IS THERE any worse insult to a solo traveller than the single supplement? This dreaded surcharge – as high as 100 per cent – is imposed when one person occupies a room that could have accommodated two, so you basically end up paying for your invisible friend.
Thanks very much. Rub it in that I’m alone, why don’t you? I only have one income, yet I’m expected to pay the same price as a couple? I can only imagine how it feels for a widow, braving it on her own for the first time without her husband.
As if “solos” don’t encounter enough challenges, it’s a kick in the face to make us fork out extra for it. So, don’t do it, I say. The more we refuse, the more companies will listen to the growing army of independents.
Just remember, the most beautiful three words that anyone can ever say to you are “no single supplement”.
So, where does one find this true love for solitary explorers? It can help to book through a singles-friendly specialist.
But be warned, not all solo travel companies are created equal. Some focus completely on solos and design tailored tours, often escorted by a guide; others are travel agencies that run a solo business on the side, seeking out the best deals. Then there are companies that simply book you on group tours, where you may be lumped in with couples, families and packs of friends.
Sharing with strangers
The single supplement won’t be a (financial) problem on a group tour if you’re happy to share a twin room with another solo. And you won’t need to find a friend, as many companies will match you with another guest of the same gender.
Best case scenario: they can’t find anyone, so you score the room to yourself at no extra charge. Worst case scenario: they find someone who’s messy, creepy, annoying, boring or obnoxious, 30 years older or younger than you, who snores and gets the night horrors. Or hey, a serial killer.
I spoke to the managers of a few travel agencies who assured me it’s usually somewhere in the middle: you meet a lovely, like-minded person who becomes a great companion. Or you can book with a company that guarantees your own room for little (or no) extra charge.
Singles Travel Connections
No, it’s not a dating agency. Singles Travel Connections specialises in small group tours for Australian solo travellers. Adelaide-based wife and husband, Judith and Brian Hards (one or both of them accompany each trip), plan all the itineraries and select the most single-friendly hotels, with no room-sharing.
Judith explained why it’s important to check what kind of tour you’re booking – and who else is coming.
“The large operators base their trips mainly on group sizes of more than 40, which they offer to both couples and singles, and any agent can sell into these scheduled departures or contract a tour for sole use,” she said.
“There are some wholesale tour operators that take smaller groups, however they are generally a mix of couples and singles. We keep our group sizes somewhere around 12 to 15 single travellers, and we use a 34-seater coach so that everyone has room to spread out and have a window seat.”
Singles Travel Connections favours boutique hotels with single rooms, a leisurely timetable and meals at traditional restaurants.
There is limited availability on this year’s China and Japan tours, and next year’s African safari, a Caribbean cruise, a river cruise in France, and UK/Ireland and Turkey/Greek islands packages.
Two’s A Crowd
This Melbourne company offers small group “solos only” tours, which are exclusive private departures for a maximum 15 people, accompanied by a host and a guide. Staff also keep an eye out for waived or low single supplements for clients.
“We’ve also combined the two options where, for example, we secured six ‘zero single supplement’ cabins and marketed those to our clients – they sold out in a flash,” director Ken Morgan said.
He says their prices can be up to $1000 cheaper than a comparable tour run by a major operator.
“We don’t sell into a bigger group and we never ask people to share. All prices include your own room,” he said.
In May, Morgan took a group to Vietnam and Cambodia, arriving a day ahead to get everything ready before meeting the solos at Hanoi airport. “It gives them peace of mind that the host can help them along the way,” he said.
Two’s A Crowd, which recently appointed Aussie tour hosts in France and Italy, has launched another Vietnam/ Cambodia foodies tour, along with trips to Europe, South America, Mexico/Cuba, India and Canada/Alaska.
Travel with Me
Although primarily an agency that runs a solo traveller club, Travel with Me sometimes accepts “the odd couple”, said owner Annette Porter.
But this Perth-based company, which operates some “no single supplement tours”, has another interesting service called Selected Journeys, linking solo members who are looking for a similar type of non-escorted holiday.
“I will get a few people together and arrange for them to meet either by phone or in person. If they click and are happy to travel together, then we can book appropriate options,” Porter said.
When “no or low” single supplement tours or cruises are released, these specials are emailed to clients.
This year has already seen 10 solos sharing cabins on a European river cruise, while another group booked a solo deal in Russia, where they paid the twin price but had their own cabin.
Porter started the service in response to solos who find out too late they have booked on a so-called singles trip that turns out to be “filled with couples” or friends travelling together.
“This makes them feel very alone and is not a fun way to travel,” she said. “We try to get a small group to travel so they know they are not alone.”
To read the full column in Escape column, keep reading here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/travel/travel-advice/solo-traveller-how-to-avoid-paying-single-supplements/story-fnjjv72k-1226985377185?nk=406e54ea08fa504f926d852ad3c15a2c