THE solo traveller tends to get the rough end of the broom when it comes to being charged supplements for accommodation and tour costs. In Europe, where older hotels come in baffling configurations, solos often are relegated to cell-like single rooms with narrow beds and such a paucity of space that one can open the door without getting out of bed.
Despite the increased cost, DepartureLounge rather likes setting forth on her own, relishing the prospect of blank-slate adventures and the potential for reinvention. If one’s airy plans go wrong, it’s somehow easier to cope when there’s no one to blame but oneself. Once, when Lounge ’ s sons were very young, she ran away for a day. Not very far: just a ride to the end of the bus line and back while the boys were at kindergarten. She had forgotten what it was like to be alone and just felt she had to be free of other people’s needs.
‘‘ Mummy needed to go on a bus for some peace,’’ she told the junior Lounges that night. ‘‘ Mummy went to pieces on a bus,’’ the younger announced to his wideeyed classmates at Little News next day. How terrifyingly close he was.
WHENtravelling alone, one can indulge all sorts of potty interests, too. Lounge can’t imagine finding anyone who’d want to, say, accompany her through Kerala tracking the sites of TheGodofSmallThings or turning the Japanese city of Nara upside down in search of the carved rabbit-motif netsuke she saw there in 1980 and has been in a huff about not buying ever since.
But for those who prefer company and are seeking a like-minded companion, RSVP has just launched what it calls ‘‘ Australia’s first adventure travel community’’. This company has had remarkable success as an online dating site and, according to spokeswoman Lija Jarvis, presently boasts 1.3 million members (54 per cent male and 46 per cent female). So odds look good to pal up with a compatible travelling partner. www.rsvp.com.au.
Other specialist agencies include Melbourne-based Solo Traveller, which has a mission ‘‘ to offer singles and solo travellers various selected group tours to suit all budgets’’. www.solotraveller.com.au.
AS Australians marry later, divorce more often and have less structured relationships, the single traveller market is growing and operators must cater accordingly. A Flight Centre spokesperson recently commented that the company was expecting a 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase in solo business over the next 12 months. Marketing is changing accordingly, with hotels tending to charge per room rather than per person; but the twinshare spectre remains, a term that makes Lounge think of two identical bodies cramped in a bottom bunk.
THE folk at The Captain’s Choice Tours have solos firmly in mind, too. Those who book its Silk Route by Private Train: Beijing to Moscow tour in March 2009 will be provided with single rooms and cabins at no additional cost. Depending on the class allocation on the tour, singles are assured the per person double occupancy rate at savings from $3510 to $16,475. www.captainschoice.com.au.
SPECIAL-INTEREST tourism is terrific for singles, too, and there’s a swag of tours on offer for people with particular passions. And sometimes those obsessions are downright peculiar, from butterfly-chasing in Papua New Guinea to folk-dancing outings in Estonia and Latvia. Insects in Greece or Central America? Irrigation in Israel or Oman? It’s all out there, although yoga retreats are all the rage for footloose females, apparently, and gourmet tours for new-age chaps. Girlsonly escapes are on offer from companies with such unambiguous names as www.getawaysforgirls.com and MaeveO’Meara’s Gorgeous Safaris, an offshoot of her foodie tour company Gourmet Safaris. www.gourmetsafaris.com.au.
FINDS of the week: South Korea’s tourism organisation is promoting homestays; register for membership and then choose from about 5000 homes. B & B starts at $US40 ($60) a night plus a placement fee of $US30. The program also offers monthly rates. www.visitkorea.or.kr.
Babymoons for expectant couples are a big new accommodation trend but postnatal getaways in luxury hotels are the latest variation. In Sydney, the Prince of Wales Private Hospital and Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach have conceived a Little Luxuries recovery package for new mums. It would seem a fine idea to be bonding with bub in an oceanview hotel room rather than the clinical surrounds of a hospital ward.
Midwifery staff from Prince of Wales Private Hospital are on hand at the hotel to provide personalised support to mothers; partners and children can stay as part of the program, sleeping in the same room at no extra cost. It’s covered by participating health funds and, in Lounge ’ s estimation, it’s never too early to get used to the joys of hotels. More: Maternity Booking Co-ordinator, Prince of Wales Private Hospital, (02) 9650 4000.
LOUNGE loves: Vibe Hotels in Sydney, Melbourne and on the Gold Coast (Darwin opens in February) have a new Be Pampered @ Vibe package that includes accommodation and buffet breakfast for two and a Napoleon Perdis gift pack of six travel-sized pump packs of body lotions and showers gels in deliciously fragrant combos such as fig and pomegranate. From $149 to $195 a night, depending on location; valid to February. www.vibehotels.com.au.
LOUNGE loathes: Hotel packages that make a show of including breakfast but said meal actually comes with provisos. Lounge had a Seinfeld soup nazi moment last week when staying overnight at a Sydney hotel. ‘‘ No hot food for you,’’ she was told when giving her room number to the breakfast buffet supervisor. Unlimited weak coffee and dry croissants, though.
DEALS OF THE WEEK
Free nights with Heron Island’s turtles; second person free at Club Med beach resorts; free US stopovers with Canada and Alaska tours; Bali bonus; Tasmania tour discounted. These and other money-saving offers are featured in Travel&Indulgence’s holiday deals, updated daily: