I’m a big fan of solo travel, but that may be because I don’t have to travel alone all the time. I have a husband and kids, so they come along when they can. But as a travel writer, I’m often on the road by myself, and I find I relish the experience. Instead of having to worry about whether my companions are enjoying the experience, I can simply immerse myself in the culture.
That being said, I am quite cognizant of the fact that solo travelers face increases costs, and, sometimes, discrimination when they hit the road. So I thought I’d share some new developments and tips that might your own next solo adventure more fulfilling.
Solo cabins on cruises: Hurrahs for Norwegian Cruise Lines, which has created a singles-only section on its newest ships (the Epic, the Breakaway and soon, the Getaway). These include small, but smartly designed interior cabins (they have windows onto the hallway, rather than the water); and a lounge only for singles, so that the solo passengers can meet and mingle. As would be expected, there’s no supplemental fee for these cabins, which often make NCL’s sailings among the most cost effective for solo travelers.
A new hotel roommate website: Just last month, the new website EasyNest.com debuted, calling itself an “AirBnB” for solo travelers. Here’s how it works: users go online and either post a hotel they’d like to share a room in; or look through the existing listings to find a potential room-mate. When I spoke with the President of the company, Nicholas Railly, he insisted that the concept would up the safety factor for solo travelers by allowing them to share the expenses in more costly, better located hotels. But the website does have some serious flaws. Unlike AirBnB, financial transactions aren’t done through the site, so, potentially, one of the two travelers could be left with the cost of the entire hotel room if the other doesn’t show up. As well, there’s no section on the site for travelers to post reviews of their companions (as there is on AirBnB), meaning that the bad eggs won’t be weeded out. It’s a very new site (and concept) so time will tell if it catches on..and if they’re able to fix the issues mentioned above.
More companies waiving the singles supplement: As anyone who has booked a tour or standard cruise knows, solo travelers have to pay a supplement that can sometimes almost double the cost of the vacation. But in a nod to the increasing number of singles several companies waive the supplement on all their tours. These include Overseas Adventure Travel (www.oattravel.com), Grand Circle Travel (www.gct.com, it’s a sister company to OAT) and Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com). In addition, this year, both Tauck Tours (www.tauck.com) and Abercrombie and Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com) waived the singles supplement, or reduced it by up to 75%, on a number of its departures. On the A&K website, you’ll find these discounts listed under “Solo Savings”; Tauck tends to post this discount in the “Traveling Solo with Tauck” section of its website.
Please note that many companies will waive the supplement if bookings are slow, so before booking any tour as a solo, it doesn’t hurt to ask whether this can be done. Many companies will also waive it if the solo traveler agrees to share a room if another single needs a roommate. Accepting that compromise is a risky one if you really don’t want to have to share a room with a stranger.
Independent Travel: Of course, going it truly alone will be the least expensive option for solos, especially in Europe where many hotels still offer single rooms. When I travel alone, I often eat at the bar of restaurants so I can speak with other diners and the bartender. Choosing a hostel or a B&B where people gather and socialize in the lobby can be great way to meet other travelers. And the organization WomenWelcomeWomen (www.womenwelcomewomen.org.uk) does a bang-up job of connecting female travelers with locals who like to meet and help outsiders when they come to their city. Greeters programs, basically free tours with locals, is another primo way to hook into local social networks. The website www.globalgreeternetwork.com serves as a directory for these types of programs around the world.