What is a Single Supplement Anyways?
A single supplement is a charge to a solo or single traveler to compensate a hotel or cruise ship for losses they supposedly incurred because just one person is using a room or cabin. Most hotels and cruise ships are built with the assumption that at least two individuals will occupy the room or cabin. ( Most hotel, cruise, and even tour group pricing assume double occupancy.)
How Much are Single Supplements?
A single supplement can add from 10 to 100% on top of the double occupancy rate. Why so much? Companies want to make money, so if there is an unused bed in the hotel or cruise ship, it’s a bed the company is not selling that could have been sold to someone else. Hotel and cruise ship companies maintain that the single supplement helps them recoup their costs of maintaining the room or cabin (electricity, heating, water, cleaning, etc.). T hese alleged fixed costs stay the same no matter how many people are using the room. The single supplement also helps the company recover any theoretical the monetary losses they experience because a second occupant is not spending money at the business.
(Of course, why don’t hotels just build smaller rooms with lower overheads for solo travelers? In some countries outside the USA, hotels do offer single rooms, which are less expensive and much smaller than a traditional room.)
Who Must Pay a Single Supplement?
Solo travelers usually pay single supplements on group tours, on cruises, and at hotels. Usually, the travel operators and cruise lines set forth the amount of the single supplement in brochures and their websites. Hotels usually do not disclose the amount of the single supplement; instead, a solo traveler will pay the same rate for a room as two travelers sharing that room (which is effectively paying a 100% supplement).
How to Avoid Paying a Single Supplement
It is difficult avoiding the single supplement. While some cruise lines and tour groups offer a roommate-finding service to help you avoid paying a single supplement, the problem is, you do not know with whom you will be sharing your accommodations. Does your new room/cabin mate snore? Are they messy or too neat? Do they monopolize the bathroom?
A few tour companies cater exclusively to single travelers and offer supplement-free pricing, while others offer a limited selection of supplement-free itineraries. Although I discussed a few of those travel groups in the main article, I urge you to do your own online research. You could also join a single travel group (such as a Meetup group in your area or a Facebook group) to help you meet potential travel partners before embarking on your journey(s).
One blogger offers 17 interesting ways to avoid paying a single supplement (see Women on the Road). Of the list of 17 options the blogger lists, I have done the following:
1. Gone for the cheapest supplement;
2. Traveled offseason;
3. Set up Google Alerts;
4. Procrastinated to snag a discounted deal;
5. Done the opposite and booked far in advance;
6. Stayed at Airbnb; and
7. Traveled independently (no groups)
I will update this blog if I learn of other feasible ways to avoid paying a single supplement! If you have any ideas, please comment below.