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What's the deal with the single supplement?


There was nothing ambiguous about the Thelma & Louise Club community’s thoughts on the single supplement when you were asked.

Image by kanchanaburi on flickr


Unfair”, you yelled. “Rip-off!” “Disgusting.” “Single supplements have bugged me all my travel life!

It’s a unanimous verdict, so why do so many hotels, tour operators and cruise ships still insist on applying extra charges for the so-called privilege of solo travel?

Holidays are usually priced per person based on two people sharing a twin or double room. But it doesn’t follow that a single room is half the price of a double, and single supplements can be anything from 10% to 100% on top of the standard rate. Tour operators levy the extra charge (the single supplement) to cover the extra costs charged by hotels.

“It can feel like you’re being penalised for travelling alone.”

It’s not just about floor space. When a double or twin room is booked by a solo traveller, not only does it still cost the same to heat, clean and power the room, there’s the added loss of revenue from the hotel restaurant and bar. For cruise operators, there’s an additional loss of earnings from the onshore excursions and on-board casinos and shops.

The simple fact is that solo travellers are a less attractive business opportunity, and that’s endlessly frustrating for those of us who travel solo. It can feel like you’re being penalised for travelling alone. And while many of us enjoy solo travel, for others there’s no option and it’s certainly not a privilege worth paying for. In fact, it’s the budgetary equivalent of a punch in the face.

How solo travellers should be treated
How solo travellers should be treated

Image by Eva Rinaldi on flickr

But, the times they are a-changing. Equinediva hit the nail on the head in her comment in the forum:

                       “I think that it is about time that the travel/tour/cruise developers put their heads together and get creative. They are missing the boat on lots of travellers who simply refuse to travel that way because they refuse to pay the single supplement. The fact is, the number of single people is enormous and growing steadily. If they began to accommodate single travellers, there would be many more people choosing those forms of travel.”

Well said, Equinediva! According to research by 101 Holiday, as summarised in the Daily Mail, more than a third of Brits now travel alone, with women more confident to do so than men (let’s hear it for the ladies!), and the average age of solo travellers is 54.

Meanwhile, stats from Cruise Lines International Association, show that about 16% of North American cruise passengers are single, divorced, widowed or separated, although not all of them travel alone.

If this trend continues – and it certainly looks likely to – the future of solo travel looks rosy. Throw in the facts that this growing market of mature solo travellers often has a higher disposable income, is unlikely to be tied to travel during school holidays, and travels more frequently, and it’s clear that travel companies would be mad not to take advantage by waiving the dreaded single supplement.

Read more: 8 ways to avoid the single supplement