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How to avoid the single traveller tax

Flying solo: How to avoid the single traveller tax

Emma Lunn
Written by  Emma Lunn
6 min read
Updated: 23 Dec 2023

Travelling solo? Whether you go shopping in New York or hiking in the Himalayas, being a single traveller can be so much more expensive compared to going as a couple.

A study by Which? in January 2023 found that single travellers who book a package holiday with Tui typically pay 47% more than a person travelling as a pair. The single tax can be even worse if you go on a cruise – researchers were quoted almost £1,400 for a solo cabin on a P&O Mediterranean cruise, while a couple sharing a bigger cabin would pay just £749 each.

Solo travel can be a life-changing, epiphanic experience… and it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. With a bit of research you can swerve the single traveller tax and enjoy the freedom of a holiday for one.

What is the single traveller tax?

Dubbed the “single supplement”, travellers are often charged an extra fee for solo occupation of a room designed for two people. The majority of hotel rooms are built for two, with most hotels refusing to discount them if they are only occupied by one person.

The travel industry justifies this by claiming the cost of maintaining the room and the hotel remains the same, regardless of the number of occupants. Hoteliers also view single travellers as less profitable as a single person will spend less on food and drink than a couple.

Single travellers, on the other hand, feel they shouldn’t have to pay double the cost of someone in a couple. The extra cost can be especially galling when a hotel is half empty – meaning solo travellers aren’t occupying rooms that could been sold to a pair, but instead filling a room that would otherwise generate no income at all.

Singletons might also wonder why more big hotels aren’t designed with a certain number of single rooms. After all, hotels usually offer triples and quads for families and groups, so why not have more rooms for one?

Who knows…? But while solo travellers can’t change the hotel industry overnight, there are ways they can cut the cost of a one-person odyssey.

Female traveller taking a picture

Forget package holidays

A quick Google of “single package holidays” brings up ads from tour operators such as Tui and Jet2 advertising solo or singles holidays. But single travellers still pay over the odds for these deals – which generally include flights, transfers and accommodation – compared to couples.

For example, Jet2 is selling a package comprising of flights from Stansted to Tenerife, and seven nights bed and breakfast at the Sholeo hotel in Los Gigantes, for £766 for a solo traveller. This is reduced to £736 by adding a well-advertised £30 discount code at the checkout.

But a couple will pay just £858 for the same trip – £429 each – making a mockery of the £30 discount, as the single traveller would still be paying £307 more per person. It’s worth pointing out that a single person only takes up one seat on a plane and consumes half the breakfast of a couple.

The big tour operators all favour couples, families and groups. Forget them, they don’t want single travellers – and you don’t need them.

DIY trips

“DIY” holidays can be a bit more hard work – you’ll need to research flights, transfers and hotels yourself – but it can be easier to put together a trip that won’t be double the cost it should be.

Start your search at hotel booking sites such as Booking.com, Trivago.com, Expedia.com, and Travelsupermarket.com and look for either single rooms or cheaper double/twin rooms.

Once you’ve found a hotel you like the look of it can be worth calling directly to see if it will negotiate on the price. If the hotel won’t lower the price, you might be able to haggle for extras during your stay such as a room upgrade, half board, or spa access.

Alternative types of accommodation

Hostels offer cheaper beds than hotels, with options ranging from a bunk bed in a mixed dorm (which may not be everyone’s cup of tea) to completely private ensuite rooms. In the best case scenario, you might pay for a dorm bed but find no one else arrives to share the room.

If you want to save cash but sleep alone, opt for a private single or double with a shared bathroom – this will be cheaper than an ensuite. That way you can have some privacy and security, with the only downside a potential queue for the bathroom.

Airbnb is another option – listings where you rent the entire home might be prohibitively expensive for one person, but stays where you live with the host can be super cheap, plus you have a local on hand for advice about where to go and what to see.

Travel To Oaxaca founder Shelley Marmor says: “Opting for local lodging like family-run bed and breakfasts is one good option. In places like Mexico and parts of North America, you'll often find homestays and guesthouses more welcoming of lone travellers without charging extra.”

Travel off-peak

Wherever you go and whatever type of accommodation you chose, you’ll save money by travelling at off-peak times. This means avoiding school holidays, Christmas, New Year and Easter.

Katy Maclure, editor of The Detour, a weekly newsletter from Jack's Flight Club, said: “Travelling during the shoulder season (the period between peak and off-peak seasons) can result in lower costs and fewer single supplements, as there is less demand for accommodation and tours.”  

If you’re booking flights and accommodation separately, single travellers often have more flexibility to look for the cheapest travel dates as it can be easier to adjust your holiday dates with just one person’s annual leave and other commitments to worry about. Several studies have found that Tuesdays tend to have the cheapest flights while Saturdays are the most expensive.

Small group tours

Tour operators such as G Adventures, Flash Pack, Much Better Adventures, Intrepid Adventures, Exodus and Explore all offer small (usually up to 15 people) group tours with no single supplements. Tours typically include accommodation, selected meals, transport and activities.

If you travel alone, these operators all offer to pair you up to share a twin room with someone of the same biological sex. If you get lucky, you’ll pay the advertised price to share a room, but an odd number of solo travellers will mean you get your own room at no extra cost.

If sharing your personal space with a complete stranger for a fortnight isn’t for you, you can usually pay an extra fee to guarantee your own room. This cost tends to be much more affordable than the single supplement levied on package holidays.

There are also a plethora of travel companies, such as Flavours Holidays, Friendship Travel, Just You and Saga, which offer singles or solos themed holidays where everyone has their own room by default.

Flavours Holidays founder Lorne Blyth says: "It's extremely important for solo travellers to enjoy the same level of comfort as accompanied travellers. Having your own room to relax in after a jam-packed day of sightseeing and socialising is an absolute essential for anybody looking for a real holiday recharge.”

Travelling alone doesn’t have to break the bank. To stay safe, make sure you have Comprehensive Travel Insurance, just in case of any mishaps.

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