Monday, November 15, 2004

Unattached singles find travel alone has its advantages

A story published today in the Clarion Ledger the growth of the singles population is providing a major opportunity for the travel industry.  More single people are traveling alone and liking it.

For example consider Lynn Green who is accustomed to traveling alone. She's been to places such as Florida and New Orleans by herself, but it wasn't until this past summer that she opted for a group trip designed specifically for singles.

It was a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, sponsored by Singles That's all it took to convince Green that organized tour packages are the way to go.

"I did get lonely before, eating by myself," says Green, a 38-year-old Indianapolis nurse. "There was no one to talk to. The bartenders. That was about it."

On the cruise, though, Green could choose from a schedule of structured activities and interact with other singles. "I didn't meet a date or anything like that, but I met a ton of interesting people, men and women, and I found that part of the trip very rewarding."

The growing number of busy professionals who delay marriage to accommodate careers has created a lucrative opportunity for the tourism industry, which is slowly beginning to offer packages for unmarried travelers.

"It's a really under-catered market," says Maurice Bonham-Carter, business manager of Arawak Beach Inn on the small Caribbean island of Anguilla, just north of St. Martin. Arawak offers a "Me, Myself and I" package, including dinner and accommodations, that starts at $399.

"I'd say 90 percent of resort destination marketing is to couples, and the few people pitching singles are spinning their trips as a way to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right," Bonham-Carter says. "But there are a lot of people who aren't necessarily looking for romance. If it happens, great, but all they want is to get away for a few days and relax."


Singles tours, from cruises to mountain climbing to white water rafting, is proving to be a great way to meet people.

Whether you're looking for a love connection or not, singles tours are a great way to meet people, says Debbie Popick, founder of

"If you get to a certain age, most of your friends are married with kids, and there's no one to travel with," she says. "If you don't want to travel alone, you can book a group trip and have someone to hang out with on your vacation."

Organized tours also are a way around the single supplement, the surcharge many hotels and cruise ships place on rooms booked by just one guest. Many singles pay the surcharge and enjoy the privacy, but they are increasingly taking advantage of same-sex roommate matching to hold down costs.

That's what Green did on her cruise. Rooming with a stranger is risky, but Green is glad she took a chance. "My roommate was fun," she says. "I had a friend to go to stuff with. It was great."

Eliminating the headache of planning a trip to unfamiliar territory is another advantage of singles tour packages, says Frank Marini, president of Contiki Holidays (, which offers tours aimed at 18- to 35-year-olds.

Natalie Beasley, a 33-year-old marketing executive, toured Europe in June and had a great time. "My friends don't share my enthusiasm for adventure, so my travel agent suggested it," she says. "It was great. There were about 40 people in my group, and we all got along fine, plus it was so much more convenient than doing all the legwork myself."

Stacy McGuire tried it the other way. A longtime animal-lover, the 33-year-old high school assistant principal went alone to a Namibian game park in southwest Africa last summer. Three couples shared her tour guide, but she didn't mind being the odd woman out.

"If you wait around for someone to go with, you might never go," she says. "And it's not like it was a romantic beach or something. We were basically camping the whole time, sleeping in tents and stuff. It was amazing."

McGuire also discovered another positive to going solo: "At one point, our tour guide was telling us what to do if we were charged by a rhino, and I was looking around at the others, trying to figure out who I could outrun and thinking how nice it would be not to have to worry about anyone but myself."

Whatever form your trip takes, the point is to take it, says Sharon Wingler, founder of, which tracks singles travel options. Don't stay home because you're afraid of feeling lonely or appearing pathetic, Wingler says.

"The great thing about going by yourself is you get to take your dream trip, not someone else's. And all of your fears about things like solo dining aren't as big a deal as you think.

"Eating alone is a learned pleasure. You're alone with your thoughts and you get to pick the restaurant. If it's casual and they'll let you sit around a while, you can graze slowly and enjoy the view or write in your travel journal or fill out postcards."