20 Ways Single/Solo Women Can Navigate the Holidays - and Avoid the Blues
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Rare is the woman (or man, for that matter) who can weather the holidays alone without needing at least a small life raft and a sizable patch kit. People are just so coupled up. So family-friendly. Everywhere you look, it’s just so darn warm and cozy.
So when Kathleen King reached out to women travelers on Facebook this month, she had no idea what to expect. Her dilemma? No holiday plans. Her fear? That, like the last time she was alone for Christmas, it would be just awful.
Following are just some of the 150 suggestions that poured in for Kathleen within 24 hours of her posting, along with three invitations to come stay, from women in New Jersey, New York City, and just down the road in Wisconsin.
Read more about Kathleen's experience in my earlier post, here.
About this list: Conde Nast’s Facebook Group, Women Who Travel, has become one of the most active discussion and idea-sharing spots on the internet since its launch in 2017. Recently, a member in her 60’s wrote in to say she was facing Christmas alone, and because solo holidays had been “awful” in the past, she was looking for ideas. These are some of the more than 150 responses that poured in within 24 hours, including a few ideas of my own. – Nancy Bauer, HurryUpGirl.com
Befriend Some Travel Buddies
Check out the Over 60 Women Travel Buddy Search Group on Facebook. It’s grown to nearly 3000 members since its launch in May 2019. Think of it as an informal matchmaker for women looking for travel buddies. Free to join.
MeetUp groups are free, online, volunteer-driven groups of people with shared interests. The Solo Travel MeetUp page links to 230 travel buddy groups around the world, with names like “Happy Feet - Hiking for Non-Morning People” and “45+ Not Grumpy Travel.” Look for one in your area. Tip: The travel groups often socialize, too, sometimes inviting tour guides or travel agents to speak.
Most tour companies’ Christmas itineraries book months ahead, but Rick Steves’ Tours still has two Christmas tours available: a small group (max 28) 6-night Christmas in Paris tour ($2470 including the single supplement), and 6 nights in Rome ($2470 including single supplement). Members report that the small groups help solo travelers feel welcome.
Vacations to Go’s website may be one of the saddest you’ve seen this decade, but it hides last-minute cruise prices that’ll make your heart happy – including this helpful sorting that shows double vs. single supplement pricing. Cruises are a great holiday getaway for solos, with tons of dining options (the toughest part of traveling alone) that don’t force you to sit with strangers. Some of the nicer ships also offer room service. A quick glance shows some real bargains on Norwegian, including a 7-night Caribbean cruise departing San Juan on December 22 for $1700/cabin, and an 11-night cruise departing Miami on December 23, with stops in eight ports, for $2858/cabin.
Nervous about solo travel? Consider Disney. Safe, easy, crowded, joyful – and open on Christmas Day.
New York City rocks the holidays with a one-of-a-kind buzzy vibe. One reader highly recommends the free New York Christmas and Holiday Lights Tour.
Take your mind off yourself by learning something new. Check out resorts; the great thing about resorts over the holidays is that they have to entertain you – no "closed" signs on Christmas Day! How about learning SCUBA at a resort course or picking up some cooking skills in Vermont, to start?
UK-based Friendship Travel specializes in hosted, small-group, ultra-casual trips for singles 35-65 and up. Lots of over-holiday trips still available.
Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, develops learning adventures primarily geared to older adults, and they say that nearly 25% of their participants travel solo. Roommate pairing is available to avoid the single supplement charge. A quick search of the website turned up more than 70 adventures from mid-November to the end of December, including these two with itineraries that include Christmas Day:
4-night Victorian Christmas at the Grand Empress in British Columbia ($1499)
5-night Christmas in San Francisco ($1599)
(Fun fact: Road Scholar also specializes in Grandparent travel, for folks with really, really good grandkids.)
Servas is an international non-profit that’s been matching travelers with host families in cultural exchanges since the end of World War II. Travelers typically stay with the host family for two days. Tip: Plan ahead; there’s a rigorous process to be approved as a traveler, including an application and in-person interview.
Plan a Party or Host a Group
Not inviting people over for the holidays because you’re sure they all have plans is kind of like not raising your hand in class because you think you’re the only dummy, when you know perfectly well — like the teacher says — everyone else has the exact same question. In other words…there are tons of yous out there. Why not convene all the solos at your place?
If you live near a university or college, there may be international students on campus who can't go home for the holidays. Invite them to dinner, or bring dinner to them.
If you’re near a military training base, sign up to host soldiers for the holiday. They can get a day pass to come over, watch some football, and eat a home-cooked meal.
One reader has a friend who throws a Misfit Toys party every year. Word always spreads as solos bring last-minute friends, and it’s always a full, fun house. If money is tight, throw a potluck.
Spread Some Volunteer Cheer
Soup kitchens are often slammed with volunteers on Thanksgiving and Christmas. How about helping in a different way?
How about one of these: organize a collection drive, help the homebound, give to an individual family, or support refugees.
Visit the elderly at nursing homes. It’s stunning how many of those folks have no one who visits, ever. You could also volunteer to help out at meal time or with activities, since the staff is likely to be pretty thin on the holiday.
Love babies? Sign up as a volunteer cuddler at your local NICU.
Volunteer on the Road
Want to combine your volunteering with some travel?
Centro Infantil de Los Angeles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a nonprofit that provides free daycare and preschool education to local kids with the greatest need. Volunteers play with and lead the children in arts and crafts and educational activities. Housing fee of $180/week includes lodging, breakfast and lunch.
Heads up, animal lovers. Pod Volunteer needs your help caring for rescued domesticated elephants. (Really!) At this refuge two hours south of Bangkok, you’ll have to pay – it’s $800 for one week; additional weeks $250 -- and the work hours are long, 6:30am to 5pm six days a week. But you can volunteer for as little as a week (a new program starts each Sunday), food and lodging is provided, no experience is necessary, and you’ll be working with dozens of other elephant-loving volunteers.
Other short-term Christmas-time opportunities through Pod Volunteer include
Border Angels is a San Diego-based non-profit that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice for immigrants at the US-Mexican border.
Volunteers travel to border areas to stock water stations, bring supplies and food to migrants, and participate in awareness-building events.
Workaway.info connects culture seekers, budget travelers and language learners with families, individuals or organizations looking for volunteer help. Most hosts seek longer-term volunteers (a month or more), and opportunities run toward childcare & housekeeping, helping out at hostels, gardening and building. Current last-minute opportunities include helping at the registration desk at a hostel on the island of Chiloé in Chile, and helping a busy stay-at-home mom with her kids and housekeeping for a couple of weeks over Thanksgiving in Kinsale, Ireland.
Lighthouse Relief relies on longer-term help from volunteers for their refugee programs in the Greek islands. Three- to four-week postings are available for volunteers to help as spotters and supporters in Lesvos for refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, and to provide support and education for refugee children and teens. Applicant pays all costs related to living expenses, transport, and accommodation.
Happy holidays, whatever you choose to do. Have more ideas? Please share in the comments!