© 2012; 2010 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Diane Redfern. Information.
NOTE: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

A Single's Guide to Group Tours

By Diane Redfern

About Single Supplements | About Singles-Only Groups | Room Mates | Etiquette | Tipping | Insurance | SFTD

Did you come across CSTN and sign up thinking that all of your single traveler woes were solved? Out with single supplements. In with a bevy of like-minded travel buddies. I've received many thankful comments to that effect since I started Connecting in 1990. But truth to tell, I also get letters expressing disappointment or frustration that a first-time search reveals nothing that exactly suits the ideal vacation.

Or, perhaps there is a suitable tour, but then arise niggling concerns about age range, male/female ratio, religion, class. You wonder: Will this "singles" trip be some kind of meet and mate scenario?

Even if such social issues are the last and least of the problem, many singles find it odious to be given a choice of either sharing a room with a stranger or paying a hefty single supplement fee.

Or, maybe the trip is right, the time is right, and – hooray! – there is no added single supplement charge. But wait! The price is quoted in a foreign currency and participants have to join the group in some far off city. Oh no! Help!

Reality Check

Are you back to square zero? No, not yet, but it is time for a reality check.

>> The good news is that the number of singles-only tours has increased greatly since CSTN began in 1990. At any given time you will find upwards of 400 trips listed on our Singles Tours and/or Cruises calendars, but, in reality, this is a small number in comparison to the many thousands of tours available to the mainstream market – which caters to a mix of couples and singles.

>> The reality is, solos often have to look far, wide, and beyond singles-only group tours to find a suitable vacation.

Let's explore the issues mentioned above, decide if singles-only tours will work for you or not, then consider other options, if need be.

Singles-Group Dynamics

There is a growing trend to emphasize compatibility by forming singles groups according to age, religion, gender, or specific interest. Occasionally, the organizer may also try to balance the ratio of male to female participants. More typical is the idea that a group composed of single adults should travel together as comfortably as any other mix of adults. The only prerequisites are timing, destination, activities, and affordability.

Reality check: To avoid disappointment, possibly embarrassment, be sure that your purpose for joining a singles-only tour coincides with the purpose of the trip organizer. Why do you want to join a singles tour?

>> Is it because you dislike the idea of being one in a group composed mainly of couples?

>> Do you care if women outnumber men, or vice versa?

>> Do you worry that pairing-off might ruin group camaraderie?

>> Do you hope to meet a special friend on tour, or to find a long-term or even a short-term relationship? Top

Room Share or Single Occupancy

More and more solos want companionship and group activities during the day and the comfort of a private room at night, and a few singles-tour specialists, specifically in the UK, are heeding the call and negotiating single-occupancy rooms at single-sized prices.

Until that policy becomes the norm, however, the only cost-cutting strategy for singles is to share a room with a friend or select a trip that offers a guaranteed room share program.

Rooming with a stranger is a gamble, but on the positive side, there is always a chance of meeting a true kindred spirit, and the possibility of making a lasting friendship. And, unlike traveling with friends or relations, two strangers have freshness on their side – there are no old issues, hangups, or personal grudges to color every situation.

On the other hand, some people snore. Some people smoke. Some people read in bed. Some people are restless sleepers. Some people are cheerful, chatty early risers. Some people need alone time.

Reality check: After an honest assessment of our own idiosyncrasies and habits, most people will probably admit to a few personal imperfections.

>> Can you be flexible enough to tolerate a room mate? Indeed, are you yourself a tolerable room mate?

>> If the answer is "no" either way, you must pay the price to have the privacy of your own room. Top

Local or International

Chances are you'll find an interesting trip somewhere among the hundreds listed on CSTN's Singles Tours and/or Cruises calendars, but it is quite likely that it departs far from your home town.

Reality check: Don't despair.

>> With a few exceptions, the companies listed at CSTN work internationally. As a traveler, you can contact an American, Australian, British, Canadian, or any other tour company directly by website, or even by telephone if you wish. It's no problem with international calls so cheap these days.

>> The majority of prices quoted are for "land only," which allows the options of arranging your own airfare and meeting the group somewhere en route, usually at destination. And even if airfare is included, the trip organizer should be glad to advise on flight alternatives, currency exchange rates, how to pay, consumer protection inclusions, travel insurance, and answer any questions or concerns you might have.

Reality check: You do need to be sure your prepaid travel funds are adequately protected against unforeseen circumstances that might include emergency health issues, delayed or cancelled connections, or even supplier default. This is essential no matter where a tour company is headquartered – near home, across the country, or overseas.

>> Be sure to inquire about holiday insurance. Is it included? Or not? What exactly is and is not covered?

>> Does protection apply equally to all participants, no matter where they originate? Or, may you arrange coverage separately through a local insurer?

>> For a more thorough explanation of travel insurance see Going Solo Tips.

Single-Friendly Travel Directory

If, for whatever reason, a singles-only trip doesn't work for you, you still have many other options listed in the regularly updated Single-Friendly Travel Directory (SFTD). You can view it online page by page or print it out for leisurely browsing later on.

Eighteen different cross-reference activity indexes (pages three to five) help the selection process by pointing to related company descriptions and contact details, which are located in the in the alphabetical section.

Then, it's a matter of visiting useful websites or telephoning directly for more information. Yes, this process takes time and effort but surely much less so than slogging through endless Internet search results only to land at less than single-friendly websites. The SFTD eliminates that preliminary research and gives you the best single-friendly options all in one place.

>> It's a good idea to find a local retail travel agent willing to work with you using the SFTD, or any tour information you find at CSTN – or anywhere on the Internet for that matter. Not all companies listed in the SFTD will work with other travel agents, but many will. If not, a local agent may be able to duplicate the trip elsewhere. A local travel agent can also provide professional and current advice about connecting airfares if needed, and the different kinds of travel insurance available, including medical, baggage, trip interruption, and prepaid holiday protection.

Reality check: The SFTD is constantly being updated as companies move, change ownership, or name, and as new contacts are added and others deleted. If you find misinformation, please do advise CSTN so it can be fixed.

Tour Group Etiquette

Common sense tells us to behave respectfully while on tour, not only toward group mates but also toward host countries. Even so, common sense can always use a reminder.

Reality check: Typical tourist misdemeanors to guard against:

>> Loud, demanding, argumentative, or otherwise unseemly behavior when disagreements or problems arise.

>> Disrespect of cultural and religious traditions, especially regarding dress codes and acceptable interaction between sexes.

>> Tardiness. Punctuality is essential to keep events running smoothly and to prevent tempers flaring.

In a group composed of singles, the standard no-no's apply, and also there are other considerations to keep in mind.

>> When sharing a room, be extra diligent about tidiness, space sharing, and discuss with your room mate any habits that might be irritating, such as reading in bed, early rising, smoking.

>> Changing seats at every meal and on excursions is the easiest way to get acquainted with all group mates and also permits everyone the occasional up-front or window view on the coach.

>> Positive, upbeat conversation is the best policy. Nitpicking and negativity about the tour, former relationships, or the opposite sex won't create a congenial atmosphere or win popularity.

>> Mutual attraction draws kindred spirits together in friendship and may even set the stage for romance. That's good, but pairing-off to the exclusion of other participants would be bad for group camaraderie. Discretion is needed.

Tipping on Tour

>> Gratuities may or may not be included in the tour price, but, even if they are, some people will want to add something extra to reward excellent service.

>> Often the tour operator will include advice about tipping specific to the destination along with tickets and documents, but if not, there is no harm in asking.

>> Suggestions may range from $2 to $4 per day for the coach driver, and $4 to $6 per day for the tour escort or manager.

>> Situations may arise that aren't part of the tour: sightseeing on your own, dining out, or taking a cab, to name a few. You might want to consult Going Solo Tips for a more comprehensive guide to tipping around the world.


Related Articles

>> A Single's Guide to All-inclusive Resorts.

>> A Single's Guide to Cruise Holidays.

>> Friends and Companions.

>> Golfing Singles.

>> Going Solo Purposefully.

Single Supplement Explained

About the 1950s, hoteliers (and cruise lines) began, for economic reasons, building rooms to a standard size that accommodated at least two people. Until that strategy changes, we won't see the demise of single supplement fees any time soon because tour operators want and need to advertise their trips at the lowest possible price. And that is a price figured on at least two people sharing the cost of a hotel room. Therefore, one person in a room must bear the entire cost, hence a single supplement add-on charge.

Often the single supplement add-on is not readily noticeable in the advertisement, brochure, or flyer; it's located, almost as an afterthought, in the fine print or couched in terms such as "call for single rate." Hence, the single occupancy add-on price comes as a nasty shock to the uninitiated single traveler who has been lured by the much lower, boldly displayed, double-occupancy price.

If a single supplement charge equals the difference between going on holiday or staying home, the solo traveler must:

>> Find a room mate via friends, family, or travel companion ads.

>> Choose a single-friendly travel supplier (hotel, resort, cruise line, spa, lodge) that:

a) provides a guaranteed room-share program for singles willing to share. If a room mate cannot be found, the tour operator waives the single supplement fee and allows the single to have the room to his/herself. In other words, a single is "guaranteed" never to be forced, perhaps at the last moment, to a disagreeable choice of either paying the supplement or dropping out of the tour.

b) offers single occupancy rooms at single-sized prices. In other words no single supplement add-on, or, at least, a very low supplement. CSTN single-friendly standard is no more than $30 per day.

> DR

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