Solo Travel

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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
Tel: 800/717-3231
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.

Club Med

75 Valencia Avenue, 12th floor
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
Tel: 888/WEB-CLUB
Web: clubmed.com/ The biggie all-inclusive resort chain devotes a substantial percentage of its properties each year to "cray weeks": seven-day periods when the adults-only resorts become sunny mixers for single travelers. In 2002, these singles only weeks were offered at Club Med Cancun, Turks and Caicos, Tunisia and Corfu among others.

Majestic Sun Tours

Division of Aim Higher, Inc.
654 Essex LaneWinfield, IL 60190
Tel: 630/752-9858
Web: majesticsun.com/ A cruise specialist, Majestic engages in "bulk buying" and then passes on the savings to its customers. It also offers a "guaranteed share program"travelers who make their reservations 65 days or more in advance do not have to pay a singles supplement. The company will try to find a roommate for you, but if that fails, it will pay the supplement fee.

O Solo Mio Single Tours

160 Main Street
Los Altos, CA 94022
Tel: 800/959-8568
Email: info@osolomio.comWeb: osolomio.com/ In business since 1991, O Solo Mio arranges tours for travelers aged between 35-65. In 2005, trips included trips to Thailand, Baja and Greek Islands. While O Solo Mio does charge a singles supplement, it does its best to arrange roommates for all participants.

Regency Travel

10330 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92120
Tel: 800/362-6221
Web: egencytravel.com/ This large travel agency serves as a clearinghouse for vacations on which no singles supplement is charged. These include Club Med stays, Mexican cruises, tall ship vacations, African safaris, and river rafting through the Grand Canyon.

Travel Buddies

c/o 401-601 West Broadway
Vancouver BC V5Z 4C2 Canada
Tel: 800/998-9099, 604/534-5602
Web: travelbuddiesworldwide.com/ Active, interesting tours for singles. Past programs have included wine tasting in Italy, a golf tournament in Costa Rica, Irish pub tours, and cruises, cruises, cruises. Travel buddies has plied the waters of the Caribbean, the rivers of Russia, the Inside Passage of Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Mexican "Riviera". The company will hook up travelers with roommates, free of charge.

Windjammer Barefoot Cruise

P.O. Box 190120
Miami, Florida 33119-0120
Tel: 800/327-2601
Web: windjammer.com/ The famed tall-ship cruise company sets three cruises per year for single travelers. Perhaps the most popular of the Line's sailings, these tend to fill up early, with many repeat sailors.

The World Outdoors

2840 Wilderness Place
Suite D
Boulder, CO 80301
Tel: (800)488-8483
Web: theworldoutdoors.com/ Massive wildlife/adventure company the World Outdoors sets aside a full two dozen of its outings each year for solo travelers. Since many of these vacations involve camping, singles supplements only apply when inns are used. Solos need not limit themselves to these specialty weeks: on most of its regular outings a full 50% of the participants come alone. Samples from the 2005 catalogue: Alaska Wildlands Hiker, Colorado Backcountry Multi-Sport and Belize Eco-Lodge Multi-Sport.

Travel clubs

Connecting Solo Travel Network

689 Park Road, Unit 6
Gibsons, BC V0N 1V7 Canada
Tel: 604/886-9099
Web: cstn.org/ A network of traveling singles who host other traveling singles around the world. Constantly updated list of travel hosts is provided. In addition, members receive a newsletter detailing tours and cruises that are "singles friendly," and including free travel companion advertising.

Going Solo Travel Club

629-11 Avenue S.W.
Calgary, AB T2R 0E1 Canada
Tel: 403/298-3532, 888/475-3755
Web: goingsolotravel.com/ For singles of all ages: international tours, monthly activities, and weekend getaways in Alberta and British Columbia. There are no membership fees with this club.

Outdoor Singles Network

OSN-IN,P.O. Box 781
Haines, AK 99827
Web: kcd.com/ci/osn Established quarterly newsletter (since 1989) for outdoor-loving singles, ages 19-90, will help you find a travel companion, pen-pal, or soulmate; $55 for a one-year hard-copy subscription with your personal ad printed in the next issue, $35 for online membership ($75 for both), $15 to receive the current issue, or write for free information. Check out its Web site at kcd.com/ci/osn

The Single Gourmet Club

GLB1-60 Old Mill Road
Oakville, Ontario L6J 7V9 Canada
Tel: 416/929-7591
Web: singlegourmet.ca/ An international social, dining and travel club for singles, with offices in 21 cities in USA and Canada, and one in London. Offers three trips a year to all parts of the world. As you might imagine, food and gourmet meals are the focus of these trips.

Single Travelers Action Group

c/o Jean Jewell
STAG
Church Lane
Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire MK44 1HR, England
Tel: (011) 44-1234-782415
A nonprofit singles networking organization with over 2,500 members throughout the U.K. and 14 other countries. Membership is £10 (US$15) per year.

TravelChums

P.O. Box 231295
New York, NY 10023
Tel: 212/787-2621
Web: travelchums.com/
This free, online service, run by educational travel publisher Shaw Guides, connects solo nomads from around the world. Members create detailed profiles, which include such travel-oriented info as desired companion qualities and favorite past trips (there are currently 29,000 profiles online). Members can contact each other through the site's internal messaging system, or directly via e-mail.

Travelin' Singles

c/o John La Point
P.O. Box 2702
Laguna Hills, CA 92654
Tel: 800/748-6662
Web: travelinsingles.com/This singles' travel club has been organizing tours for solos in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, since 1980. Members can subscribe free to an online newsletter detailing the prospective trips, or pay $15/year for a printed copy.

T.G.I.F. (Canada)

977 Wellington Drive
North Vancouver, BC BCV7 K1L1 Canada
Tel: 800/661-7151 or 604/988-5231
Web: tgifbc.com/
This singles club for travelers 20 and up has over 1,200 members. Events include "Get-away Weekends," ski-trips, river rafting, sailing, cruises and other longer trips.

Single travelers of all nations, travel! You have nothing to lose but your unwarranted fears. You have a world to win!

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