Solo holidays, tech-savvy travellers and a future as digital nomads

New research reveals our travel plans are changing for 2024 – and going it alone is more popular than ever.

More of us than ever before are heading off on holiday alone, with solo trips rising by almost a quarter last year, Saga’s new travel survey has revealed.

The research into bookings by the over-50s in the UK, has revealed that 20% of older people will be travelling alone this year and almost half will end the holiday with new long lasting friendships or even romance.

Other findings of the survey show that almost all of us want free Wi-Fi in our hotel or cruise ship and that by 2027 many more of us will be embracing an active retirement as digital nomads.

A woman sat in a Greek ampitheatre wearing a hat and sunglasses enjoying the sunshineCredit: Saga Travel Group

John Constable, CEO of Saga Travel Group, said: “Over 50s are an audience often ignored by many brands, including those in the travel industry, yet they make up 38% of the population and as our recent research shows, they are not to be under-estimated.

“We’re seeing a rise in solo holidays because they feel ‘if not now, then when?’ and want to have new experiences. Not only will they see the world, but it’s also a great way to meet new people.”

Solo travel has increased by almost a quarter

Holidaying alone is more popular than ever

Saga, which offers a range of holidays including escorted tours, independent trips, hotel holidays and cruises has witnessed a 23% increase in solo travellers year-on-year.

The company revealed that 20 per cent of travellers will be taking solo trips in 2024, but it’s the women who are heading the trend, making up 28% compared to men at just 12% – and women aged over 80 are the most likely to go alone.

An impressive 82% of these solo travellers have already planned to travel outside of the UK in 2024. Most of them are already experienced go-it-aloners with 91% having already enjoyed an average of five trips, while 9% are travelling on their own for the first time.

Long-haul touring holidays are the most popular types of trips with 42% of respondents.

Cruises are also a popular option particularly with women and those over 70.

Solo travel is increasing and here’s why

Why are people holidaying alone?

  • 48% of women and 30% of men say they’d rather travel now, than wait for someone to come with them and feeling ‘if not now, then when?’
  • Sadly, 35% cite the death of a partner as a reason they are travelling solo, but they want to continue to enjoy their travels as they did as a couple.
  • The main concern was having someone to chat to or have lunch with, but 47% of respondents who have travelled on their own told Saga that they had made friends, who they’ve stayed in touch with.
  • 11% revealed they had made a romantic connection on a solo holiday.
  • Safety was also a concern, with 31% of men and 43% of women citing this, but adding that group travel, either touring or cruising, made them feel safer.

The long-lasting benefits of a solo holiday

The positive impacts of a solo trip also seem to last longer than the holiday itself. Solo trips result in a shift in self-perception, with 54% of the travellers who Saga spoke to saying that their first trip alone made them feel proud of themselves – a sentiment that was stronger in women at 58%, to men at 44%.

It was a source of respect and curiosity too, with 50% of respondents saying that other people had been impressed when they heard of their solo travel plans.

Why WiFi is important on holiday

The rise of the tech-savvy traveller

The study also shows how important technology is for us, with the research revealing that more than half of us look online for our holiday inspiration – 58% use travel company websites for their research.

Nearly a quarter (24%) are also engaged with travel brands’ social media platforms, online travel influencers and advertising on digital and social media accounts.

39% of respondents said they are happy to book a holiday online, with this increasing to 58% for 50-59-year-olds and short-haul trips are most likely to be booked online.

Why we want Wi-Fi on our holidays

Easy online accessibility on holiday rates highly with Saga customers, with 61% stating that Wi-Fi access is extremely/very important to them, and 80% are unhappy if they must pay for it. Almost all – 96% – expect hotels and cruise ships to offer Wi-Fi for free.

  • 51% want to keep in touch with friends and family on holiday.
  • 22% will be sharing their holiday pictures on social media – rising to 39% among the 50-59 age group.

Where in the world are we going on holiday

Our travel destinations for 2024

So where is everyone planning on travelling to this year?

  • Two thirds (58%) are planning a UK break in 2024.
  • More than a third (32%) are planning to take an ocean cruise.
  • European city breaks are also popular, in particular with 50-69-year-olds (22%).
  • Just a third (29%) want to go on holidays to places they have visited before – most want to explore new destinations and cultures.

Other findings from Saga’s research found that 56% of respondents are already holding at least one booking for next year, but that they expect to take three holidays. And 39% expect to be travelling more in 2024, a number which rises to 43% for people between 50 and 69 years old.

We're likely to become digital nomads in our retirement

Additional Saga research conducted through the insight company The Big Window identified that by 2027 there will be 15 million people in ‘active retirement’ – a banding that involves a combination of activity that is likely to include some paid work, as well as hobbies and volunteering.

That, combined with changes in the working environment and a move towards more flexibility, is likely to lead to more older people continuing to work as they travel and becoming more digitally nomadic.

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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