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JUSTINE WADDINGTON founded Encounter Travel so that solo travellers had the same opportunities as couples and families, without limitations. Her travel company has since gone on to win numerous awards.

In the first of an exclusive series of articles for Traveltalk, Justine reveals her top tips for first time solos looking to navigate the group tour scene as she declares 2024 ‘Year of the Solo Traveller’.

So, you’ve caught the solo travel bug but are not quite ready to venture into the great unknown alone?

Joining a group tour might just be the perfect ticket to your next adventure. But how do you ensure you pick the right one?

Let’s break it down into seven essentials for finding your next (or first) tour solo.

1 Dive Into Group Dynamics: Size Matters, But So Does Personality

Whether you’re into cosy camaraderie or crave a bustling social scene, group size plays a role in your travel vibe. Small groups offer intimacy, while larger ones promise a parade of personalities.

Think of it as choosing between a dinner party and a lively festival. Your call!

I’m in the ‘small is great’ camp! Give some mind to the logistics! Like checking into hotels, getting on and off the bus and gathering as a group, are easier to manage and less time consuming when compared to a larger group where you’ll need more patience.

2 Fitness First: Matching Your Pace To The Perfect Tour

Never assume the physical demands of a tour. Check the tour itinerary for its fitness grade – are you in for a high paced travel itinerary or more low-key days that mix it up with group touring and ‘me time’?

Many tours are graded on a scale based on the physical demands of the tour – it’s the fastest way to get a gauge of the pace. 

Also, most itineraries will tell you about each day, including if they are full days of sightseeing, half days or a mix, so you can have an idea of how much free time is available and then decide what’s your style.

Read between the lines and when in doubt hit up your tour company or travel agent for the inside scoop. Good planning and research gets you to your happy travel place.

3 Age Isn’t Just a Number: Finding Common Ground in Your Travel Tribe

One can argue age is just a number, but it’s one that can shape your travel experience. Discovering the right age group ensures you’ll have more than just passport stamps in common.

Pro tip: ask the tour company for a sneak peek into the potential squad. It’s like assembling your dream team before the adventure begins.

No company can give you an absolute until the group is finalised, but they should be able to give some good indications as they know their customers best.

4 Solo or Sidekick? The Social Landscape of Your Tour

Avoid feeling like ‘the third wheel’ by checking the solo traveller scene in your chosen group. Smaller operators usually spill the beans on group dynamics better than the big players (making some wide sweeping generalisation here). 

Better yet, snag a spot on a solo traveller exclusive tour and come with us for an instant camaraderie boost! Nothing like joining the tribe – we’ve been leading the way for solo travellers since 2006!

Justine Waddington founder of Encounter Travel

5 Our Global World: Who Will You Be On Tour With?

Get the scoop on your fellow travellers’ nationalities by quizzing your travel agent or the tour operator.

If as an Aussie you love the laid-back banter, finding a solo traveller company from the land Down Under might just be your golden ticket – forming connections with new travel buddies who could become your go-to travel buddies for future escapades.

We make it easy – with most of our solos joining us from across Australia and time and time again we bear witness to new forged friendships that look to be lasting a life time.

6 Lost in Translation: Ensuring You Speak the Same Travel Language

As an English speaker, you’d expect your tour to be an English affair. But not all tours sing the same tune. There’s nothing like the fizzer of joining a tour only to sit it out in two or more languages!

Picture this; the tour guide sharing all their information in two or more languages and then the ‘fun factor’ melt down with fragmented mini groups on tour in different languages.

Although less common on multi day touring, it’s more likely in day tours, especially in Europe.

7 Beyond Brochures: Decoding Tour Inclusions

Comparing tours is like comparing apples to oranges, but with a few key pointers, you can more easily narrow down your choices to find your style of touring.

Consider hotel standards, meal inclusions and the standard of the meals – buffet grazing on mass is a very different experience to fine dining.

Question it all; are entry fees to sights included in the tour price or an additional cost? And what about your comfort – is it private group transport or shuffling onto public transport?

Is the tour supported by a tour guide, or tour escort, or Coach Captain running their own show? Do you have to tip your way through adventure or is it in the package?

Imagine your solo travel story where each chapter is enriched by the other travel souls that join your escapade. Leaving home alone and joining a group is about forging connections bonded by travel.

Armed with these tips, you’re ready to turn your solo journey into a group tour extravaganza. So, where to next? The world is waiting!