Fighting the Single Supplement – Travel Alone Without Breaking the Bank
A single supplement is a fee or surcharge that a solo traveler must pay in order to occupy a hotel room or ship state room alone. Single supplements can range from negligible to 100% of the double-occupancy rate.
Why Do Travel Providers Charge Single Supplements?
Tour operators and cruise lines normally base their prices on a per-person, double occupancy model. They do this because most hotel rooms and ship staterooms are built for two people. Solo travelers are often assessed a single supplement to cover the cost of not filling the second space in their room.
Here’s an interview that Margaret and I recorded on avoiding the dreaded single supplement.
Tips for Avoiding the Single Supplement
Plan your travel during the off season. Travel providers may be willing to negotiate with you in order to fill beds and tour spots.
Join a solo travelers’ group. You can find groups in your area or start your own at MeetUp.com. These groups often sponsor their own trips or have connections to travel agents and tour operators that cater to solo travelers. Connecting: Solo Travel Network (CSTN) offers comprehensive resources for solo travelers. Your one-time registration fee gives you access to CSTN’s Single-Friendly Travel Directory, a collection of solo travel tips and tales and membership in CSTN’s solo travel forums.
Find your own roommate and plan a trip together. Be honest about your preferences, travel style, dietary concerns and if, applicable, snoring. Take an overnight trip first to see how compatible you really are. If your travel adventure is a success, plan a longer trip.
Skip the organized tour and book your own solo itinerary. Rent a one-bedroom vacation apartment or find a room via Airbnb.com. Read up on safety concerns. Meet your host or landlord and find out about public transportation and local attractions. Then strike out on your own and explore your surroundings. Consider booking a day trip or walking tour if you prefer traveling with a guide.
After you identify the tours and cruises you would like to participate in, consider working with a travel agent to finalize your plans. A good travel agent can often help you negotiate the best price for your solo tour or cruise and find the “fine print” information you need to choose your itinerary.
Find a travel agency that specializes in singles’ travel, and ask about trips for people in your age group. Friendship Travel, based in Northern Ireland, offers vacations in Europe, the Caribbean and Africa; some trips are reserved for travelers age 50 or older.
A Sampling of Solo-Friendly Tour Operators and Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Epic made the news with its Studio staterooms, specifically designed for solo travelers, and the Studio Complex and Lounge, which are for Studio passengers’ exclusive use. Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, and Pride of America also feature Studio staterooms.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises waives the single supplement on several sailings each year. Not all itineraries are available, and the waiver applies only to the cruise portion of Uniworld’s “cruise + tour” vacations. Uniworld’s river cruise ships are not wheelchair accessible.
The Schooner Lewis R. French, whose captain is a member of the Maine Windjammer Association, offers three- to six-night coastal Maine windjammer cruises. The schooner has five single cabins, and you won’t be charged a single supplement. You can even help sail the ship. Tip: There’s only one hot water shower onboard, so you’ll have to take turns.
Tauck offers single supplement waivers on select land tour departure dates. And, for river cruise fans, Tauck River Cruises waives the single supplement on Category 1 staterooms.
Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) waives the single supplement on some of its trips, including select small ship adventures. OAT also offers roommate matching.
Have you found a supplement-free tour or cruise? Joined a solo travelers’ group? Share your travel experiences with other Sixty and Me readers. Share your tips for fighting the single supplement in the comments section below.
Watch Nancy Parode – travel writer, world traveler, and expert on about.com for senior and boomer travel – guiding you through all of the options above!