Pros and Cons of Traveling Solo, as a Couple, or a Family

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No matter how you to travel the world – whether it’s solo, as part of a couple, or a whole family – it comes with pros and cons. This post will outline some of these traveling pros and cons, along with providing resources full of testimonials from professional experts on solo travel, couple’s travel, and family travel.

Here's the best and worst aspects of all kinds of travel: solo, as a couple, and as a family. #solotravel #coupletravel #familytravel #TheProfessionalHobo

Myself? I’ve covered the gambit. I know the pros and cons of traveling solo inside and out. I love solo travel, but it does have a shelf life for me. After a while (and by ‘a while’, I mean months to years), without having somebody alongside me to act as a contextual baseline and help me understand and integrate all the new experiences that travel tends to provide, I get what I’ve dubbed to be “motion sickness on the road“.  Having said that, I’ve also found my solo travel years to be among the most empowering and freeing, and even socially rewarding. 

Couple travel? Yeah, I’ve done that too. (Lots). My first three years on the road were with a boyfriend – a relationship that dragged on longer than it should have, held together only by (his) collapsing finances while being on the opposite side of the world. (Read about the real cost of an arbitrary travel budget here). I’ve had a few other relationships since then, lasting anywhere from a few months to a few years. Feeling voyeuristic? You can read about all my relationships on the road here. There are definitely pros and cons of being a travel couple. But on the whole, I would say that if you and your partner are a good match on the road (and that’s waaaaaay easier said than done), for me, couple travel is the most rewarding and easy. 

This is, of course, to say nothing of family travel. I don’t have children, nor have I traveled with a family in tow – at least not the traditional idea of “family” – being parents with wee children. I have, however, traveled with my own family (as in, my parents and their partners) as an adult. While it’s considerably different from hauling diapers around, there are many adjustments to be made when traveling as a family; many of the same adjustments that you would make to travel with friends (except you can’t always talk back to your mum the way you might to a friend!). 

Pros and Cons of Traveling Solo

More than half of the time that I’ve been on the road since 2007, it has been as a solo traveler. I find solo travelling to be incredibly empowering, and not nearly as lonely as I had feared it to be. In fact, it’s actually easier to meet people and have meaningful cultural exchanges on a solo trip rather than as a couple or with a family! (See also: Traveling Alone as a Woman – Tips and Tricks)

Here are just a few pros and cons of traveling solo:

Pros of Solo Travel

  • You can do what you want, when you want, and where you want.
  • It’s easier to meet other travelers.
  • You realize that indeed, you can do it (whatever “it” is).
  • You’re more likely to get an invitation to stay with locals, since putting up one person is easier than two or more.

Cons of Solo Travel

  • If you’re feeling romantic, that gorgeous sunset might make you pine for a significant other to share it with.
  • Being sick on the road alone sucks in so many ways.
  • You don’t have a trusted companion to watch your stuff, share the burden, or just be there for you.
  • You’re on the hook to take care of all the logistics of traveling, which can be many.
  • Without a contextual baseline for your experiences (in the form of somebody you travel with), “motion sickness” can set in after a while.

Solo Travel Resources

Don’t just take it from me! Here’s a post that profiles 13 professional solo travelers who share their own pros and cons of solo travel:

Solo Travel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

And this book will give you the courage to hit the road in style on your own. It’s part of Janice Waugh’s popular Traveler’s Handbook series, and is a comprehensive “how” and “why” of solo travel, including real solo travel stories, tips on how to be social, stay safe with five principles and 60 tips, planning and packing, where to go and when, and more:

The Solo Traveler’s Handbook (2nd Edition) 

Pros and Cons of Couple Travel

I’ve had a few partners on the road; I traveled for my first three years with one partner, and I had a relationship with a fellow in the Caribbean for about a year and a half. In between, I also had a few romances (with varying degrees of seriousness and success). Here are some pros and cons of couple travel: 

Pros of Couple’s Travel

  • You have somebody to share the logistics and burdens of travel with.
  • It’s wonderful to share and reflect on your daily travel experiences with somebody.
  • With different viewpoints, you can learn new things you might not figure out on your own.
  • You learn to communicate better and strengthen the relationship.

Cons of Couple’s Travel

  • It’s tough to get the personal time and space you need.
  • Being together all the time can accelerate the natural progression of a relationship (for better or worse).
  • You’re less approachable on the road and tend to be more insular as a couple.
  • When you each want to do different things or go different places, it can cause friction and requires compromise and communication.

Couple’s Travel Resources

In this post, 10 professional traveling couples share their viewpoints and experiences, as well as lessons learned:

Couple’s Travel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Pros and Cons of Family Travel

I don’t have personal experience traveling as a family, but there are many families out there who do an amazing job of it. It comes with a completely different set of challenges (and benefits) to that of solo and couple’s travel, but it’s entirely possible. Here are the family travel pros and cons: 

Pros of Family Travel

  • You get to spend quality family time together.
  • Many traveling families would argue that the quality of kids’ education on the road exceeds what they would get at home in school.
  • Kids grow up with radically expanded perceptions of the world.
  • Parents get to see and discover the world through their children’s eyes.

Cons of Family Travel

  • As parents, you don’t get to enjoy much night life since babysitters are tough to come by on the road.
  • If you’re traveling full-time, the kids miss out on having a routine and stable social life, and friendships are often fleeting.
  • There can be a serious lack of space and downtime – for all involved.
  • Stressful and chaotic travel situations can become more so when you have to worry about the kids as well.

Family Travel Resources

Just in case you thought it’s impossible to travel with a family, check out this post featuring nine professional traveling families (many of whom are completely nomadic), including two families with six (6!) children and more than one full time travel family:

Family Travel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

So there you have it. There is no one right or wrong, or better or worse way to travel. If you check out any of the accompanying resources, you’ll see that there are career travelers making a go of it on their own, with partners, and with entire families. 

Travel is entirely customizable. From trip length, to location, to style, speed, activities, and so much more…..your trip is your own to create and curate as you desire. 

What are your experiences with family travel, couple’s travel, and solo travel? Do you have a preference? Feel free to share in the comments! 

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8 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Traveling Solo, as a Couple, or a Family”

  1. I’m a solo traveller, but I believe family travel is the most challenging for obvious reasons. Many people forego long-term travel for family planning and security. But at the same time, many people forego family for their careers. So who knows.

  2. I travel solo, but my friends is a tour guide in Thailand and once joined in on his group tour for a few weeks randomly. I noticed it was very similar to your points about traveling in a couple.

  3. Hey Nora – that’s not a bad review of family travel there. I think the pros are exactly that – so much time together, so many memories to build and so much potential to inspire your children. The cons are true too – I think the fear of something going wrong is why parents typically opt for the easiest/ most familiar option out there. I’m all for adventure, though, personally 😉

  4. Very informative! Sometimes, alone time can lead to self-discovery and personal growth as you navigate unfamiliar situations on your own.

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