Traveling on your own does not mean you are alone. In fact the times when I have traveled without a companion have been the most rewarding of my life. Solo travel forces you to be more outgoing, to meet people and ultimately you get the opportunity to forge friendships that may otherwise have passed you by.
Having said that though, tour and accommodation providers usually don't share this starry-eyed view of traveling independently and often lump you with a hefty surcharge in the form of a single supplement, as if to rub salt into the wound by saying not only can you not split the room charge with a friend but you have to pay more for the privilege of traveling by yourself.
Solo travel need not be so difficult or expensive however even websites that profess to be designed with the single traveler in mind, often charge single supplements for tours or vacation packages. Here are a few companies that actually encourage single participants and do not add on surcharges. Instead, most will match you with a same sex room sharing partner to avoid additional costs mostly imposed by hotel management.
BikeHike Adventures (tel. 888/805-0061; www.bikehike.com) specializes in small group, multi-sport, worldwide adventures. They are extremely single-friendly, with no extra fees for solo travelers. If they can't match single travelers with a fellow traveler of the same sex, individuals get their own room at no additional cost. Trips include mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and caving in destinations like North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Trip levels are graded into three categories: easy, moderate, and challenging offering something for everyone.
Their "Vietnam, Paddle and Play By Mountain Bike, Sea Kayak and Foot" is a 12-day land-only adventure that begins in Hanoi, where the group meanders on foot and rickshaw around the bustling old quarter, then spends a few days on mountain bikes snaking along dirt roads that carve around steep mountains, through remote villages and alongside fertile meadows. To add a burst of cultural flavor they trek into the Giang Ta Chai to see the colorful Dzao hill tribe and then dive into sea kayaks and paddle amongst rugged limestone cliffs that rise out of the turquoise sea of Halong Bay. This trip departs on August 30, October 4, November 15 and December 23, 2006 and is priced at $1,999 per person and they will match you with a suitable roommate. This is a moderate level trip that includes airport transfers, expert guides, all equipment, five nights' hotel accommodations, two nights on trains, two nights camping and a two night homestay, nine breakfasts, nine lunches and six dinners.
Their aptly named "Rumble in the Jungle by Mountain Bike, Raft, Horseback, Rope and Foot" tour is also priced at $1,999 land-only and offers the single adrenaline junkie a chance to see Panama in sporting style. Apart from the activities listed in the tour name, there is also snorkeling, hiking and canopy riding. The price includes all accommodations, airport transfers, mountain bikes, rafting gear, horses, climbing equipment, internal transportation including one domestic flight, six breakfasts, six lunches and one dinner, and veteran guides. Visit Taboga, Portobello, San Lorenzo, Boquete, Volcan Baru National Park, Chiriqui Viejo River, Bocas del Toro and Panama City. The tour departs on June 24, August 26, October 28 and December 30, 2006.
All Singles Travel (tel. 800/717-3231; www.allsinglestravel.com) features a "Costa Rica Adventure Holiday" from July 1 to 10, 2006. Highlights include white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River, a tour of Arenal National Park, views of the active lava flows of Arenal Volcano, a canopy tour among tree tops of the Costa Rican Rain Forest, a guided wildlifeÂ¿cruise at Manuel Antonios National Park (site of the filming of Jurassic Park), Poas Volcano, the La Paz Waterfalls, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, an afternoon and sunset snorkeling/kayaking cruise aboard a luxury catamaran, a tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges, and relaxing in the Tabacon Hot Springs. Enjoy three nights at the Tabacon Hot Springs Spa and Resort, two nights at a beachfront resort on beautiful Tamarindo beach, one night at the Selva Verde Nature Preserve, plus one night pre and two nights post tour in at the Comfort Hotel in San Jose and plenty of free time in the evenings to enjoy the hopping nightlife of this grand city. The trip includes motor coach transportation throughout Costa Rica, services of a bilingual local guide, nine nights' accommodations in a room that you will share with someone of the same sex, of similar age and smoking preference, breakfast daily, five lunches and three dinners. The tour is priced at $1,629 land only. Add round-trip airfare from Atlanta on Delta Airlines for $399 or $549 from New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Other departure cities are available upon request. Space is limited so you would need to book soon.
Fancy spending Labor Day somewhere really exotic this year? All Singles Travel has a "Journey to Peru - Land of the Incas" tour beginning on August 24 and ending on Labor Day, September 4, 2006. This trip includes round-trip airfare from Miami, domestic flights from Lima to Cuzco, from Cuzco to Arequipa, from Arequipa to Juliaca and from Puno to Lima, train from Aguas Calientes to Cuzco, eight breakfasts, three lunches, a guided tour of Machu Picchu (as well as an overnight hotel stay at the base of the site and a full second day), a tour of Cuzco visiting the Temple of KoricanchaÂ¿(Incan Sun God), the Cathedral, the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Kenko, Puca-Pucara and Tambomachay, Colca Canyon, a full day tour to visit the Taquile Indians in the middle of Lake Titicaca, a coach tour around Lake Titicaca. Ten nights' accommodationsÂ¿includes two nights at Hotel Las Palmeras in Lima, three nights at the first class Don Carlos Hotel in Cuzco, one night at the Machu Picchu Inn, two nights at the first-class Hotel Liberator in Arequipa and two nights at the Casa Andina Hotel in Juliaca. This trip is priced at $2,399 plus $151 in taxes and fees from Miami. Add $99 from Atlanta, Orlando or Tampa, $149 from Dallas orÂ¿Houston, $159 from Los Angeles or San Francisco and $200 from Boston, Chicago, New York or Washington DC.
Singles in Paradise (tel. 800/954-5453; www.singlesinparadise.com) is a travel company that specializes in group singles trips to tropical locales and its signature trip is to Maui. The seven-night vacation including round-trip airfare from the west coast (Los Angeles or San Francisco) staying at the oceanfront Paki Maui near Lahaina is priced from $1,079. Enjoy a number of planned activities and extra events (some at additional cost) like whale watching, snorkeling, hiking, sailing,Â¿kayaking, scuba diving, biking and evening events like Luau, dancing, and more.
If you thought Tahiti was only for couples or honeymoons think again. Singles in Paradise offers its "Tahiti Dream Vacation" from $1,789 with round-trip airfare from Los Angeles from November 3 to 11, 2006. This is the company's seventh trip to the island of Moorea and the package includes six nights' accommodations at the four-star Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa, staying in garden rooms, all ground transportation and daily breakfast. Plus, if you've always wanted to stay in an over-water bungalow, you can upgrade for an additional $650 upgrade. Taxes of approximately $155 are additional.
Other singles travel club and tour companies you may wish to check out include:
- Travel Buddies Singles Travel Club (www.travelbuddiesworldwide.com)
- Going Solo Travel Club (www.goingsolotravel.com)
- Club1 Travel (www.club1travel.com)
- Travel Companion Exchange (www.travelcompanions.com)
- Travel Chums (www.travelchums.com)
- O Solo Mio Singles (www.osolomio.com)
- Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com)
- Meet Market Adventures (www.meetmarketadventures.com)
Although many of these organizations have members and participants from around the world, you may also like to consider using a European based singles travel company. There are several, especially in the U.K. for example Travel One (www.travelone.co.uk) and Solitair Holidays (www.solitairhols.co.uk).
In general though it may be hard to avoid supplements unless you book your travel through one of these (or similar) companies, however here are a few tips to help ease the pain and suggestions as to how you can bypass the dreaded surcharges.
- If you book through a destination or tour specialist, especially for adventure tours like safaris or trekking, the company will more often than not match you with a same sex room mate -- this was my experience on a tour of Peru and the Inca Trail.
- Speak with the accommodation property directly rather than booking through a website. Sometimes you may be able to negotiate a lower supplement or none at all depending on the season and how empty they are.
- Maybe steer away from traditional packaged deals and consider purchasing your airfare and accommodation needs separately. This way you will know exactly how much you are paying for each component of your trip and you can make an informed decision about your accommodation costs.
- Look for accommodation options that charge by room rather than by person. In Asia for example (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore etc.) you will find per night hotel room rates provided on websites and they can be very reasonable even for a single traveler.
- There are several single travel club networks that charge annual membership fees (usually minimal from $25 to $100). If you find the right organization for your type of travel and your demographic, then it can be a great resource and a way to travel with like-minded people.
Do you have a question or a comment about this resource list? Do you have your own tips for the single traveler? Tell us on our Single Travelers Message Boards today.