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Advice for first timer please

Cheltenham, United...
Level Contributor
4 posts
9 reviews
Advice for first timer please

Hi - am really looking for some advice from the experienced among you. Little background first, because I think it's necessary.

I have never gone abroad because I hate flying. Have decided to say "what the hell" and get a passport. I am 38 in March. All previous holidays have been UK or Eire and with girlfriends or family. However, I have been single for two years now and really want to go on a holiday having not been for last 2 years.

I don't want to fly too far, as someone who hates flying and would be going on my own. I do not earn a lot, so really expensive holidays are out of the question. Similarly, I find the idea of being chucked in with a "group of like-minded people" hideous. These companies have no idea what my mind is like and I pity anyone who has a mind like mine :) I might consider a small group if that group was definitely people in their 30s but which I could escape from if I so wanted. While I have lots of acquaintances older than that, I wouldn't want to holiday with them.

I suppose in an ideal world, I'd go with a friend, but all my friends are coupled, so single it has to be.

Where the heck should I look??? Having read back the above, I should probably not bother, but I'd like to go somewhere this year, I don't want another year of no holiday or weekends in the UK only.

Thanks a lot, any ideas will be much appreciated.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
67,726 posts
71 reviews
1. Re: Advice for first timer please

Hi Paul S,

Welcome to the forums.

I was a little sad for you to read that you have never had the adventure/opportunity to go off on your own before now.

Perhaps you could tell us what you would enjoy doing on a vacation so we could offer suggestions of where to go.

If I lived in the UK and didn't want to fly I'd just get on a ferry/train whatever and go to France. Then I'd just explore , taking trains wherever I felt like going next.

I'd get a book or browse through some in a bookstore and just pick a place that caught my fancy. I'd be excited to try somewhere new!!

There are inexpensive small hotels,hostels where you could stay.

IF you go to the forum for whichever country you finally pick then you could ask questions there about places to stay etc.

I am married but often go on my own as my husband also does not like to fly. My children are your age and have both gone off on their own with happy memories so I hope you just get up and go it too!!

Good luck!!

Bay Village, Ohio
Level Contributor
882 posts
152 reviews
2. Re: Advice for first timer please

Please read in this same form, "Qualities of solo traveller". You'll find there are many advantages of traveling solo. I to was a little reluctant to travel solo at first. Now I actually prefer it. Like Riff M. mentioned, you could easily get to France or Holland by ferry, and then travel pretty much anywhere in Europe by train. There are many inexpensive small hotels and hostels throughout Europe.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Level Contributor
1,613 posts
112 reviews
3. Re: Advice for first timer please

You're going about this all backwards! It's great that you want to expand your horizons, but before you worry about travel style, figure out where it is you want to go. There are just certain places around the world that, for some idiosyncratic reason, call out to us. Maybe it's because of a favorite book. Or the scenery in some movie looked spectacular. Figure out where you want to go and then figure out the logistics.

I travel solo. I much much much prefer it, for the same reasons I think you will. I like to be in control of my schedule. I don't want to herded like sheep by a tour guide. I don't want an "all inclusive resort" that I've flown several hours to get to, where I learn about nothing about my surroundings. And I know a whole lot of people whose opinions I value and trust who love cruises, but, to me, those combine all of the worst attributes of all of the above.

But I love to travel. I love to immerse myself in the local culture, seeing the sights, eating the local food, listening to the local music and, most importantly, learning about the place from talking with the people who actually live there. I travel solo because (a) I don't know anyone else who enjoys my travel style, and (b) you really do get to interact with the local population more when you're solo.

You're in the UK and you're not sure of your tolerance of long-haul flying. So I would focus on your quadrant of the globe. The U.S., or South America, or Southeast Asia all have great places to visit, but unless you really hear Brazil or New Zealand or California calling out to your loudly, I would focus closer to home, in your hemispheres north and east, which means we're talking Europe or North Africa (and, given the current world geopolitical situation, I think North Africa means "Morocco).

What do you want to do on your holiday, or, as we call it in the States, your "vacation"? Museums? Hike through the mountains? Lie on the beach? Eat great food? Given a tight budget, I would look at Central Europe. Croatia has great scenery, beautiful coast, delicious food and friendly, welcoming people. It does not, however, have "high culture," if that's a must. My understanding is that some of your discount carriers in the UK have ultra-cheap flights to Croatia in season. I love Croatia, but maybe that's not the place calling to you.

If you want something more city-based, Budapest is a beautiful city, probably my favorite I've ever been to. And with the Hungarian forint in trouble, it's cheap. Great food and wine. Great architecture. Some interesting museums. Opera and symphony for folks into high culture, but a lively jazz scene for those of us who aren't. And there's Prague and the Czech Republic. Best beer in the world. Very simple city to navigate. Very good food (but I think Budapest is better for eating), but probably more cultural amenities. A little more expensive, but we're not talking Paris or Scandinavia level prices.

There's a million things to see and do in Italy or Spain, from what I know, but I've never been to Italy and it's been a long time since Spain. But I think you would enjoy traveling solo to any of the places I named in Central Europe. And the reason I think that? I traveled solo to each, spoke about three or four words of the local languages, and had an excellent time!

Cheltenham, United...
Level Contributor
4 posts
9 reviews
4. Re: Advice for first timer please

I've never really had a huge calling to go anywhere. Aside from the flying thing, I'm a dreadful fussy eater and know in some places I'd probably end up coming home a stone lighter having lived on bread and cheese!! Actually, my taste buds have been improving lately, along with my fear of flying.

The only places I have always thought about going are skiing in the alps (possibility of that next year, I've been learning at the SnowDome), Italy and Norway. The latter of course can be very expensive. I've always wanted to go on a cruise, to take in several different places but I do think I'd want to share that with someone and so many boats and routes charge such hideous single supplements I can't consider it (I could cope with the standard fare if someone came with me, but I don't want to share a cabin with someone I don't know). One day I would like to 'do' New England.

I'm not one for lying on the beach for more than perhaps one day out of 7. I'd want some culture and some historical visits but prefer to potter around than have a guided tour.

I only speak English and I don't generally like being too hot and I don't think I'd want to stay in hostels. When I have holidayed with former partners in the UK, it has always been holiday cottages. Hotels only for overnights or weekends.

I think in an ideal world, I'd probably want to go somewhere for perhaps 7 days and spend 3 days in one area and 4 in another rather than stay in one spot. I think I'd get bored being based solely in one place for a whole week unless there was a LOT of variety within reasonably short drives or train journeys.

Having looked around, can be relatively well priced to hire a villa in Tuscany for a week and hire a car depending when and where I go, but that seems to leave me stuck in one spot too much. A multi-venue holiday suggests hotels which give you the dreaded single supplements (which is why self catering apartments/villas seem better value for single travellers).

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
67,726 posts
71 reviews
5. Re: Advice for first timer please

Hotels in Europe do NOT charge single supplements!!

That is only something to deal with when booking a package tour.

Hotels in Europe have different room prices based on how many people in the room and singles cost LESS than doubles/triples etc.

Many folks go to Italy or France without speaking a word of the language.

I think it is always nice to learn to say "please /thankyou" in the local language but it is not absolutely necessary to do so.

In both France and Italy one can get a room in a small family run hotel with bkfst for quite a reasonable price! Breakfast there is usually just coffee and a pastry but often in Italy they offer a cold buffet with cheeses, ham,cereal, fruit etc. Then you can buy your bread and cheese for lunch and only your evening meal would be something to think about.

It sounds to me like you would find the towns/cities in Italy or France quite interesting so perhaps read up a bit or visit the forums for those areas on this web site and do some reading.

BTW in Italy B& Bs are not just rooms in someone's house but are often small inns. IF you can afford a villa in Tuscany then you'd have tons of small towns to explore + the city of Florence and also Siena. You would not be bored with so many possibilities close by!!!

Las Vegas, Nevada
Level Contributor
1,613 posts
112 reviews
6. Re: Advice for first timer please

Italy it is. Start in Florence and then, mid trip, take a train to Rome or Venice a spend a few more days there. Fly back home from that destination. Flights might be cheaper if you fly into a mid-sized city like Pisa, so that would be a third destination. Avoid the dead of summer to avoid peak heat. Holiday complete.

Edited: 13 January 2012, 03:26
Destination Expert
for Solo Travel
Level Contributor
953 posts
85 reviews
7. Re: Advice for first timer please

There are so many things to see in Tuscany: Florence but also Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo. I would recommend to stay 3 or 4 days in Florence, then to take the train and spend 1 day in each of the small cities mentionned.

England, United...
Destination Expert
for Somerset, Solo Travel, Exmoor National Park
Level Contributor
34,485 posts
111 reviews
8. Re: Advice for first timer please

Small group tours (not necessarily for singles) doing something you are interested in usually turns up like minded people. You don't have to do the same as them when you get there.

Same applies to going on your own. If it is somewhere that interests you you are likely to meet others with similar interests.

Skiing sounds a good idea to start with. Activity, relaxation and short flying times.

London, United...
Level Contributor
1,232 posts
21 reviews
9. Re: Advice for first timer please

Paul,

Do you also want the moon thrown in with that? With respect you do sound very much like a “Little Englander.”

So don’t speak foreign languages, well it doesn’t take much to learn a few choice words such as “good morning”, “thank you” and “hello” in most languages, you don’t need to fluent, it is making an effort that people respect.

You don’t need to be rich to find a library or even a large bookshop where you can sneakily get a free read in and your starting point should be reading up on what you do like rather than focusing on what you don’t. The travel sections in most book stores and libraries are heaving, get reading take a pad a paper and makes notes of things you would like do like.

So you don’t like flying, neither did Dennis Bergkamp's but this didn’t stop him from playing in much of Europe and he managed to get to Greece for a Champions League game, where he scored. If I am correct Cheltenham is only two hours by train to London, have you not heard of the Eurostar? What about the south coast ferries? It is possible to get around much of Europe without flying or do you think Christopher Columbus discovered America, flying over on a cheap package tour to Cancun. It's no more difficult getting over to mainland Europe than it is getting to Ireland.

If I were in your shoes, I would take a rail trip across Europe to wherever takes your fancy, then head to Spain to finish up with and jump on the ferry back to the UK. No flying involved, plus you have got to see multiple destinations depending on whatever takes your fancy. I personally think the travelling is part of the whole experience of a vacation – but that’s me. I have said to my wife that when I retire we will take a rail trip overland across Europe, Russia and Asia all the way down to Singapore where we can take a ferry down New Zealand and then fly back home.

You don’t like foreign foods, big deal, a potato taste much the same the world over as does a carrot, your only real issues is how these are all put together. There is more to food than just bread and cheese, which is a Pizza in Italy, otherwise just pack your sandwiches.

I am not sure if you get the “solo” thing. Trust me nobody is going to do everything for you, unless you really are cash rich, time poor. I personally find the planning and reading up one of the best parts about travelling, in 1990 when I visited Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore & Philippines I spent over a year planning my itinery down to what I was going to do each day, even what items to carry camera check. Only one part of my visit went awry and that was because the airport I was flying into (Manila) was closed because an Airbus broke down on the taxiway, so I had an extra night in Singapore.

Buck up man liven yourself up and get out there and see the world. I am not sure that starting off with a list of things you don’t want do is the best approach (glass half empty) as apposed to the glass half full.

Just a slight correction Riff M @ “Hotels in Europe do NOT charge single supplements!!”

This is not straightforward as that, it depends on how you purchase a hotel here, in fact Europe is one of the worst example. If you book a hotel through a travel agency or some travel companies many of them here advertise the prices, based on two people sharing a room. Therefore if you as a single man or woman turn up, asking to book this room, they want to charge you an additional supplement just for being single.

I am not sure why some people feel the need to book a package deal when you can do most yourself, but each to their own, the best way is to book direct.

Gourock, United...
Level Contributor
395 posts
41 reviews
10. Re: Advice for first timer please

Go to Italy ! I've been going to Italy as often as I can since 1994, and alone for the past 3 years . Its only about three hours away, not too hard to understand a restaurant menu and very easy to navigate the train system. There is tons to do, whether you like a city break or a beach resort..I can't be bothered with a travelling companion sometimes either and if I meet people along the way so be it..Grab a guide book, see what interests you then take it from there. I wish I had done it years ago. I first went for a weekend....then a week...then last year I thought, ok I've had it sooo good, it can't possibly be better....but it was fabulous !!!