Traveling independently enables you to go where you want, when you want, and how you want. It’s your vacation, and flying solo allows you to do everything on your schedule. Sound too good to be true? It’s not — if you’re savvy with your budget. Budget is by far the biggest downfall for solo travelers, but it doesn’t have to be. There are tips, tricks, and sites out there designed to help you have your dream vacation without breaking the bank.
An American Express study shows that 16 percent of 1,500 U.S. adults surveyed say they will take an upcoming trip alone. According to Independenttraveler.com, many companionless vacationers “who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes, or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.” Ready to travel, see the sights, and satisfy your wallet? Read on.
A major city can be a great option for solo travelers, according to Sarah Schlichter, senior editor at IndependentTraveler.com. There are often more lodging options that offer single-friendly rooms. At Manhattan’s The Pod Hotel, you can get a room with a twin bed for as little as $159, which is close to half of what you’d pay for a standard double room. Similarly, the Yotel hotel chain, which includes locations in New York, London, and Amsterdam offer compact rooms (and at 75-170 square feet, they are compact) starting at $149 per night. Having a hard time finding a hotel that can squeeze you into a discounted twin-bed? Fear not — there are plenty of other trendy options. “Airbnb.com is a great option because you can rent anything from a one bedroom to an entire house,” Schlichter says. While the prices vary, Schlichter said she has found single rooms in major destinations for as little as $65 a night. Also, don’t discount hostels. Try HI Hostels or boutique designer options, like South Beach Hostel in Miami.
2. Dinner for One
Dining is always easier when it’s just you. Often, no reservations are necessary because restaurants can find room for you at the bar. Do your research ahead of time and you’ll find yourself dining at great places without spending much. Here are a few sites that can help fill your eating itinerary.
- Check Living Social/Groupon for your destination: Subscribe to one of these discount deal services for the latest specials and cost-saving eateries.
- Restaurant.com: This site often has discount codes (ranging from 50 to 80 percent off) so you can purchase a $25 voucher for about $2. A nice sit-down dinner for one could cost you about $10.
- Skip chains and hotel restaurants and eat locally. It will often be better food at a much cheaper price.
3. Tourist Attractions
Take advantage of free opportunities that your destination offers. Rather than pay for museum entrance fees, scope out fairs and festivals. Save your money for one or two attractions you really want to see. Follow the crowd. This could lead you to different parades, festivals, and farmers markets, which are a great way to take in culture for little to no money. Don’t overlook street entertainment either — it’s readily available for your viewing pleasure.
Check out official tourist board sites to find parks in your destination. Many offer free concerts and music festivals and will have a calendar of dates with plenty of fun opportunities. While you’re on the tourist site, keep an eye out for visitor discounts and specials. Many places will offer discounts for various attractions throughout the area you’re in. Use the locals to your advantage. Get recommendations from them about the best places to see, so you’re not missing anything. Look at local papers to get a sense of what’s happening in the city that day.
Proceed with a cautious eye when looking at cruises. There are definitely deals for solo vacationers, but you’ll find just as many cruises unwilling to meet the needs of a lone traveler. Take note of the more expensive, inflexible cruises, and then completely disregard them. There are plenty of cruises available that are willing to meet your needs. Here are a few worth checking out.
- Holland America Line: The company offers a Single Partners Program, which matches up interested guests with other same-sex singles. If they don’t find a fit for you, you’ll get your own cabin at the per-person double occupancy rate. The cruise line also hosts singles welcome parties and cocktail mixers.
- Norwegian Cruise Line: This cruise line was a driving force behind the solo cruise market. In 2010, it launched 128 studio staterooms for independent travelers on its 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic.
- Fred Olsen Cruise Lines: This cruise line pairs same-sex solo travelers in other cabin categories when requested. In 2014, Fred Olsen will also offer a selection of cruise itineraries with no single supplements in select twin cabins.
- Silversea Cruises: Solo travelers make up 10 percent of this cruise line’s clientele. Independent guests have access to exclusive champagne welcome receptions and singles-friendly activities like group fitness class.
- Crystal Cruises: This cruise line has expanded its offerings with single supplements of just 10 percent on more than two dozen 2013 sailings. They have activities catered to solo travelers, including filmmaking classes, language courses, art lessons, wine tastings, lectures, and magic shows.
5. Money-saving agencies
So, let’s say you’ve decided you’d much rather have a roommate on your vacation, whether it’s for money-saving reasons or companionship. There are sites designed to help pair you up with other solo travelers. Both Travel Chums and Travel Buddies help match you with others hoping for a roomie on their trip.
If you’ve decided to go this route, proceed with caution. Do your research, according to Marybeth Bond, who runs GutsyTraveler.com. She recommends following her roommate checklist, found below. “Call and talk to that person,” she said. “And take earplugs just in case.”
- Do you smoke?
- Do you snore?
- Are you a night person or morning person?
- If you read at night are you willing to use a flashlight?
- Describe your morning mood.
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