Tammy Weiler is no stranger to solo vacations. She took a number of them in her 20s and 30s, visiting museums in Paris, temples in Thailand, beaches in Brazil and historic sights throughout Spain.
And she never had a problem entertaining herself on the road—until mealtime.
“I was OK during the day," says Weiler, a single 45-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., "but it was really hard during dinner because it was intimidating dining alone at nice restaurants.”
Motivated by her experience, in 1993 Weiler started Singles Travel International, a company which offers upscale trips for those flying solo. It plans 30 yearly tours to spots such as Paris, the Caribbean and Africa. Each enrolls between 15 to 30 people and offers clients structured days with free time built in.
On a trip to Italy this month, for example, clients will be able to tour St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the morning and have the afternoon free to roam Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori and sample gelato at San Crispino. And solo meals need never be feared. That's because dinners on these trips are group affairs. Those selecting the company's annual African safari gather under an outdoor pavilion overlooking the bush in Kenya and enjoy hearty African meat stews and game such as ostrich or buffalo.
But a vacation doesn't have to be geared specifically towards singles to make it appealing to the unattached.
“A good kind of trip to take if you’re traveling alone is one that offers lots of activities and chances to meet people but also lets you be alone and have unstructured time if you want it,” says Lea Lane, author of "Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips". “Most people can get intimidated traveling by themselves, but it can be very freeing because you have the ultimate choice in what you get to do.”
One such outing is a six-night yoga retreat at the Hotel Isle de France in St. Barth. Solo travelers can take daily group yoga classes on the beach or at the spa's indoor studio. For the solitary, there are meditation classes, and a spa menu that includes outdoor Thai massage and spine treatments. Afternoons are generally free, so singles will have plenty of time to explore the island and its many beaches on their own or with others on the retreat. They can also unwind in one of the hotel’s 34 guest rooms—each one has a spacious marble bath and overlooks lush gardens.
Luxury tour operators are also stepping up to cater to the solo traveler.
Earlier this year, Abercrombie & Kent started "Signature," a collection of trips in which single travelers can opt to take part in the day's planned group events or sightsee on their own with the aid of an A&K-provided private car and driver. A&K will also arrange meals with other solo travelers on the group's nearby tours.
The company’s two-week "Signature" journey through China hits sights like the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai and the Forbidden City in Beijing. Travelers stay at hotels such as the Four Seasons in Shanghai and The Peninsula in Beijing and dine in spots like the private China Club in Beijing. This trip especially caters to business buffs; A&K tour operators will even arrange meetings with local entrepreneurs.
Learning vacations are another great option for the unattached. At the cooking school at the Villa San Michele in Tuscany, students use local ingredients like tomatoes and olive oil to create dishes such as pastas and pizzas in servings for one. Participants also learn how to craft dishes for entertaining groups and how to improvise meals for unexpected guests.
The villa has 46 rooms, which overlook the Tuscan countryside and have walnut or cherry handmade furniture. Since the property is near Florence, singles can take in the historic sights in the city like the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo on their downtime.
Ready-made companionship is great, but what if you are a baby boomer and end up on a trip with just-minted college grads? To avoid this, several tour operators group clients by age. Weiler, for instance, offers excursions for singles in their 30s and 40s, and for those in their 50s and 60s. Contiki, a Toronto-based travel company, hosts weekly summertime cruises of the Greek Islands for singles 18 to 35. For the middle-aged set, there's United Kingdom-based Solo Holidays. It's offering an eight-day trip to Italy this September for singles 45 and older.
Options like these mean there's no need to groan when going it alone.