The bugbear for solo travellers is the single person supplement. How are they justified? Well, often driven by the cost of a hotel room, cleaning and maintenance costs we are led to understand, are the same whether or not one or two people stay in a room, meaning the cost of a single person occupying a room is likely to be more than half the cost that we sometimes assume. Not only that, but some in the industry say solo travellers are less attractive commercially because they don’t spend as much money in hotel bars and restaurants as their double occupancy counterparts.
Okay, we get this at Solo Living but, wonder if it is true. When travelling solo, many of us look for and reward good service and are very often willing to pay for a premium experience. It is a holiday after all. Arguably, a solo traveller will spend more time at their hotel and therefore more money depending on how days are spent. For ease, a solo traveller may well book trips and excursions via their hotel too.
From my experience, I very much rely on a hotel for comfort, safety and their facilities. I’m likely to be out by day and invariably enjoy the spa, restaurants and bars in the evenings. Half board, on my last holiday, was the perfect choice because I didn’t have to think about meals – a gift – when every day living solo, you do. But, my solo holiday choices may well be very different from yours.
And therein lies the dilemma for the industry. It’s unfair to label all solo travellers as the same, particularly given the explosion in solo travel in recent years. When once a fringe activity, solo travel has since become part of the mainstream with a 60% rise since 2009, meaning there is pressure and more importantly demand, for the industry to cater more specifically for the diverse solo traveller.
Within the changing travel industry landscape, there are ways to avoid paying a single person supplement and it very much depends on what kind of holiday you are looking for and when you travel. It can be very frustrating to see last minute holiday deals during peak season at a fraction of the original cost but when you click through, you see the single person supplement makes the offer much less attractive.
To avoid the supplement, there’s an important decision to make
With the single person supplement often being driven by the cost of a hotel room within a holiday package if you want to avoid it, then the most important decision to make is what kind of solo holiday you want?
Do you want to holiday as part of a group?
If so, there are a number of solo travel specialists ranging from cultural tour, city break to adventure specialists who offer all year round bespoke holidays, where you can opt to have your own room or to help reduce the cost, share with a fellow traveller in the group. Group holidays take the sting out of planning a solo holiday and can offer well crafted and packed itineraries designed to keep you busy and active each day. They also offer a solution to the single person supplement if you want to travel during the high season.
Or, do you want to holiday solo?
But, if it is a hotel experience you are looking for, here are our tips to avoid the single person supplement. It’s really about finding a great deal on hotel rates while organising your own travel:
Travel during the off-season or shoulder season
Shoulder months tend to be May, June, September and October. If planning on visiting a hot country, then these months can prove to be great for travel, particularly if you want to do a lot of sightseeing. During the shoulder season, the weather’s not ridiculously hot compared to peak months when sightseeing can be unbearable in the swarm of crowds. They also tend to be less expensive times to stay at a hotel, where good deals are to be found.
Check destinations from your nearest airport
Can you get a direct flight to your favoured destination? Is the hotel within accessible reach from the airport? When you are travelling solo and organising your own holiday, it’s worthwhile figuring out your flight budget and how many connections you are willing to make. Consider the time you are prepared to travel to get to your destination.
All year round you can find tempting flight deals to sunnier climes if you fly from London. But, you need to weigh up the cost and time of getting there. Often getting more than one flight over the course of a day, can mean you end up paying more if you factor in food, drink and filling in time while at different airports – cancelling out any potential savings. Wisely, you could check the destinations from your nearest airport and then decide on your hotel location.
For organising transfers, Rome2Rio is a helpful tool, if searching for public transport routes from the airport to your hotel. Try Tripadvisor forums as well, if it’s proving tricky. If it means getting a taxi or hotel shuttle, you’ll need to factor in the additional cost. Very often on forums, people will post what you should expect to pay for transfers in addition to helpful links not widely available. Or, if you are unable to find a solution for a particular route, ask a question to the Tripadvisor community.
Decide how important the hotel and its facilities are to your holiday experience
If the hotel is central to your holiday experience, perhaps because you want some luxury, will spend a lot of time there or because you want to stay poolside for a fortnight, then why not research the best three, four or five-star hotels in the region or place you want to visit? You can easily do a search on Trivago or Booking.com by area and find great hotels in your price range. Check the hotel ’s ratings on TripAdvisor and find out what other solo travellers have to say about it.
Double check hotel rates on the hotel’s own website
Once you have narrowed down a few hotels, check the price for your dates on the hotel’s dedicated website. Make sure you do, as many hotels still offer their best rates via their own website, despite what’s on offer on booking sites. It’s definitely worth double checking.
Sign up to a hotel loyalty scheme
Sign up to a hotel’s loyalty scheme if they have one. You might find that once you have found a hotel you like, you may very well go back or stay at one of their other hotels, in a different location. You’ll receive emails with exclusive offers and discounts which can make all the difference to the overall cost of your accommodation. For instance, Riu Hotels not only offer a best price guarantee on their website, but they also price solo occupied rooms differently from double occupancy. Coupled with signing up to their loyalty program, when it’s time to book you may well find you’ve hit bingo with their rewards and discounts!
Contact the hotel directly
If you’ve put together a shortlist of hotels, why not call or email each hotel and discuss any offers they may have for solo travellers? It’s worth a shot and you may find through speaking to people directly (either at the hotel or via their booking offices), attractive offers can transpire. This might help if you find an independent hotel of interest.
Found a holiday with a hotel you love, but it has a single person supplement?
Then we suggest you find the hotel on booking sites like Trivago or Booking.com to get an idea of their room rates. It might be worthwhile contacting the hotel directly and requesting a single occupancy rate. It’s going to be tricky during the high season, but it’s worth a shot! No Joy? Back to our first tip on when to travel.
Particularly, if you want to go on a long holiday – do some research at least three to six months ahead, shortlist your favourite hotels and that way you can keep ahead of any price changes. Very often Booking.com offers free cancellations until a few days before your travel date. So, if the price changes or you’ve found another hotel, you can cancel and re-book. Remember to check the terms and conditions before booking.
Consider holidays offered by airlines
If you know when and where you want to travel, it can also be worthwhile dovetailing your booking with advanced sales on airline holidays where you can book flights and accommodation at the same time. For instance, British Airways offer some interesting rates for combined booking and if connections are needed via London, getting there can be made all the easier thanks to their dedicated Terminal 5. It could mean the hotel on your wishlist is not available, but you’ll be in a better position to find another similar hotel.
Also, helpful is this 2017 guide on when is best to book travel. If you know where you want to go, here’s some guidance on when is the best time to book a hotel for different destinations.
I’ve put these tips together for the solo traveller who wants to organise their own holiday and stay at a hotel because it can be the preferred accommodation choice and desirable holiday experience in itself. There’s no doubt while it has become easier, planning a solo holiday can take up a considerable amount of time and research.
Hence, why solo travel tour operators are increasing in popularity. Alternatively, Airbnb and B&B’s could well be a good option to avoid the single person supplement, but it’s not the same as staying at a hotel if that’s your holiday choice. If you find your dream hotel at a rate you are happy with, it can make all the planning worthwhile.
Planning ahead, travelling during the off and shoulder season, shortlisting your favourite hotels, signing up to hotel loyalty schemes and taking advantage of advanced travel sales could be the magic formula to avoiding the single person supplement.