by Gill Charlton, The Telegraph, May 24, 2017
Some of the best holidays I’ve had have been those where I have set off on my own and travelled with strangers. Experience has shown me that I’ll find like-minded companions in any group. Statistics tell us that one in four British adults has never married or is divorced or widowed. Add to these singletons all those keen travellers whose partners either cannot or will not join them, and that’s a potential market of more than five million people. It’s surprising, then, that the single traveller continues to be largely ignored by mainstream touroperators or forced to pay an unfairly high single supplement.
That’s something Telegraph Travel would like to see change. In the meantime, we have created a new channel especially for solo travellers. Just visit telegraph.co.uk/travel/solo-travel for inspiration, news and advice.
Below is a selection of companies that take solo travellers of all ages seriously. Some offer specialist singles holidays, others have departures with no single supplement or help customers avoid the charge by arranging same-sex room shares.
Solo travel specialists
There are always more women than men travelling on these trips: usually 65:35. Everyone who joins a tour has their own en-suite room, which is usually a double for single occupancy.
Friendship Travel (0289 446 2211; friendshiptravel.com) House party-style beach holidays in Greece and Majorca taking over small hotels entirely; from £635 a week including flights and three dinners. A Friendship host is always on hand to ensure no one is left out. Group size is around 20, most aged 35-60. There’s also a range of short breaks and long-haul options including the Caribbean, Mexico and Cambodia.
Just You (0800 112 3311; justyou.co.uk) An impressive portfolio of holidays to 46 countries, from Cotswolds weekends to Alaskan adventures, plus culture-and-chill weeks in the Mediterranean. Most holidays are led by a British tour manager. Group size is up to 30; fewer on long-haul trips but always more than 12. Age spread is 35-70.
One Traveller (01760 722011; onetraveller.co.uk) Aimed at the over-50s and escorted by experienced British hosts. Suggests first-timers try a break in Budapest or Prague. Maximum group size is 25. Long-haul options include Sri Lanka, China and North America.
Solos (0844 815 0005; solosholidays.co.uk) More than 30 years’ experience organising singles holidays worldwide, including cruises. There are four age bands, and minimum group size is around 15 with a 60:40 female:male ratio. Runs its own hosted ClubSolos holidays in Greece, Majorca and the Algarve.
Adventure specialists attract a mix of couples, friends and singles who travel, sightsee and take meals together. Most offer same-sex room shares or affordable supplements for your own room.
Contiki (0808 281 1120; contiki.com) A big choice of holidays worldwide for 18-35s, from Greek island-hopping to new tours of India (12 days from £1,605) . Group size varies from 30-50; a mix of nationalities, most with English as their first language. Travel by coach with a Contiki tour manager organising activities and sightseeing.
Dragoman (01728 861133; dragoman.com) Focuses on overland camping, travelling in a converted lorry, on trips ranging from 10 days to four months. South America and south-east Asia tend to attract the under-30s; adventurous 60-somethings might tackle the Silk Road and North America.
Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk) More than 400 tours worldwide, from leisurely explorations with beach time in Europe to treks up Kilimanjaro. About half of its customers are travelling solo (60 per cent females), mostly aged 30-65, though the more expensive trips attract the 50-plus.
Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; wildfrontierstravel.com) Ground-breaking itineraries worldwide for groups of up to 12, many of whom come solo. Wide age range, from 30-70, mostly well-travelled professionals.
Authentic Adventures (01453 823328; authenticadventures.co.uk) Offers painting, photography, food and wine, and singing holidays worldwide. Around 70 per cent of participants are singles and average group size is 10. There are still a few places on painting and photography holidays in Italy this summer.
Spice (0161 873 8788; spiceuk.com) An organisation of activity clubs with a membership largely comprising singles aged 35-55. A big choice of adrenalin-fuelled days out as well as chill-out weeks in Turkey and the Costa Blanca.
ATG Oxford (01865 315678; atg-oxford.co.uk) Runs superb walks with top-class food and hotels in southern Europe.
Ramblers (01707 818388; ramblersholidays.co.uk) Has well-priced walks worldwide for groups of up to 18 with no single-supplement options. Also an Adagio programme for those who prefer gentle walking mixed with sightseeing.
On Foot Holidays (01722 322652; onfootholidays.co.uk) Can organise walks for those who prefer to walk alone (luggage transported) all over Europe with low single supplements.
Age is no limit when it comes to going solo on a cultural tour. Around half of the group will be travelling on their own, paying single supplements of around 10 per cent of the holiday cost. You can usually rely on finding good conversation over dinner.
Andante (01722 713800; andantetravels.co.uk) Escorted, lecturer-led archaeological tours worldwide with a focus on the Mediterranean. The rump of the group will be in their 60s.
Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com) Provides a range of all-inclusive cultural holidays and visits to music festivals which attract fairly highbrow customers, led by lecturers who are chosen for their social skills as well as their scholarship. Singles are well looked after with convivial meals hosted by lecturers and the company’s own tourmanagers.
VJV (020 3733 5762; vjv.com) No single supplement on 40 of its escorted tours including European river cruises and city breaks, plus longer holidays to Africa, China, Burma and India.
The last bastion of big single supplements is the cruise industry, but that is changing. New ships are being built with a complement of single cabins; some cruise lines offer supplement-free double cabins to both early and late bookers as they struggle to match capacity with demand. There are sometimes get-togethers for singles, and restaurant managers can arrange singles tables. Here are some cruise lines that are making a big effort.
Fred Olsen (0845 004 2747; fredolsencruises.com) Has 40-plus single cabins on each of its four ships and good twin-for-sole-occupancy deals for late bookers.
NCL (0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk) Led the way when it launched the Norwegian Epic in 2010 with 128 studio staterooms for singles (full-sized bed and bathroom) and access to a dedicated lounge and bar to interact with other solos
Pandaw Cruises (0208 326 5620; pandaw.com) No-supplement deals for singles occupying twin cabins (for early bookers and to sell last-minute spaces) on most departures of its luxury cruises on the rivers of south-east Asia.
Redpoint Holidays (0345 680 1214; redpoint.co.uk) British BASI instructors offer ski guiding in Austria for up to 10 solo skiers for five days a week on selected departures and arrange group dinners. Based on single rooms at the Hotel Bruno in Fügen. Most customers are aged 40-60.
Skiworld (0330 102 8004; skiworld.co.uk) A choice of social trips aimed at singles staying in catered chalets in France. Some single rooms or the option of a supplement-free same-sex twin share. Larger chalets often attract a mix of couples and singles, mostly professionals, who hook up to ski together.