What Rick Steves Hates About Traveling Solo (And How He Avoids It)

Travel pro Rick Steves knows how to have the best trip to Europe. He encourages people to travel through his PBS show, his guidebooks, and through his tour company Rick Steves Tours. Through all of these endeavors, he offers location-specific tips, but also tips for any destination and for all types of travel. Most of these come from his personal experiences — and some of Steves' personal travels have been done solo. 

While more people are taking solo trips than ever before, for others, solo travel evokes mixed feelings. It can be exciting to have the freedom to do what you want without worrying about anyone else, but it can also be lonely, and some activities are designed for more than one person and can be awkward to do by yourself. Steves acknowledges that there are some cons to solo travel. "For me, a downside of traveling alone is trying to enjoy fine dinners solo," Steves explained on his website. However, he has still found ways to make this aspect of travel a bit easier.

Solo travelers can travel with tour companies

If you are uneasy about solo dining during your trip, you may not need to look far to find accompaniment. "If you're feeling sociable, eat in places so crowded and popular that all the tables are shared, or ask other single travelers if they'd like to join you," Rick Steves writes on his website. If you are staying in a hostel, Steves also suggests checking out the hostel's community spaces. Hostels are a great way to meet new people who are often unique and outgoing. Maybe you can tag along with some of these adventurous folks for a meal or even just a coffee run.

Another way to avoid feeling too alone on a solo trip is by booking a trip with a tour company. "I just wrapped up 12 wonderful days in Portugal — laughing, learning, and exploring with a great group of 25 new friends," Rick Steves stated in a blog post. Sharing the exciting experiences that traveling so often brings with a group of strangers will quickly make them not seem like strangers. Of course, you'll avoid dining alone on a food tour, but even if you take a sightseeing tour, you can always invite your new friends out for dinner. "[T]hat's one of the joys of taking a tour: You have company!" says Steves.

Tour companies are increasingly accommodating solo travelers

While families or friend groups will often travel through tour companies, many of the people on these tours will also be solo travelers. In 2023, Brian FitzGerald of the tour company Overseas Adventure Travel reported to Forbes that half of his company's travelers are going solo. Overseas Adventure Travel is accommodating solo travelers by adding more single spaces on their group trips. Other tour companies, like EF Ultimate Break, even encourage people to sign up solo.

Some tour companies plan out everything for you — from restaurants to activities to inner city transportation. If this is not appealing, either due to the cost or lack of flexibility, Rick Steves recommends assuaging the potential loneliness of solo travel with a group city walking tour. "You'll learn about the town and meet other travelers, too," he explains. Among the many walking tour companies with guides in multiple cities is SANDEMANs New Europe. These are free tours, but tips for the guides are encouraged. Aside from getting a group feel, walking tours can offer unique, local perspectives and a detailed history of the area.