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Why do people travel solo and has the pandemic had an impact?

Posted on April 21, 2023 by Kelly Johnstone

Travelling on your own can be liberating. With nobody but yourself to think about, your wildest travel dreams can become a reality.  

To some, the idea of solo travel can be daunting and fraught with ‘what if’s. But for those who have tackled solo travel head on, we’ve asked them why they choose to travel solo and whether the pandemic had an impact on making the decision to go it alone… 

We asked 2,500 people in the UK aged 16+ for their thoughts on solo travel and here’s what we found…

Nearly 3 in 10 people have travelled solo before

28% of people we spoke to have travelled solo before.

When we look at the changes in attitude towards solo travel by age, a quarter of 16-24 year olds told us they’d travelled alone. This makes the youngest group we surveyed, the least likely to have travelled solo before.

In comparison, a third of 45-54 year olds have travelled solo before and the group most likely to have gone it alone. The chance of travelling solo increases as we get older, and may be caused by having more time and opportunities to travel alone. Or perhaps the older we get, the more likely we are to throw caution to the wind and make bolder travel choices.

People travel solo to experience freedom

There are many reasons that drive people to fly solo on their holidays.

We found that 32% of people choose to travel solo to experience freedom. Solo travel can be liberating – to not have to compromise on what you want to do on your holiday.

Boosting confidence was a reason given by 25.8% of people for travelling solo. Although daunting at first, solo travel can have a massive impact on your self belief to know that you can travel safely and have an enjoyable trip on your own.

This was closely followed by 25.6% of people saying they travel solo because they have no one else to travel with. Although solo travel is a choice for some, there are others who simply don’t have anyone to travel with – or anyone that shares an interest in the places they’d like to go.

3 in 10 say the pandemic has encouraged them to think about solo travel

From our previous findings, we know that as a nation, we love to travel to relax.

But during the pandemic, there wasn’t often a chance for many people to relax. Nor did we have the freedom to get away from it all by travelling. We wanted to know if this pent up wanderlust had an impact on people’s post-pandemic decisions about whether or not they want to travel on their own.

Surprisingly, it’s the least-experienced group of solo travel that are most inspired to go it alone as a result of the pandemic. Almost half (46%) of 16-24 year olds said the pandemic encouraged them to think about solo travel. 

This trend decreases as people get older with just one in ten (12%) 55+ year olds thinking more about solo travel since the pandemic. 

The pandemic inspired more than 2 in 5 people to travel solo to make up for lost time

Living through a pandemic has clearly taken its toll on many of us in different ways. For those that were inspired to think about solo travel, the majority of people (42%) said they wanted to make up for lost time.

This was closely followed by 41% of people saying the pandemic made them feel more adventurous. Most age groups ranked this as their second biggest inspiration, apart from the over 55s where only 14% felt more adventurous.

A third of people want to get away from their household and travel solo

A third of those inspired to travel alone due to the pandemic (33%) say they’ve spent too long with their household and wanted to get away.

It comes as no surprise that the group most likely to want to escape their house are the 16-24 year olds, with 37% agreeing. After potentially spending much of the lockdown with parents and siblings, the idea of solo travel must seem very appealing.

Interestingly, the desire to get away from your household decreases as the groups get older, with less than 1 in 5 (19%) over 55s wanting to get away from their family. Although unlike other age groups, for the over 55s, wanting to flee their house was their second biggest inspiration for travelling solo – beating a sense of adventure.

Nearly 3 in 10 would travel without their partner

Solo travel isn’t just for people who are single. Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) told us they’d leave their partners behind to travel alone, with almost 2 in 5 (18%) happy to be apart for up to a month at a time.

Greater London’s residents topped the list of being most likely to leave their partner behind to travel alone with 34.8%, followed closely by those in the North West at 34.5%. The Scots were also up there with 28%.

On a city level, Edinburgher’s steal the top spot with nearly two-fifths (39%) claiming they would happily leave their partners at home to travel solo.
In comparison, it’s the Welsh who are least likely to set off on a solo adventure. Just 19% of people living in Wales said they’d travel solo without their partner, with only 17% of those living in Cardiff willing to leave their other halves behind.

People most likely to leave their partners to embark on a solo trip by city

  1. Edinburgh
  2. Manchester
  3. Sheffield
  4. London
  5. Leeds
  6. Bristol
  7. Southampton
  8. Birmingham
  9. Liverpool
  10. Belfast

Final thoughts

These findings, alongside our previous findings of why we love to travel, suggest that we’re more likely to book a solo trip so that we don’t have to compromise on our own happiness. This way we get to visit the places we want to go, and do the things we want to do. 

We’re even sometimes willing to ditch the other halves in search of our own adventures! And when we do, we’re rewarded with a sense of freedom and a growth in confidence.

Although many of us already actively choose to travel alone and thrive on the opportunity, many others are put off by the ‘what ifs’. 

Going it alone gives us a chance to relax, unwind and reclaim a sense of independence and excitement. So many of the things the pandemic took away from us for so many months. It’s time to be brave – your wellbeing will thank you for it!

by Kelly Johnstone

Kelly Johnstone is Staysure’s Head of Content. She’s known for a love of tea and shares data-driven and breaking travel news.