Solo travel vs. group trips will always be an ongoing debate in the travel community. I get a lot of questions about adventuring alone in North America and overseas. In fact, the very first article I wrote for TAXA Outdoors was about staying safe while traveling solo. So, which one will you enjoy more? Let’s consider the pros and cons of both travel styles.
What Is Solo Travel vs. Group Travel?
Solo travel means you’ve hit the road without other people. We don’t typically count pets, but many people choose not to travel with furry or feathered friends either.
Group travel is a much more diverse description because there are many different ways people choose to do this:
- Caravanning. When most people think of group travel, this comes to mind: two or more vehicles traveling together down the highway and over rugged terrain.
- Meeting at destinations. Some people travel individually to shared destinations. This commonly happens when people travel from multiple starting points to one location.
- Moochdocking. Some people technically travel alone but usually to destinations owned by their friends. For RVers, that often means moochdocking. Non-RVers might choose to couch surf.
Solo Travel vs. Group Trips: The Benefits of Traveling Alone
I took my first solo trip to New Hampshire in 2017 to see the autumn colors. Before this, I only ever traveled with friends or to see my family. It was an eye-opening experience. That trip gave me the confidence to go to the Maldives for two weeks.
Traveling in a Muslim country alone as a woman can do wonders for your road warrior skills. Since then, it has been my preferred way to travel. Here’s why:
- Ease of planning. I don’t have to coordinate my travel plans with other people who might end up not coming at all. My trip to the Maldives was initially a group trip. Everyone canceled. The last person canceled precisely one week before we were due to fly.
- No compromise. I don’t have to compromise on what to do or when. I can sleep as late as I like and do everything I dreamed of or do absolutely nothing. If I make plans, I can change my mind without letting someone else down.
- More unique experiences. Locals are more likely to approach you when you’re traveling alone than when you’re traveling in a group. I got invitations to many local and family gatherings. I don’t think this would have been the case if I had traveled with a boyfriend or a large group.
- Total privacy. I never realized how much I love my privacy until I started RVing full-time. I love having an entire RV park to myself in the off-season, and I enjoy having the opportunity to choose when I am social and when I’m not.
- More space. I already have a small travel trailer. I can share the space short-term with someone else, but long-term, downsizing even more of my things to fit someone else’s does not appeal to me. Naturally, you can solve this problem by traveling with someone who has their own rig.
The Downside of Traveling Alone
Most full-time, solo adventurers tell me they get lonely on the road. It gets so bad that some people stop traveling altogether and search for a partner they can take with them. Here’s a closer look at the complaints:
- Loneliness. One digital nomad told me he stopped traveling because he ached for a sense of belonging. He started to feel rootless as a man wandering alone around the world. I don’t get lonely, but I have felt as if I wanted to be around more people my age. It is rapidly changing, but most RVers and overlanders I encounter are 60-plus and 45-plus, respectively.
- Cost. RVing is less expensive than other travel options, but the costs can still add up. Consider the mortgage on the RV, camping fees, insurance, and maintenance on the truck. When you adventure solo, all those expenses are yours alone.
- Limited group activities. Some attractions will require more than one person, but I have found that you can work around this. For example, in the Maldives, the villa owner chose to go kayaking with me so I could qualify for the group excursion offered by his team.
Solo Travel vs. Group Trips: The Benefits of Traveling as a Group
I might not like the idea of full-time travel with someone else, but I am like an excited toddler when family and friends come to visit. I spend months planning for their arrival. Here are the main benefits of traveling with family and friends:
- Shared costs. Group travel can significantly reduce costs if you share accommodations. However, if everyone is driving their own vehicles and paying for their own camping spots, the prices are the same as traveling alone. You can reduce costs by overlanding, moochdocking or seeking bulk discounts for large groups at campgrounds.
- Companionship. Even people who love to be alone enjoy good company. I loved it when my mom came to visit. Three weeks with your mom in 160 SF might sound like mayhem, but I had a great time. We can’t wait to do it again!
- Shared experiences. I share many travel experiences on social media, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Sometimes, you try to take a photo or video for your loved ones, and you think, I wish they were here to see it. You can solve that by taking them with you.
- Unique experiences. Your friends might think of trying things that never crossed your mind. I first got into snorkeling after a group trip my friends and I took from Montego Bay to Negril when I still lived in Jamaica. You could also try new foods or get introduced to mutual friends you would have never met.
- Safety. The old cliche that there’s safety in numbers is true. I think traveling alone is relatively safe, but it does expose you to some risks. This is especially the case for women traveling alone. There are several forums and travel groups just for women because of this. These women often head as far south as Baja California Sur or travel across mainland Mexico to Oaxaca.
The Downsides of Traveling as a Group
Most people prefer to travel in groups. Whether they travel with companions or meet their friends in new locations, it gives them something to look forward to throughout the year. The downsides are minor inconveniences compared to the joy of companionship:
- Loss of space. If someone else shares your travel rig, you’ll need to share an already tiny area. RV amenities tend to do double duty, which can lead to problems. For example, it’s impossible to simultaneously sit on the couch and sleep in the bed in my RV because one converts to the other.
- Loss of privacy. The smaller the trailer, the more you must get used to knowing each other very well in that tiny space. Your travel buddies will also know your comings and goings, which can annoy some people who prefer to get away unseen and unbothered.
- More complex planning: Even when living in the same household, coordinating everyone’s schedule can be difficult. Expand to multi-household groups, and it becomes even more complicated. Make peace with the possibility of traveling alone, and you will be much less stressed!
Who Will You Go Adventuring With?
The solo travel vs. group trip debate has existed for as long as people have explored the world for fun. Will you also prefer adventuring alone, or will the promise of companionship make group trips more appealing?
Whichever option you choose, be safe and have fun!