Sure, canoodling with a significant other on a moonlit beach can be romantic, but not everyone has the luxury of escaping with a partner in tow.
In fact, recent research shows that more and more travelers are choosing to go it alone: Internet searches for "solo travel destinations" have been increasing by more than 60% each year.
Unfortunately, for a lot of these folks, traveling without a partner translates into annoying higher costs—those dreaded single supplements!—but there are ways to avoid paying extra on accommodations, cruises and outfitters. Here’s how to stretch your travel dollars if you plan to head out on your own solo pilgrimage this summer.
Be Strategic About Your Destination
You may feel like the world is your oyster when you’re traveling alone, but it doesn’t mean that you should just hop on a plane to anywhere. One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to travel is that major cities are more expensive than small towns.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
While it’s true that luxury hotels and high-end restaurants in big metropolises carry steep price tags, a major city itself can actually be an economical choice for a solo traveler, says Sarah Schlichter, senior editor at IndependentTraveler.com.
For starters, you can use public transportation and avoid having to rent a car—a difference that can save hundreds of dollars. Cities also tend to have a broader range of lodging options, with some hotels even offering singles-friendly rooms.
At The Pod Hotel, in Manhattan, you can get a room with a twin bed for as little as $159, which is close to half of what you’d pay for a standard double room in the city. Similarly, the Yotel hotel chain—with locations in New York, London and Amsterdam—offers compact rooms (we’re talking 75-170 square feet depending on location) starting at $149 per night.
Cities are prime spots for affordable entertainment, too. Sure, you can drop $100+ on tickets to a Broadway show, but you can also take advantage of the many gratis things to do, like free admission days at art museums and botanical gardens.
Skip the High-Priced Hotel
When it comes to saving money on vacation, it can be tough for solo travelers to score good hotel deals for the simple reason that they charge per room, not per person. But rather than seek out the cheapest (and often sketchiest) pick, consider bypassing the hotel altogether, suggests Schlichter.
“Airbnb.com is a great option because you can rent anything from a one bedroom to an entire house,” she says. The prices vary, of course, but Schlichter has found single rooms in major destinations for as little as $65 a night—far less than what you’d pay at a hotel. Hostels are another alternative, especially if you book with such reputable chains as HI Hostels or boutique designer options, like South Beach Hostel in Miami.
Avoid the Single Supplement
Any independent traveler who has ever looked into packages—whether for an organized tour or a cruise—knows that they weren’t designed with singles in mind. What might seem like an incredible deal at first glance quickly becomes less incredible when you read the fine print about the single supplement, which can add hundreds (even thousands) of dollars to your trip.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid shelling out the extra dough. For organized tours, Schlichter advises booking with an operator geared toward solo vacationers, like All Singles Travel and Singles Travel International, or one that offers roommate matching, such as Intrepid Travel, G Adventures and Road Scholar.
For years, cruise companies made themselves prohibitively expensive to single travelers by charging single supplements of 150% to 200% of the published fare.
If you’d rather not share a room or if you have your heart set on a tour with a company that doesn’t offer matches, consider booking a last-minute trip. It’s a risk, of course, but that’s when companies are desperate to fill slots, so they’re often more willing to reduce or even waive the single supplement.
For years, cruise companies also made themselves almost prohibitively expensive to single travelers by charging single supplements of 150% to 200% of the published cruise fare. Those steep markups still exist on several ships, but a few lines are making themselves more accessible to travelers going it alone.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has two ships—the Epic and the Breakaway—with studio staterooms that are designed and priced specifically for singles. And although Holland America still requires a single supplement, you can avoid it by signing up for the company's Single Partners Program, which matches passengers with roommates of the same sex. As with tour operators, you can also try to book last-minute and inquire if you can get the single supplement reduced or waived.
Final great insider tip: You can check out the roll call feature on CruiseCritic.com, says SoloCruiseResource.com founder Amber Blecker. "It allows you to meet other passengers prior to the cruise, and arrange to share the cost of things like private excursions," she explains. "This not only saves money but it provides a social connection—and often a better experience."