The travel industry obviously doesn’t like true solo travelers much: Almost all tours and cruises are priced on a “per person, double occupancy” basis, and most hotels charge the same rate for either one or two people. If, as a singles traveler, you just want to avoid a stiff single supplement, the industry often promises to find someone to share with you so you can, in effect, travel at the couples price. But if you really want to travel solo, your options are limited.
But you aren’t totally out of opportunities. Even the most hidebound travel executives are slowly awakening to the demographic changes that are leading to a sharp increase in the number of travelers that really want to travel solo. Here are five suggestions for vacation trips that are especially great for a true solo traveler. Beyond these five specifics, you can use this list as a starting point to generate your own ideas.
Cruise on Norwegian
More than any other line, Norwegian has zeroed in on solo travelers with a specifically tailored product: Its newer ships have between 59 and 128 “studio” cabins, grouped into clusters that include dedicated solo common rooms. You can mingle with other solo travelers but still have your own private sleeping and bathroom facilities. Other big cruiselines, too, have at least a few singles cabins, including Fred Olsen, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Costa, and Cunard’s Queens.
Of course, cruiselines often promote low or no single supplement for ordinary cabins, although that sort of de-facto discounting usually occurs only when vacancies remain when departure dates approach. The best way to track those offers is to keep current with cruise information sources such as Cruise Critic.
Veg Out on the Canadian
Via Rail Canada‘s top train, the Canadian, runs a three-night, four-day “land cruise” between Toronto and Vancouver, with a substantial number of single-occupancy and single-priced sleeper “cabins.” The sleeper class fare includes all meals, which railfans report as being excellent, and the sleeper cars have showers. The best scenery is between Jasper Park and Vancouver, and the eastbound schedule gives you a bit more daylight travel through the mountains.
Another good idea from Via Rail is its Skeena train, between Jasper and Prince Rupert. Rather than operate through the night, it runs by day between Jasper and Prince George and between Prince George and Prince Rupert; you spend the night in a hotel in Prince George. That way, all you need is a cheap coach ticket plus a modest room rate.
For best prices on all Via Rail trains, check Via Rail’s weekly “Discount Tuesday” promotions. And consider travel off-season, October 17 through May 4. for minimum cost.
Although Amtrak runs several long-haul trains that operate through some great scenery, it has no single roomettes. A solo traveler pays as much for a roomette as a couple. Feh.
Fly Where Good Hotels Are Cheap
Air tickets are essentially solo-priced, so consider flying someplace where you can find great accommodations at good prices even if you have to pay the same as a couple. As far as we can tell, the current number one attractive world destination for great prices on luxury hotels is Bangkok, where Trivago lists eight 5-star hotels for less than $100 a night, a bunch more for less than $150, and some 4-star hotels at less than $50. Several main cities in Europe—especially Berlin, Lisbon, and eastern European capitals—also show attractive hotel rates. Closer to home, Las Vegas is famous for relatively low prices on deluxe rooms at some of the big casino hotel complexes, even after you add in the odious resort fees they all charge.
Find a cheap flight to Switzerland, buy a Swiss Travel Pass, and spend a week or two traveling through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Unless you want to spend all your time riding trains, go for a flexible pass that allows travel on a certain number of days out of a longer period. A Swiss travel pass giving rail travel on any eight days during a month costs $429, and it includes the especially-scenic private-railway Glacier Express line. If you don’t mind paying extra for some of the private segments, the Eurail two-country Austria-Switzerland pass costs $336 for five travel days out of a two-month period.
If you’re age 60 or over, consider railpassing France. The senior France Rail Pass covering eight rail travel days during a month is $384 in first class—a great way to enjoy one of the world’s most extensive high-speed rail systems, as well as the fun of stopping off in many of France’s diverse visitor centers. For minimum cost, the second-class pass is $309. Check RailEurope for details.
Almost all European countries, as well as Japan, offer a range of railpasses. And in countries with well-developed rail systems, you can generally find budget-priced tourist hotels within easy walking distance of rail stations so you don’t have to spend a lot on taxis or schlep baggage on public transit.
Find a Solo Tour
Most tour operators claiming to offer singles travel actually promote some sort of matching system, where you get paired up with someone to share the double occupancy costs. A few, however, including Singles Travel International actually arrange some tours priced for true solo travelers. And it’s a good place to track down conventional cruises and tours that offer low or even zero single-supplement pricing. Some of the more conventional “pair up” agencies also highlight some tours with low single supplements.
Also consider Road Scholar, the former Elderhostel program, that offers some specials with no single supplement. It notes that one in four of its travelers currently go solo. And you don’t have to be “elder,” either; Road Scholar attracts travelers in all age groups.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Safety Tips for Fearless Solo Female Travelers
- 10 Great Cruise Lines for Solo Travelers
- Solo Travel: Avoiding a Gouge
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.