In this series of monthly tips, you'll find some terrific ideas to help you get the most out of every trip. This time around, I share some insight about the best ways to travel alone.
Skip the air/hotel packages; be careful with cruises and tours.
With prices computed for couples, they're rarely a good idea for single travelers as the "singles supplement" (sometimes between 50% and 80% of the actual cost of the vacation and impossible to argue your way out of ) will often wipe out any sort of savings. The same could be said for standard tours and cruises, though many cruise lines and tour operators will hook you up with a roommate of the same gender, free of charge. If they can't fi nd you a roommate, you still get the vacation at the doubles rate. However, if they do fi nd someone for you, be sure to interview that person before signing up. There's nothing that can ruin a vacation quicker than a crotchety stranger sharing your room who keeps different hours than you do, has vastly different standards of cleanliness, or is expecting a traveling companion out of the experience, rather than just someone to help cut the cost of the room. If you'd rather keep control of the roommate-finding process yourself, go to a website on solo travel, such as Connecting: Solo Travel Network (www.cstn.org) or TravelChums (www.travelchums.com) and post an ad for a roommate before you put any money down on that cruise or tour.
Book vacations where it doesn't matter that you're single.
Many solo travelers sign up for volunteer vacations or learning vacations, where the emphasis is on group activities and not on romantic dinners for two. Travel with organizations such as Global Volunteers, Earthwatch, or to a learning center such as the Penland School, Oxford University (which in summer has classes open to all), or the Omega Institute, to name just a few volunteer and learning vacations. For older travelers, the tours of Elderhostel can be wonderful for singles and attract a number of solo travelers. For younger travelers, the tours of Contiki are party-heavy singles' paradises, for a certain sort of under-35 traveler. Many people also create vacations around interests they may have, and then contact the international societies that specialize in these interests (such as genealogy, archeology, and gardening) and may have special events going on in a place they're planning to visit. The site Specialty Travel has dozens of these sorts of vacations.
Consider joining a hospitality club.
Clubs such as The Evergreen Hospitality Club and Women Welcome Women specialize in hooking up travelers with people around the world who enjoy meeting and offering hospitality to these strangers. Each club has a directory which travelers then use to contact people in the areas they'll be visiting. Sometimes that person will offer to show you around their home town, or invite you to dinner, or maybe even offer up their spare bedroom or couch for three nights or so. It's a fascinating way to see the world, and joining most of these clubs costs only between $30 and $50.
If you want to meet your signifi cant other on vacation, go with a dating service, or on a specialized romance trip.
Matchmaking services and websites JDate.com (for Jewish singles), Catholic Singles (for Catholics), and Singles in Paradise and Singles Travel International (for anyone) plan trips to exotic places across the globe, with group activities and meals and a lot of free time so that participants can meet and then hopefully pair-up on their own on dates. Trips are competitively priced and they will hook people up with roommates. I've seen trips to China, Maui, Costa Rica, and Israel on offer, as well as shorter trips throughout the U.S. The singles weeks at Club Med are among the most popular (and I hear, successful) offerings of the many singles weeks offered all over the world.