Many people wonder if they would benefit more from group travel or solo travel. They ask about the disadvantages and advantages of both, which is more common, and, most frequently, which is more fun. There is no single answer to this question. Not only does everyone have their own personalities and preferences, but experiences can vary greatly based on where you go and what exactly you choose to do.
I decided to use my personal travel experience, as well as my experience running a group travel company, to break down these most commonly asked questions.
What is Group Travel?
Group travel refers to any organized, multi-day trip that you pre-book and meet a group of other travelers who booked the same trip. These groups can range in size from a few people up to full coach buses of 50 or more travelers.
These groups will often include a trip leader, pre-planned activities, and will have most of your lodging and meals organized.
The goal of group travel is to make the trip easy for you to kick back and enjoy without having to worry about your own logistics.
Advantages of Group Travel
- Easy to plan
There is no planning! It’s, by far, one of the biggest draws for group travel. Pick a country, region, or city that you want to explore and that’s it!. Let the travel company and your tour guide handle the logistics and take you on an adventurous journey through the area.
Many group travel trips will also schedule at some downtime where you will have the freedom to explore on your own. Again, the big advantage is that your tour guide will have tons of local knowledge and can provide you with great advice on places to check out during your free time.
- Meet new people (it’s a social experience!)
Group travel is as much a social experience as it is a travel experience. It’s wild to think about meeting up in a place you have never been with a dozen people you’ve never met. This is the hidden gem of group travel. Everyone knows what they are getting into, and they are there to socialize and explore. It often brings an energy to the trip that you would never get otherwise.
There is nothing like exploring a new city with an excited group of people looking to try new foods, enjoy activities, go bar hopping, and explore the area. There is something about this enthusiasm that will push you to try new things and get you out of your comfort zone.
Further reading: The Introverts Guide to Small Group Travel
- Tour Guides
Most group trips will provide a local guide for the entirety of your trip. This person will have tons of local knowledge, will know the local language, and will help you understand the locations that you visit as well as advise you on everything from safety to having fun.
What happens if the itinerary has a beach day planned, and it’s raining?! No problem! Trip leaders have plans Bs, Cs and maybe even Ds up their sleeves just in case Plan A is no longer possible. Your local friend will make sure that your trip goes smoothly and will be prepared to handle any problems that arise.
Maybe the group is quiet or struggling to strike up conversation. Great trip leaders have games, icebreakers or just know how to get a conversation going amongst everyone.
Leaders of these trips are invaluable to any group trip, and we often see travelers keep in touch with theirs long after the trip ends.
This is a very common concern for solo female travelers. Traveling to new cities and countries is, generally, as safe as exploring major cities in the USA, but it can still be very daunting and unfamiliar. Tourist hotspots around the world are known for petty crimes like pickpocketing or grabbing a backpack or purse. Additionally, not many people feel comfortable exploring bars and nightlife in unfamiliar cities on their own.
An awesome tour guide will help out here too! With each stop they will advise you on any safety concerns or if there are parts of town to avoid. They will also have suggestions for places to go out, how to get there and of course any general safety tips for the area.
With group travel, you are never alone unless you want to separate from the group . Some people choose to hang out at the hotel versus enjoying a night out, or they may want to relax on the beach rather than wander the city streets. Either way, I can guarantee that you will find a few people in your group up for whatever you are looking to do.
Disadvantages of Group Travel
- Less flexibility
When joining a group trip you will be following a set itinerary and route for the duration of your trip. Often, there is built in free time to allow for some wiggle room during the trip in places with lots of optional activities. However, the amount of time that you will spend in a location and which activities are included on the trip are fairly rigid.
- Getting along with fellow travelers
Joining a random group of people in a new location is exciting and can lead to new friendships and a group energy that is hard to replicate. There is, however, the chance that you will not get along with some people in the group and will have to travel with them for the duration of the trip. Even in small groups it’s rare to not find at least a couple of other travelers to get along with, but it can happen.
The best way to overcome this is to simply go into the trip with an open mind and understand that everyone else may not be like you or even be people that you would typically be friends with. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their company for the trip, learn new things, or expand your boundaries for what you look for in other people.
The best way to find out if group travel is a good fit for you is to book a trip with a small group of less than 15 people and keep it short. Don’t start out booking a 3-week whirlwind tour of Europe. Start with a 4-7 day trip to get a feel for the experience.
What is Solo Travel?
Simply put, you are traveling by yourself for the duration of your adventure. Traveling solo can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone, overcome challenges, and push your limits. It leaves you with the most flexibility during a trip but requires you to make all the decisions and do all the planning.
Solo travel experiences can be very different depending on where you go but for the purpose of this article, I am specifically referring to taking an international trip.
Advantages of Solo Travel
When traveling solo, every day is completely up to you! Choose when and where you want to go and what you want to do without any pressure from anyone else. Extend stays in places you like or leave places early that you don’t enjoy as much. Eat at the same spot every day or explore every top-rated restaurant in town.
It’s all on you and, for some people, that is exactly what they want.
- Personal growth
I think everyone should experience solo travel at least once in their life. The experience will push you beyond your comfort zone in many ways, and it will probably happen many times! You might have to navigate to your destination in a foreign language or learn how the local public transportation works.
You will find yourself striking up conversations with people at your hotel, at a restaurant, or even on the street as you try to navigate and plan your days. You will be forced into making hundreds of decisions only to realize later whatever you are doing is not exactly what you expected to be doing…and that’s what makes it fun and helps you grow!
The personal growth from solo travel really can’t be understated. After your trip you will have a feeling of accomplishment and pride that you were able to do it. Many times, friends or family will advise against solo travel for a variety of reasons but that’s only because they have not done it themselves and may fear the unknown.
Further reading: Traveling Alone: The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel
Disadvantages of Solo Travel
Your whole trip is planned by you. Every detail from when to arrive at airports, how to get from the airport to your destination, where to get food when you arrive at 10:00 pm at night, how to meet the van for the day trip you booked the next day, where to grab a packed lunch for your hike, and on and on. There can be a lot of planning!
Decision paralysis can also happen, which is when you get overwhelmed with everything there is to choose from, and you end up not doing anything at all or taking the path of least resistance to what’s most familiar.
I’ve fallen victim to this when there is a hike or activity that I’ve wanted to do, but realized after days and days of planning that there is a ton of details to figure out in order to get to the activity. So, instead of pushing through and figuring it out I find a simpler activity nearby.
Some people like to leave the whole trip open and make up their plans as they go. Personally, I like to have a decent plan in place or else I feel like I am scrambling a bit during the trip to figure things out.
This can be a real concern for some travelers and is often why family and friends will advise against solo travel. Traveling, in general, is safe but while wandering unfamiliar places on your own you may find yourself in undesirable situations or areas. The best thing to do is use common sense. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or accessories. Don’t leave bags unattended. Don’t drink too much alcohol or cause unwanted attention. If you can, find others at your hotel or hostel to tag along with at night to get drinks or explore.
If traveling to an outdoor destination for hiking or wilderness make sure to know the wildlife, weather conditions, trails, and don’t be afraid to hire guides.
You should not be afraid to travel alone, but you should do your research and understand that you may stick out as a foreigner in a foreign city while wandering around. And don’t forget to always let a friend or family member know where you are and what your plans are.
This may be an advantage for some people! For many people the solitude, and often loneliness, of traveling solo is a major reason they avoid it. There is no one to share these experiences with, take pictures for you, or to help with the trip itself.
On the other hand, for the right people, the solitude is a great way to make new friends. I always suggest staying at hostels, simply because they are set up to be social, and it’s hard not to meet other people.
If you’re an introvert but still want to meet new people, you just have to put yourself out there a little. That’s the whole point of solo travel in the first place!
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both group travel and solo travel. There is no one size fits all solution for everyone. My advice is to try both types of travel in small doses to see which you prefer. We see many travelers enjoy both types of trips each year. They like what each type of travel provides in its own way. Many people also start out as a solo traveler in a group before slowly becoming more adventurous and venturing out all on their own.
Whatever you choose, I think the best advice to anyone is to choose something! Just get out there and start traveling. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.