Gransnet forums


Single travel Q&A with Debbie Marshall

(42 Posts)
LaraGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 23-Jan-14 15:06:36

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the forums about single travel so we thought we’d ask Debbie Marshall, of Silver Travel Advisor to answer your questions on travelling solo.
Debbie has over 25 years of experience in the travel industry, including at Crystal Holidays and Jetsave (where she was managing director until 2001) and, until 2010, at the helm of the award-winning villa specialist CV Travel, and its sister company Ski Verbier. She's a keen skier, walker and adventurer, and her favourite destinations, in no particular order, include Switzerland, the South of France, Corfu, the Amalfi Coast, the Caribbean and especially the British Virgin Islands.
In a bid to get over her mid-life crisis (and raise some money for charity), this February she will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
If it’s travel insurance, safety concerns or the thorny issue of single supplements, she’s sure to have the answer. Get your questions in by Monday 3rd Feb.

UPDATE: Debbie has now answered your questions (and also survived her Kilimanjaro climb!) Find out what she had to say here.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:35:16


Hi Debbie, I'm not planning on travelling on my own - not a good traveller actually. But my SIL would like to go on a cruise and was shocked at the single supplements being charged. Is there a way round this? Are there any reputable companies around who don't charge? How does the industry get away with this?

Several of the big companies are now building ships with more single cabins and some of them Azamara for example, only charge 25% extra for solo travellers. There are some operators such as. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) with their ship Epic and P&O with their ship Azura which have dedicated single cabins but these do tend to book very quickly. However, always look out for last minute deals, and contact the company directly by phone and ask what is on offer for single travellers. Cunard for example were offering excellent deals for single travellers prior to Christmas on their New York crossing including flights.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:35:49


I'm a regular solo traveller, I hate single supplements and refuse to pay them, as in I won't book anywhere charging it.

The best holidays have been those where I've organised my own itinerary and travel, booking accommodation that charges per room and not per person per night. France is pretty good for this and I have a favourite hotel I keep going back to in the South (although I'm not prepared to disclose which one!)

It sounds like you have just the right approach, and never taking no for an answer has clearly led you to some good deals, as well as secret destination – well done!

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:37:50


I too am fed up with single supplements. Isn't it time the travel industry started to cater for single travellers as there are now quite a lot of us?

A lot of single travellers are, shall we say, of a more mature age and as such tend to travel outside of the peak times. I would think that hotels and travel companies would welcome these people at a time when they are less busy. Why should I have to pay a supplement to stay in a room, which can usually only take a single anyway, and which is tucked around the back of the hotel overlooking the bins!

Fortunately more and more companies, especially cruise operators and escorted touring companies, are waking up to the fact that single travellers are on the increase and that they really resent these. It’s worth typing single traveller into any holiday company website search box and see what appears. It is amazing what comes up! The no single supplements may not be widely publicised, so you could also call the reservations department to find out. When companies, especially cruise operators, have last minute stock to sell, they will often do a very good deal for a single traveller. It’s just a question of holding your nerve to book late, and being prepared that your first choice may not be available.
Another option on some holidays is to opt for same sex room sharing, which might mean occupying a room with a stranger. This is not for everyone, but if you are very lucky, you get the room to yourself if no one else books the same deal.

You might enjoy reading Single traveller Dinah Holland shares her experiences.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:39:06


Has she heard about 5W an organization that supports women travelling solo in uk and abroad (Women welcome women worldwide)

I haven’t heard about this organisation but what a great idea. And the site looks really interesting.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:39:27


I have done a lot of holidays with companies such as Exodus . They will match up 2 single women (or men )who are prepared to share a twin room. Of course you could land up sharing with someone who you really don't get on with. I have come across other people who have had this problem but over the last 10 years I have shared with some great ladies.
I now ask if a holiday company will do this because they don't always advertise that the fact that they do and they can always say "no".

This is a great tip – and Holland America Line also offer this on their cruises. And I believe other companies do the same. And of course the great advantage is that if there is not another single traveller who has booked to share, then you may end up with your own room!

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:39:47


Trendy doesn't that make you spit angry.
Recently widowed, I haven't plucked up the courage to do any single holidays yet, but it might come to that! What I would like to ask is about travel insurance for lengthy trips away. I have always been covered by the RBS automatically but had to extend for each trip longer than 6 weeks at a cost of £120, so last year I took out an annual insurance with Direct travel which covered me for journeys of no more than 63 days at a time. I wanted to extend my visit to Australia recently and for an extra 2 weeks they quoted me £148 which is not very far short of the annual premium!! Are there companies which would cover me, aged 65, for trips of over 6 months at a time. Saga gave me a good annual quotewhich gives a 90 day trip which is better but perhaps I would have to take a single insurance to cover for one long trip? It is all very confusing - perhaps you could enlighten me..... Can you also tell me why the journey has to start in the UK? I suggested to Direct that as my policy was about to expire, I could renew it with them a month early, thus giving them an extra month's premium, it it was not possible as I was out of the country! I had great pleasure in telling Mr. Stuffy Citroni that I wouldn't be doing business with him in future....(apologies for long windedness!)

Travel insurance is a thorny subject and I’ll be doing this soon as a separate topic on Gransnet as there is so much to say. Watch this space!

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:40:17


I am off on a trip down under soon, solo, and am a little anxious as I am now disabled but am used to travelling alone. I have booked flights, accommodation etc. all separately rather than pay for an organised tour with single supplements. If it wasn't for those I would probably travel more often, especially in Europe. Watch this space!

That’s wonderful to read and congratulations on your “can do” attitude to travel and life. If you would like to write an article about your experience for others to share, please visit – I am sure that other people will be inspired by you.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:40:39


I have seen special offers on cruises and if two go the cost is £600 each person and when I enquired about a single the price went up to £1800. How can they justify that. Friends suggested I book for two then turn up at the ship saying my friend couldn't come and that would be cheaper!

See my earlier posts – but also to add that the extortionate supplement can sometimes be even more because the cruise companies take into account that your onboard spend is also halved and so the increased cost is to compensate for this. I know it seems outrageous that this can be factored in as well, but onboard spend and excursions are important to cruise companies and one person (usually!!) drinks a lot less.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:41:24


I am newly single and will be 64 very soon. I love travelling and have no problem with going solo. I would like to take a cruise but as I have never done this before I'm looking for some hints and tips.

Really think about where you’d like to go and what you’d like to do. Beach, city, touring, the options are endless. Often a group activity, cycling or visiting Italian art galleries for examples, can create a common interest. Consider where you will feel most comfortable. Would you perhaps prefer to be with your own age group or is a mix of ages better for you?, Many escorted tours have both couples and singles on them. Would this suit you? How about a trial run on a UK group away day (theatre visit, coach trip, garden tour) so you can figure out what might work for you on a longer break? Some companies run forums so it’s possible to ‘meet’ fellow travellers before departure, and it’s certainly a good way to learn about the world of solo travel, even if you just read the posts and comments. At the airport, aim to spot some fellow travellers (peek at the luggage tags) from your tour company. If you’re not ready to chat to others yet, at least you will have someone to look out for at your destination. Once on holiday, if you are a bit shy, have a few snippets of small talk ready, discussing previous holidays or the journey are always easy opening topics. Talking about food, or your expectations of the holiday are usually relaxed subjects too. If you have tour guide or holiday rep, do pick their brains. A tour guide will travel with you and should be used to getting a group to ‘gel’. The rep has loads of information, and may well be able to introduce you to others setting off on excursions, or trying out a local restaurant! Whilst there will nearly always be a bit of a bore, you generally find one or two like-minded souls in every situation. Sometimes it can be good just to have time to yourself. If you’re eating alone, take a book and maybe pick a more informal bistro style restaurant, where you can sit outside perhaps. Hotel dining rooms can be a little intimidating. Should you get lost, do ask for directions saying you are meeting a friend. It’s not always a good idea to advertise that you’re on your own. Likewise, clutching a guidebook can be a bit obvious too, read up information before you set off and then enjoy the sights unencumbered. And remember to let the hotel or rep know when you’re planning to be back.

You might enjoy this article with some tips and ideas for solo travelling.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:42:28


Hi Debbie
I'm quite keen on travelling but am not very good at just lying on a beach and watching the world go by. I'm quite fit and able and have had a very blessed life so far so am thinking I would like to give something back if possible. Without wanting to go anywhere too extreme or dangerous, I was thinking about volunteering perhaps? I like animals and do have some teaching experience so perhaps working with disadvantaged children? Are there any organisations you know about and could recommend?

This is a fabulous way to see the world and make a difference to a local community or project within an organised structure. There are several companies which specialise in volunteering overseas – be prepared for what will probably be a lower standard of accommodation and living than you are used to, and to working hard often in difficult conditions. The job satisfaction and feelgood factor can make all worthwhile though.

People & Places is a good company – it’s run by a lovely lady called Sallie Grayson who was the original founder of Long Tall Sallie (the clothes shop which you might remember!). She has a wealth of experience on the subject and also runs open days in the UK where you can go along and chat to find out more before you commit.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:42:48


This April I'm going on my first single traveller holiday to Italy with Leger. It's a coach tour which I know could be quite tiring as it's a long way but this was the only one that I could afford! I too object to paying extra for a single room, it limits us single travellers when it's a big world out there and most of us can't afford to go where we would like to go!These companies always say that there is no single supplement but of course there is, it just isn't itemised separately! I'm looking forward to it nonetheless and will meet other people travelling alone, everyone will be the same, no tagging on with couples or groups of friends, making me feel like a spare part. I do have friends but most are married or with partners, other single ones I wouldn't really want to go on holiday with hmm!!! If anyone out there has been on a Leger trip please let me know what you thought about it, hopefully I won't be put off!

To enjoy an organised singles group, you do need to be comfortable in the presence of other single travellers, and be fairly sociable and willing to participate. It’s a great way to meet people and share experiences. On the other hand, you may not enjoy being organised, and there could be some members of the group who you do not get along with. The key is to relax and go with the flow. An organised group is an excellent introduction to singles holidays and could provide the confidence to embark upon a more independent experience in the future.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:43:19


Hi Annodomini
I agree with you re Ramblers hols. Like you, I've been on a few where I've opted to share with strangers and, with one exception (a really loud snorer!) that has worked out well.
As you say, everyone has a shared love of walking, which gives you something in common right away.
Also like you, I'm no longer quite as fit as I was, and I'm currently looking at the new Ramblers brochure, Adagio. As far as I can see, this caters for amblers rather than ramblers...which is where I'm at right now!

Another option I've looked at, but haven't done anything about as yet, is the Thelma and Louise site. This aims to help women to get in touch with other women with similar travel aims.

I'd be interested to hear Debbie's views on these and other options.


Walking holidays are a great way to make friends and share a common interest, as well as being outdoors all day. The same goes for any special interest holidays – photography, painting, dancing, the list is endless!

I haven’t heard about the Thelma and Louise site, but I’ve been told about these two which you may find of interest and

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:45:03


Like many of the others I have yet to embark on a trip on my own but I am determined to do it sooner rather than later. Aside from the supplements what concerns me is the safety element - not having anyone to look out for me, people taking advantage of a woman on her own - that sort of thing. I would appreciate some tips and reassurance.

One of the most important things is to remember that you are not alone and many other solo travellers feel exactly the same way as you do. First of all, think about what kind of holiday you would like. There are several companies that arrange group tours or holidays specifically for single travellers, and joining one of these is a comfortable way of holidaying with like-minded people and with the security of managers or tour guides who smooth the way, leaving you to enjoy yourself. If you have an interest such as art, walking, yoga or wine (maybe all of these!), for example, there is a wide variety of specialist holidays where you can meet people with shared interests which makes for great ice breakers.
It might also be a good idea to try a day trip or overnight stay close to home in a group just to see how you find the experience before booking a longer holiday.

If you want to travel solo and independently, pre-planning is the answer, especially if you are new to this. It is sensible to book your accommodation in advance, and check in with family or friends each day by text or email. Have a look at forums such as where travel is the subject of discussion and find out what others have enjoyed and indeed, avoided. Take a look at Top Tips for your first Singles Holiday and Christine Reid takes her first Solos Holiday.

DebbieMarshall Thu 06-Feb-14 10:45:30


As a woman travelling alone do you think it's better to do the holiday I (think) I want to do or find something organised specifically for singles (not in the amorous sense more lone travellers)?

If you have never travelled independently before, it could be quite daunting to do this in later life. If you are determined to give it a go, the key is to do as much research as possible before you travel – read reviews, join forums, ask questions. Then book as much accommodation in advance as you feel comfortable with.
Travelling on your own requires a few simple safety precautions and a good dose of common sense! Should you get lost, do ask for directions saying you are meeting a friend. It’s not a good idea to advertise that you’re on your own. Likewise, clutching a guidebook can be a bit obvious too, read up information before you set off and then enjoy the sights unencumbered. And remember to let the hotel or representative know when you’re planning to be back; ensure that someone at the hotel or within the group has your mobile phone number, and always take their number with you.
Also be aware of your clothing, jewellery, accessories, sunglasses, electronic gadgets, credit cards, money you are carrying – it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, somebody would like to relieve you of your possessions. So be sensible and keep to the minimum amount of ‘extras’ that you need for a day. Photocopy your passport and leave a copy at home with a friend, keep another in your suitcase, so if your passport disappears you do have the relevant information. Bags and rugsacks need to be kept closed at all times and it’s worth thinking about taking a pre-pay currency card rather than your credit card.

joc64 Tue 11-Feb-14 09:53:23

I know my introduction to serious solo travelling was a bit drastic - I was widowed in my 40s and in my mid-50s gave up work, bought a rucksack and went round the world on my own. I sorted accommodation, transport - everything - as I went along. (I missed out on a Gap Year when I was younger.)

Of course I made mistakes, and there were countless times I wondered what I was doing, but now I wouldn't travel any other way. I share all the single-room supplement grouches, of course, but you meet such wonderful people when you travel alone - and find yourself in unexpected places.

The hardest bit is deciding to do it. Once that is out of the way - it's not plain sailing, of course, but it is fun!

friends123 Mon 05-Oct-15 11:01:11

Excellent site