To agent Monika Heigh, single people are often treated like the
stepchildren of the travel industry.
Most of the time, solo travelers must pay a hefty single
supplement, sometimes twice the price of a double-occupancy fare.
Or they must endure traveling in groups in which everyone else has
a partner. And too many trips designed for “singles” involve
inappropriate matchmaking games.
Heigh, owner of Sea and Shores Travel in West Hills, Calif.,
organizes special group cruises for singles, along with a
roommate-finding option for those who want to save money.
Heigh is among a growing number of travel professionals,
including tour operators and cruise lines, who are honing in on the
lucrative niche of singles travel.
Single travelers are not all lonely-heart types looking for
love; some may be married to someone who won’t or can’t travel,
they may be divorced, widowed, singles traveling with a goal of
being alone, or simply seeking to meet like-minded people.
Heigh’s first singles group cruise was in mid-June, when about
90 people booked a three-night cruise on the Monarch of the Seas
out of Los Angeles.
Heigh promoted the cruise through a singles’ Web site, by
networking with groups she belongs to, and with an ad in the Los
Angeles Times. She created a flyer that she distributed wherever
She also set up roommates for those who wanted to pay the lower
It was such a success, Heigh has scheduled two more three-night
weekend cruises out of Los Angeles this year. She’s also planning
an eight-night Feb. 14 Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans and
exploring the possibility of renting a villa in Tuscany for a group
Amid growing interest, many tour operators have begun to offer
guaranteed-share options that allow singles to share a room with
same-sex travelers to avoid paying a supplement. If the tour
operator can’t find a match, the single ends up with the room alone
without paying extra.
Others will waive singles supplements on certain trips, or as a
special promotion to help fill a trip. And yet others negotiate
special deals to draw singles specifically.
General Tours (www.generaltours.com), for example, is waiving
the single supplement on its “It’s Time to Go! Galapagos,” a
seven-day cruise tour available through March 2004. Singles can
enjoy private suites on the all-suite Galapagos Explorer II.
“We’re always on the lookout for things we can do for singles,”
said Anne MacIntyre, General Tours director of public relations.
“When we can cut a deal like this one, we do.”
Tauck World Discovery is also planning to negotiate
significantly reduced singles supplement fees on certain tours
throughout the season next year to draw more solo travelers, said
spokeswoman Kendra St. John.
This year Beaches Resorts designated certain “Single Parent
Months” throughout the year when single supplement fees are
Travel Bound offers FIT travelers single rooms in London, Paris,
and other European cities without charging a supplement.
Sceptre Ireland this year created a “Sights & Sounds Tour”
for solo travelers. The Nov. 3 trip includes airfare, four nights
hotel in Galway and Dublin, some meals and motorcoach
transportation with an Irish driver/guide. Prices start at $799,
single-occupancy, from Los Angeles.
Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com), a tour
operator also offering guaranteed-share options, organizes a number
of cruise and land trips every year, many with themes such as
Murder Mystery Dive trip to Roatan, Honduras, or an Impressionistic
Art and Wine river cruise in France.
And Berkeley, Calif.-based tour operator Backroads
(www.backroads.com) offers active, luxury vacations with specific
departures for solo travelers. Backroads offers guaranteed share
options for those who book at least 60 days ahead.
One resource for single travelers is Connecting: Solo Travel
Network, which was created by former travel agent Diane Redfern in
In the mid-1980s, Redfern left her work as a travel agent and
spent a year exploring the world as a travel writer by herself.
Redfern found a world of like-minded souls. She brings them
together online (www.cstn.org), where members can exchange ideas
and find travel companions.
Redfern also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter with information
on single travel, tours and cruises. And she offers a
Single-Friendly Travel Directory, free to members, listing about
Singles travel opportunities have grown tremendously since she
started the newsletter in 1990, said Redfern.
“When I started, I might find one or two trips each month, and a
lot of them failed because people wouldn’t go,” she said.
Now her 20-page newsletter devotes five to six pages to vacation
Sadly, she said, higher fees are inevitable for many single
travelers as long as U.S. hotels and cruise lines continue to
remain committed to offering only double or quad-share rooms.
Said Redfern: “They’re ignoring one-third of the