Soloists Team Up to Beat Singles’ Fees

Would you like a good spanking? Would you? Because if you’re single and like to travel, expect to get spanked hard when you go to pay for that fabulous all-inclusive holiday. In addition to the taxes, surcharges, and fees everyone else pays, solo travelers must submit to an additional smack called the “single supplement” merely because they have the cheek to journey alone.

A single supplement, in case you’re not experienced, is an industry convention that allows cruise, resort, and package-tour operators to pass on up to 200 percent of an accommodation’s double occupancy rate, on top of the rate. According to Paul Noble, an industry veteran and instructor at International Travel and Business College, “Most pricing for tour product is based on two people so [singles] have to pay more than if they were with someone.”

Opened a glossy tourist brochure lately? You’ll be hard-pressed to find details of the single supplement spelled out, yet it can add hundreds of dollars onto the price of your trip. No suckers for punishment, savvy solo travellers are taking the edge off the single supplement’s sting by joining forces in person and on the Internet.

Val Liddle is a Port Coquitlam travel agent who’s been booking trips with Arriva Classic Travel since 1991. Over that time she’s found herself having to explain the single supplement to clients coming in and–being single herself–can sympathize with their predicament. Last year she gave regular client Gar England a call and asked if he thought some sort of “travel club” would fly.

“I was there at that first meeting in July,” England recalls. “Val booked a room for 30, and about 70 people showed up.” England meets up with other members of the Singles Travel Club at monthly pretrip socials where they chat about destinations (both local and international), create itineraries, and meet potential roommates.

The club allows singles to enjoy the camaraderie and supplement-free savings of exploring in a group, but still keeps all group activities optional so individuals can follow their own interests. Past destinations have included the Maritimes, the Caribbean, and Bali, and the 2005 schedule takes in South Africa, Turkey, and a boat journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Like other single travel clubs out of North America, the $25-per-year organization is not a dating scene by any means, but as its Web site puts it, “Many friendships have developed…”

Connecting Solo Travel Network also promotes friendship between voyagers while it takes a jab at single supplements. The 15-year-old Gibsons-based Internet organization is a recognized resource for all things solo. Although its most visible function is to link singles with the clubs, organizations, and businesses that serve them, CSTN primarily encourages members to help each other.

Founder Diane Redfern observes that in the current environment, travellers considering a solo trip often face issues of loneliness, safety, and cost. CSTN offers them an alternative: a pool of allies who can offer been-there reassurance and realistic information.

Anyone can access the Web site at http://www.cstn.org/ to view a sampling of its scope, but it takes a $35 annual membership to access CSTN’s real on-line benefits: tips and tales; hospitality, lodging, and ride exchanges; travel-companion ads; a bimonthly newsletter; and the extensive Single-Friendly Travel Directory.

The directory cross-references trips, lodging, resorts, tours, and cruises with 16 different kinds of travel. From active boating, trekking, and dude-ranch holidays to specialized volunteer, one-parent, or women-only getaways, it points singles to companies that embrace their business.

To be included, a vacation provider must waive the single supplement, charge a single supplement that is less than $25 per day, or offer a “guarantee share option” where–if you’re willing to be paired up with a roommate–you pay only the per-person, double-occupancy rate even if a roommate cannot be found.

Redfern predicts that although the single supplement won’t disappear completely, more businesses will follow the lead of their peers overseas. “They get it,” says Redfern of European companies such as Friendship, Saga, and H.F. Holidays, “They know what single travellers want.”

There are more than 300 single-friendly trips available in the current CSTN calendar, and the Singles Travel Club’s next monthly meeting is Wednesday (February 16). With so many fresh single-friendly options to choose from, there’s no need to take a continuing thrashing from the staid industry; unless you like that sort of thing, of course.

ACCESS: Singles Travel Club meets on the third Wednesday of every month. For more information visit their Web site at http://www.singlestravelclub.ca/ or call 604-552-1552.

Other singles travel clubs include: Going Solo Travel Club (www.goingsolotravel.com/), Travel Companion Exchange (www.travelcompanions.com/), Travel Buddies Singles Travel Club (www.travelbuddiesworldwide.com/), Travel Chums (www.travelchums.com/), Club1 Travel (www.club1travel.com/), O Solo Mio Singles (www.osolomio.com/) and Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com/).

To learn more about Connecting Solo Travel Network and the Single-Friendly Travel Directory, visit http://www.cstn.org/ or call 604-886-9099.

Published in the February 10, 2005 Single In The City issue of Vancouver’s Georgia Straight

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