Road Scholar, the world leader in educational travel for older adults, released a report on trends in solo travel in November 2023 and one of the most surprising findings is that at least 60% of Road Scholar’s solo travelers in 2022 were married, but traveling without their spouse. Further, 27% of married women surveyed have never traveled with a spouse on a Road Scholar program.
When asked why they travel without their spouses, 42% of women surveyed said their spouse isn’t interested in traveling and 40% said they have different interests when it comes to travel.
“I cherish my time to explore and do what I want on my timetable,” Road Scholar solo traveler Marcia Henderson, 66, said. “I like to walk, hike, etc. He has knee issues and doesn’t share my passion for nature, culture, and history. It would be an atrocity to not travel just because my spouse doesn’t like it. This is my passion, and he is supportive as I support his golfing.”
Road Scholar compiled data for this study from the community of 80-100,000 adults over 50 who travel with them each year, including a survey conducted earlier this year. They report that nearly 70% of their travelers are women. Compare that to the overall population breakdown in the U.S.— 58% of Americans 65 and older are women— and this suggests that women are generally more likely to travel in their later years.
There are also far more female solo travelers than male solo travelers among older adults: Road Scholar reports that 85% of their solo travelers are women. They gathered data from outside sources to suggest some reasons why so many more women are traveling solo than men, pointing out that nearly half of women over 65 in the U.S. are unpartnered, that there are far more widowed women than widowed men, and that the divorce rate is highest among older Americans and on the rise.
But their finding that so many of their solo female travelers are married tells an intriguing story about the behaviors of Baby Boomer women versus men.
“I think this trend is really a mark of the population that we’re serving currently,” Road Scholar’s PR Director Kelsey Knoedler Perri said. “Two-thirds of our participants now are Boomers, and Boomer women are so much more independent than their mothers and grandmothers. It would have been far more unheard of for previous generations of women to be traveling the world without their spouses. And society has shifted to ‘allow’ older women the freedom to do it.”
Perhaps because of the increase in independence among Boomer women, Road Scholar has been seeing a steady increase in solo travel over the past 10 years. As a response to this increasing demand, they shared the exclusive news that they are developing a collection of programs for solo travelers, which they plan to debut in 2024, with departures starting in 2025.