So curious about the economics of this. If you pay the single supplement you get your own room,but that room is usually the smallest, single room the hotel has. Which means RS company pays a lot less for that room. (I have verified this by checking the individual websites for hotels used by RS tours.) So, if it costs the company LESS, why would you have to pay extra money? If you do pay extra money, why wouldn't that entitle you to a normal double room just for yourself? Fair is fair. You are already paying a premium price for the tour package. (Again, I did the math by pricing out rooms at RS hotels.) It just doesn't seem fair that singles should end up paying MORE for LESS of a room. I am not single, and have never traveled as such so this is not a personal agenda. Am I missing something here?
I'm sure there is more to it, but single rooms, though less than double rooms, are usually well more than half of double rooms. So one person in a single room costs more per person than two people in a double room.
Yes, you are missing something. I agree with Leigh and will add I just did a quick check on one of the hotels I am staying in on a RS tour this Fall. The room for 2 is 190€ and the room for 1 is 180€, both prices without breakfast and for the calendar day before the tour starts.
It is not always the smallest room either. In perhaps 3/4 of my RS tour nights I was in the same sized room as everyone else. I've done 5 tours including 21 BOE, a couple of tours in Italy, Paris and Ireland. I do think it is appropriate for them to indicate that the room may be smaller to keep expectations in line.
I actually also feel that the tour prices are not premium prices, but compared to other tour companies are affordable. Paying the single supplement does not bother me at all.
I often travel solo, so I book a lot of rooms for one person. In general what I have found:
- Single room: Generally 75% to 90% of the double price
- Double room for single use: Usually 10 to 20 EUR cheaper than a double
Keep in mind that a lot of hotels do not have many singles. I suspect there are times that solo travelers are put in a small double.
I've never paid a single supplement on a RS tour, although I've been put in a single room 4 or 5 times when there were an odd number of solo women travelers who opted to share. When you share, you rotate roommates when there are more than 2 solo travelers. Once I was in a true single. The other times I was in a small double or a standard sized double. I suspect solo travelers are usually in smaller rooms, but not always in single rooms.
Well, I was curious, so I did a quick calculation. I have stayed in 30 different hotels on 5 different RS tours ranging from one night stays to 6 nights (Best of Paris). I was in the same-sized room as others at 20 of the hotels and in a single or smaller double room 10 times. I used to assume that the rooms in the big cities would be smaller but that turned out not to be true. The Best of Paris room was at Hotel Le M and it was huge. The smallest rooms were at Hotel Sonya in Rome and Hotel Stechelburg in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
BTW, some tour companies require singles to pay more to book without offering the option of roommate matching. Both Rick's tours and Road Scholar offer the optional single supplement which I appreciate greatly.
The price of the tour is constructed so that they expect at least 2 people per double room. That means each person traveling pays 1/2 of the total room cost for the tour. So if you are traveling solo and want a guaranteed room to yourself, you pay that other half with the supplement (and the RS option of NOT requiring payment of the supplement is unique as far as I know in the travel business).
I have been on several RS tours, always as a single. Sometimes I paid the supplement and sometimes I didn't. And some of the trips where I didn't pay the supplement I still ended up in a room alone. Depending on the country, I sometimes got a room with a full queen sized bed, sometimes I ended up in a room that is painfully small and cramped.
As others point out, the price for a single in Europe is not half of a double in most cases. So the company is not always paying less for a single. (And yes, there is a markup in the tour package price, but there is a lot of work involved in putting the tour together and any tour company deserves to make a few dollars on their tours.)
And I am curious why you would spend the time looking up which hotels the tours use, and then check the prices for double and single rooms---if you are not a single traveler? That is a lot of time spent, unfortunately on a false assumption. In many cases the hotel does not have any small single room, so singles get a "double room single occupancy" which is much more expensive.
And if you were adding up hotel prices to decide if an RS tour is right for you, keep in mind that the tour cost includes much much more than just hotel rooms. You get most meals, tour guides, entrance to attractions, and transport between cities. If you add all that in,,I suspect that the "premium" you pay over booking it on your own is maybe 15-20%. Maybe someone knows the exact figure. You pay that for the convenience of having all the research and booking done for you. Like many people here, I prefer independent travel, but I certainly understand why some, particularly solo travelers, like the comfort and convenience ( and camaraderie) of a tour.
I was curious because of the experience of our recent RS tour. I have many single friends who might consider a RS tour, but I wanted to have some more information before I recommended it just based on my experience. My initial research showed that a hotel we stayed at on our RS tour last month cost exactly double for the room we had compared to the "single" room one of our members was assigned. She had paid the supplement, and her room was so small she to walk sideways to move in it.:)
Like all things, you accept that there is cost involved in having someone else do something for you.
Thanks to those of you who provided information. It will give me much more specific information to give to my single friends considering a RS tour.
And why would you be spending much time in your room anyway to worry about size? I think RS has a nice policy. If there's any debatable potential unfairness; it's that solo men have better odds of rolling the dice (meaning not paying the supplement) and getting a room by themselves than solo women because there are usually more solo woman on a guided tour than solo men.
On the RS tours I've taken one was with family, one I lucked into a solo room because of odd number of solos, one I had a roommate, and one I went ahead and paid the supplement & that meant one of the other young women on the trip lucked out because there were an odd number of singles.
At the end of the day, size isn't the issue-it's that solo people pay a penalty so to speak for not sharing with a stranger.
BTW, when I use the phrase "lucked out" I don't mean it in an insensitive way. Perhaps the better way to phrase it is to say "saved money AND had a room of my own!" :)
I've found on eight RS tours that the rooms vary. In some cases, solo tour members will be provided with a small single room and in other cases they're provided with a large double room. This probably varies according to availability at the time they reserve the rooms. Also, keep in mind that each tour may use different hotels with different rates, again probably due to availability. Therefore I suspect they may "average" the single supplement prices so they don't operate at a loss regardless of which hotels they use on a particular tour. They may also have to build-in a "cushion" for currency exchange, since they're paying for the rooms in Euro. If they were to book the rooms well in advance, but only pay for them at the time of the tour, the exchange rate could have changed.
This is all speculation of course. If you want a definitive answer, send a note to the RS tour department.
I'd recommend that your single friends try a RS tour, as I think they'll find it's good value even with the single supplement. Of course, it they could always choose to room with another traveller of the same gender, and not pay the supplement.
Thanks Ken. All good information.
I actually had a friend point out to me that when you pay for the tour you are already paying for "half a room" or a shared room. If you add in a $70./day supplement (which is about what it works out to for the tours she was looking at) she questioned why that wouldn't be like paying for the "other half" of a room, thereby guaranteeing her a double-sized room. At least the hotels I checked are all under $140/day for a double room, so her math seemed on target.
I am glad to hear that often singles will get the same type of room as couples. I know that a single supplement is a common practice of all tour companies, but it still seems like it takes unfair financial advantage of single travelers.
You can be sure that RS & other tour operators get a sizeable discount for block bookings v you or I just booking the hotel(s) as individuals. BTW, I have found that on Booking.com they have a drop down menu that will show you the cheapest prices for people on their own in rooms. In the slack seasons, hotels will often give better rates and put single travellers in double rooms. Most rooms come for 2 people as that is the most cost effective.
I bet that the high rates charged for singles put a lot of people off travelling - which is highly regrettable.
Please let me know what hotels you found where a person can get a single room for less than 1/2 the price of a double room. I may take advantage of those hotels on my next trip. Thanks in advance.
FWIW, having traveled alone, more than 50% of the time I end up with a double room for just me, myself and I. Very nice to be able to stretch out and scatter my belongings anywhere I wish.
"I know that a single supplement is a common practice of all tour companies, but it still seems like it takes unfair financial advantage of single travelers."
If there was no single supplement, a couple could travel as two singles, get two rooms. Would that be fair? I guess I don't understand.
"I bet that the high rates charged for singles put a lot of people off travelling - which is highly regrettable."
Actually that is the point. Rick Steves Tours do not require a solo traveler to purchase the single supplement, it is optional if you want your own room, otherwise you will be matched up with any other singles of the same gender to share a room.
As someone who has worked in the tour industry, I'll try to explain a few things. (And when it comes to costs, the basics are the same for every tour.)
Looking at published hotel rates and thinking this is what a tour pays is like walking into a car dealership, looking at the sticker price of a vehicle and thinking this is what everyone pays.
Tours negotiate room rates. This is done way in advance...sometimes a year or two. They estimate how many rooms they will need and base their negotations on that. The tour company is guaranteeing "x" number of rooms per year. The more they guarantee, the less they pay.
Since most people travel as a couple, the cost of that double room is halved when figuring out the price of the tour. In Europe, the price of a single room is also negotiated. Since most single rooms are not half the size of doubles, nor do they cost half as much, you won't be paying twice as much for that single room than someone sharing a double. But the cost of that room is still more than half a double. If you get a double when a single is available, and didn't pay the cost of a double, then someone is losing money.
Let me give an example. Let's say, and I'm using round numbers, that as a tour company the Pizza hotel in Naples is charging me 100 Euro for a double and 70 Euro for a single. When I figure out my tour costs per person, I base it on half the 100 Euro, or 50 Euro per person. Now let's say a single comes along. She wants her own room. I know it costs me 75 Euro for the single so I need to charge the passenger at least an additional 25 Euro for that single. . If they were put in the double then my cost now rises to 100 Euro for the room. (In reality, the cost of a single in a double is also negotiated as slightly less than two people but not half as much.) If as a tour operator I don't charge more to recuperate my costs, I go out of business.
Then there are the other fixed costs. The biggest being the coach and the tour director. Whether there are 20 people or 40 people, those two costs are fixed. The cost of the coach is not negotiated based on the number of people but on the number of days and the number of miles (or kilometers.). The same for the tour director. I got paid the same whether there was 20 people on my tour or 40. This costs needs to be spread out amongst all the passengers. A single traveling alone needs to pay a little more towards this as now there are less people to spread the cost.
While the actual cost of a tour varies depending on the number of people, the tour company comes up with a price based on averages. The more people on a tour, the more money a tour company makes. There is usually a minimum number of people a tour needs to break even. Lower than that, and the chances of a tour company cancelling a tour is very high.
I did a single supplement trip last year, to the Adriatic. This was a Rick Steves trip. I only had one fairly crummy room, in Ljubljana, but honestly, the hotel was pretty crummy, so probably people in double rooms didn't have anything much better.All the other hotels were fine. In fact, in the last one, in Dubrovnik I had a wonderful room. I didn't love spending all that extra money, and in fact I turned out it to be the only female single, but I really never want to share a room with a stranger.
FWIW, my experience on four RS tours solo: most of the time, the single room is the same size as the doubles for couples - I can think of only one exception in Italy at Hotel Sonya in Rome. On tours where I shared with another single person, the rooms were often bigger because sometimes (but not always) we had rooms with two double beds and not just twins, occasionally a triple room (more common in Europe). I will say that on more than one tour the couples complained about having no room to move around or store luggage - two people is a crowd in a small double room.
That said, for your friends thinking of traveling solo with RS - do a quick search on this site to get honest feedback on similar questions asked over the past few years. The main consideration for paying the supplement is how much you need your own space versus how willing you are to possibly share with someone you don't know. After four RS tours (and another with a different company), countless rotating roomies, and once a "lucky" solo room because all other singles had paid the supplement, I would personally choose to travel with a compatible friend or pay the single supplement.
To Laura in Mass's situation: Do you get your supplement payment back from RS if you end up being the only single of your gender to sign up?
The main consideration for paying the supplement is how much you need your own space versus how willing you are to possibly share with someone you don't know.
This seems to be the only relevant issue. RS makes 2 offers to the single traveler. Accept the possibility of sharing a room and pay the same price as each person booking as a couple, or pay extra and be guaranteed your own room. I just don't see how the internals of what RS pays for the room (or any other expense they incur to provide the tours) is of any concern.
this is Laura in MA answering the question re: single supplement reimbursement. Alas, no, it's a crapshoot. You don't get your money back even if you are the only single!
There is at least one company out there, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) which does provide singles at no cost, but they only have a limited number of spots. I did a wonderful trip to South American with my sister, and we both had the single room option. Rooms were again pretty much same size as for doubles. I applaud OAT for doing this - their trips are for fewer people than R. Steves, so maybe it's easier for them to bargain with hotels since they aren't generally taking up every room anyway. Don't know reason.
I have been on the fence about paying the extra single supplement cost, for me thats 925.00 or 46.25 a night extra for my trip. Thats the cost of my airfare to put it in perspective. A 20% mark up for a single room on the total I paid. I am not complaining or making a judgement call, it is what it is and I knew that when I signed up.
I have been checking with the "office" to see how many other female singles are signed up, so far one. So its a guarantee I will have a room mate. The other option is if one more single signs up, we will rotate a private room every 3rd night.
$925 can go along ways in extras for the trip but what price do you put on lack of sleep, shower due to a non compatible room mate. Some of us (me) are easy run over just to keep peace in the trip, its a dice throw for sure.
I think I will go with a room mate and if that doesn't work out, at some point during the trip, gracefully pay extra for a room to myself for some alone time. Yes, always a chance the hotel will be booked up, or not, (cleared this with office) so another option. I am going to just plan on a great room mate that will be a blast to be around, and stop worrying about it.
TravelingMom, I also read the smaller room part, and wondered about that. So good point to talk about. I have always managed to go on trips and either not had to pay the single supplement price(other companies then RS) or lucked out that all singles(not traveling with anyone) were put in their own room. Again, not complaining, I read the fine print before paying.
Others on this post: besides OAT, what other tour operators offer "no single supplement" option? I enjoy traveling more than my husband but it certainly does get pricey on the RS tours.
The single supplement is well worth it for me. I have been on several RS tours and have had roommates. My first roommate was great and we really got along. The second time my roommate was fine but messy and didn't like air conditioning. The third roommate was an older woman that expected me to be her maid so that was it for me. Now I always get the single supplement because I want to enjoy the trip completely. Some people like to travel first class on the airline. I would rather put my money in my own room.
I have been on 3 RS tours traveling solo and purchasing the single supplement. I am ok paying for a room by myself and don't even mind a small room. What I have found that the majority of the time it was the location of the room that wasn't that great. I scored a couple good rooms but mostly it seems that they were off in a corner somewhere. So I don't know if a hotel will put a single in a double room but just a more undesirable room location wise. You know that room that no one wants. The tours are great so it hasn't stopped me from going but it can be disappointing to more often than not get the not so great room. on the other hand you aren't in it that much.
I paid the single supplement on the London tour a few years back, and the room I was given was right over the front door on the busy street side and right over the area where people would stand outside to smoke. I can tolerate a lot but thought, "Really?" The hotel used that trip is part of an international chain so I walked back to the lobby and asked if they had anything else by chance. I was moved to a much quieter room on the backside of the hotel and away from the residual smoke smell. If it had been a mom and pop hotel or if we weren't staying in the same hotel all week, I probably would've just lived with it, but a larger hotel and paying a single supplement--I figured it was worth a shot to ask, and I'm glad I did.
I have been on 12 RS tours and out of the 12 tours, 9 of them I paid the single supplement ( the others I went with a friend and shared the room). Rooms vary greatly in size as the hotels vary greatly. I had a large room on the week long Istanbul tour. I had some very large rooms on my Ireland tour, I had small room on my Paris tour and a large room on my Rome tour, but on my other Rome tour they used a different hotel and it was smaller. I am more concerned with the bed being comfortable and the bathroom in working order. All tour companies charge a single supplement. This is not just a Rick Steves thing, that they charge a single supplement. I went on several cruises back in the 1980's and at that time ( and I do remember this well) to get your own cabin ( and they were all small) was $500.00 extra for the week. Once one ship was $200.00 extra for your own cabin and I took it. The rooms vary and is not the tour companies fault, it is just how the hotel rooms are designed. I had a decent room in the Swiss Alps but was really happy to have a balcony overlooking the mountains and sat on the balcony with a tour mate for more than an hour! Having that balcony was wonderful and there were couples on the tour that did not have a balcony. Singles ( and I know as I travel as a single) do get a raw deal having to pay, but I have had roommates that I would not want to share with ever again and if it means having a wonderful vacation and paying the single supplement then I feel it is worth it.
I have been on 3 RS tours and did the Single Supplement each time. I believe that when I go on vacation that I should not worry about paying the extra amount if it makes sure that I have an enjoyable time. Plus, these trips are once in a lifetime type experiences and if you are stuck with a noncompatible roommate it can ruin the trip. So pay the supplement if you are like me who needs some alone time, likes the room a certain way, and who is a clean freak. My rooms on all my RS tours have been pretty good, room-wise. The smallest room was in Munich and it was the size of walk-in closet. However, it was not that bad and it was clean and that is all that matters. Plus, I was in my rooms with my eyes open for about 1.5 hours a day, so who cares if the room is big or not?
I use my tour alum discounts to apply to a single supplement. Well worth it for peace of mind.
I agree with most of the people here. Roommate risk is not worth taking. Pay the supplement, even if it means the smallest room in the hotel
I have been on 4 RS tours. I gladly paid the single supplement knowing this is how a company makes its money. The product value is worth the additional cost to me.
My rooms were never the same. Some single, some doubles, some with a view and some without a view. The tour leaders did a great job of asking us singles what our preferences were. They alternated us having a view/balcony/patio. It’s not easy with limited single rooms especially in smaller places of lodging.
Every large hotel used I always had the same size room as a couple. The smallest single rooms I experienced were on the Ireland tour at the B & B in Dingle. Tours I've done: Ireland, Belgium & Holland, Berlin-Prague-Vienna, Eastern France.
For my pre and post stays (booked by me), I always ask for a room which I will keep once the group arrives. I do this for the convenience of not having to change rooms. I am finding this request often puts me in a larger room than what another single tour members will receive.
Tip: If you are doing a pre or post stay or both at the same place as the tour, after receiving the lodging list, check their websites. If I see a single room is too small for my comfort level, I’ll contact the hotel for an up grade. I have paid 20-40 euros more for this and I am given a double size room.
Why I pay for a Single Supplement:
I truly need to unwind at day’s end and need my quiet, my space and
my rest. I like the privacy to chat with loved ones at day’s end
without having to leave the room.
I know after a long day of sightseeing I sleep some serious zzzzs. My room mate would be stuffing their pillow on my face if they got stuck with me.
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Because room mates are rotated, I would not like having to learn another’s living habits for each stop along the tour or have to adjust my routine.
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Because I’m up later on a tour than my usual home routine, I need to use the bathroom more. I’d likely would keep a room mate awake or continually be a disturbance. I also like to wake up early and take a morning stroll. They’d be putting me on the re-cycle bin list and not a rotation list.
- List item
Freudian alert! I shared a bed with an older sister (17 months older) for 6 years, then a bedroom with her for 10 years. Of course I cried when she left home at 18 but I loved having my own bedroom for 2 years before I left for college.
- List item
After sharing a bathroom with 8 other people growing up, sharing a dorm bathroom with 20 other gals, sharing my home bathroom with 4 other people, I like my own bathroom.
This was a long reply but hopefully helps others with their decision making.
Oops, looks like I'm still on a learning curve with my formatting skills.
I was surprised by Diane's comment that on the tours she has been on the guide asked the single supplement travelers for their room preferences. I have been on RS tours and never had that occur. I did have a tour guide switch rooms with me because his was in a better location than mine only because I was asking if there was any way I could get a different room due to location (I will say that I did not whine, just asked). Almost every single room I had on all 3 tours appeared to be doubles just in undesirable locations the majority of the time. On 1 of the 3 tours I got a fantastic room with an ocean view. I was in absolute heaven and it was for 2 days.
I've been on only one RS tour and did not pay the single supplement. The rooms were no different and not inferior to others (same size, decent location, etc). I rotated between 2 roommates (for 2-3 nights each) and then had a room for myself the rest of the time. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I would rather room with someone than pay an extra supplement - based on my experiences so far, I've saved a lot of money and had a lot of fun having roommates. I definitely would have gotten more sleep without roommates (that's largely my fault, not theirs!), but I guess I would rather use the savings elsewhere (food, entertainment, attractions, etc). The people on the RS tours seem to be really nice and laid back that I wouldn't really see rooming with them as a risk not worth taking (the "no grumps" policy largely self-selects "easy-to-get-along-with" folks).
I have traveled many RS tours as a solo traveler.
I never opted to pay the Single Supplement.
My experiences were always good and I rotated room mates, as this is the way RS structures things.
I enjoyed the people I roomed with. Ear Plugs and an eye cover are always useful.
But I value the experience of how someone else does their traveling. It makes my traveling more fun.
BTW Oat is part of Grand Circle which frequently offers trips which waive any single supplement.