Single travellers: Where to look for better holiday deals without a penalty
When it comes to suitable and affordable holidays for single people, I detect the tide is starting to turn. Over the years, I’ve written countless times about the plight of solo holidaymakers, particularly how they are stung by punitive supplements and how few holidays actually cater to their needs.
Problems still exist, but a growing number of companies now realise that the demand for holidays from single people is enormous – and increasing. According to the Office for National Statistics, nearly a third of UK households are now occupied by just one person – that figure has doubled since the early Sixties.
As a consequence, at a time when many holiday firms are struggling, those specialising in breaks for singles say they are seeing a significant growth in interest. For example, Just You’s bookings were up 12 per cent last year. And more mainstream escorted holiday companies are making special efforts to tailor some of their breaks to solo travellers.
Below, I’ve highlighted which are the best firms to turn to if you’re single, depending on the type of holiday you are planning.
Cruise ships are convivial places, and it’s easy to make friends at mealtimes and during onboard activities – but there is rarely any enforced socialising. And the biggest problem for singles is the cost – few ships have single cabins so solo cruisers often have to pay hefty single-occupancy charges for double cabins.
It’s little wonder, then, that the Norwegian Epic, a new ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, has caused such a stir. It has 128 reasonably priced yet appealing single cabins (or studio staterooms, as they are called) and the occupants have access to their own communal lounge.
If you’re over 50, Saga is also a good bet. On its two ships, about a quarter of cabins are for single occupancy – they almost always sell out, so book them well ahead. Dance hosts are also on hand in the evening.
Solo's Holidays has probably the biggest selection of sun-and-sand breaks for singles. This year, it has added Sardinia and the Greek resorts of Parga and Evia to its list of destinations.
All trips are escorted by a tour leader, who arranges things such as dining together in the evening.
Also worth considering is Travel One, which specialises in affordable beach holidays for singles, most of whom are aged between 40 and 60. Turkey and Cuba are its top sellers.
A third option is a ‘house party’ organised by Friendship Travel. The company completely takes over a few small hotels in Greece and Turkey for certain weeks in the summer.
Leading specialist Just You offers a number of exotic options for touring holidays, with the ten-day Wonder Of China being one of its most popular.
Alternatively, you could book a regular tour, but one on which single travellers do not incur a penalty on certain departure dates. For example, Voyages Jules Verne has a choice of tours which, on certain dates, have no single supplement. Destinations include Iceland and Cyprus.
Escorted rail journeys are also booming. Great Rail Journeys, the leading tour operator for these kinds of breaks, says about a quarter of customers on its upmarket holidays travel on their own. And the company offers five tours exclusively for solo travellers, with no single supplements to pay. The cheapest is a five-day trip to the Black Forest.
Shared physical challenges and hardships are a great way to bond.
Up to half of all customers with the main escorted adventure holiday companies are single.
During these trips, solo travellers can usually share accommodation with members of the same sex and so avoid single supplements. This year, Explore is introducing trips to countries including Cuba, Thailand and Morocco specifically for people travelling on their own. The Adventure Company offers breaks exclusively for single travellers on two dozen tours, including a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro and an exciting exploration of Jordan.
Exodus also has departure dates on popular tours aimed at travelling on their own.
In my experience, sightseeing on your own can actually be preferable because that way you can do exactly as you please. But being in a city without company is often not much fun in the evenings. Friendship Travel, which offers breaks for singles to Barcelona, Istanbul, Marrakech, Dublin and Dubrovnik, understands this. Guests choose what they want to do and how sociable they want to be, but at the same time there’s a trip host on hand to have dinner with if required.
Solitair has more fully escorted breaks for singles to Barcelona, Istanbul and Marrakech, and later this month Just You is launching a city breaks brochure.
One of the best places I know for sporty and spa-loving singles is the (awfully named) BodyHoliday LeSPORT. This classy hotel in St Lucia has 29 high-quality single rooms, and beauty treatments and watersports with tuition are covered in its all-inclusive rates – book through Friendship Travel.
Solo’s Holidays has a growing programme of golf holidays for singles, with advice clinics for beginners and options for players of all abilities. It offers breaks to courses in the UK, southern Spain, the Algarve and Turkey.
If you’re a competent skier and want to head off to the slopes, Red Point has various ‘solo ski’ weeks. The breaks include guided skiing on most days. Single rooms and communal meals are available in a hotel in the Austrian resort of Fugen. For a choice of other ski holidays for singles, Solo’s Holidays and Ski Pals are both worth checking out.
Single parent breaks
A single mother or father travelling with children is usually hit by an under-occupancy supplement, as hotel prices are normally based on two adults sharing a room. Moreover, it can be lonely for single parents, particularly in the evening if their teenagers are out enjoying themselves.
Small Families offers some tempting escorted group holidays for single-parent families – one highlight this year is a Kenyan safari in April.
Friendship Travel recently started a new brand called Single Parent Holidays – its trip aboard a gulet in Turkey in August sounds fun.