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How Singles Can Avoid the Gouge

Like Noah, travel suppliers seem to think—and price—only for couples, so singles often pay a lot more for a trip than the per-person price for a couple. Fortunately, you have some ways to avoid overpaying.

Those of you who really want to travel solo have the toughest challenge. Other than for air and ordinary coach rail tickets, “per-person double occupancy” rates (PPDO) are almost always lower than what solo travelers have to pay, including most independent travel expenses. And you often face a “single supplement” approaching double to occupy a double accommodation.

  • These days, almost all hotel rooms are designed for at least double occupancy, and, in most of the world, hotels charge the same prices for a single as for a couple. Even where a hotel has a few single rooms, or publishes single rates, those single rates are generally more than PPDO rates. Hostels are about the only accommodations I know that charge by the person for everyone.
  • Some cruise ships have a few single-occupancy cabins. They typically cost more than the PPDO rate for a low-end cabin but are usually less than full two-person rates. However, I seldom see really great last-minute deals for single cabins.
  • Some agencies that claim to specialize in solo travel search and list tours and cruises with either low single supplements or none at all. Connecting Solo Travel Network, for example, currently lists dozens of tours and cruises with good pricing for single occupancy. Also, mainstream tour operators and cruise lines sometimes reduce or waive single supplements as a promotional gimmick, especially on last-minute deals.

But the travel industry’s preferred approach to singles travel isn’t to facilitate true solo traveling; it’s to pair you up with someone so you pay just the PPDO price. And you have several ways to organize that, depending on whether you prefer sharing hotel rooms or cabins with someone you know or with a stranger.

  • If you prefer to travel with someone you know, you may be able to locate your own traveling companion from among your usual circles—friends, relatives, coworkers, members of your church, club, or professional association, or Facebook “friends.”
  • If that doesn’t work, you can explore the “halfway” alternative: Enroll in one of the several “clubs” that match potential travelers weeks or months in advance of an actual trip and allow you to meet and get acquainted before you make a travel commitment. The first such organization, as far as I know, was the pre-Internet Jens Jurgen’s Travel Companion Exchange. Jens retired and shut it down 10 years ago, but a former member is reviving it. Others offering similar matching services include SoloMate Travel and Travel Chums. They all work about the same way: You enroll (usually with modest “dues”) and submit a personal profile with a list of places you want to visit. The organization then sends you a list of potential matches, and you can start contacting or even meeting with any that seem of interest. Depending on your interests, these organizations arrange either same- or opposite-sex matches.
  • If you’re OK with—or even prefer—traveling with a stranger, many tour operators and cruise lines arrange matched-up tours and cruises for singles. Virtually all of the self-announced “singles travel” specialists actually match. Among them are All Singles Travel, Escapade Cruises, O Solo Mio, Singles Cruises, and Singles in Paradise. Women Traveling Together specializes in all-women singles tours and cruises, and several cater to seniors. Often, these agencies offer to “guarantee” that they will find someone to share your cabin or hotel accommodations, and, if they fail, they’ll let you occupy double accommodations at the regular per-person price. Some claim they try to assign matches based on some sort of personal screening rather than just the luck of the draw. Beyond same-sex, however, this matching does not promise compatibility—it just avoids the singles gouge. And that’s enough for many.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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