It’s difficult to decide if it’s better to travel solo or with a group of friends or family. Each person is different and has different expectations from traveling and each approach comes with its own set of challenges – but also advantages.
After reading this in-depth article debating whether you should travel with friends or travel solo, you will be able to make a more educated decision.
There are people who travel solo and wouldn’t do it any other way, while others would never consider exploring the world all by themselves.
My recommendation? Based on the lists of Pros and Cons below, create a document – or write on a piece of paper – what matters the most for you to be able to decide which approach works best for you.
Pros of solo travel
Note: This part about solo travel is written by Cristine from Best Holiday Blog. She loves to travel solo, as opposed to my approach which is always to travel with a group (usually, my family).
I hope that bringing two travelers, each with their own set of values and preferences, will make this more complete and useful, covering ALL the aspects that a single traveler wouldn’t be able to.
Cristine wanted to start by being brutally honest: My bias should be obvious: I not only travel solo and advocate for my friends to do the same but I also had some pretty poor experiences in the past by choosing the “NOT” Mr Right to travel with.
Just because I believe this is the best travel type for me, it doesn’t mean it is for you and there are plenty of pros and cons to both solo and accompanied travel. But, for my big ego, do choose team Cristine at the end!
Now, here are the Pros I see for traveling solo:
1. Doing what you want, when you want
This one may not sound like a big deal, but it sure is. Sometimes, when you’re traveling with someone else you might want to go to a town they don’t want to visit, go out for a drink when they want to get up early, eat something they don’t like, visit a place they don’t want to and so on.
Whatever it is, you don’t need to worry about it when you’re traveling on your own.
Being your own boss can be super liberating and setting your schedule exactly as you want it to be is perfect and probably the biggest Pro of traveling solo.
Calin’s note: I totally agree with this. I consider this to be the biggest advantage of solo traveling, by far.
2. More open to meeting locals and making new friends
On my solo adventures, I’ve had so much interaction with locals I know I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to have if I wasn’t on my own.
Many locals see me by myself as less intimidating than travelers who’re in groups and will make more effort to communicate with me.
Because I plan out my days myself and my time is my own, I can plan more time for these interactions and to put locals who might not have a great command of English at ease so we can talk longer and have more meaningful interactions.
Many people say that this happens simply because I am a solo female traveler – which might be true – but in the end, if you are cheerful and happy and open to meeting new people, gender shouldn’t stand in your way and it’s a lot easier to both approach others and be approached by others when you’re traveling alone.
It also makes sense from a psychological point of view: when you’re already in a group, you are already confined within its borders and less open (or willing, or needing) to meet new people.
3. More portable
Traveling solo, I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities that others have been unable to take advantage of.
I will always remember a visit to Laos, where I met some people who were going to the blue lagoon.
I could jump on their motorbike, avoiding the $20 tuk tuk ride and split costs for bridge fees, etc. We could also leave when everyone was ready, not when the tuk tuk driver got bored.
Does this mean that it was accompanied travel? Not really – even though I went with a group on that particular occasion.
It was about being portable and ready to easily be part of somebody else’s plans if I wanted to!
4. You could pay less for accommodation
Depending on the places you use to choose for accommodation, you can end up spending a lot less than if you were to travel with family or somebody else.
This only goes if you follow Calin’s route (or anybody else who travels with family): he rents places with 2 bedrooms, so his wife and him have a separate bedroom from the kid. This greatly increases the prices for accommodation.
Myself, on the other hand, can easily live in a cheap hostel room or a studio without a problem.
Most couples without kids (and maybe then some with kids) could live in a studio as well, therefore sharing the costs and resulting in paying less.
So this pro really depends on the people in question and how they like their accommodation to be, but in general, you can end up paying a lot less than a couple or family has to if you travel solo.
5. You will learn more (about yourself and your strengths)
Traveling alone is definitely not easy, and it does come with a ton of challenges. Simply getting out of your comfort zone – that bubble that keeps you safe and sane wherever you are – is a huge win.
You will have to take decisions on a whim, and take them you will. Sometimes, you will feel the pressure, sometimes you will be overwhelmed, sometimes you’ll feel lost and disoriented… but trust me, you will always figure it out and pick the best solution or route or whatnot.
Traveling alone will help you push your limits higher, learn more about yourself and get you out of your comfort zone, preparing you to confront like a pro the challenges life has in store for you. And all these will result in a massive boost to your confidence!
Cons of solo travel
It’s not all pros when it comes to solo travel, I have to give you that. Depending on your personality type, the cons can be real deal breakers.
This is why it’s important to carefully analyze both sides and make an educated decision based on your own situation and personality.
1. You will feel lonely when solo traveling
Although I delight in my own company since I am an introvert, I still get and feel lonely at times when traveling solo. Not as lonely as you would think I do but it can happen… and that’s not pleasant.
No matter how friendly you are, you will rarely make real friends on the road and sometimes you will feel the need to have somebody who’s really close to you to confide in, to say some nice words or give you a hug or a can of ice cream.
This can be a problem when traveling alone, especially if you don’t travel slowly to permit those more complex relationships to form.
2. No-one to take care of you when you’re sick
I’m a little funny on this one. Although no-one can take care of you the way they would at home with all of the love and attention, you still do find people will help you out!
I’ve had a guest house owner take care of me when I was sick in Laos and I often find locals who will take care of me similar to how they would their own children.
But generally and in most occasions, when you get sick, you get to suffer alone (see the first reason above, again).
Nobody to do the shopping for you, nobody to go buy the meds if you don’t have them, nobody to prepare a tea or hold your hand. This sucks and is for me the worst part of solo travel.
3. It is often more expensive to travel solo
This one is difficult to avoid. Single supplements on tours or hotel rooms can be painful as you’re paying the same amount for a room that the four girls next door are splitting among themselves.
Various other costs are higher when traveling solo – from food (on a per person basis) to entertainment and everything in between.
It’s not a rule though and some people who are used to living frugally, can really do it without spending much – so money spent can be both a Pro and a Con, depending on how you do it.
4. Less security
This is more of a thing that you feel instead of what actually happens, but in the end it only has to happen once to scar you forever. Like that time I got robbed in Bogota.
There are always all sorts of dangers when traveling in places outside of your comfort zone and usually, if it’s more than one person, you are automatically safer.
As a single female traveling the world, you are even more exposed to certain dangers in some places – you can read, for example, how safe is Istanbul for solo female travelers.
But these things can happen anywhere in the world and can be avoided by solid planning and simply staying away from dangerous areas (and at home at night). But yes, it is generally safer (even if only just in your mind) to travel with a group.
Pros of Group Travel
Now it’s me, Calin, taking over and sharing the Pros (then the Cons) of traveling with a group. I am a fan of this type of travel for plenty of reasons, but I will stick to the most important ones below.
1. It usually is cheaper (per person) to travel with a group
Often, solo travelers find one another just for this reason – to keep costs low – so you know it’s important to travel with someone else.
Sometimes you can save big (and see things you normally wouldn’t otherwise) by hiring a car with someone or a few someones and splitting the cost.
Same goes for accommodation. Six friends split a huge apartment they found on Airbnb and it costs them less than it would to stay in a small hostel dorm for the same period. You get better quality too, in most cases.
Most of the other costs decrease on a per-person basis when traveling as a couple or family and there are additional discounts you might enjoy in certain places – like family tickets or special rates, while food costs are also generally lower per person since you reduce waste.
2. Always someone there to look after you
Getting sick when you travel really sucks and although many people have a story about a great fellow traveler or accommodation owner/manager who really looked after them, many others would prefer to just bring their own nurse with them.
(Yes, I’m referencing Cristine’s Con here).
And even though we usually get to share our illnesses with our partners and they will get that nasty cold eventually… it’s still better to brave it out together than alone and miserable in a random room out there in the world.
Also, who’s not taking their bags with them into the bathroom? Those who don’t travel alone!
3. You can grow closer to the person you’re traveling with
The first time I traveled accompanied was with my best friend from high school. As best friends, we didn’t really believe that the bond can get much stronger, but after traveling just for seven days together, things improved a lot.
We’ve always been close but spending some quality one-on-one time together was really good for us.
When we got home, we had so many shared stories to laugh about together and a much stronger friendship.
The same goes when traveling as a family. Even though I know my wife for over two decades now, traveling together simply helps us understand each other’s needs and wants and overall helps us do better.
4. The “safety blanket” feeling
Truth is the world really isn’t as dangerous as we’re told it is, even for women traveling the world alone.
But, as an opposite to a con listed for solo travel, I have to list this as a pro here: you’re usually safer if you travel accompanied.
Baddies rarely target groups of people when there are easier targets out there – and even though in most places you don’t even have to worry about this, you simply feel safer when part of a group.
5. It’s easier to stay sane
The general rule is that when you travel with somebody else, it’s easier for you to stay sane, and the advantage of having somebody who knows you, understands you and can be talked with at any given moment is a huge bonus.
When you have a dilemma, you can simply talk it out with your partner or friend.
When you don’t know what your next move should be, you can talk things out. When you need to have a meaningful conversation – there’s again your partner there for you.
6. Traveling with a group is more fun
Most things are more fun if they’re done in a group and traveling in a pair or with a larger group definitely makes everything a lot more fun and entertaining.
Yes, you can now take photos virtually everywhere and share your experiences with your friends and family thousands of miles away… but this still isn’t nowhere near being in an amazing place with your loved one (or just a really good friend) and actually sharing that experience.
Also, if you like to party or have a nice chat at the restaurant during your meal, this is also easier when traveling as with a group – no matter how small!
Cons of Group Travel
I won’t lie – even though there are many big benefits of traveling with your family or part of a group, there are a few important cons that need to be considered too. Let’s check them out!
1. Compromise sucks pretty bad, sometimes
Ask any married person and they’ll tell you: compromises suck.
Sometimes the “compromise” moment can be met with, “well, why don’t you do the thing you really want to do and I’ll do the thing I really want to do and we can meet up later.” But often, somebody will have to give up and give in.
And this will always happen, no matter how like-minded and great of a connection you have with your travel partner(s).
But it’s part of the deal and in a small number of occasions, accepting to do what you don’t really want to just for the sake of your partner can turn into a surprisingly positive experience.
But on other occasions, you’ll just get more stressed, so it’s definitely a Con. Especially when we’re talking about travel for shorter periods of time.
Usually, if you travel slowly as I like to, it’s a lot easier to eventually do everything everybody wants and keep the need for compromises to a minimum.
2. Travel can ruin relationships that are not very strong
I don’t see this one as often as you’d think, but it has to be considered.
Personally, I had one friendship that dissipated after we traveled together but honestly, I think a lot of that was going to happen anyway. It wasn’t a strong relationship. Do keep this in mind though when choosing travel partners.
However, I would add that the stronger the relationship, the better the chances of it getting stronger instead of broken into pieces when the travel’s over.
But it’s just as couple life – many move in together only to realize that they can’t do it. Same goes with traveling with a group: sometimes, you’re better off when there’s some distance in between.
3. All of someone’s annoying habits and character traits WILL come out when they travel
This basically comes hand in hand with the con above, but it can be a standalone reason too and not as much as a friendship breaker. But…
I can’t take a poo if there’s a single person – friend or foe – on a one-kilometer radius to my toilet. Nor can I get any work done if there’s any bit of noise around (yup, difficult to me to work in coworking spaces or cafes).
One of my good friends cannot think well in the heat whereas her boyfriend is hyper moody and depressed when it’s cold.
We all have traits that make us difficult to live with at times. Recognizing yours may make you a better travel partner, but there will always be something bothering somebody.
And these things tend to become more and more annoying as time goes by, as an annoying habit or trait will start to frustrate you more and more by default.
So really, don’t plan a long travel experience with somebody you don’t know really well!
4. It can be more expensive
Again, this is something that varies from person to person, but traveling as a couple – or with family – can be more expensive than traveling solo. It all depends on what money you’re relying on.
Let me explain!
If you’re traveling on a single income or on savings, then you will automatically drain those money faster when there are more mouths to feed.
There could be other examples where one of the partners in a family can’t work or generate income – either due to them being in between jobs or for example if kids are involved and somebody has to homeschool them and take care of them at all times.
In that particular case – when you’re relying on the same amount of money to pay for an additional person or more, it’s automatically more expensive to travel accompanied.
And kids are increasing the costs a lot. Depending on their age, they might enjoy free accommodation, but it’s usually just a discount. And they do have to eat, maybe get new clothes and visit places with you.
So even though on a per-person basis, it will almost always be cheaper to travel as part of a group, it’s not as good if the same budget that could’ve been used for a solo traveler now has to be split between two or more.
I personally am all for traveling accompanied and I find traveling alone (especially for longer periods of time) unsatisfying and more stressful.
I am a bit more old school, that is true: I still find it strange to take a million selfies, I find it strange to eat alone in a restaurant and it’s really not that fun to explore the world alone and not share a small thing I see here or there with somebody I care about.
So in my case, slow traveling together with my family is definitely what I love doing.
But this doesn’t mean that it’s the one and only option out there. It doesn’t even mean that traveling with a group is a better idea than traveling alone.
Each comes with its own set of pros and cons and you have to decide which are the more bearable in your case. But at least now you know which these Pros and Cons are for each situation and it’s easier to make a decision.
So… what is it for you? Do you prefer to travel alone or part of a group?