To travel solo or in a group, that is the question. For some, it’s a no-brainer to go solo, but for others, traveling in a group is the best fit.
You don’t even need to be a pro traveler to travel solo, nor do you need to be a newbie to want to go in a group. It’s all personal preference. One that I’ve struggled with for years!
I remember my first solo trip to New Orleans. It was a whole new world! I could get up when I wanted, change plans last minute, blow my budget, and do whatever else I wanted to do. There wasn’t anyone to consult. On the other hand, I’ve traveled with my group of friends a few times and there’s never been a dull or lonely moment.
There’s just something liberating about traveling solo, but there’s also something so comforting about exploring new places with friends and family.
Below, we’ll go over some more details to help you figure out which is best for you. Then, you can move on to planning your trip!
Factor #1: Freedom To Go Where You Want And When
You’ll never know the freedom that comes with getting up and deciding that you want to spend the day at that museum you’ve been eyeing until you travel alone. There’s no pressure to rush through it, either. No one to appease that might not want to spend hours looking at ancient artifacts with you.
Also, you don’t have to worry about sitting at a club or bar when you’d rather be exploring the nearest bookstore. You get the point.
Even though it’s awesome to change plans and explore alone, there might be a few new things that you’d miss out on. Friends make you do things that you never thought would be fun, like the time that I went hiking in Mexico for the first time in my life.
Despite the mosquitos buzzing around and almost falling down the hill (even with guides), I’d do it all again!
Factor #2: Budgeting
Your wallet is the limit when you travel alone! There’s no need to feel guilty about spending a lot of money on clothes, food, or activities. When you’re in a group, you have to be empathetic towards other people’s budgets (especially if there was a set amount for the trip to begin with).
If you go with the right people (people who don’t balk at the idea of a set budget…), then it’s a good way to curb your spending. Another good idea is to go with people who have the same or similar income that you do. This way, they won’t be as prone to pressure you to overspend to reach their “level”.
Factor #3: Safety In Numbers
I know, I know. The fear of getting into a bad situation is a safety issue that a lot of women struggle with when it comes to solo female travel. I include myself in this, so don’t think that I’ve overcome my fear because I haven’t. Maybe at this point, it would be considered extraordinary self-awareness!
When I visited New Orleans, I felt freer than ever before, but I was also more cautious because I was alone in a strange city. I didn’t want to go out at night, either. If I did find myself farther away from my hotel and it was getting dark, then I would take a Lyft or Uber. I was already being catcalled and approached by men in broad daylight, so I didn’t want to be out there at night for sure!
You’ll have to decide if the safety factor is a deal-breaker for you at this time. It doesn’t have to be avoided indefinitely, but you can get more comfortable with traveling in the meantime.
Having a good group of friends who won’t let the weirdos at the bar try to dance with you is amazing! Or, better yet, having a few guys in the mix (even though they’re harmless) definitely makes you seem more “protected”. Of course, you’ll want to be cautious and watch over yourself, but it never hurts to have extra people around.
Now, hopefully, you choose some friends to travel with who care about you. If, once on the trip, you find that they really aren’t concerned about whether or not you make it home that night…I’d act like I’m solo traveling and just watch out more.
Factor #4: Loneliness
Have you ever gone to sit in a restaurant alone and felt like everyone there felt bad for you? That’s what you’ll feel like on your solo trip when you do activities alone. It can make you feel self-conscious until you snap yourself out of it. Who says that you need someone to go hiking or painting with?
Even though that’s a part of solo travel, there’s a sense of loneliness that pops up. I mean, I’ll go solo in a heartbeat, but loneliness creeps in when you’re alone for 2 – 3 weeks or months. We’re human. I don’t think it’s wrong or weird that we crave human connection.
To combat feeling lonely, you can always try to meet new people while doing local activities. Also, If you’re staying in a hostel/shared housing, then get to know your neighbors.
Well, if you’re traveling with a group, I would hope that you’re not lonely! This one goes back to choosing the right people to travel with, whether or not it’s your best friend, family, or a Black girl travel group.
No one wants to plan what would have been a fun trip and spend it isolated or ostracized. Not fun.
Factor #5: Authenticity
We all know that social media isn’t reality, and it just seems that those amazing insta-worthy travel photos take the cake. On Instagram, you never know if the person actually enjoyed themselves or if they just wanted to look cool.
I like to live in the moment and most often end up forgetting to take pictures of myself enjoying the scene. Instead, I take pictures of the landscape, art, and artifacts.
Going solo traveling gives you the chance to just be. You want to enjoy the place without the pressure to take photos to impress your friends about family.
Being authentic while taking photos or videos of your group travels can go either way. For example, they can be as authentic as someone taking random pictures of everyone because they want to capture the moment. This happens on my group trips, mainly because we’re all in different states and rarely get to come together in one place besides Zoom.
We get to look back on those memories and actually feel good about the trip and our friendships.
Let’s say that you’re with a group that you normally don’t hang around. Taking pictures with them isn’t going to resonate with you as much. I’m sure it’ll be a nice picture to share, but you’ll forget about it quickly.
Bottom line: Authenticity becomes important when you’re with significant people in your life. You won’t care about showing up for social media when the pictures are a result of your enjoyment rather than the cause.
How To Make Solo Travel Better For You
- Be more cautious than you would in a group
- Plan out a loose itinerary in advance so that you don’t waste time under the guise of just “going with the flow” (nobody has time to waste money traveling just to sit in the hotel room thinking about places to go!)
- Don’t be afraid to do things that you’ve been dreaming about for a long time
- Don’t feel obligated to share what you’re doing on social media – it might change what you decide to do if you’re not worrying about doing the more popular or touristy things
How To Make Group Travel Better For You
- Pick the right people to go with!
- These people can make or break your trip if they are negative, too broke to have fun, or not adventurous enough for you. Your travel appetites should mostly match up
- Make some time to be alone – do things without the group that make you happy or split the group up and do things with 2 – 3 people rather than 5-6 or more people.
- For introverts – take a book or your favorite book. Make it a requirement that you get to unwind at the end of the night; you’ll feel better overall if you have time to recharge from a long day out with your friends
- Don’t plan events back-to-back with a big group – somebody will get hungry, tired, annoyed, leave their wallet at home, or just want to do something else that popped up. Leave space for changes that everyone agrees with
- Pick the right person to sleep with and drive with:
- Crazy drivers should drive crazy drivers
- Safe drivers should drive safe drivers
- Night owls should sleep with night owls
- Morning people should sleep with morning people/early risers
- Snorers might have to sleep alone…
Which do you prefer? Are you a solo travel extraordinaire or do you love group adventures? Why?
Tell me about your solo and group travel experiences down below – the good, the bad, and the juicy!
No matter which one you choose, make sure to get your Traveler’s Planning Pack before you go!
Thanks for reading,