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How To Travel Solo Without Paying Over The Odds

ONE of the most common ­concerns of travelling solo is not safety or loneliness, but cost.

Tourism industry practices such as “single supplement’’ surcharges strike hard at solo holidaymakers, clearly indicating you will pay more on tours for your desire not to share a room.

Then there are the exclusive resorts that shout “couples only’’ in their brochures. In other words: stay away, this is not for you, loser.

I have loved travelling alone ever since surviving my long-ago gap year crossing India and sleeping in railway stations and sharply honing, in the process, my ability to be self-reliant and resourceful.

Now, at a certain age and with little need to be daring, I have discovered I prefer a bit of company. Sharing is the thing — points of view, impressions, experiences and good conversation.

It is also cheaper to travel with my husband or to pal up with a friend and share a room.

But not everyone has a preferred holiday partner and the industry is recognising the need to cater, in particular, to older Australians, perhaps divorced or widowed, who are still eager to travel.

The special-interest holiday, aimed at people with commonly held passions, is one option that serves the market well.

There’s usually instant rapport among those with a shared interest and friendships are easily forged.

Also on the rise are operators that advance-match singles with suitable “companions’’, typically on cruises. And, of most advantage to the purse strings, many now release early-bird and last-minute “no single supplement’’ deals that can save you many hundreds of dollars.

 

Strictly for the birds

AUSTRALIAN companies that run women-only tours report a lot of business from single travellers.

Travelling Divas, for example, was founded by Andrea Powis out of a desire to provide tours where “like-minded women could travel, meet and enjoy the world together’’.

“I wanted a company that would look after me from start to finish, allow me to be indulged, provide me with some great dinner company, and with the option to have some ‘me’ time while still being taken care of,’’ says Powis. Her itineraries range from Audrey Hepburn’s Rome to African safaris, and she also offers a “buddy system’’ to match those who don’t want to pay for a single room.

“But there is an etiquette for sharing with someone that you don’t know,’’ Powis says. “Snoring, endless mobile phone usage during sleeping hours and untidiness’’ can be factors.

Similar Australian firms include Adventurous Women, for the active and outdoorsy, and Women’s Own Adventure, for the fit and culturally curious.

 

Supplementary advice

A SINGLE supplement is charged by many wholesalers and operators because the hotels and ships charge per room, not per person. Those rooms are almost always twins or doubles, so single travellers who don’t want to share with a stranger could be asked to fork out between 20 per cent to 100 per cent more for exclusive use. But cruise companies, in particular, are becoming more attuned to solo travellers.

Small-ship operator Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has scrapped single supplements on selected sailings this year and next, and has 190 dedicated single cabins across its fleet of four ships. Options include an eight-night Norwegian Rivers and Railways cruise departing Southampton on August 10 aboard Balmoral, from $1999 a person, twin-share or ­single.

Saga Holidays, aimed at those aged 50 and above, also has single supplement-free voyages, from Dover in May, June and July; 15 nights in the Baltic costs from $6799.

These two cruise companies come recommended by Sydney-based Cruiseco, a specialist network across 216 agencies that also picks Norwegian Cruise Lines (which offers solo-use ­studio cabins on some of its ships) and P&O UK as the best operators for singles.

Cruiseco’s national marketing manager Amber Wilson says: “Over the past year we have seen a significant increase in the number of solo cruisers. As more lines develop packages specifically targeted towards people travelling on their own, we expect this trend to continue.’’

Luxury train trips, offering loads of camaraderie, are popular with singles, too. Abercrombie & Kent, for example, sells various itineraries on the Royal Scotsman and solo travellers can book single cabins with no surcharge.

 

No couples, pleas

NEW Zealand small-group coach company Grand Pacific Tours has an 11-day “solo traveller’’ tour of the South Island, including the TranzAlpine train and Milford Sound cruise, departing December 30 for a maximum of 20 singles.

Also, 16-day tours in Oct­ober, November and March; participants can opt for a guaranteed single room or share with ­another group member to bring down costs. On 16-day tours, pay about $1070 more for a single room.

Australia’s Bunnik Tours runs small-group tours for solos and single rooms are guaranteed; a 17-day Taste of Sri Lanka tour for minimum six and maximum 18 travellers costs $5176, including flights, plus $105 per person in the pot for tips.

 

Be a savvy single

● Sign up for alerts on deals from favourite operators or solo holiday specialists such as Encounter Travel. Abercrombie & Kent is releasing a range of solo specials this year, including lodge-based safaris in Tanzania with no single supplements (valid to June 30).

●Regularly go to blogs such as solotravelerblog.com for tips and advice.

●Check which cruise lines have companion share offers, such as Holland America Line’s Single Partners Program, which matches up interested passengers with other singles. If a partner is not available, the guest cruises solo at the agreed-upon double-occupancy fare. The cruise line also has a bulletin board for solo cruisers on its Facebook page. Companion Cruising deals in “cabin matches’’ for singles and identifies early-bird savings. This company is selling a 13-day river cruise departing Zurich for Amsterdam on July 15, with offers to match single travellers at $5613 twin-share, a saving of about $3290 on the single supplement fare.

●It usually pays to think (and book) ahead, especially for popular products such as river cruises in Europe. But APT also offers last-minute solo deals. Among other offers, the operator is waiving single supplements on its Rhine and Moselle Discoveries departures in June and August, with prices starting at $8090; APT has also removed its solo supplement on three luxury small-ship cruises this year, including an 18-day Spice Islands and Beyond voyage from Manila to Port Moresby, departing August 19, from $12,945.