I'm searching for tips or ideas for traveling solo without having to meet up with another individual traveler or busting the bank. It seems as though a lot of tours are geared economically towards couples and individuals have to pay the price of two or one and a half for one.
Don't do a tour, you'll save money traveling independently and piecing together your own trip (of course, it's not apples-to-apples comparison, but strictly in terms of overall cost). Every country, save a few which are very expensive (Iceland, Switzerland, etc), can be done on any kind of budget - low, medium, or high. Take advantage of countries with favorable exchange rates relative to USD. There are countries in Europe not on the Euro and/or much less expensive in general (the Balkans, etc), and plenty elsewhere in the world where you can really stretch your dollars (Turkey, Thailand, Mexico, Central and South American countries, etc).
I agree whole heartedly with Agnes. Plan your own trip. It can be done more efficiently and 40-50% less cost. The biggest advantage is less bus travel. Since I am more of a train traveler than a bus for comfort reasons, you always have many time alternatives. However, if you are not comfortable traveling completely solo, a tour is pretty much your only option.
I have traveled solo both independently and with a tour. Both have been great experiences. People with strong opinions about "don't do a tour" generally have not ever done a tour.
First, if you want to travel with a tour, Rick Steves Tours only charge a single supplement if you want to guarantee a room by yourself. If you are willing to be matched with a roommate, the tour is the same cost whether you are traveling solo or not. You only pay the single supplement if knowing that you have a room to yourself if a high priority. It is a priority for me and I pay the extra 500-900 for it. Often, people that don't pay the single supplement end up with a room by themselves if the other singles traveling have paid the single supplement, but that is a bit of a gamble.
The big cost for a solo traveler is lodging. When traveling solo I try to balance budget with a good location (available to public transport and main sites). Only you know if you will be happy in a private room in a hostel or if you need a little more quiet or luxury. I haven't done the hostel choice yet, but I'm open to it in a private room. I do value my sleep!
Public transportation is your friend. You want to use it wherever possible. I always do a little "research" on you tube in advance. You may laugh, but watching someone else demonstrate using the ticket machine for a type of transportation in advance has been so helpful more than once.
Take advantage of "day tours". There may be places that are not easily reached by public transport from a major hub or city. This is a great time to take advantage of a day tour and go for the day with a group. Advantages: Gets you where you want to go in an efficient manner. Disadvantages: Depending on the tour operator, you may not have as much time as you wanted at the site or some (these are the ones I hate) may try to slip in a "shopping opportunity." Read the itinerary and reviews carefully before signing up.
The things I like about traveling independently: I set my own schedule and I set my own itinerary. I am also a little bit more aware and open to connections with locals since it is just me.
The things I like about a Rick Steves Tour: Knowledgable guides that help me learn about what I am seeing, a congenial group to socialize and share travel experiences with, an itinerary that I have not set that often stretches me to new or one of a kind experiences.
I do understand your frustration with some of the single supplements. I'm pretty sure I will never go on a cruise for this very reason.
Tours (like RS) wont be double the cost if you're willing to share a room with another single. If not, plenty of guidebooks to help you with tips that apply to traveling solo. I did my first couple of trips to Europe, solo with a rail pass and a guidebook. It was inexpensive, but I got to see and do a lot less than on later tours.
Are you asking about planning and traveling completely solo? Or are you asking about finding good pricing for traveling as a single on a group tour? Can't tell from the question.
Double occupancy is what drives the travel industry. If you want single accommodations, you pay a tremendous premium but it is not double. There are many tour companies that offer some "single-same-as-double" pricing options but, as you can imagine, the selections of dates and destinations are quite limited.
With things just now starting to launch in the travel industry, there do not seem to be ANY bargains. Everyone everywhere appears to be trying to recover their losses without pricing themselves out of the marketplace. If you wish to travel this year or next, you're going to pay what the providers and vendors are asking. Lodging and transportation/air will be high for solos. However, if you've got time to plan and the patience to do the research, you should be able to find some simple ways, like dining and entertainment, to reduce your total expenditures. There are dozens of websites devoted to solo travelers. Fun reading.
As a solo traveler, I say plan your trip yourself. Definitely cheaper and you can get good deals on hotels.
I usually do walking tours or museum tours on vacation.
I wholeheartedly agree with Carol's comments. I travel frequently on my own, particularly before or after a tour. When I do take a tour, I just factor the single supplement into my budget since I'd prefer not to share a room at this point in my life. I love the solo travel - you can go where you want, when you want, and stay as long or as little as you want. I also find it a lot easier to strike up conversations with locals and other travelers when I'm solo. It can be a liberating experience! I also do a lot of research before I go and also look at the availability of day tours both in terms of getting to someplace outside of the city more readily and also as a way to do a deeper dive into learning about a place. Enjoy it!
Do people really think tour companies are gouging singles because of single supplements?
Hotels don't always have rooms with only I bed for 1 person, and if they do, I doubt they are 1/2 the price of a double. Surely the tour company can't be expected to cover the extra price?
The only alternative would be to charge everyone on the tour the same price per person. Would that be fair?
BTW, I travel as a single and pay the supplement.
I don't see where anyone claimed that tour companies were gouging participants?
I do find that the single supplements that most cruise companies charge (twice the cost) is in my mind excessive. No problem, because I have plenty of other ways to travel.
I've certainly seen people complain, and even refuse to do business with companies because they charge a single supplement, so they must feel it's wrong, whatever word they might use.
I'm searching for tips or ideas for traveling solo ...
These threads should give you an idea or two:
Carol is spot on.
I travel solo often. My preferred method is to find an airbnb somewhere and make myself at home. I usually schedule a couple of day tours to places that I can't reach easily with public transport. I also like to do tours to get more in depth information about certain places, museums, etc.
There are lots of websites, etc. about traveling solo. Just google "solo travel" and see what pops up. One site I follow is https://solotravelerworld.com/
I like the idea of planning your own solo trip, but going on some group day tours. That gets you out with some other people for a while, and gives some structure to your day.
I've been on a Rick Steves tour to Scotland as a solo person (yes, paid the single supplement), and also planned my own trip to Milan and Florence a few years ago. Both were great! Good luck, solo travel is very rewarding.
I am a solo traveler and solo cruiser. I know how pricing happens and understand that it is a choice I can make. I look at a price point for value for money. I don't care how they reach it, but if it is worth it to me, I pay it. I don't fixate on a single supplement. I have not done a tour as a solo, as I rarely take tours...unless it is pretty much required - like to see the Galapagos Islands by boat or to visit a jungle lodge where guests are kept in groups for safety and events. Then, again, I decide the final price - not how it is achieved. I choose apartment lets over hotels as I find them most value for money. I like a place to sit and read as well as opportunity to do some light cooking. I use my accommodations. I tried a few hostals in Spain - small 2* family owned hotels. the first gave me a single room and oh it was not comfortable. no chair and as I had foot problems, I needed sitting space as well as laying down space. hard beds, Room maybe 6 feet across. I made sure to upgrade at the next night's hostal. I look at Hostels, but won't do bunk rooms. Repeatedly, I can get a full apartment for less than the cost of a single room in a hostel even without ensuite. The extroverts may want that regardless, so they can hang out in the lounge but not my thing. I am trying to gear up to use local 2* in SE Asia, and I know they won't have much of a reading chair so will have to mingle (heaven forbid). Once I figure out I can manage an Asian kitchen, then I might revert back to an apartment. The other day, I was looking at accommodation on a Greek Island. A hostel private room was $103Cd. An apartment with separate kitchen, bath and bedroom, outside seating area 2 blocks from the beach was $82Cdn. Which would you choose?
If I feel the need to talk to someone, I'll do some day trip or walking tour. I also indulge on a higher ticket item of a private bird guide for a day. Those are generally pricey, but that is my interest and it gets me out of the city and able to talk to a non tourist sector local.
I also save on meals as I eat the main meal at lunch and dinner is a light repose with a glass of wine in my apartment or even hotel room. I think my last meal in Spain was under 5Euro from the grocery store including a tomato, ham, cheese last of the crackers and a litre of rose (which was 1E). As good but cheaper if I sat by myself in some restaurant eating tapas and feeling like a wallflower.
Thank you Carol for your reasoned response to whether to take a tour or not. Folks here tend to be pretty reflexively anti-tour. When chefs go on vacation, some love to cook and some eat out every night. It's a vacation - you get to decide to do what you want! I find since a tour takes the work out of the logistics, I've got time and energy to focus on the sights and activities. Can I plan a rail trip, or book hotels, or rent cars? Sure and I've done it for years, but it doesn't mean I want to do it every time.
If you think about it logically, a single supplement is backwards. You're using the same amount of room but less utilities and towels, so shouldn't they actually give you a discount?
I don't ever travel solo, but I think if you want to do it independently or with a tour depends on budget, where you want to travel, and how you want to travel. We travel both independently and with tours and it really depends on the location for us. I would never take a tour to the UK or Ireland, I plan those all myself and do both trains and I drive. When we plan a France trip we'll be going independently and I'll again be driving to get where we want to be. However, we took an RS tour in 2014 to Greece because that was a little more intimidating of a location and we didn't have a lot of planning time. Multiple countries (like the 2022 BOEE tour) is a little more of a hassle to plan yourself and with 4 of us this time a tour was the way to go for us. I think you'd be fine on an RS tour and it will really just depend if you are willing to take the risk of a roommate or not.
You didn't mention where you are considering- for me, having done both solo and tours, that drives the decision. I wouldn't have felt safe as a solo, older woman in Turkey on my own, and the RS tour was fantastic. It was also summer, since I teach. For all I am fiercely independent it was quite wonderful to have a large bus with AC conveniently waiting after hours exploring on foot! Language barriers are another reason- also primarily for safety- in Russia, as another example.
On the other hand, as a few others mentioned, to afford the single supplements (which in Finland, for a midnight sun 3 - hour hike was paying for a 2- person hike for just me) I offset that with my spartan food requirements. As well, some of these solo supplement day tours have been highlights of the trip- a paid companion, granted, but with just the two of us I have had fascinating conversations and experiences not otherwise possible.
The My Way Tours are good value and flexible and I took one solo and enjoyed it. I like the way they take care of all macro arrangements and leave the fun micro details (eating, sighseeing) to me. Paid single supplement.
I've been traveling solo since 2016. I've done self-planned trips, Rick Steves tours and combos.
I've gone on RS tours solo and always do the single supplement. At my age, it's well worth the extra money to neither bother anyone else nor be bothered by them.
Sometimes the rooms are the same as everyone else's. Sometimes they have a single (twin) bed. I have health challenges that require ensuite bath rooms. So far I've never had to have a bathroom down the hall, shared or private. All my accommodations have been good and some have been great.
If I add significant time before the beginning or after the end of a tour, like others have mentioned, I like to rent an apartment. I always use Booking.com to find one, but may do the actual rental directly with the owner, through VRBO or Booking. I rented through Airbnb once. Never again.
I stay in hotels or B&Bs if the time is too short. Regardless of the lodging, it is NEVER half the price of the cost for a couple. Using Booking.com, you can put that you are only 1 person. Sometimes the results will be small with a twin size bed. Sometimes not.
If you get options that are big enough for a couple, make a note of the price for one, then go back and search for 2. Then you can see how much less it is, or isn't, for one person.
By the way, if you look at the RS tours, you'll see that the cost of the single supplement is way below half the price of the tour. For example, the cost of the Best of Ireland in 14 Days next year ranges from $3995 to $4395, depending on the tour dates. But the single supplement is $875 no matter when you go, making it an extra 22%-20%, not 50%.