The hospitality industry usually looks at travel the same way that Noah looked at his ark: two-by-two. Cruises, hotels, tours, and many other activities are geared—and priced—to favor couples, with the familiar “per-person, double-occupancy” (PPDO) pricing as the norm. But that’s no longer a realistic reflection of today’s travel market.
Whether you’re a millennial, a baby boomer, or somewhere in between, an increasing number of people are seeking ways to travel solo. I personally travel solo because my long-term travel companion, my wife, died a few years ago. Some young people enjoy solo travel simply for the freedom it gives them to do what they want. It’s true for all types of solo travel enthusiasts that you can’t totally escape the solo travel penalty that lodging or tours frequently impose—but you can at least try to minimize it.
Here are some ways to tap into truly solo travel—not the singles-matching system that so many travel operators use. You don’t have to give into sharing a hotel room or cabin with anybody, let alone a stranger.
1. Solo Travel Trips: Cruises
Didn’t think cruising accommodated single travelers? Norwegian Cruise Lines is a major player in solo cruising, with “studio” cabins specially designed for solo occupancy: The Norwegian Epic has 128 onboard so you’ll have plenty of solo travel company, and some other ships feature anywhere from 10 to 50 solo cabins. Rates are typically higher than half the standard PPDO rates for the cheapest cabins, but they’re still good options as long as you book early.
Not looking for a smaller solo room? Then consider booking late: Cruise lines sometimes offer free or very low single supplements for solo occupancy of a conventional double cabin—especially if the ship isn’t full within a month or less of departure date. During winter the best deals are usually in the Caribbean, but don’t ignore a late-winter holiday on a Mediterranean or river cruise, where operators also sometimes offer good solo rates. One of the easiest ways to locate these deals is to sign up for email deal alerts from SmarterTravel’s sister website, CruiseCritic.
2. Solo Travel Trips: Ski Trips
Skiiers and snowboarders who want freedom on the slopes have little to lose from booking a solo travel snow adventure. Yes, you’ll probably pay the same price for your hotel room or condo that couples would be able to split—but stick with a budget accommodations, and everything else is basically per-person, with no particular benefit for couples. You pay lift tickets, meals, and equipment rentals only for yourself, and there’s usually an apres ski lodge where you can chat with other travelers after enjoying the slopes at your own pace.
3. Solo Travel Trips: Head for Europe
Airfare, of course, doesn’t punish solo travel, and although newer chain hotels in Europe generally charge the same for singles as couples, many smaller hotels can offer single rooms at single rate, or you can go for a single bed in a hostel.
If you prefer to roam a bit, use trains. Individual tickets are easy to purchase for one, while rail passes give your schedule even more flexibility than solo travel already does. Train ticket purchases rarely favor couples and mean less waiting around alone in airports. Solo travelers who rent a car will of course pay the same as couples or even two couples, but if you can drive stick shift and get a good enough deal, that penalty doesn’t matter.
4. Solo Travel Trips: Find a Solo Travel Tour Option
Although lots of tour operators claim to offer solo travel options, many of them either pair single travelers to take advantage of PPDO prices or impose stiff single supplements. Some, however, do offer solo-priced tours. A good place to start looking is Connecting Solo Travel Network, an agency based in Canada that compiles data on tours from different operators. Quite a few of its postings target solo travel seekers, dubbed ‘mature singles’. Solo Trekker 4U tracks prices of solo travel options to provide a large, searchable database of tours and cruises. And Women Traveling Together focuses almost entirely on upmarket solo-occupancy tours for women.
5. Solo Travel Trips: Head for Asia
It’s a long flight away, but in my recent visits I’ve found that prices on hotels just below the deluxe level in China and Thailand are low enough that you don’t have to worry about paying the double rate as a single. Downmarket hotels go for typical hostel rates, and the cost of meals and necessities is usually lower.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen lots of flash sale airfares from the U.S. and Canada to China and Thailand, some for under $500 round-trip. In China you can either stay put in one city, or get around on China’s world-leading, high-speed rail network, which offers comfortable accommodation at attractive fares.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Say Goodbye to Bag Fee Transparency: DOT
- 7 Things to Hate About Solo Travel
- 27 Best Apps for Solo Travelers
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 abuse every day at SmarterTravel.