There you are, the confident solo traveler. Note: I didn’t write “tourist,” but “traveler,” a topic for another blog. At any rate, you’ve researched your destination; planned to make the most of your time; and saved faithfully, so you can explore without pinching pennies. Your wardrobe is strategically planned–every item matches two others. You’re ready for anything!
Except having to pay the “unmarried travel tax,” otherwise, creatively called the Single Supplement.
Wikipedia’s definition of the Single Supplement: “The single supplement is a premium charged to solo travelers when they take a room alone. The amount involves ranges from 10 to 100 percent of the standard accommodation rate.” That’s right, folks…”a premium.” And it’s weighted much more towards the 100 percent mark. Unfortunately, it seems solo travelers must pay a penalty, since they can’t seem to find anyone who cares enough to journey with their wretched souls.
Not everyone feels the single supplement is unfair
The folks who impose this tax don’t bat an eye as they explain that their tour/cruise budget is based on “double occupancy” and one person can’t possibly spend as much as two. “To sell that stateroom to only one person,” said H.J. Harrison Liu, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean, “that wouldn’t necessarily make business sense for us.” (Doesn’t he just ooze compassion??)
Because Mr. H.J. Harrison Liu irritated me so much, I went to the Royal Caribbean Line website and priced out a 7-day Alaska cruise. For me? A Deluxe cabin: $5,218-$10,183. Balcony cabin: $3,665-3,883. Even a dull Interior cabin: $1,660-1,750. My partnered friends? Here’s what they each pay…Same Deluxe cabin: $2,609-5,011. Balcony cabin: $1,780-1,941. And a measly $845-875 for an Interior cabin. So, I can have my privacy–at twice the price.
Feeble options for avoiding the single supplement
Or, I have the option of finding my own roommate. Apparently, I can visit CruiseMates.com and post a request for a buddy. This is about as appealing as…well, I can’t even think of anything so awful. What a poor solution, as if singles are interchangeable, and can just share a room because, well, they’re single and who really cares? A few companies, such as Rick Steves, offer the disheartening solution of telling singles that if they’re not able to provide a roommate (again, randomly chosen–and with Rick Steves tours, singles are rotated throughout the trip) then bingo! you’ve scored a single room. Meant to be fair, it still feels second-class. (And to be fair again, RS also offers single supplements, often at a decent price. I know–I’ve paid for them eleven times.)
A ray of hope…at high-end companies
There has been progress with some cruise lines and tours companies. Not universally offered on every itinerary–and, as they say in the ads, “certain conditions may apply”–a savvy single can book without wondering who will show up to claim the other bed. Sadly, these are high-end companies, so you may end up paying as much as you would have with the mainstream cheats. Check out Avalon Waterways, International Expeditions, Abercrombie & Kent, and Tauck. And newer ships by Norwegian Cruise Lines have started to include 100 sq. ft. interior cabins designated for singles…after all, we don’t deserve much room, and certainly not a window. The Norwegian Epic offers 126 “studio” cabins, meaning 126 of the 4,100 passengers are singletons. Still, it’s a start, so I should be grateful.
What makes this all so outdated is the fact that the number of singles is at an all-time high, and not expected to stop climbing. The most recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that there were 102 million unmarried people, 18 and over, in 2011. That’s more than 44 percent of all adults! Only five years earlier, the number was 92 million. It won’t be long before half the county is single. Add to this another fact: more and more people–partnered or not–enjoy traveling alone. American Express reports that 12 percent of American adults intended to take a solo trip in 2013, up five percent from 2012!
Times are changing, for sure. Smart companies will look at demographics and quickly adapt to be ahead of the curve and sweep up singles. We’re ready and we have money. Most, however, will continue to charge me and my imaginary friend double, for as long as possible.