The clubs, resorts, tour operators and travel agents particularly attuned to the needs of single travelers
There is a growing consensus, especially among the younger generation, that single people cannot only travel alone, but should. In seminar after seminar, workshop after workshop, arguments are made that it is preferable to travel alone, that unaccompanied adults become more sensitive to the local culture and language, more capable of meeting people, when they travel without a friend of their own background, and without even their spouse.
I can understand those views. Though I've been married for most of my life, my profession as a travel writer has required that I travel alone for large parts of the year. And though I would have wanted my wife to be along, I have nevertheless valued some of the rewards of solitary travel and the time it has given me to ponder, reflect, absorb, and "listen" to foreign lifestyles. Like Thoreau, I've learned that a certain amount of solitude--not as much as he craved--is healthy and pleasant.
But what about the special case of women traveling alone, problems I can't share? They're less than they used to be. People no longer stare at a woman dining alone. Countries like Spain and Turkey no longer treat the solitary female traveler as if she were a libertine. With the increasing participation of women in business and travel, attitudes have improved towards the traveling woman in almost all parts of the world other than in certain rigid societies of the Middle East. Though it's easy for me to say, I'm still convinced that some of the fear of dining, sightseeing, attending the theatre, alone, is mainly in the mind; that other people around the world are not preoccupied with the single female traveler or making judgments about her.
That's not to say that the woman tourist should go strolling the docks of Liverpool. There are obviously common-sense limits to observe. But by staying in standard areas, adopting normal precautions, a great many women have found it is sometimes positively advantageous to travel alone.
What problems remain? The big bugaboo is the single room supplement, which can't be overcome; it is part of the economics of hotel-keeping or cruise-operating that most rooms and cabins are capable of being occupied by two persons. Therefore, the single traveler pays the same amount for that room as two persons would pay--i.e., more per person. The solution? Bargaining. Just as so many Americans have learned that hotel prices are sometimes negotiable, a single traveler--whether male or female--should be conscious of their right to request a better price, and to "shop around" until such a rate is secured.
And may I suggest that single travelers should consider the "Learning Vacation" and "Volunteer Vacation" section, of which we've written so much in these pages. On a "volunteer vacation" where people are focused on a goal outside of themselves, on "Earthwatch" or with "Habitat for Humanity," the fact that one is traveling alone and not as a couple becomes unimportant.
Beyond that, the "alternative traveler" usually stays in dorms. On an educational trip, like an "Elderhostel" study week, or at foreign universities, the same applies.
If you nevertheless feel that you must travel with a companion (but don't have one), remember that both commercial and non-profit services exist to aid you. Jens Jurgen's long-established "Travel Companion Exchange" (travelcompanions.com/) enables singles to advertise inexpensively and effectively for a travel partner.
One other solution? Seek out a travel companion, perhaps using the above service, but hedge your bets. Tell the prospective companion that sharing costs is your main aim, and that you will be sightseeing and dining alone, unless the two of you prove especially congenial. I know someone who has done that on numerous occasions, and enjoyed the best of both worlds while traveling.
Tour operators and travel agents for singles
There are great many organizations provide assistance to traveling singles.
Not surprising as one out of every four travelers nowadays is now going it alone (according to the Travel Industry Association). We have the space here to list just a few of the top firms, but if there are terrific ones we're missing, we'd love to hear about them. Scroll down the list, and good luck!
All Singles Travel
Travel Services Worldwide
2300 Lakeview Pkwy Suite 700
Alpharetta GA 30004
Web: allsinglestravel.com/ In business nine years, All Singles Travel is just that: a company catering exclusively to solo travelers, and thus offering tours and cruises free of the dreaded singles supplement. Along with such standard holidays as cruises to Bermuda and escorted tours of Ireland, the company offers active vacations in Costa Rica (hiking, horseback riding and the like) as well as cruises to the Galapagos Islands.