometimes do tours when I don’t want to deal with logistics, or am unsure about language barriers. I have used Intrepid Travel a few times and have always been really happy with them.

I have gone on their Original and Comfort level tours, so can’t speak to the Basic option which I think skews younger. My groups were primarily UK, Australian, and Canadian; I think at least twice I was the only USian. Mix of ages, some solo, some parent/adult child or spouses, generally middle class, quite white. Generally experienced travelers and reasonably sophisticated about other cultures. I think my groups were probably largely hetero but there was a lot of openness to people not being in stereotypical relationships.

The guides are wonderful, all local and extremely knowledgeable. Good mix of scheduled activities and free time. I really enjoyed my experiences and will go with Intrepid again.
posted by tinymojo at 9:57 PM on August 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have also traveled with Intrepid and had a similar experience as tinymojo. I would travel with them again. I ended up with a group that skewed a bit older several Australian couples who were teachers on their summer break.

There were a few other solo travelers besides me. I think some groups can skew more college/party vibe, so you might want to ask before booking.
posted by brookeb at 10:44 PM on August 13, 2022

Best answer: I too have used Intrepid a lot - trips to places I don't want to navigate solo, or when I'm short on time. Some trips have been better than others — the group hasn't really played too much into it. I've seen a wide variety of people there, POC, ages. It seems to lean more heavily towards solo women however. I've taken all levels of trips — they now split it into "18-30 something groups" which are more party oriented.

I feel the queer friendly aspect doesn't come so much from within the group but from where you're going. E.g. travel in the Middle East or conservative countries. I've also not met many Americans on these trips, more UK, AU and NZ.
posted by socky_puppy at 12:35 AM on August 14, 2022

Best answer: I have just a few things to add to tinymojo's excellent comments. I have done these kinds of package tours many times and they seem to consist of couples and single women. Very seldom see single dudes traveling on a package tour. Don't know why. What I have found is that the couples tend to hang out just with their duo while the singles tend to reach out to one another and en up doing a lot of things together. Overall, I find the singles more spontaneous, adventurous, and extroverted. YMMV.
posted by eleslie at 4:07 AM on August 14, 2022

Best answer: [Ms Fabius has the following to say...]

I am in the UK and I do a lot of group travel as a solo female - I don’t like travelling on my own (I find a shared experience much more rewarding) and like your partner, Fabius isn’t a big traveller and I always have been. Me going on group trips is a great solution for us both, even if friends and colleagues find it a bit odd that we don’t “go on holiday together”. (We do, just not group trips.)

I had the same question as you when booking my first trip after travelling independently with a friend for a couple of years, and the answer was “People like you!” - and it’s true, generally the people are well travelled and interested in new places, people and experiences. There will be people in the group who have come on their own and others who’ve come with friends/partners.

As brookeb says, the tour companies will give you a steer on the profile of the people currently booked on the trip if you ask - eg “four couples in their 70s who book a trip with us each year”. I didn’t go on that one, I was in my 20s, single, and there were only 10 spaces on the trip. Group sizes are usually 12-16 people and it’s rare to get more than 3-4 people who’ve booked as a group within that, so you usually get a mix of folks.

Each tour company has its own target market. Again, I’m UK so these examples reflect that, but they’d all take a booking from someone in the US. Intrepid is cheap & cheerful (I‘ve been to Morocco and Cambodia with them). Exodus is a bit more expensive and tends to attract an older crowd - although I’ve been doing trips with them since I was in my late 20s and am now early 50s - and if you travel during school holidays I can pretty much guarantee that there will be teachers / academics in the group. Wild Frontiers go to more “out there” destinations (Pakistan, Iran, Albania) and attract a more adventurous traveller, with the funds to splash out on interesting places to stay and things to do. KE Adventures and Mountain Kingdoms focus on trekking and outdoor activities.

Each company will offer a range of activity levels too and the combination of destination and activity level is likely to influence the composition of the group. My most recent trip was a high altitude trek which was rated “tough” and was a lot more male / competitive than any other group trip I’ve done.

If you look at the photos on their websites, you’ll get a sense of the customer they’re trying to attract, and also the people who’ve actually gone on the trip if the trip page has photos from folks who’ve been on the trip, which they often do:
posted by fabius at 6:55 AM on August 14, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure this is what you're looking for but I did a trip earlier this year with Adventure Women and really enjoyed it. It was mostly solo travelers (there was a group of three sisters) and everyone mingled. It was extremely well organized and the local guides were great. There are photos on the website.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've done a fair number trips where you book with a local(ish) tour operator for a multi-day trip but you're responsible for getting yourself there and possibly handling a day or two on either side of the trip yourself. The people in the groups tend to reflect the reputation of the destination and the price of the trip.

- If its known as a party destination, it will attract more folks in their 20s, adventure trips tend to be more people in their 30s and 40s, and "stroll around Europe" type trips attract a pretty large age range.
- The more expensive it is, the older the group will be.
- Trips to Europe and South America tend to get more North American travelers, while Southeast Asia tends to have more Europeans and Australians.
- All the group travel-y things I've done have been with groups who are pretty white.
posted by A Blue Moon at 11:01 AM on August 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I hate travel with groups and have done both intrepid and gap adventures trips with great success. They have various levels of included and in my opinion the “less included” trips are the perfect combination of familiar faces to sit with on the bus and most of my meals and days free to do what I please. They take care of the stuff you worry most about (transport, accommodation) and leave your energy more available for enjoying your trip.
posted by dazedandconfused at 4:32 PM on August 15, 2022

Response by poster: All of these answers were thoughtful, specific, and helpful! I welcome any additional responses, but wanted to acknowledge how helpful responses so far have been, and marked them all best answer. I appreciate the tips in terms of what kinds of travellers are likely to go on which trips, and the range of being with people and having alone time is appealing, so I think I'm going to seriously look into going on one of these tours.
posted by Ensign at 6:03 PM on August 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

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