Single Supplement: Unfair or Inevitable Cost for the Solo Traveller

“How many of you are interested in booking this trip?  Oh, just you?  Well that will be an additional £300.”

Sigh…

I had just run into the solo traveller’s greatest enemy: The Single Supplement.

As the world grows smaller through technological advances, travel has become increasingly accessible and affordable, and more people than ever are choosing to spend their free time exploring other parts of the world.

Solo travel in particular has soared in popularity and I am one of thousands of travellers who often choose to explore the world on their own.

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(Travelling as a solo traveller for a month in Vietnam allowed me independence, flexibility and a great journey of self-discovery)

Usually this means I travel independently, enjoying the freedom it gives me with the ability to adapt to my surroundings with a flexible itinerary.  I find it easier to meet other travellers, befriend locals, and I enjoy the opportunity to follow my own path both geographically and spiritually.

Solo travel suits me.  Is this because I am a free spirit, selfish, a commitment-phobe or a loner?  Well, probably all of the above!

But solo travel does have its challenges and the main one is that it can be more expensive.  Nowadays, I prefer a room to myself with my own bathroom – I know, I’m such a princess!  At times I also crave some company, am feeling lazy and would like someone else to organise my itinerary or I am interested in a location or activity that is difficult to experience on my own.

So I am not averse to paying more for a room to myself or joining group tours – but I am averse to the non-optional single supplement.

What is the single supplement?

Put simply, the single supplement is a premium charged to solo travellers when they book a room or a group tour alone.  In theory, it is charged to cover the additional costs a single traveller creates for the hotel or tour operator.

Is this unfair?  Or is it simply an unavoidable cost that is outweighed by the benefits of solo travel?     

When I discussed this with friends and other travellers, I found it provoked a variety of responses.

The more cynical of us perceive it as a penalty for being single, a punishment for being adventurous on our own.

Others accepted that whilst it is frustrating, it is an understandable way for businesses to cover their costs.  The counter argument to this was that solo travellers will often take their business elsewhere and empty rooms bring in less money than one charged without the single supplement.

A friend with children played devil’s advocate by pointing out how expensive family travel was.  Even with the single supplement, many of us can still afford to travel on our own, whilst families face a more challenging budget.

The leopard prefers to travel solo – but he doesn’t have to pay the single supplement!

7 Ways To Avoid The Single Supplement

There are ways to avoid the single supplement and these include:

  • Finding companies that offer the option to share accommodation with other single travellers of the same sex.  Sometimes if there is no other solo traveller, you will get your own room at the ‘shared’ cost (I enjoyed this unexpected luxury on group tours in both Africa and Antarctica)
  • Simply ask!  The travel industry is facing increased competition in a challenging economic environment and waiving the single supplement is usually more profitable than not having a customer at all.   You never know if you don’t ask right?
  • Travel off-peak.  I recently stay in a Wilderness Retreat on Kangaroo Island that I thought would be outside my budget.  But travelling outside the busy tourist season meant there were other discounts available that offset the cost of the single supplement.
  • Negotiate with a last minute booking.  I called a motel in the Yorke Peninsula in Australia looking for accommodation for the next couple of nights.  The room rate was above my budget, but the motel preferred to offer me a reduced rate than leave the room empty.
  • Look for adventure travel tours that use non-traditional accommodation such as camps, lodges and hostels.  These often exclude a single supplement.
  • Share the costs with other travellers.
  • Find a tour/package you like and use it to create your own self-guided itinerary.  This will often decrease the overall cost of the trip, even if hotel rooms still require a single supplement.

Enjoying a tent to myself in Zambia!

Does the single supplement stop me exploring the world as a solo traveller? Absolutely not.  Does the single supplement stop be booking with a particular hotel or tour company if other options are available.  Absolutely.

What about you?  Do you stamp your feet and throw a tantrum when faced with the dreaded single supplement?  Or do you just accept it as an inevitable part of travelling on your own?

What other ways do you avoid the single supplement?

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Great tips! I think single supplements are SO unfair!!!

  2. It seems ironic to me that it costs more for one person than two to travel in some instances. Not sure I understand the reasoning. As you say, those companies risk losing a customer. Must pencil out somewhere along the line, I guess. Anyhow, I’m impressed by your intrepidness (is that a word?), especially as a woman traveling solo. Have you ever felt unsafe?

  3. I am not a fan of the SS and do think it unfair – i travel solo and avoid group travel. I have paid it on cruises but usually wait until two month out when they often discount the cruises -the rooms are too small to share and frankly, i work hard all year for my holiday and don’t want to share with a stranger – not worth the savings.
    I wish the travel industry would realize that the percentage of solo travelers (single, divorced, solo, widow(ers), etc) is increasing and the baby boomer travelers they have now are decreasing – they should be courting the next generation of travelers yet continue to shun and exclude. Like you, I’ve had amazing experiences on my own and enjoy the planning of it all to show how much savings can be had over a group tour.

    • I couldn’t agree more with you Suzanne, especially your comment about the travel industry needing to embrace the increase number of travellers who are choosing to travel and explore the world on their own. Well said!

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Photography: Shooting Stars in Drakensberg, South Africa
20 Wildlife Encounters from Antarctica, Arctic, Africa & Australia