Are you tired of dragging your partner along on vacations that you know he/she won’t enjoy? Leave him (or her) home instead! Or have you missed out on trips because you don’t have a travel partner? Stop waiting to meet that special someone before taking that special journey.
You can travel solo and love it.
Travel-industry ads inevitably feature romantic couples and happy families, but in reality, plenty of people travel alone. Solo travelers represent nearly one-quarter of all leisure travelers.
Unfortunately, most of the travel industry remains set up for couples and families, so going it alone can lead to inflated costs. A solo trip, including food and transportation, may cost less than a couple’s trip in absolute terms, but it tends to cost more on a per-person basis. Hotel rooms don’t cost half as much, and tour companies and cruise lines often impose “single supplements” that add anywhere from 10% to 100% to the usual per-person rate.
Bottom Line Personal asked solo-travel expert Janice Leith Waugh how to save money—hundreds of dollars for each trip—when traveling alone without sacrificing quality or feeling lonely…
Find tour companies that charge little or no “single supplement.” Most tour operators charge extra on a per-person basis if you will be the only one staying in your room. But a small number of tour operators have no such added fee (or only a modest added fee) on certain trips. These not only save solo travelers money—their popularity with solo travelers means that there likely will be others traveling alone in your tour group, which creates opportunities for camaraderie and makes the solo travel experience less awkward and isolating for all. Examples…
Overseas Adventure does not charge single supplements on any of its 70-plus land-based trips, which range from African safaris to Tuscany tours to adventures high in the Himalayas. A modest single supplement does apply on some, but not all, of its ship-based trips. OATTravel.com
Exodus Travels imposes only very modest single supplements on most trips—as low as $10 a night. It offers certain “Solo Departures” trips, such as walks through Andalucia or hiking in the mountains of Morocco, specifically for solo travelers. ExodusTravels.com/activities/solo-departures
Road Scholar, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in educational travel, charges no single supplement on certain trips, among them learning horsemanship in the Ozarks and seeing coastal Croatia by yacht. Single rooms on these trips often sell out quickly, however. RoadScholar.org/special-offers/singles-at-no-extra-cost
Another way to avoid single supplements is to ask tour operators and cruise lines whether they offer a “room sharing” program, which many do. With these programs, a solo traveler doesn’t pay extra if he agrees to share a room with another solo traveler of the same gender. (Also ask the travel company whether it will waive any single supplement if it cannot find you a roommate—that varies from program to program.) Of course, room sharing isn’t for everyone—a recent survey of more than 200,000 solo travelers found that nearly two-thirds prefer not to share a room with a stranger even if it would save them money.
Warning: Although some cruise ships have a small number of one-person cabins that carry no single supplement, demand for these greatly exceeds supply. Price-sensitive solo cruisers usually are better off searching for sale prices on standard cabins even though that means paying a single supplement. There often are great deals available on unsold cabins as the departure date nears.
Stay in lodgings designed—and priced—with solo travelers in mind. Certain hotels have affordably priced compact rooms appropriate for singles. Examples: Z Hotels in the UK (prices start at around $70* in London or $50 in Liverpool or Glasgow, TheZHotels.com)…The Pod Hotels in the US (prices start at $85 to $99 at three New York City locations and $109 in Washington, DC, ThePodHotel.com).
Bed & breakfasts are another option. Solo travelers don’t pay less than couples, but B&Bs do tend to be more social than hotels, which can be nice for solo travelers who want to have someone to chat with at the start or end of the day.
Want to save a lot of money? Hostels offer beds in shared rooms (and sometimes even private rooms) for a fraction of what you might pay for a hotel room. And despite what you might be picturing, not all hostels are dingy dives for college kids on break. Some are clean, safe and cater to all ages. Hostels also tend to be much more social than hotels, which can be nice for solo vacationers hoping to meet new acquaintances. Example: The YHA hostels in the UK are excellent. The YHA London Central is especially impressive, with clean, modern facilities and an appealing location near Oxford Street. (Prices start at around $20 per night for a bed in a shared room, YHA.org.uk.)
Plan your trip around a class. You could take a weeklong cooking class and learn to make the local/regional cuisine…or take an intensive immersion language class to learn to speak the local language. These kinds of classes provide something fun and enriching to do during the day…plus a group of classmates with whom to socialize afterward. There likely will be many people taking the class on their own, so your solo status won’t feel uncomfortable. To find classes, enter your destination…class topics of interest…and the word “course” or “class” into a search engine.
Use Meetup.com to find groups, activities and new acquaintances. This online service is designed to help people find activities of interest near where they live—but it’s also a great resource for travelers. Before your trip, use the site to find groups in the area that have interesting activities planned for when you will be in town, then sign up and join in—many Meetup.com groups and activities are open to anyone who wishes to participate. Examples: I went on a hike with a local outdoors group when I visited Hong Kong. A woman I know finds jogging groups (also called “run crews”) in the cities she visits. Jogging groups often get coffee or beers after their runs (especially on weekends), which makes this a particularly good way to meet and socialize with locals.
Attend live music or theater performances in the evening…and/or sign up for nighttime city tours. Some solo travelers retreat to their hotel rooms at dusk because they feel self-conscious about being out on the town alone after dark. Don’t hide! Attend live music and theater performances instead. It won’t matter much that you’re alone at these performances because even if you were with friends, you would mostly be watching the performers, not chatting among yourselves.
Similarly, when you take a tour, you’re basically listening to a tour guide whether you are alone or with friends. Nighttime tours can be a great way to see a city in a different way, too. Example: Evening walking tours of Paris are unforgettable—the city is vibrant and stunning at night.
Meetup.com also might offer interesting evening activity options.
Travel with just one piece of luggage. Solo travelers don’t have anyone to watch their luggage when they need to run to the bathroom, so it’s best to bring just one bag (ideally a carry-on) that you easily can keep at your side until you reach your destination.
Arrive at your hotel before dark. It’s wise to investigate where your hotel is located before booking a room, but sometimes you can’t really get a sense about the safety of a place before you arrive and see it in person. That’s why it’s best to arrive before dusk, when you can see it in the daylight…and when it might be early enough in the day that you can easily find another room somewhere else, if necessary. Solo travelers can make appealing targets for criminals, so remain in public areas as much as possible during your travels. When you must move through areas that are not crowded after dark, don’t walk—take cabs.
*Hotel rates in this article are based on weekday stays for one person in January 2018 and are subject to change.