Exploring the Pisac Market in Peru (photo: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos)

Freedom and New Friends on AMA Solo Travel Adventures

By Jennifer Allford

Elodi Pritchard has eaten fresh-caught tuna in Indonesia and bought toys at German Christmas markets. She’s seen a big chunk of the world—much of it while travelling solo with AMA Travel.

Along the way, the Calgarian has not only collected memories, but also friends from across Alberta. “There’s a group of us from Calgary and Edmonton who met on trips. Now we get together a few times a year,” she says. “I cross-country ski and hike with people I met in India.”

Whether it’s ancient ruins in Peru, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast or the wildlife of Zimbabwe, Albertans are itching to see the world—even if they don’t have someone at home who wants to join them. That’s why more people are signing up to go solo—choosing to travel by themselves as part of group trips organized by AMA Travel. “While it’s mostly women, we are seeing more men join our trips,” says Elaine Le Jambe, program sales and service lead with AMA Travel in Edmonton.

There are several different ways to go solo; it definitely doesn’t mean going it alone. Every year, Le Jambe and her AMA Travel colleagues host several trips for solo travellers. They’ll also organize groups of solo guests to be hosted by guides from reputable tour companies on the ground. And for those who truly want to go by themselves, AMA Travel can plan a perfect lone adventure, from bird watching in Costa Rica to relaxing at an all-inclusive in Chile.

Going with a host is a good idea if you’re venturing farther afield or “a little out of your comfort zone,” as Le Jambe puts it. “When we organize a group, it’s primarily to a bucket-list destination or a developing country, where you may not want to go alone.”

Your AMA Travel host acts as your group concierge by organizing optional tours and enhancing the itinerary with added meals or more free time at your favourite spots. They also manage any hiccups that happen on the road and take care of most gratuities so you have one less thing to worry about.

All roads lead to a self-drive tour of Ireland

AMA Travel works with partners around the globe to reduce or waive the dreaded single supplement, that extra and often exorbitant fee that solo travellers have to pay to get their own room. “More and more tour operators are coming onboard to reduce the single supplement, making it more affordable for people to travel solo,” Le Jambe says. “We seek them out to give members the most bang for their travel buck.”

Long before the plane takes off, solo travellers can share tips on AMA Travel’s Go Solo Facebook page, attend information sessions to learn more, or buy a ticket to a Go Solo Social to enjoy some wine and travel talk with fellow independent globetrotters. “In Red Deer, we had a table of six women who were so excited,” La Jambe says. “They said, ‘We’re all going’—and they had just met that night!”

ama solo travel cycling tour group
photo: Solstock/iStock

AMA Travel’s solo trips attract a lot of like-minded, adventurous people. “It’s not just single people,” Pritchard adds. “You meet a lot of married women whose husbands either don’t want to travel or couldn’t take the time off work.”

Speaking of work, Pritchard also likes that AMA Travel does all the heavy lifting to organize the trip. “You basically show up with your suitcase. All the logistics, planning and homework that takes so much time is all done for you. And they know what they’re doing so you’ll get the best of everything.”

AMA member Melodi Pritchard shares her love of solo travel, Balinese adventures and dreams of India

Tell us about one of your all-time favourite trips.
I went to Bali with AMA Travel in February 2017. It was my second time there. I loved it so much the first time that I needed to go back! It’s easy to get around, super cheap and the food is fantastic.

You’re a seasoned traveller. What’s different about going solo with AMA Travel?
I’ve travelled alone and I always find it kind of lonely in the evening. You go for dinner, which only takes an hour, so you think “What am I going to do for the rest of the night?” You may not feel safe on the street or going to a bar on your own. But with AMA Travel, you have a group of other people. You’re all in the same situation, so you can ask “Do you want to do this?” You’re solo, but you’re definitely not alone!

It sounds like a good mix: independence and companionship.
Right! If you want to sleep in, you sleep in; if you want to go to the museum and spend six hours there, you do it. If you’re on a trip with a friend and they love shopping but you don’t, it can make for some long days. But travelling solo means you can do what you want, when you want. It’s the best of both worlds.

So, where will you go next?
Southern India and Sri Lanka! I can’t wait. I love India, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart!

ama solo travel machu picchu peru
Llamas at Machu Picchu (photo Diego Grandi/iStock)

Travel with a group and AMA Travel host Crystal Pajunen for a safe visit to this rugged paradise.

You’ll check off more than a few bucket-list items in Peru, touring with your AMA Travel host and other adventurous solo travellers. During boat rides, flights and drives through the lush landscape, you’ll have plenty to talk about with your fellow trekkers.

Before heading to the mountains, take a boat ride across Paracas Bay to the Ballestas Islands, home to thousands of migratory birds. Try to spot the Paracas Candelabra, a giant symbol etched into a rock face that helped guide early seafarers. In the air, a flight over the ancient Nazca Lines reveals gigantic plant and animal figures carved into the desert.

Adventure tourism: Insuring yourself against risk

Back on terra firma, spend some time in Cuzco, once the seat of the Incan empire. At Coricancha temple, learn how and why the Inca worshipped their sun god. At the Awana Kancha llama and alpaca farm, watch as raw wool is transformed into Peru’s iconic blankets and sweaters.

A solo trip shouldn’t be all history and hiking, though. It’s also about R&R and time for yourself. So kick back with a pisco sour on a full-day cruise on Lake Titicaca. Stop at the floating islands of Uros and Taquile to visit a local home in Luquina Chico for a firsthand glimpse of modern Peruvianlife. You’ll learn how to cook traditional dishes like rocoto relleno—spicy stuffed peppers—and visit wineries to quench your thirst.

Of course, no trip to Peru is complete without seeing Machu Picchu. Your AMA Travel host will help navigate through busy crowds to reach your private guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more adventurous types, your host can also arrange a daylong 15-kilometre hike on the Inca Trail. From this elevated vantage point, you gaze down upon the ruins, no doubt tired and sweaty but grinning from ear to ear.

AMA Travel–hosted, 14 nights, including accommodation, domestic flights, breakfast, some lunches and dinners, gratuities, transportation and sightseeing* (Goway)

From $5,649 (tour only), share a room to save $850
Flights from $1,366/person
May 7–21, 2019
Call a Solo Travel Specialist: 1-877-589-8413

ama solo travel christmas market vienna austria
Vienna, Austria’s bustling Christmas market (photo: Sborisov/iStock)

Travel with cruise specialist Tammy Allen on this AMA Travel-hosted solo cruise.

Travel hundreds of kilometres, see four countries and shop in dozens of Christmas Markets. But the best part? Only unpacking twice—once in Prague and the second time onboard AmaWaterways’ AmaViola.

On an AMA Travel-hosted Christmas market river cruise, travel from the Czech Republic to Hungary, as you nibble fresh gingerbread, sip mugs of mulled wine and wander through festive markets. Before you even leave Alberta, your host will suggest a second suitcase—to tote home your bounty, ready to go under the tree.

Why small-ship cruising is one of the hottest trends in travel

During three days in Prague, your local guide will show you around the city and your first holiday market in the Old Town Square. Following this first festive foray, board the ship for a week-long cruise down the beautiful Danube River in your own private cabin. At every stop, you can join guided tours and stroll through festive stalls on your own. Or take a day off and relax onboard, where you can unwind in the lounge to get to know your fellow passengers. Hang out in your cabin as the AmaViola passes through the Main-Danube canal.

A few cities on the route boast UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Regensburg, a well-preserved medieval city; a Benedictine abbey in Austria’s Wachau Valley; and the historic centre of Vienna. Here you can stroll through Baroque castles, gardens, grand buildings and snowy tree-lined streets. Before leaving the City of Waltzes, tour the famed Opera House with a local guide, and stop by the Hofburg, the former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty.

This itinerary truly saves the best for last: Budapest, the pearl of the Danube. The twin cities of Buda and Pest, with their fairy-tale castles and bridges, feel like a snow globe come to life. Stop at the historic Vörösmarty Square Christmas market for any last-minute holiday shopping.

AMA Travel–hosted, 3 nights in Prague, 7-night cruise (Nuremberg–Budapest), including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner onboard* (AmaWaterways)

From $5,709 (land/cruise only)
Flights from $1,390/person
Dec. 5–Dec. 15, 2019
Call a Solo Travel Specialist: 1-877-589-8413

ama solo travel sri lanka fishermen
Taking a break from fishing in Sri Lanka (photo: J. Pie/Alamy)

Navigate these exotic lands with AMA Travel host Elaine Le Jambe and local native-speaking guides.

Fill your senses to the brim by travelling through Southern India and Sri Lanka. You’ll wander city streets, tour museums and soak up market scents and flavours. Learn about the world’s best spices and how to use them. Or just lounge on sandy beaches, next to crystal-blue hotel pools, then do a few sun salutations in the birthplace of yoga.

This part of the world can be intimidating to visit on your own, given its language and cultural barriers. Let your local tour guide handle all the logistics, while your AMA Travel host takes care of you, from handling gratuities to fun with surprises along the way. All you have to do is pack a sun hat and show up at the airport.

A small-group tour through sultry Sri Lanka

Your adventure starts in the port of Kochi: Founded in 1341, it was an important stop on the China-Europe spice route and attracted people from different faiths and cultures. Local guides take you through the beautiful Paradesi Synagogue and point out the hand-painted floor tiles that were brought from China in the 18th century.

You’ll never look at your grocery store’s spice aisle the same way after touring the plantations of Thekkady, in Periyar National Park. Or put your feet up while cruising emerald-green waterways on a kettuvallam (houseboat) in the Alappuzha district. The village of Kumarakom is a popular spot to study yoga and meditation, so you might strike a pose or opt for an Ayurvedic massage.

Relaxed and rejuvenated, travel with your AMA Travel host on a short flight to Sri Lanka. In Colombo, a local guide will show off the coastal capital’s mix of colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers. Your host will arrange transport into the mountains to see Nuwara Eliya, often called Little England because of its mock-Tudor country club. The club offers an intriguing peek into Sri Lanka’s colonial heritage.

But, of course, the present happily beckons—with a cup of tea, mountain views and a few reflections on your enlightening solo adventure.

AMA Travel–hosted, 17 nights, including accommodations, a night on a houseboat, cooking demo, yoga and a massage* (Indus Travels)

From $9,308 (incl. air and tax), share a room to save $1,200
Feb. 4–23, 2019
Call a Solo Travel Specialist: 1-877-589-8413

*AMA Travel host based on a minimum number of bookings