What's the Advantage of a Tour?
Taking a tour is a gentle way to get started with solo travel. It reduces the amount of planning and organisation considerably. It's a good way to meet people. And its a great platform to start engaging in conversation with local or other travellers when you travel. There's always support around. and your guide will help with introductions. If terrain or organisation looks overly challenging (or regulations demand it – like North Korea), I might get a tour custom made, or I might join a group tour for a short while, for one leg of a longer trip.
Choosing a Tour
Enjoyment of a group tour, I've discovered, is hugely dependent on the quality of the leader. So, find out a much as you can about your guide and the other group members before you sign up. There are usually other solo travellers, and the tour company will generally tell you how many, if you ask.
Check the size of the tour groups - these can vary a lot, from 50 (usually coach tours) down to just a few. Smaller groups allow for more discussion and a closer shared experience, This might be important if you've chosen a themed or specialist tour. (Cookery, physical activities, archaeology, photography to name just a few)
Often, you can share a room with another tour participant to keep costs down, the single supplement is the bane of the solo traveller. But consider paying up if you can afford it. Or find a tour that doesn't charge them (not explicitly anyway). You might make a friend for life with your room mate. On the other hand, sharing with someone who snores, or bounces out of bed at six every morning, can be trying.
A possible limitation of a tour is that you have to follow the planned itinerary. It might not be quite (or largely) what you wanted. And you have to get up when you're told. And sometimes eat what and when you're told to. This may or may not be a good thing. Take headphones. they're really useful for discouraging conversation if you need some quiet. You don't actually have to listen to music.
Ask about the age and gender demographic, if it isn't clear from the company information. Check if there is special provision for solo travellers. Some hotels have dedicated solo traveller tables in the dining room. Large dining tables (or railway dining cars) are always a good way to meet others. Cruises may host a solo travellers cocktail party. Some even have solos-only areas on board. Some tours and hotels have friendship hosts.
Tours Dedicated to Solo Travellers
Apparently the average age of a solo traveller is 54. There are plenty of tours just for solo women. If you travel with a dedicated solo tour operator, you'll probably find that there are more woman than men in your group. (Perhaps romance still beckons? Though travelling solo increasingly doesn't necessarily mean not attached.) Some operators host an online forum for future travellers, so that they can get to know each other before they travel.
Another possibility is to custom make your own tour. Check out online travel groups, such as Every Passport Stamp for like minded fellow travellers searching for companions. Put it together yourself or get a company to do it for you. Most companies that offer group tours will also custom make. and others cater solely to private groups or individuals.
Another compromise is to take day tours whilst you're travelling solo. I've met lots of people this way. Many hotels will helps you book - especially if there is a concierge desk. If you want to make certain of a particular destination and book in advance, there are again plenty of online companies. Viator and GetYourGuide are the largest.
If you're still feeling apprehensive start small. Try a city break. It won't take many trips, though, I'm sure, before you come away thinking 'I could easily have done that on my own after all'.