March 2003

You can travel safely and enjoyably alone


A story published in the March issue of Newsweek Weekend focuses on the adventures, advantages, and low-cost options for going solo into the world. 

Evelyn Kanter, a writer with Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, wrote that after a long, hot day investigating the Mayan ruins of Mexico’s Chichén Itzá, she was unwinding in the hotel pool. A mariachi band played at one end, her margarita was parked at the other, and a thousand-watt full moon lit the space between.

Kanter said that she paddled back and forth, alternately lamenting, on the one hand, having no significant friend or family to share the day and moment-and yet delighting in the private, unshared experience of that serenade to the sole swimmer in a moonlit pool. And last winter, when she finished near the top of her group in a skiing race, she overlooked the lack of a loved one to hug her in her success and instead accepted congratulatory cheers from co-racers, many of whose names she did not know.
Kanter believes that traveling solo has bittersweet moments, but it’s infinitely more rewarding than staying home. Whether it is conflicting schedules, conflicting interests, or because the number of unmarried people in the U.S. has doubled in the last few decades, solo travel is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel business. According to the Travel Industry Association, nearly one quarter of U.S. travelers, or 34.8 million adults, have taken a vacation by themselves in the past three years, double the number of a decade ago.

Traveling solo means never having to say you are sorry about wanting to do something your travel partner doesn’t, whether it is all-day tennis, shopping, or museum hopping. Going solo lets you fulfill your “wish list,” even make those you left behind jealous of your adventurous enterprise. It does not mean being alone and feeling lonely, since it is difficult to be alone in a crowd of like-minded people.


According to Kanter, the key to finding rewarding, exciting, low-cost travel for singles is to choose non-standard, nontraditional vacations. You do not purchase a vegetate-on-the-beach vacation, a look-at-the-sights vacation, a socialize-at-a-cookie-cutter-resort vacation—all of these are likely to disappoint. They often leave you feeling isolated and alone, constantly challenged to make conversation in artificial and pressured group situations that have no guiding theme. You constantly feel that the key daily goal is to meet as many other singles as possible (which rarely happens).

Instead, the smart single traveler chooses vacations that concentrate on a topic, purpose, or activity outside the world of socializing. You choose to go with people who are focused not on themselves or their social needs but on an independent special interest, a desire for learning, a strongly held belief that has nothing to do with their own personalities or personal needs. And when you make that type of choice, you inevitably meet fascinating people and end up with strong friendships; you also spend less and enjoy more.

 An Earthwatch Expeditions program ( is that type of vacation; with Earthwatch, you make a (possibly tax deductible) payment to accompany a noted university researcher into the areas of their study, perhaps tagging seals, making inventories of scarce plants, counting the number of animals or fish that pass a given point each day. You occupy lodgings rented to serve the particular scientific project, perhaps using a sleeping bag or cot in the living room, making communal meals. You pay no single supplement and meet other dynamic persons who are among our most outstanding citizens; and whether you are traveling as a single or as part of a couple becomes utterly unimportant (the majority of participants travel alone). You can learn more about Earthwatch Expeditions by accessing its Web site (see above), and you will find a similar, extensive program operated by the Research Expeditions Program of the University of California ( for projects initiated by its faculty and graduate students.

Another option is to sign up to assist noted archaeologists in their fieldwork both in the U.S. and abroad. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center ( is a nonprofit group that conducts archaeological expeditions and solicits volunteers of all ages (and mainly singles) to assist in them. And for a great many other such volunteer activities, contact the Archaeological Conservancy at aaabout.html. For still other volunteer vacations geared to singles and priced to meet their needs, without discrimination, insert the words “volunteer vacations” under “search back issues” at to secure the relevant article written by Matthew Link.


Singles of all ages are also the overwhelming majority of guests at America’s most popular “personal growth” centers, arts-and-crafts schools, yoga and Buddhist retreats, and campus summer sessions; and the pricing policies of nearly all of these vacation institutions are favorable to the single person traveling alone. The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York (800/944-1001,, America’s foremost center for exploring personal relationships and psychological issues, maintains spacious dormitory accommodations for singles at $64 to $85 per person per night, including three (vegetarian) meals daily; it is primarily patronized by singles. The giant Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts (800/741-7353,, a foremost yoga center, offers rooms and dorms with multiple beds (six to 22 bunks, hallway baths) for singles at $89 per night, including three vegetarian meals daily, and is also primarily visited by singles. (For other residential yoga retreats, simply subject “yoga” to a Google search. For Buddhist retreats, learning centers, and arts-and-crafts schools primarily attended by singles and geared in price to them, review Susan Seliger’s Budget Travel articles by inserting her name into “search back issues” at


Also heavily booked by singles of all age groups are the nationwide out-of-doors hiking or work trips (“outings”) of that important defender of the American environment, the Sierra Club, headquartered in San Francisco (415/977-5500, Since most of their programs employ sleeping bags, tents, or hostel-type lodges and huts, there is rarely a single supplement, and prices often average well under $100 a day for everything—accommodations, guides, and three meals daily.


Kanter points out that as the number of solo travelers grows, so does the number of companies that aid the single traveler. More and more singles specialists emerge each year. But it’s important to acknowledge what they cannot do.

She says that no singles travel organization can normally obtain a waiver of the single-room supplement from hotels, cruise lines, and resorts that charge a single-room supplement. That would be asking a travel miracle. Instead, they specialize in pairing you with another single traveler of the same sex (or, if you’re a mature traveler and indicate your willingness, with a single traveler of the opposite sex but on a purely platonic basis).

The longest established of the companies that pair up single travelers for the purpose of enabling them to avoid (a) loneliness and (b) a single-room supplement, and to share and thus divide other costs (like the rental of a car) as well, is the 21-year-old Travel Companion Exchange of Amityville, New York (631/454-0880 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays,, headed by a distinguished travel professional, Jens Jurgen, and his wife, Eul. They assist in matching up hundreds of would-be travelers each year—and, from all reports, quite successfully—but their clientele is almost always middle-aged or older, despite the Jurgens’ willingness to perform that service for singles of any age. If you go to TCE’s Web site (see above), you’ll find an impressive statement of its principles and goals, which it achieves through circulation of an equally impressive bimonthly newsletter (“Travel Companions”); attached are several pages of classifieds placed by members seeking other members to share travel costs. Responses are initially passed on by the organization, thus protecting the identity of members until they have fully determined the bona fides of an offer. A one-year membership fee including the newsletter was $159 but will be changing sometime in 2003.

Recently, the publisher of ShawGuides has created a somewhat similar match-up service that is apparently intended for younger travelers who utilize the Internet. Known as TravelChums (c/o ShawGuides, 212/787-2621;, it is an entirely free-of-charge service whose effectiveness we cannot yet gauge. The fact that it does not charge for the match-up will probably result in much less of the remarkable personal service provided by Travel Companion Exchange; but according to TravelChums, over 18,000 persons have already registered.

Many other travel organizations schedule periodic trips for singles and then match up the participants for double rooms, permitting them to avoid the dreaded single-room supplement. Among the most active of these nationwide firms are as follows:

*O Solo Mio (800/959-8568, of Los Altos, California, is an especially active nationwide firm in business since 1991 that operates tours for singles of a broad age range (mostly over the age of 30); it arranges roommates for all participants desiring to share. Recent trips have included long weekends in Las Vegas; Alaskan cruises; the lowlands of Holland; the high living of Paris, London, and Rome; and a number of South American packages.

*Jewish Single Vacations (617/782-3396, of Brookline, Massachusetts, solicits Jewish singles between the ages of 35 and 55 to participate in cruises and tours for groups of marriage-ready travelers. While it states that persons of all faiths are welcome, you’ll have to decide how serious their disclaimer is.

*Aim Higher Travel (877/752-1858, of Winfield, Illinois, is a cruise specialist with a “guaranteed share program”: It will try to find a roommate for you, but if that fails, it will
absorb the single-cabin supplement.

*Travel Buddies (800/998-9099, of Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada, operates active, interesting tours (wine-tasting in Italy, a golf tournament in Costa Rica,
Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises) on which it will match up participants with roommates free of charge, enabling them to avoid the single supplement.


There also are organizations that not only arrange “shares” but attempt to attract large numbers of singles for specific dates or departures. Foremost among them:

* Club Med (888/932-2582,, headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, arranges each year for a number of its popular resorts to schedule “crazy weeks”: seven-day periods when each such resort becomes a sunny mixer for single travelers who are also guaranteed shared accommodations. In 2002, these singles-only weeks were offered at Club Med Cancún, Turks and Caicos, Tunisia, and Corfu, among others.

* Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (800/327-2601, of Miami, Florida, the famed Tall Ship cruise company, sets aside four cruises each year only for single travelers, who share cabins and thus avoid a single supplement. Perhaps the most popular of the line’s sailings, these tend to fill up early.

* The World Outdoors (800/488-8483, of Boulder, Colorado, a massive wildlife/adventure travel company, set aside 30 of its outings this year for solo travelers. And since many of these vacations involve camping, single supplements apply only when inns are used. But solos need not limit themselves to these specialty weeks: On most of the company’s regular outings, a full 50 percent of the participants come alone. Sample trips from a recent catalog: “Alaska Wildlands Hiker,” “Colorado Backcountry Multi-Sport,” and “Canyonlands-Escalante Hiker.”


And then there are the several nationwide and international clubs that look out for the needs of traveling singles:

*Travelin’ Singles Club (800/748-6662, of Anaheim, California, has been organizing tours for solos in their 30s, 40s, and 50s since 1980. Members can subscribe free to an online newsletter describing prospective trips.

*Outdoor Singles Network (no phone number; of Haines, Alaska, is a long-established (1989) quarterly newsletter for outdoor-loving singles, ages 19 to 90, that helps to find them a travel companion; $15 for a one-year hard-copy subscription with your personal ad printed in the next issue, $35 for online membership ($75 for both), and $15 for the current issue.

*Connecting Solo Travel Network (604/886-9099, of Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada, is a network of traveling singles who host other traveling singles around the world. A constantly updated list of travel hosts is provided. Members also receive a bimonthly newsletter with free ads soliciting travel companions and also describing tours and cruises that are “singles friendly.” An online membership costs $25; a hard-copy membership is $35.

*Going Solo Travel Club (888/446-7656, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is for singles of all ages. The club announces international tours, monthly activities, and weekend getaways in Alberta and British Columbia. It charges no membership fee.

email.jpg (4107 bytes)Comments and Suggestions

Home Page What's New About AASP Contact AASP
Join AASP U.S. News Archive International News Archive Domestic Partner Newss