Road Scholar Introduces A New Program

Acadia, Credit:Cred_ Kelsey Knoedler Perri & Road Scholar
Acadia, Credit: Kelsey Knoedler Perri & Road Scholar
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 Road Scholar, the world leader in educational travel for older adults for nearly 50 years, has launched a new series of trips designed exclusively for solo travelers over 50.

The not-for-profit organization recently released a report on solo travelers which showed a rise in solo travel, due in large part to more older women traveling without their spouses. To respond to that growing trend, Road Scholar has created a collection of innovative solos-only journeys, catering to individuals seeking enriching adventures while enjoying the company of like-minded solo explorers. 

Program 3645Wild Africa: Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia On the South Luangwa River in Zimbabwe Dorothy McFadden-Parker

Programs in the solos-only collection span from Louisiana to Lima, and Italy to India. Road Scholar’s program designers have hand-selected dates of some of their most popular itineraries for their pilot. Each participant who enrolls in a solos-only program will get their own private room but can join the group knowing they’ll be among other solo travelers.

“We serve tens of thousands of solo travelers every year, so we understand their unique needs,” said Maeve Hartney, Chief Program Officer Road Scholar. “Although all of our programs offer a welcoming and inclusive environment for solos, these new programs have a greater comfort level and more opportunities to make new friends.”

Credit: Alyssa Bichunsky & Road Scholar

Just like all Road Scholar programs, these exclusive trips feature expert-led educational experiences, comfortable accommodations, and carefully planned itineraries that balance structured activities with ample free time for personal exploration. Solo travelers can delve into the local culture, engage in hands-on learning opportunities, and forge lasting friendships with others who share their passion for discovery.

Splash Magazines Worldwide had an opportunity for a Q and A about this new program with Kelsey Knoedler Perri, a representative from Road Scholar. Read on to learn more about the program.

Are these trips structured differently from other Road Scholar trips or are they pretty much the same with simply a different social dynamic? In most cases, we’ve selected one date of popular programs and reserved them for solos only.

So the trip is totally the same as the other dates except for the makeup of the group. Typically, we see that 5-30% of our groups are solo travelers. For one program, Go Solo: Art & Architecture in Chicago, all the dates on that program are solos-only. However, the program was designed really in the same way we’d have designed it for any group make-up. The differentiation is really for our internal systems to test out how things work on the back end as well as ease of marketing it. 

Aegean Odyssey, AO, Afloat, Greece, 23176, Great Global Get-Together A Celebration of the Greek Islands, Kos, Asclepeion

What are the particular challenges in organizing trips for solo travelers

The biggest challenge is finding a hotel that will give us enough space to have a single room for each participant.

What support is there if a traveler has difficulty with the itinerary or with other travelers?

By “difficulty with the itinerary” do you mean, like, the physical demands of the program? Or they’re not happy with the activities or timeline? Either way, we communicate quite detailed itineraries before enrollment as well as after in the preparatory materials, including daily activity notes that describe the physical demands required for each day. We do everything we can to communicate these at many steps in the process and are as detailed and transparent as possible. The onus is then on the participant to review that information before they enroll and before they travel to make sure that the program is a good fit for them. If they arrive and realize the activity level is more than they can handle, the Group Leader will work with them to determine what activities can be amended for them or what they may need to sit out for.

All of our participants are mature adults, and because our program focus on education, we typically attract folks who have a lot in common, get along quite well, and are open minded and flexible. So we really rarely hear of issues with other travelers. But if that were to happen, our Group Leaders who are with the group throughout the week are there to help smooth out any issues.

Aegean Odyssey, AO, Afloat, Greece, 23176, Great Global Get-Together A Celebration of the Greek Islands, cocktail party, Elena Garnache (left) and Valerie Morris (right) having fun at the captains cocktail party

What inspired the new program aimed at older single travelers?

We recently put out a solo travel report, based on a study we did last year. We found that interest in solo travel has been on the rise over the past 10 years, really influenced by the Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. Divorce rate is on the rise among Boomers, and many women outlive their husbands. But interestingly, we found that the trend is not only being led by single folks but also that 60% of our solo travelers are married people who leave their spouses at home to travel. I find this so fascinating! I think it really tells a story about the Boomer generation (especially women, who are very independent and adventurous) but also the point in time that we’re in—that women are sort of “allowed” by society to travel solo; that it’s not SO taboo compared to past generations. This rise in solo travel is what really inspired the new programs for solos, along with the fact that we see lots of women in our Women of Road Scholar Facebook group who express that they’re interested in traveling solo but are nervous to do so. Our hope is that more solos who are nervous to travel solo will be more apt to take the plunge and enroll in these programs knowing they’ll be certain they’ll be among other solo travelers.

What is the likely proportion of men and women on the trips in this program?

Among our solo travelers typically, 85% are women, and early numbers are showing almost that identical makeup for our solos-only trips so far. (After uncovering the fact that so many of our solos are married women who travel without their husbands and that their #1 reason for not traveling is that they simply aren’t interested, I’m hoping to do another data study this year to dig more into the psychological reasons why more men don’t travel.)

Location: Punta Leona, Costa Rica. Scene: Carara National Park. Description: Participant Karen Luse hiking inside the transitional rain forest

As an older single woman, I am concerned about traveling on my own.  What specific aspects of traveling with this program will make it less fearful for me?

Ooh, I got ahead of you with my previous answer! First I will say that solo travelers SHOULD feel at ease enrolling in ANY of our programs.  Because 25-30% of our travelers go solo, you’re VERY unlikely to be the ONLY solo on a trip. Our programs are made up of solos, couples, as well as siblings and friends traveling together. And our solo travelers report overwhelmingly how welcomed and included they feel by everyone in our groups, including pairs. 

That being said, some people need that extra assurance to take the plunge. I think what will give single folks (especially women, and ESPECIALLY widows) that extra piece of mind is that they know for certain they won’t be the only solos on the trip, and that everyone will be there with the intention to meet new people.

 If I should need help, how is this handled?

Not sure what kind of help you’re referring to—if you’re looking for help enrolling in a program, we have a knowledgeable team of advisors who are happy to help you find the right program for you—just give us a call! If you’re referring to help once on a program, there is a Group Leader who is with the group the entire length of the trip to handle logistics, and they’re also experienced in helping with any unexpected issues that might come up throughout the trip.

2814 The Best of Utah’s Grand Circle of Parks and Monuments, Guided tour of Canyonlands National Park

 I know people with physical limits who have a wish to travel.  Is there anything about this program that deals with someone like this?

We do our best to accommodate people with any mobility challenges or physical limitations on our programs, though not every single program can accommodate every single person. It’s best to call us so we can discuss your needs and find the right program for you.

Thank you so much.  FYI, I was eating dinner tonight with a woman that could not say enough good things about Road Scholar trips.  She and her husband have been on “too many to count”.  She just could not say enough good things about their experiences. 

That’s so great to hear! I have to say, that’s what we hear overwhelmingly from our participants. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to work at a place that has such a great reputation. We could MANY repeat travelers on our programs as well as friend referrals. Word of mouth is the most powerful!


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