If you like to travel alone, the phrase “based on double occupancy” is one of the most frustrating aspects of planning your trip. Many travel providers advertise low prices that are made possible by spreading the cost of lodging and transportation between two travelers, making the actual cost less per person but more expensive if you’re traveling solo.
About 40 percent of adults in the US are single, so it’s no surprise that many of our readers write to us for ideas on how to avoid the dreaded single supplement. Fortunately, there are several ways to make your travel dollars go further. Use the resources below when you begin to plan your next trip.
Single-friendly is often the term used to describe travel companies and organizations whose pricing and general policies are attractive to people who travel on their own. The Connecting Solo Travel Network publishes the Single-Friendly Travel Directory, which lists more than 250 organizations that “have been designated sensitive to the needs of people who travel alone.” You receive a free copy of this directory when you become a member.
Contiki Vacations, which gears its packages toward 18- to 35-year-olds, will arrange roommates of the same sex if you are a solo traveler looking to avoid the single supplement. Nearly half of Contiki’s guests take advantage of this option. The company caters to a younger crowd, and offers both “budget” and “superior” trips—the primary difference being the properties at which guests stay.
Singles Travel International offers a wide variety of upscale travel options, such as wine tasting in Michigan, hiking in Peru, and luxury cruises on the Queen Mary 2. According to Tammy Weiler, the organization’s founder, the majority of STI’s travelers are between the ages of 40 and 65. Their prices are by no means inexpensive and airfare is not included, but if you’re in the market for a luxury vacation, be sure to consider this option. STI’s cruises, for example, were less expensive than similar cruises for double occupancy rates on Travelocity in our recent comparison.
Many other sites specialize in single travel as well, with most offering roommate matching services to avoid the single supplement. O Solo Mio specializes in trips for singles ages 35 to 65, though most guests are in their 40s and 50s. The majority of O Solo Mio trips are to American or Western European destinations. Travel Buddies Singles Travel Club specializes in exotic destinations, primarily in the Eastern hemisphere, with trips that are often two weeks or more in duration. Meet Market Adventures considers itself a sports, social, and outdoors club, however in addition to its many day and weekend adventures, the company offers many international adventure vacations, with activities like rock climbing and mountain biking. Many of the same options are available at All Singles Travel. This organization also has specific options for Jewish singles trips, Christian singles trips, and senior singles trips.
Tour operators that do not specifically gear their packages towards singles often are not a great place to look for solo travel deals. There are exceptions to the rule, however. Any package with a single supplement of $25 per day or less is generally a decent option. While most of the packages in our research listed supplemental charges in excess of $25, we also found a number of individual offers from providers like Octopus Travel and Gate 1 Travel that hovered around $18 per day extra.
You may also consider being your own travel agent. By booking sale fares and inexpensive lodging, you may save a considerable amount of money and allow yourself the most flexibility in your travel plans.
Traveling with a companion is the surest way to save money when you’re on your own because you can split costs and avoid the single supplement. Nowadays, there are many reputable organizations that help travelers worldwide find compatible travel partners for little or no fee.
Travel Companions Exchange, which began operating in 1982, is one of the longest-running travel partner matching services. Although it was intended to cater to a wide variety of travelers, the majority of TCE members today are mature travelers, mostly between the ages of 50 and 60. The annual membership fee is $48, which includes a subscription to the company’s bi-monthly newsletter, three back issues, access to the monthly members’ listings, and one free member profile per month (additional profiles are available for $2 each). TCE is temporarily on hiatus due an emergency in the founder’s family, but the organization plans to resume operations in the near future.
The previously mentioned Connecting Solo Travel Network is a similar organization whose members range in age from 18 to 80. Connecting’s annual cost is slightly lower than TCE, at $45 for a surface mail membership or $28 for an online membership. You can earn back some of this money by being published in the company’s bi-monthly newsletter. The newsletter provides six to eight pages per month devoted to single-friendly vacation options.
Some travelers may be wary of paying a membership fee to use the above-mentioned services, but consider that your fees also help to screen those who join. By only accepting payments via personal check or credit card, it’s more difficult for new members to create false identities. Jens Jurgen, TCE’s founder, says that travelers with sincere intentions don’t mind paying the fee, especially if it means someone is screening potential contacts for legitimacy.
There are, however, a number of free travel companion services available on the Internet. While we would not warn anyone away from these bulletin board sites, be sure to use your best judgment and take precautions, such as arranging to meet your potential companion before your trip, if possible.
- Solotraveller allows you to find a partner or post your profile based on travel regions of interest, smoking preferences, age, sex, and type of travel (cruise, rail, camping, skiing, etc.).
- TravelChums allows you to create your own Web page, and offers advanced searching for travel partners by up to 13 criteria. The site also allows you to receive messages and e-mails from potential matches. However, in order to contact someone else on TravelChums you must either place a message on the message board or subscribe to the service; subscriptions range from $15 to $95 depending on the duration.
- Adventureexchange is free if you want to post a profile, or costs $10 per year to gain access to the e-mail addresses of other members. It is geared towards adventure trips, with separate categories for canoeing, climbing, mountaineering, paragliding and hang gliding, sailing, skiing, and snowboarding.
- Travel-Companion.net is a basic service that lets you post your profile or browse the profiles of others. Posts on this website are heavily geared toward singles looking for romantic companionship in a travel mate, but there are also some serious, platonic postings.
Be aware that many of the members who use these sites are looking for a travel companion of the opposite sex, possibly even to find Mr. or Ms. Right on their next vacation. Younger travelers are also less likely to use a travel match site since they are still in contact with college friends who may be more ready and willing to travel on short notice. And, in general, there are more single female travelers than there are single male travelers. Although the free travel companion matching sites do not list their demographics, both TCE and Connecting have ratios close to 60:40 women to men.
When determining the compatibility of your potential travel companion, there are certain topics you should discuss: spending habits, packing habits, sleeping habits, and smoking preferences. Also, before you make a non-refundable payment on a trip, make sure your partner is equally devoted to the travel plans. Finally, before departing for a several-week (or longer) trip, it’s advisable to try a shorter vacation together to make sure you and your travel partner are compatible.
For information on solo cruising, read our advice on steering clear of the single supplement when cruising solo. Although the story is geared toward the mature traveler, most of the details apply to travelers of all ages.