Solo travel is on the rise for women over 55.
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Sixty-eight percent of travelers who booked a trip alone in 2017 were women, and that number increased to 73 percent, according to the most recent data from New York City-based luxury vacation booking platform Black Tomato.
Some of the most popular destinations for solo travel in 2019 were Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, Switzerland, Machu Picchu, Japan, and New Zealand, Amy Hellman, a travel expert for Black Tomato told FOX Business. Hellman says solo travel is especially prevalent among women over 55 because its a time when many have more freedom to get away.
“Many of our female travelers in this age range are, for the first time in their lives, free of young children, a spouse, a demanding carer or other responsibilities that previously prevented them from travel and adventure,” Hellman said.
“Solo travel has rid itself of an antiquated stigma of being exclusively for the lone wolf backpacker and has instead shifted to the concept of opportunity for self-development to gain a deep sense of place and focus,” Hellman said.
Indeed, going solo is a way for many to unplug, embark on hobbies and find a renewed sense of purpose while giving back, some travelers say.
Betsy Rapoport, a White Plains, New York-based book editor, was looking for a luxury vacation beyond sitting on the beach.
“I wanted a sense of mission. I wanted to travel with some kind of purpose,” Rapoport, 60, told FOX Business of seeking out a solo excursion she found out about through a friend.
She signed up for Roar Africa last June, a six-day women’s retreat starting in the semi-desert of South Africa’s Karoo, culminating with a safari at Tswalu in the semi-arid savanna of the Kalahari Desert. The trip featured intimate talks by female speakers in South Africa across fields of philanthropy, business, science and conservation. Rapoport and a group of under a dozen women got to meet female business leaders like Lucy King, a Kenya-based zoologist who heads a program for the research charity Save the Elephants, which has a mission to fight ivory poaching and thwart traffickers. Guests could also indulge in luxury experiences like spa treatments and infinity poolside cocktails. Part of the trip’s proceeds went toward education and professional development for impoverished African women.
“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll have this fun adventure.’ I wasn’t expecting to have all of these new and meaningful friendships,” Rapoport said of the women she met on the retreat. “We’re continuing to stay connected. I’m rethinking how I want to reinvest my money.”
Like Rapoport, baby boomers spent $6,621 on travel in 2019, which is 35 percent higher compared to 2018, according to data from AARP. And with solo traveling on the rise among women of this demographic, many travel companies have launched niche itineraries catering to solo travelers, particularly women.
Outdoor goods retailer REI’s travel vertical, REI Adventures, has a Women’s Trips category that features women-only excursions from backpacking through Yosemite to trekking through Machu Picchu, and a Greek Islands adventure with prices ranging from $975 to $4,899.
Intrepid Travel, a company that specializes in adventurous expeditions, created six tours across Egypt, Vietnam, Morocco and Costa Rica tailored to single parents traveling with their kids. The trip itineraries allow kids to make friends with others their age while single moms and dads can meet others from a similar family dynamic.
And trips geared toward people who have suffered a breakup or even a loss have surged in recent years. A new app called Breakup Tours aims to help people heal after calling it quits with a spouse or partner. The service provides solo travel packages to help users heal emotionally with more than 100 activities in cities around the world. The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, a nonprofit in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, hosts grief retreats that offer physical and mental exercises like hiking, yoga and writing prompts for people who have experienced a loss.
Carol Gee, an Atlanta-based author, 69, is the primary caregiver for her husband, who has been suffering with chronic health issues for the past 27 years. He’d encourage her to take solo trips for a little rest and relaxation. Gee, a retired veteran who served in the military reserve, ventured to Oklahoma and often travels through Florida, or, she says, just about anywhere she doesn’t have to cook, do laundry or pick up after herself.
“Whenever I can I’ll take a short trip to unwind and regroup,” Gee said.
And getting away for a short weekend doesn’t have to break the bank. Gee says she’d stay at budget-friendly motels where she can utilize AAA, military or senior discounts where a room will run her around $79 a night. While she’s away she’ll frequent a casino or play bingo. One year, she even won $1,058 on a penny slot machine, she said, which covered the cost of her trip with some extra cash to spare.
Gee says the time away from her husband was tough, but also helped her channel her “me time.”
“After three or four days I’m rested, he misses me and I miss him,” she said.
Spending time away from your significant other could be better for the relationship, psychologists suggest. Being away from your partner is important because it gives individuals time to reflect on the relationship and pursue hobbies or interests they love individually, according to a “Psychology Today.” article by Theresa DiDonato, a social psychologist and author of “Meet, Catch and Keep.”