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3 Ways for Solo Travelers to Avoid Single Supplements

Traveling alone can often be pricey. This guide features strategies for making solo travel more affordable by highlighting single-friendly travel organizations and travel partner match sites.

“Per person, based on double occupancy.” Look at any package or tour price and you’ll likely see some variation of these words hovering nearby, a fine-print head shake to single travelers everywhere. The term “single supplement” sounds so value-added and upbeat, but in reality it can be a major deterrent for single travelers, adding anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand dollars in expenses for the privilege of not sharing a room with someone else.

More than 45 percent of adults in the U.S. are single, so it’s no surprise that so many travelers are wondering how to avoid the dreaded single supplement. Fortunately, there are several ways to make your travel dollars go further. Use the resources below when you begin to plan your next trip.

What Is a Single Supplement?

Because they charge per person and can make more money if two people book a room or cabin, package tour operators and cruise lines openly and formally discriminate against single travelers. They price their products on the basis of per person, double occupancy (PPDO) and almost always impose a single supplement fee—often quite stiff—on singles who travel by themselves.

Except for ordinary air and rail tickets, then, you pay a premium to travel by yourself in almost all other travel situations.

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How to Avoid the Single Supplement

What do you do if you’re single? Either look for someone to travel with you or book with a company that will match you with a roommate or that charges only a small solo supplement.

Look for Companies That Match You with a Roommate

Traveling with a companion is the surest way to save money when you’re on your own because you can split costs and pay no single supplement. The outfits that promote themselves as “singles” agencies or tour operators actually sell conventional PPDO tours and cruises. They simply combine single applicants into couples or groups for travel. Some give you a modest amount of selection when it comes to matching you with a roommate (age, interests, and such), but you’re pretty much at the agency’s mercy as to the individual with whom you travel. Among those agencies are Singles Travel International and Women Traveling Together.

Companies like Intrepid Travel and Contiki, both of which gear their packages toward the younger set, match travelers with roommates but also offer single-supplement options for those that prefer more privacy. Older travelers have similar options with companies like Road Scholar and Grand Circle Travel. Some companies that offer roommate matching “guarantee” that they’ll find you a match and will put you up in your own room, at no additional cost, if they fail. Most limit your choice to a same-sex match.

Look for Tours or Cruises Without Single Supplements

Single-friendly is often the term used to describe travel companies whose pricing and general policies are attractive to people who travel on their own.

Here’s a roundup of tour companies and cruise lines without single-supplement fees (or at low cost):

  • Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT): OAT offers free or low-cost single supplements on all of its small-ship trips, adventures, and pre- and post-trip extensions. OAT also offers a matching roommate program.
  • Uniworld: The boutique river cruise line often offers waived single supplements on select journeys.
  • Grand Circle Travel: Grand Circle advertises free or low-cost single supplements on all trips and also offers a roommate matching program.

Many other cruise lines and tour operators occasionally offer reduced single supplements as an inducement to fill unsold cabins/rooms. You’re most likely to encounter these offers as last-minute promotions. We’ve seen single supplements as low as 10 percent and occasionally “no supplement” single pricing.

Some cruise ships have a few single cabins—usually more expensive than the minimum PPDO price but less than you’d pay for single occupancy of a standard cabin. For more information, see 7 Best Cruise Lines for Solo Travelers from SmarterTravel’s sister site, Cruise Critic.

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Find Your Own Travel Partner

If you’re looking for someone to share travel costs, your best bet is to find a traveling companion yourself. The universes most of you would search would be some combination of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, members of your church/club/whatever, and the like. I suspect most of you would have a reasonable set of options.

Traveling with friends or family is often preferable to traveling with a stranger, particularly if you know from the beginning that you share some common interests. But traveling with a companion doesn’t necessarily mean being heavily involved with that person. You can, by mutual agreement, keep to yourselves during the days and simply share a room or cabin at night. It’s your call; only be sure you and your companion are on the same page before you make final arrangements.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ed Perkins, Rebecca Johnson, and Christine Sarkis contributed to this story. 

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