New York Times reports that Google searches for “solo travel ideas” are up by more than 50 percent and searches for “solo travel destinations” are up by more than 60 percent year over year as of last November.Whether backpacking through Asia or hiking the Adirondacks, solo travel offers the freedom to explore at your own pace and make new friends along the way. I have fond memories of a solo trip to Glasgow, Scotland during spring break of my senior year of college, where I attended a local comedy show, explored the city, and bonded with the other travelers from my hostel. And I’m not the only traveler who’s enjoyed a solo sojourn. The
Alas, traveling on your own often means paying a premium in the form of single supplements for cruise ships or hotel rooms. “A solo traveler needs to pay more than group travelers simply because there’s no one who will share all the expenses you incur as a traveler: hotel room, taxi, meals, shopping, even customized day tours,” says Prime Sarmiento, a journalist in Southeast Asia who runs the Gypsygals solo female travel blog.
Here’s a look at strategies for saving on solo travel. (And many of them could help you save as a family or couple too!)
Set your priorities. One benefit of solo travel is that there’s no one else to pressure you into a pricy balloon ride or a fancy dinner you can’t afford. Think about your top priorities and nix the non-essentials. “I save money by just focusing on things that I love and cutting costs on unimportant stuff,” says Sarmiento. “I’m very stingy with my plane fare, so I often get cheap red-eye flights, and only take cabs if I have no other choice.” Minimizing transportation costs and rarely buying souvenirs enables Sarmiento to splurge in other areas such as a yoga session or a customized day tour of a new city.
Always negotiate. Prices are often negotiable, especially when you’re staying at a small boutique hotel or touring with a local guide. “I believe that no price is the final price. If there’s a way for me to bargain and bring down the price, I do it by negotiating with the operator, the hotel owner, or the souvenir seller,” Sarmiento says. For instance, if you’re staying for multiple nights or planning to buy several pieces of pottery, ask if you can get a better price.
Travel during the off-season. Tours and hotels are likely to be booked to capacity during peak tourism season, so there’s not as much room for negotiation. Businesses may be more inclined to cut you a deal during shoulder season (that transition time between off-season and peak season) or off-season when there are fewer visitors and they know you have plenty of options. This is why Sarmiento works during holidays and travels during off-season or shoulder season.
Do your homework. Avoid the single supplement by researching other options. “If the hotel doesn’t offer a single occupancy rate or cruise ship charges too much for a single supplement, then drop it and look for cheaper alternatives,” Sarmiento says. “Always, always compare rates.” She also signs up to receive discount offers via email and trolls the blogosphere for other discounts.
Don’t sacrifice safety. Websites like EasyNest allow you to forgo the single supplement by splitting your hotel room with a fellow solo traveler. But whatever you do to cut costs—whether you’re staying in a hostel on a city’s outskirts or splitting a room with a stranger—stay safe. “I read travel alerts and travel warnings and use my common sense,” Sarmiento says. “I avoid walking alone at night in a deserted street, I avoid talking with people I barely know, I don’t flash my jewelry or gadgets, I only drink alcohol with trusted friends.” Saving a few bucks isn’t worth it if it potentially puts you in harm’s way.