Single travelers face a number of problems, usually starting at the airport when there's no one to watch their luggage.
Company makes travel more pleasant, and there's a sense of security in foreign places."You don't want to be locked in your hotel at night. You feel safer walking around in twos and threes," says Jens Jurgen, founder of Travel Companion Exchange, a service that helps singles find traveling companions. "Dining is no fun by yourself, either."
Even in group tours, the solo traveler can feel left out.
"When you travel as a single person, sometimes you're just a fifth wheel," says Mildred Coon, founder of Gad-A-Bouts, a Pittsburgh-based group of single travelers.
Singles also face a kind of economic discrimination.
"Two can live as cheaply as one" applies to the travel business: The single tourist usually spends more on lodgings. The "single supplement" is an added fee charged to clients who request single accommodations; Hotels and cruise lines would rather book rooms solid to generate more revenue for restaurants and bars.
Singles, however, can beat the higher costs by sharing a room.
Many tour packagers match solo travelers with roommates - with mixed results. A few organizations try to match compatible traveling companions based on gender, age, interests and smokers/non-smokers.
The growing number of solo tourists will find a world of options, from singles-only holidays to trips that mix singles and couples, but are sensitive to the problems of their single clients:
Cruises are always popular among singles. Singleworld, a 34-year-old cruise and tour operator for singles, offers frequent cruises accompanied by a Singleworld host. Destinations include the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexican Riviera, Mexican Baja, Bermuda, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Russia. Although there will be other people on the ships, Singleworld travelers are guaranteed the company of other singles. Some trips are for all ages; others for those 35 and younger. Information: (800) 223-6490.
Windjammer Cruises are a little less glitzy and offer more in the way of adventure. The Windjammer was a 19th-century cargo ship that fell out of use after World War I. The modernized windjammer vessels head for the British Virgin Islands, West Indies and Bahamas. Upcoming singles cruises include a trip to the British Virgin Islands on the S.V. Flying Cloud (Aug. 4-10), and the West Indies on S.V. Polynesia (Nov. 3-9, Nov. 10-16). Prices start at $675 plus air fare. Other Windjammer cruises match singles with cabin mates. Information: (800) 245-6338.
For years, Club Med was synonymous with singles' and couples' vacations. That image has changed, and some villages are open to families. But Club Med villages in more than 30 countries remain a popular singles haven. Activities are geared to location and include windsurfing, skiing, tennis, golf, scuba diving, kayaking - even circus trapeze workshops. Single rooms are available at all villages, based on space availability, with 30 percent to 50 percent additional charges. Some villages offer no additional surcharge during certain seasons. Information: (800) CLUB MED.
Some hotels and resorts offer singles weekends, geared to a variety of activities and interests. Some are theme events like holiday, murder mystery or psychic weekends.
The newest getaway for singles is the ballroom dance weekend, according to Leonard Moss, president of Umbrella Singles, which arranges singles events at resorts or hotels, chiefly in the Catskills. "Ballroom dance weekends are becoming big. We started selling them to dance studios, thinking it was exclusively couples. But we found a lot of single people were taking dance classes," Moss says.
Upcoming events include a Singles Stardust Dance Weekend at the Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamsha Lake, N.Y., June 14-16, with round-the-clock dancing, music by Tito Puente, champagne reception, cocktail party, dance workshops with professional instructors and rap sessions. Information: (800) 537-2797.
There are travelers who want to risk a little more than their life savings at a casino. Adventure vacations range from excursions to the Far East, South Pacific and Central America to white-water rafting. Gallivanting Inc., one year old, caters exclusively to the 28- to 48-year-old singles market. "A lot of times people in this age group don't necessarily have that many single friends to travel with, or they have so many job pressures they can't find a friend who can get off at the same time and wants to go to the same place," says president Alysia Cohen. Information: (800) 933-9699.
Many people - single or not - don't like the idea of a structured tour. But the traveler who hops in a car or motorhome to drive across the country alone ends up fighting boredom and fatigue. Travel Companion Exchange matches compatible travel mates for individual journeys as well as group travel. Members across the country sometimes open their homes to fellow members. These unstructured vacations hosted by locals give a perspective few tourists get a chance to see. Information: Box 833, Amityville, N.Y. 11701. Phone: (516) 454-0880.
Some singles groups organize their own trips. Gad-A-Bouts is a Pittsburgh-based group of mostly single travelers. Upcoming trips include a 10-day bus tour to the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest (Aug. 6-15), and a rail tour of eastern Canada - Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec (Oct. 1-8).
Membership is open to all ages and doesn't exclude couples. The variety of trips is designed to provide the economic benefits of group travel, but also the freedom to do what members want once they get to their destination.
Most members live in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland areas, but arrangements can be made to meet at the destination or at cruise starting points. Membership: $20 a year. Information: Box 79246, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15216.
Extended vacations are popular among empty nesters and retired travelers who have the time and money for longer trips. Tour packages to Australia, South America, Soviet Union, China, India and Africa are available through Saga Holidays, a tour operator for ages 60 and older. Saga also caters to the mature singles clientele by matching roommates. Information: (800) 343-0273.
Members of the American Association of Retired Persons can take advantage of the recently introduced AARP Group Travel Experience from American Express, which arranges cruises, international and domestic trips, and apartment stays in other countries. Cruises are booked at the lowest group discount available, according to Hal Norvelle, manager of travel programs for AARP, and they provide matching services for singles, depending on the cruise line.
AARP membership is open to adults 50 and older for a $5 annual fee. Information: (800) 927-0111 (for land tours) and (800) 745-4567 (for cruises).