PennyWise: Personal Finance & Travel TipsPennyWise: Personal Finance & Travel Tips

Tips for keeping solo travel financially friendly

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Want to travel around but don't have a travel buddy? Traveling alone can come with single surcharges and not having someone to share costs with can make solo travelers blow through their budgets quickly. 

On the latest episode of PennyWise, host Nat Cardona is joined by Sally French of NerdWallet with tips for solo travelers who want to be fiscally responsible while exploring the globe.

Read more on NerdWallet here!

About this program

Nat Cardona is host of PennyWise as well as Lee Enterprise's true-crime podcast Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles. Lee Enterprises produces many national, regional and sports podcasts. Learn more here.

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Adobe Premiere and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Welcome to Pennywise Lee Enterprises podcast. I'm your host, Nat Cardona

Today we're talking solo travel. It's getting more and more popular these days, but let's face it- Traveling by yourself can get really pricey. Thankfully, we have NerdWallet travel expert Sally French here with us to give us tips on how to make the most of it all. 

Today we're talking about the topic of solo travel, keeping it fun and I guess financially friendly, you could say. 

Okay, I love it. First things first. From the Nerdwallet article, I read the amount of people opting for solo travel has gone up as compared to past years. Is that correct?

That is correct. So what Nerdwallet has found is actually based on Google searches for solo travel, they have increased 59% in the first half of this year versus the same period in 2019. More people now are interested in solo travel travel than they were pre-pandemic.

No, that's what they say. So what's the big difference that I guess people are just eager to get out there, huh?

Yeah, You know, I think there is definitely this uptake since the pandemic of people being okay out there, being solo. We spent so much time alone and now people are spread out. People have moved away, but people still want to go on trips. People especially want to take those bucket list trips. So sometimes the best way to take that bucket list trip might just be by yourself.

Yeah, there's a few steps you got to take first. Let's talk about the travel in itself, that airplane ticket. Any advantages to flying solo?

Well, this is actually an area where you can save money. So one of the challenges with flying solo or traveling solo is that it can be more expensive. You're not able to split the cost of that rental car, of that ride, share of that hotel room. But with airfare, in some ways, you can find a better deal. You might just be able to get that last available flight if seats are sold out for two.

That's not going to work If you're traveling with someone else. If you're by yourself, that can be better. Another thing is you might be more inclined to be okay with that middle seat. What we've seen is that airfare prices are actually down this year versus last year. They're down this year versus 2019. They're down this year versus what they were ten years ago.

And a big reason for that is because airfares have engaged in this practice called unbundling or bundling, where they'll charge a lower base airfare, and then they'll add all these extra costs, extra cost check bags, extra cost to board early. And one of those extra costs is to pick your seat, especially with families. People want to sit together.

And so we see a lot of air. Airlines will pay. A lot of travelers will pay extra to be able to take their seat to travel with their family members. But if you're traveling solo, you don't have any family members to travel with. And so you can probably skip that expense. The reality is you're probably going to end up in the middle seat, but maybe not a huge deal if you're a solo traveler looking to save money.

Seriously, at the end of the day, it's just tapping the person next to your shoulder. Got to get up quick. It's never a big deal.

But I remember going on a flight. You're going to remember the trip. You're not going to remember the middle seat anyway. At least I.

Totally. They keep remembering that something you touched on just a bit ago is the other important part of travel. And traveling alone is picking that place to stay. So when we put a price tag of, let's say 150 bucks a night on a hotel room, that's often great if you're traveling with a friend, you split it down the middle and you know it's everyone's happy.

But when you're by yourself, it's all on you. So what are your options there for your lodging?

Yeah, you're completely right, is what Nerdwallet has found is that at hotels, you can save money when you're traveling with someone else. In fact, if you're traveling with large groups, nerdwallet encourages you to book. Airbnb is where you can save even more money. But the bad news is when you're traveling solo, there's no one to split that cost with.

That said, there are a few options. So I mentioned Airbnbs and the rule is found that these are a far better deal with large groups, but actually Nerdwallet or Airbnb recently revamped their rooms feature. And so if you're willing to stay in a house that you share with other people, Airbnb has what's called rooms and you can book just a room and that might not be something that you're willing to do with a family.

But when you're a solo traveler, you book just that room. Airbnb has filters where you can filter out rooms that have a lock on the inside, which might be something that you want to do as a solo traveler. You can search by hosts and hosts, even write a bio about themselves. It's intended to sort of help connect travelers who actually want to talk to the host.

What we found is increasingly Airbnb is just kind of operate like vacation rentals or timeshares where you never even meet the host. And, you know, sometimes that's great if you want to spend your vacation with your family and friends, you don't want to talk to the host anyway. But as a solo traveler, often you do. And so Airbnb rooms can be a really good way to save other things that you might consider are hostels.

Hostels don't just have to be for 19 year olds, we've increasingly been seeing more hostels that older adults are going to. That can be an excellent way to save money as well as capsule hotels. So these are just little tiny rooms. Often the ceiling won't even be a full room ceiling height. These are like pods. And so sometimes the ceiling can be six feet, eight feet.

It'll typically be just a bed with a room to put down a bag and that's it. You're probably not going to want that if you have to share it with somebody else. But if you're by yourself and you're just looking for a place to lay down your head to sleep, just store your bags and you're going off into the city to check it out.

A capsule hotel can be an amazing option for solo travelers.

That's awesome. I've never heard of the last option. Are those more popular in some countries or places and others.

Do you know? Yeah. You know, I actually stayed in in a pod hotel or a capsule hotel in Singapore, because Singapore is one of the most expensive places that you can visit. And I'm not really interested in spending a lot of time in the hotel. I'm interested in spending the time out in Singapore to see what they have.

And you're right, the ceiling was really, really short. Luckily, I'm short, so it was like just a little bit taller than what I was. And I have to tell you, the only time I spent in that room was sleeping enough to change my clothes and get out of there. But again, if you're really on a budget, that can be an excellent way to go.

And we're seeing this more and more. Not necessarily even capsule hotels in the US, but just these really micro hotels. There is a chain called the hotel and those focused on really small hotel rooms, which is ideal if you don't want to pay for site space that you're not using otherwise.

Yeah, I golden rule. Just go to sleep there, clean up there, then be outside. The rest of the time.

I'm definitely a you know, if you're traveling with a family, you want to have that kitchen and living room and all that. But you know, for couples, for people who want to see the city, they're not trying to relax in the room. And solo travelers, that's you. You definitely do not need that.

There you go. And the other main part of travel, food and going out and grab it, food and drinks. Any tips there?

Yeah. You know, one of the fun things about traveling is that if you're with a big group, you can order a bunch of things and try a little bit of everything and you're probably not going to experience that as a solo traveler. But one of the nice things is that you have freedom. Often when people are in groups, they feel like they have to do an expensive waiter service restaurant.

But as a solo traveler, you can eat on your own time, on your own budget, on your own schedule. And I always encourage all travelers to do this. But go to the street food stands, get what the people are eating locally. And especially as a solo traveler, you have just a little bit more freedom to do that. The food's more expensive or it's more authentic, it's tastier.

And the reality is it's probably a lot cheaper, too.

Yeah, that's one of my favorite things to do when I travel is grab something from a cart and just sit and people watch in the area wherever you may be. I go to Mexico a lot and that's what we were doing, is a lot of the taco carts and then crossing the street, sitting on the bench and watching the cars go by.

There's nothing better.

Definitely. And food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture. You know, I love a breakfast buffet for groups can be really convenient because everyone can ensure that they eat. But the reality is breakfast buffet food is probably just going to be your generic hotel pancakes. When you go out in that car, you're trying the local fruits, which are probably way fresher than what's in your grocery store.

You can get amazing meat skewers. That is a really, really good way to immerse yourself in the culture, try something new.

Grab and go. Keep it moving. The final thing that I had in mind is financials aside, how can we keep solo travel fun and light?

Yes. So one of the challenges I think for solo travel is just inherently you're alone, you're by yourself, you don't have people to talk to and to share your experience with. But that doesn't have to be the case. One of the best piece of pieces of advice is to take one of your hobbies you have at home and experience that out on the road.

And so if you're someone who loves to take a yoga class at home, find a local yoga class in that new city that you're exploring. And I'm a competitive weightlifter. And so whenever I go travel, I find a local weightlifting gym and I make friends that way. And those people are always the one telling me the best wrecks of places to go eat, things to go.

See, it's always way better than what the guidebooks are going to tell you anyway.

More personalized that way. A little ambitious to put yourself out there, but that is seriously great advice. Thanks for mentioning that. That's good. That's a good one to keep.

Yeah. The other thing to remember is that there are often group tours and some of these tours, things like cruises or other tours that put you in a hotel, they might charge extra if you're traveling solo because you're not able to split the cost of the room. But some don't. If you look specifically for tours that do not charge an extra single supplement, and that's the wording that you'll see single supplement, find those that don't charge extra.

And that can be an excellent way to meet people as well, is just make friends with people on the cruise or on the group tours.

Well, good to know. Sally, anything you want to add about solo travel? No.

Solo travel is fun. Get out there. You're not tied to someone's schedule, especially for international trips where everyone has jetlag. Your partner is asleep super early. You want to stay up super late. That doesn't matter. When you're traveling solo.

You work on your own schedule. I've done it and I just highly recommend it. So yeah, also awesome as always. Thank you, Sally.


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