There are about 87 million single adults in North America. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, about one in five of them travels alone. If a single person wants to take a cruise or join an organized tour, he or she often pays more. That's called a "singles' supplement," and we've got some tips for avoiding that.
There are two ways to save money as a single traveler. The first is to find a tour group or company that welcomes solo travelers, one that doesn't penalize single vacationers with an extra charge. The second strategy is to hook up with another single traveler.
Let's start with finding companies sympathetic to one person traveling. A handful fit that bill. Some, like a company called Solo Flights, (see resource box below for more information) offer upscale trips for professionals over 35. You might spend a weekend in New York City, for example, attending theater and dining at upscale restaurants. Others, like Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (www.windjammer.com), target a younger, party crowd with week-long sails in the Caribbean beginning at $675 a person plus airfare. More mature travelers might like ElderTreks (www.ElderTreks.com) that arranges hikes and safaris to exotic destinations.
There's also a cottage industry that pairs singles before anyone even boards a plane. Manny Segall runs Vacation Partners, Inc. Go to his web site (www.vacationpartners.com) to fill out a questionnaire that asks about your favorite foods, best attributes, personality, and so on. For $35, Manny will match you with four other singles who seem compatible. "Isn't this," I asked Manny, "as much a dating service as a travel opportunity?" Well, said Manny, it's for a shorter period of time, only for the length of a trip. Hmmm. Manny says he's been a travel agent for 30 years, and while he's happy to arrange travel for two singles who decide they want to jet off together, he doesn't mind if they make their own arrangements.
There are loads of these sites, and the more I looked at them, the more convinced I was that matching up singles for travel is just a longer way of saying matching up singles. The Aim Higher web site (www.aim-higher.com) encourages a visitor to find a travel companion, but also suggests you "Aim Higher For Romance." Pick a geographic area and age range, and you can peruse personal ads with pictures. Want to reply? A one-month membership costs $25, a year is $100.
More focused is a group called Women Traveling Together (www.women-traveling.com), an Edgewater, Maryland-based tour company that offers escorted, all-inclusive, small-group tours for women who desire companionship. You might barge the canals of France or attend a cooking school in Tuscany.
Skiers and snowboarders can meet and greet at www.skimeet.com. The Lonely Planet web site (www.lonelyplanet.com) has a section where singles can look for travel soul mates. There's a section called "Share a Trip" on Arthur Frommer's travel web site (www.frommers.com). Obviously, the usual caveats about hooking up with someone you don't know via a web site apply. And if you're only in search of a travel companion, be clear about it because I have a feeling some folks are tired of not only paying a singles' supplement, but also of being single.
I'm Rudy Maxa, the Savvy Traveler, for Marketplace.
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