Freedom. We all dream of it. People strive for years for it. George Michael sang about it. Twice. But the truth is that sometimes it seems challenging to achieve. Take holidays. From many ads, it would appear that it's just families with young kids or impossibly glamorous twenty-something couples that even think about going away on a trip.
Or the holidays that you do find for over 50s are geared solely towards groups with a particular interest, like birdwatching or bog snorkelling or whatever. What about a great holiday for the single over 50-year-old who wants to travel in the UK and is not necessarily into such things? Pack your bags - we've got just the trips for you.
Who are over 50s solo holidays for?
You might think that solo holidays are just for those who may have found themselves alone as they move through life. However, while it's undoubtedly true that this contingent makes up a large proportion of over 50 solo travellers, it's not all about them.
There are also those who differ with their partner over where best to spend their holidays. Nothing wrong with facing facts and acting accordingly. Going separate ways in the short term can lead to greater harmony in the long.
Then there are those who want to travel with friends but want their own room or boat cabin rather than bunking down with others. Single traveller holidays can have all sorts of people along for the ride.
What are the key features to look for?
To a certain extent, you'll know what you want from a holiday. You'll know how much activity you want laying on, and you'll know what your ideal mode of transport is. You'll also know what kind of accommodation you favour, whether four-postering it in a converted stately home or sleeping bagging it in a tent.
These are all down to individual taste. But some elements should apply across the board. One of these is good reviews. So you're looking for holiday companies that score well on review sites like Trip Advisor.
Also, look out for what the situation is with single supplements. Some companies have eye-watering ones. Some have none at all. Choose wisely.
Another vital factor is bonding. Huh? Something to do with making new friends during the trip? No.
We refer to the guarantees that the holiday company you book with is part of a scheme that will protect you and your money.
It’s well-known that holidays in far-flung places from South Africa to Sri Lanka should never be entered into without bonding. After all, it’s lovely to go to the jungles of Costa Rica. But you’d not want to be stuck there because your holiday company’s gone bust.
However, even getaways far closer to home can result in problems if the company comes a cropper, so make sure that ABTA, ABTOT or ATOL are mentioned somewhere in the literature. Even if it's a last-minute bargain, you need protection. And not just SPF20.
Right, on to our top choices.
1. Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside
There’s one choice of holiday that never fails to delight: the good old beach holiday. Salty air and piers are wonderful mood-boosters and perennial favourites, regardless of age.
Here in the UK, we're very well blessed with an abundance of beautiful seaside towns, and the good news is that they make ideal destinations for single travellers, with a great range of group holidays tailored to solo over 50 holidaymakers.
Those who are after a bit of peaceful time to recharge and take in some wonderful horizons, as well as a cheeky portion of chips, will love a trip to Bournemouth. While those who want to strut their stuff in the sequinned splendour of Blackpool can quickstep their way to this break.
2. I could use a cruise
Cruising usually conjures up images of epic voyages around the Mediterranean, with stop-offs at hotspots like Crete, Portugal and Cyprus. However, you don’t need to go all that way.
You can cast off with various companies that specialise in getting the over 50 solo traveller afloat and on their way to some of the world's finest locations, all within the UK. Happily, more and more single cabins are available, often with no single supplement.
From voyages to see the puffins of Staffa to the cows of Guernsey, the beautiful British Isles are yours to explore. Or you can mix things up a little and travel somewhere in the UK before going to Spain or elsewhere in Europe, where the river cruise scene is enormous.
Cruises are an excellent way for over 50s to travel alone, with efforts made by the holiday companies to link you up with like-minded people. For instance, Saga offers a special Singles Mingle night for solo travellers to get to know each other early on in the trip, together with a Singles Lunch.
3. Green and pleasant land
A trip to one of the UK's gorgeous National Parks, stuffed full of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, can refresh the soul and inspire the mind.
There are so many national parks to choose from, from the gently rolling hills and warm stone of the Cotswolds to the stark majesty and breathtaking vistas of Snowdonia. Or consider going to the Highlands of Scotland, where the Grampian glens and lonely lochs await.
On the way up, there is Hadrian’s Wall, where you can march along its length with a small group, enjoying the brooding scenery and - who knows? - perhaps even an appearance from the northern lights. You don’t need to go all the way to Iceland for them.
For those nervous about trying out this kind of holiday for the first time, rest assured that companies do their best to have you quickly at your ease.
For instance, Just You is a tour operator selling holidays that feature a welcome get-together right at the start, at which, hopefully, friendships will kindle. Meals are then taken together, but if you'd rather not join in the general merriment, you're welcome to do your own thing, and nobody will judge.
4. Coach class
Some people only feel like they’ve been on holiday if they’ve had the chance to make a hefty contribution to global warming with a fuel-guzzling trip in a plane somewhere exotic. For others, it’s all about that staple of the much-loved British holiday - the coach trip.
From Cliff Richard’s summer sojourn on a bus to The Divine Comedy’s song of praise to the National Express, we Brits have a special place in our hearts for the good old charabanc style of travel.
Travelling solo and coaches go very well together, especially if you choose a coach holiday with complete itineraries that keep you so busily engaged with having fun that you won't have the chance to feel any solo awkwardness. Daish Holidays' award-winning all-inclusive holidays are fantastic on this front.
Great examples of coach holidays abound, such as terrific solo traveller trips around the highlights of Yorkshire. And to those thinking that coach holidays are confined to the UK, think again. Some outstanding overseas options include places like Italy and Croatia if you'd prefer to venture outside the UK.
5. City lights
Yes, it's all very well having a holiday miles away to take in the exotic cities of Morocco or Vietnam, but there's a lot to be said for a brief UK city break group tour. So why not whizz over to Northern Ireland and Belfast to see the Titanic Museum? Or take in the fab sights of Liverpool?
UK cities have a fascinating history, world-class culture, vibrant shopping and great eating, and they're on your doorstep, which makes them ideal for the over 50 solo traveller wanting to squeeze in a quick dose of excitement.
Sometimes it can seem like quite a trek to find a holiday that ticks all your boxes. When you have the added dimensions of being single and over 50, this can make the perfect holiday seem all the more remote.
However, we hope we've shown you the wide world of holiday opportunities waiting to be grabbed. And you don't even need to leave the UK. Happy holidays!