Travel SOS: how to avoid the solo supplement

Solo supplements are annoying at best and, at worst prohibit travel.

Avoiding solo supplements

Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has written about travel for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.

Solo supplements are annoying at best and prohibit travel at worst so in this week’s Travel SOS Kay O’Sullivan has some advice for Gina on how to avoid them.

Q: Gina
I love to travel and, although I only have a limited income with a small travel budget each year, I like cruising, but the last time I sailed I was stung with a blasted single supplement. Is there a way I can avoid paying these extra fees? Do all providers charge this single supplement? Do you know of any other ways that can help me save on my next holiday?

A: That is a timely question. The travel industry as a whole and the cruising sector in particular is listening to you. They know that you, me and every other solo traveller feels hardly done by having to pay extra for the pleasure of sleeping alone. (And I do not want to be “matched” with another traveller as travel companies brightly suggest to avoid supplements that can be as high as 200 per cent. I gave up sleeping with strangers in my 20s!) Enough of my romantic life, back to the topic ...

solo traveller in china

First, you need to plan ahead. Early birds do bag travel bargains. The best time to save money on a cruise or a tour is when the new season offerings are introduced. To keep abreast of these releases opt in for travel company newsletters and/or establish a relationship with a good travel agent and keep a beady eye on the media. Secondly, supplements usually vary in response to demand. High season generally translates into high supplements. So look beyond the summer months to save money.

It is also worth noting that a number of cruise lines have started introducing single cabins onto new builds, with many more retrofitting them to existing ships. Still, numbers are limited and the competition is hot, hence my advice to plan ahead. I’m talking a year in advance.

But you also need to know that some cruise lines are whacking single supplements onto their single cabins. Not very fair in my opinion, but here’s the thing about single supplements, they are as much about the extra revenue that comes from drinks packages, meal upgrades, spa visits and excursions from dual occupancy as they are about the room.

Now for the good news. If you are keen to do some river cruising this year – and who isn’t? – award-winning boutique river cruise company Uniworld is waiving the solo supplement on numerous sailings across its European fleet.

Also, Australian company APT has just announced a Pay No Solo Supplement on selected European river cruise itineraries departing May, April, October, November and December 2018. The only proviso is that you must book by 31 August this year. You can also save 50 per cent off the solo supplement for the high season of May-September.

APT’s sister company Travelmarvel is spruiking no solo supplement on all 2018 European Gems cruises booked in C, B, A and A+ class cabins. This deal is available until sold out.

A representative for APT and Travelmarvel confirmed that both companies include discounts as part of their early bird booking deals, so the best time to grab one is either, just after a cruise or a tour opens for booking.

Matthew Cameron-Smith, managing director of Trafalgar Australia, which operates guided holidays worldwide, concurs that the release of new brochures and trips is the best time to bag solo bargains for travellers. “Around one in five of our guests opt to travel solo and it can be a really enriching experience. Solo travellers naturally gravitate to guided holidays as they offer the ability to be with like-minded travellers, have fun and socialise. We’ve picked up on this appeal and have a great range of departures offering 50-100 per cent discount on single supplements that are available when we release our new brochures and trips. Be quick though, space is limited!”

Do you have a travel question for Kay? If so, email your Travel SOS to



    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th May 2017
    Two's a Crowd, based in Melbourne, specialise in solo tours. I've just returned from a 12 day tour of Vietnam with them. Small group, 16, no sharing, 3-4 star accommodation. Very well organised. Highly recommended.
    7th May 2017
    Forgot to emphasis ... no single supplement!
    7th May 2017
    Forgot to emphasis ... no single supplement!
    6th May 2017
    I feel sorry for people who do not have a friend or partner to share their travel experience with but of course they must be prepared to pay a single supplement. The room maintenance and linen cleaning costs are the same whether for one person or shared by two in the room.
    Golden Oldie
    6th May 2017
    Couples are often offered substatantial discounts on travel, yet singles are slugged 100-200% extra as a single supplement. Linen cleaning costs for one single bed as opposed 2 single beds for friends or couples not occupying a queen or double. Single supplement may be OK for people with high salaries, but a lot harder for the elderly who would like to travel, but cannot afford the higher cost of travelling solo when on a fixed income way below a well paying job. There is a large population of people over 60 who have the time to travel but no longer have the money to do so.
    6th May 2017
    Don't feel sorry
    Solo traveling is more enjoyable than traveling with a partner
    Your time is all yours
    To explore and do the things you want without the restrictions and burdens that come with accommodating another persons selfish Interests

    And you get to meet and talk to anybody me on your own terms
    Don't both and certainly prefer traveling alone
    It's spontaneous and romantic way to enjoy a passion
    6th May 2017
    WOW Golden Oldie- If your travel company is charging 100-200% more for a single supplement-change companies OR book for 2 and only go by yourself. Very strange

    6th May 2017
    Why are the river cruise companies not offering discounts for their july-sept cruises this year that are not booked out?
    With these cruises the booze is included, I don't drink so they would be saving heaps on me there compared to some people who drink the ship dry!
    Obviously the travel industry has not woken up yet as to how much money they are losing from would be solo travellers if they didn't charge these exorbitant supplements
    19th May 2018
    I do not understand the rationale behind single supplements. If I occupy a room alone, I would surely be less work for the staff than two or more people. I am not prepared to be partnered with a total stranger to save money, as I would probably get the snorer, chatty at 6 am, spends ages in the bathroom person! I need a quiet space to draw breath.....we need to get together as a group the pressure the travel companies. I don't travel often because as a solo person I simply cannot afford the single sup as well.
    11th Apr 2020
    I note in the comments above that they are quoting 2018, when are they going to get to 2020/2021 I wonder, a cut and past mistake!!!. I have traveled alone for the last 8 years, and have had no problems with anything, except of course the single supplement. Others will always talk to you or invite you to join them for a meal. Will be doing more of it when this virus is over.

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