Going Solo More--But Who to Go With?

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The New York Times ran an article yesterday about explosive growth in solo travel. It's not especially surprising, given related, long-emerging demographic trends like high divorce rates, delayed marriage ages, and a new freedom in the expectations surrounding couple-hood. That it's not your grandfather's travel world anymore seems pretty obvious.

So I was about to give the article a quick once-over when my eyes fixed on the story of Absolute Travel, a website based in New York City that will play vacation matchmaker starting in January '08, sending strangers away on trips based on a questionnaire. This strikes me as a pretty good premise for a comedy. And a not-entirely-bad premise for a tragedy.

It's not that I think solo travelers should be stuck schlepping around the world alone if they don't want to. It's just that Absolute Travel, despite its efforts to break new ground, feels, well...a little old school. With social media sites finding automated, almost instantaneous ways to match you up with others just like yourself—right down to your taste in books, music, food, fashion, and everything else, too—there simply must be a thousand people just like you going where you're going, at roughly the same time, all only a few keystrokes away. Are there travel websites fully tapping into this potential?

So help me out: Who's the best in online travel right now for finding vacation companions for solos? Is anyone doing it really well, with great new tools suited to the modern digital environment? Or is it best, as NYT readers would have it, to leave home alone and make your friends along the way?—which, come to think of it, might be just old school enough to qualify as new school.

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