British newspaper reports that solo travel vacations can be fun
A story published today in the Sunday Mirror sent reporters on solo vacations to find out what it would be like.
Terry O'Hanlon went to a house party in Turkey while Maggie O'Riordan joined a luxury singles' holiday in the Caribbean. Here is what they reported when the vacation was over.
THE TURKEY HOUSE PARTY
By TERRY OHANLON
IVE just been in non-Celebrity Big Brother.
No, not the TV one. But the format is similar you take a group of complete strangers, plant them in a hot, foreign location complete with swimming pool and loads of booze... and see what happens.
In Alternative BB, however, you dont have the toned bodies, the designer beachwear and the bling. To start with, the majority of entrants are between 30 and 55 (some fib about the upper age limit).
They are single, divorced or widowed, others have partners who cant travel or theyre professionals who cant (or dont want to) fix time off with chums or partners.
You can also forget the glossy-mag model image in this BB House.
Our reality location is in Ovacik, Turkey, and the participants are less celeb magazine and more WeightWatchers (before!) and Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil (me).
What these travellers have in common is being fed up, frustrated and
furious with travel operators and hotels who slap on hefty surcharges and supplements for flights, hotels and even complete vacations simply because we want to travel alone.
Singles can be charged hundreds more for the privilege, which is why solo travellers companies are enjoying tremendous growth.
Until recently, singles clubs and solo holidays for older travellers were ridiculed. Participants were Billy No-Mates or Sad Sallies, despite the fact that they probably had more fun than couples in tired relationships.
But recent research by the Royal Bank of Scotland predicts that more than a third of UK households will be made up of singles within a few years.
Longer working hours and no time for a social life mean holidays are not only a time for making friends but for discovering activities like scuba, cookery or yoga you dont have time for at home.
My housemates three men and eight women included a glamorous divorced mum from Bristol who preferred to holiday without the grown- up kids; a lady hospital specialist from Scotland whose partner likes golf while she fancies sun-lounging; a supermarket worker from Kent; a widow who feels stifled by holidays with family or friends; and an unmarried male print executive from Dorset the wrong side of 40 who is determined to take part in every activity from scuba- diving to micro-lighting.
Like BB, it was interesting watching the interplay between people who would not normally meet all within the gated Villa Aurora that has been taken over exclusively by Friendship Travel for its singles.
The free first-night Resort Ramble coach tour takes in Oludeniz (Turkeys most photographed lagoon) and the bustling resort of Fethiye. Everyone was polite and reserved. But the second Nightshift guided tour of nearby Hisaronu loosened the inhibitions as the drinks flowed.
Our Action Man talked of his 30-minute microlight flight over Oludeniz and Ovacik (pounds 55). Others told of the heat-hell of the Old Turkish Bath (hammam) in Fethiye (pounds 13). I had to confess that I had slipped and plunged into the ice-cold waters crossing the Saklikent Gorge the third-biggest gorge in Europe during a pounds 20 excursion that also took in the ruins of the ancient city of Tlos.
A charming young RAF lady officer, whose phone bill must have cost a fortune after constant texting to her RAF fly-boy, decided she was four years younger after smothering herself in the mud baths near the turtle sanctuary at Dalyan (excursion: pounds 22).
She explained after a few glasses of wine: The people at the Turkish bath said I would be two years younger after treatment and the mud bath people said the same so tonight I am four years younger. Yes dear One divorcee, who has now had three solo holidays, summed it up: We all dislike the way travel companies treat single people with supplements and extra charges. They will have to change their ways or they are going to lose a lot of business.
Most of us also dislike the way couples or families look on the man or woman by themselves in conventional holidays.
Quite often it is the single person who is better off not having to hang around for a partner who has totally opposite interests.
With these holidays you can take part or do your own thing. Its having company for dinner and going on an excursion or activity with someone like-minded without strings.
Ive made several life-long friends as a result of singles holidays I would find family holidays a complete bore.
WHATS THE DEAL?
A WEEK half-board holiday in your own room (no supps) with flights, taxi transfers and wine with dinner costs from pounds 499 through Friendship Travel. Details: 0289 446 2211 or see www.friend shiptravel.com
LONE STRANGERS IN CARIBBEAN
By MAGGIE ORIORDAN
IF Id placed an ad before choosing my holiday, it would have read as follows: Single girl seeks luxury holiday, no strings attached.
I am not the lonely hearts type and can spend night after night in London bars meeting a host of unsuitable men if thats what I want.
No, I was not on a quest for love or even a holiday romance. Quite simply I wanted to go on holiday where I wanted, when I wanted and do what I wanted.
I didnt want to go on a hobby holiday where you paint, cook or crochet your days away. Nor did I want to become a champion diver/ skier/pentathlete. I just wanted to read, sightsee and sleep.
As someone who also likes to party, I fancied some company in the evenings. A nice dinner, a few drinks with some fun people before retiring to my room alone would be perfect.
And so my quest began. As I scoured the internet for deals to fit my criteria, horrific tales of single girls stalked by the resort saddo abounded.
Others told of days spent alone by the pool being observed as if from outer space by smug couples. Most were crestfallen at having to pay a single supplement to stay at resorts which did nothing to cater for their needs.
Crikey. This holidaying alone lark was not going to be as easy as I thought. Perhaps I should speak again to my dwindling band of single friends and see if our dates and budgets might coincide after all?
But that would be cowardly. I am a grown woman of a certain age. How awful could one lone holiday be?
So my search resumed with a vengeance. Then, bingo. A posh resort called Le Sport in St Lucia, which boasts of single travellers returning in droves year after year.
Give us your body for a week and well give you back your mind, bragged the advert. Sounded good to me.
Further investigation revealed the hotel has built a whole block of luxury rooms dedicated to the single traveller. One 50-minute spa treatment per day was included, as was all food and premium brand alcohol. Water sports, gym facilities, exercise classes, golf and tennis lessons were all free. I booked there and then for a nine- day Bodyholiday break costing pounds 1,454.
Days later, I sat on board a Virgin flight surveying my fellow travellers. There were couples lots of them with that honeymooners glow. And some old people. Next to me sat an elderly Caribbean lady with her four- year-old granddaughter, carrying everything bar the kitchen sink. And sink my heart did.
But then the doors closed with the plane half-empty. I scuttled to a line of four free seats, determined to relax. Another single traveller, a 30-something girl called Nicky, had the same idea. We were both headed for Le Sport. Before long we had also befriended a local man. The three of us decided to forego the 90-minute bus ride from the airport and charter a helicopter instead.
The helicopter (pounds 65 each) was organised within minutes of our arrival and as we hovered above lush green rainforests and fabulous beaches, I felt myself relax.
The Bodyholiday at Le Sport can be as active or lazy as you like. Every night there is a communal table set for singles. To my surprise, there was no one with two heads in the company, but the women were infinitely more interesting than the men. Diehard singles say this is often the case. You can work out why the men are alone but the girls are generally glamorous, well-dressed and fun.
After dinner we retired to the Piano Bar. Here is where everyone goes to let their hair down and the bar doesnt close until the last person leaves. Terrible for the staff but fab for those who like a drink and a sing-song.
As someone who never sits back and relaxes at home, the holiday was perfect for me. The day would start with a fabulous breakfast, followed by a swim in the sea and a spot of sunbathing. At some point it would be time to visit the beautiful Oasis Spa for my daily treatment.
I did venture out for the street party in nearby Rodney Bay one Friday night, but the hustle and bustle upset my newly-found sense of balance. I scuttled back to my hotel balcony and resumed reading my book to the sound of the ocean instead.
I met some nice people but we respected each others privacy and kept conversation light and pleasant.
A few fellow travellers seemed to find romance which gave the rest of us a giggle and something to gossip about.
WHATS THE DEAL?
MAGGIE also travelled with Friendship Travel. A weeks all- inclusive Bodyholiday next year costs pounds 1,688 including flights and daily treatments. Details: 0289 446 2211 or see www.friendshiptravel.com
GO IT ALONE AT NO EXTRA CHARGE
CHECK to see if mainstream operators are axing single supplements. Thomas Cook is selling a weeks half board at the two- star Hotel Los Angeles in Salou, Spain, from pounds 313 next May with no extra charges for single occupancy.
The price includes flights from Manchester on May 19, call 08701 111111 or go to www.thomascook.com
NOT all singles hols are to far-flung destinations. Let someone else do the driving when you explore the Isle of Wight next summer with Consort Travel. The price for a weeks dinner, bed and breakfast at the Ocean Hotel plus daytrips and entertainment starts from pounds 319 with no supplements. It also covers coach transport to the island from points around the UK. Go to www.consort travel.com
JOIN a singles cruise next month to the Eastern Med where an 11- night holiday on board the MSC Sinfonia costs pounds 599 through Solos Holidays.
The price includes flights from London on December 11, an en suite cabin, all meals and entertainment. Call 0870 4992288 or go to www.solosholidays.co.uk
TAKE advantage of late discounts to join a cheapie holiday to Egypt, also through Solos. The hols are for unattached people aged 28 to 55, staying seven nights at the Helnan Marina Sharm in Sharm el Sheikh for pounds 499, flying Nov 24. The price includes breakfasts, three dinners, a welcome drink and flights go to www.solosholidays.co.uk
NEW singles operator Just You has introduced eight-day hols in Andalucia from pounds 599. The price gives you half board, parties, sightseeing and entertainment at the four-star Hotel Club Puerta del Sol in Mijas. The holidays run from February, call 0800 915 8000 or go to www.justyou.co.uk