What “single supplement” or “single room supplement” means and what we do against it
Many travelers and even tour operators have – at least in our opinion – a wrong or illogical idea of what is meant by “single room supplement”. For example, it happens regularly that tour operators present us travel offers for our solo traveling users with the argument “no single room surcharge”, while in reality they even have a 100% single room surcharge.
The reason for that are not bad intentions, but mistakes in thinking. In their opinion, if a travel offer for 2 travelers in a double room costs e.g. 100$ in total and a solo traveler also pays 100$, you would not pay a surcharge alone.
But in fact the 2 travelers in a double room pay only 50$ per person or 100$ altogether, while solo travelers have to bear 100$ alone. Thus, in this case, the single supplement is 100%, as one does not have to pay 50$ using the room alone (like each of the two travelers has to pay), but the double of that.
Why “single room supplement”?
The term “single room supplement” actually refers to “single rooms”, of which there are fewer and fewer nowadays. In the past, there were often much smaller rooms with much narrower beds available, which were more suited to the term “single room” because they were aimed at single persons and were really mainly suitable for them.
Nowadays, modern hotels usually only provide double rooms, which may be offered in different sizes or luxury classes (“Superior”, “Deluxe”, “Junior Suite”, “Executive Room”, etc.). If they are offered to solo travelers (e.g. as part of a round trip), they are often correctly referred to as “double rooms for single use” instead of “single rooms”. Nevertheless, “no single room supplement” is often used in connection with “double rooms for single use”, which can be confusing.
For solo travelers, the decreasing number of single rooms is both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, they can rely on the fact that they do not have to squeeze themselves into a less attractive, small single room (for which, by the way, oftentimes the same price as for a double room – i.e. 100% single room supplement – is or was charged anyway). On the other hand, when travelling alone, the full price of a double room (i.e. 100% single room supplement) often has to be paid because no smaller room is available or although a smaller room (and possibly a smaller bed) might be sufficient.
An example of the calculation of the single supplement:
Mary and Harry rent a double room at the Hotel Seaview for a total of 100$ per night, i.e. for 50$ per person.
The solo traveler Alina also rents a room at the Hotel Seaview and has to pay 75$ for it, i.e. 25$ more than Mary and Harry per person. The “single room surcharge” in this case amounts to 25$ or 50%.
Alina pays less for her room than Mary and Harry all together, but 25% more than Mary and Harry have to pay individually for their overnight stay or holiday.
In practice, as mentioned above, there are often only double rooms of the same size available and hoteliers usually think more in room categories or room prices than in travelers or prices per person. Consequently, the “single room supplement” or supplement for solo travelers unfortunately often comes up to 100%.
Whether those traveling alone unfairly have to pay more than those traveling in pairs or whether those traveling in pairs fairly save something per person because they share a room, depends at least in part on one’s own point of view (more on the fairness aspect below).
And why “single supplement” instead of “single room supplement”?
The term “single supplement” is often correctly used instead of “single room supplement” to denote the supplement or surcharge that a solo traveler (or a friend in single room) has to pay in comparison to a traveler who is sharing a room on a trip (e.g. when enjoying a vacation package, a roundtrip or singles holiday).
If the supplement for solo travelers on a trip (compared to the price of two travelers in a double room per person) is only due to the higher costs of single room occupancy, the use of the term “single room supplement” instead of “single supplement” is of course appropriate. However, a “single surcharge” can also include other additional costs that solo travelers must bear in the context of a trip (compared to two travelers per person).
For our hand-picked travel deals, we usually calculate the respective “single supplement” (i.e. by how much solo travelers have to pay extra compared to two travelers sharing a double room per person) and thus we make the surcharge clearly visible and comparable. This way, solo travelers know immediately which “additional costs” (compared to the costs of two travelers in a double room per person) they have to expect for an accommodation or a tour (except in the unfortunately rare cases of travel offers completely without single room supplement). By clearly visualizing single supplements we also hope to motivate tour operators and/or hotels to reduce outrageously high prices / “supplements” for solo travelers to a more reasonable level. Doing this, among other things they could also reduce the partly price-forced migration of solo travelers to alternative accommodations such as Airbnb.
In principle, we only feature travel offers as “Best of” Trips or Deals with only little or no single supplement for solo travelers.
This means that, on the one hand, solo travelers can rely on our recommendations and simplify their travel planning. And, on the other hand, tour operators and hotels are rewarded and motivated for offering friendly and fair prices to solo travelers.
Prices, especially for accommodations, can of course fluctuate a lot over time, depending on demand, which is why users should of course critically check our stated “from prices” and “single room surcharges”, although we make every effort to update our hand-picked recommendations regularly and replace them with better ones if necessary.
Are single supplements unfair?
According to our research and our own surveys, travel experiences and feedback, the topic of “single room supplement” seems to be one of the main (and most annoying) topics for solo travelers. They feel treated unfairly because they usually have to pay more for a room or a tour than two travelers / couples have to pay (per person).
When hotels or tours are in high demand and quickly booked out, hoteliers or tour operators usually charge the highest possible price for rooms, following the logic of profit maximisation, and do not sell them at a lower price to solo travelers. It is understandable, if quickly sold out hotels, which must operate scarcely, do not give double rooms at cheaper prices to solo travelers. Furthermore hoteliers argue for single supplements with the fact that the expenditures, like e.g. for the cleaning, are almost the same with single occupancy as with double occupancy, among other arguments.
Often, however, there is sufficient capacity available and accommodation providers or tour operators should be happy if they can accommodate an additional paying person. Nevertheless, it is still very common that up to 100% of single supplement or single room supplement are charged. Even for real single rooms, which are smaller than double rooms and intended for solo travelers anyways. This leads to the fact that solo travelers either completely renounce to some trips or they turn to private accommodations like for example offered by Airbnb. Or the price for solo travelers for the participation in a round trip is so high that it is not comprehensible also in view of the higher costs due to the single occupation of rooms in the context of a tour.
This is why people traveling alone often feel discriminated if they have to pay more for their vacation just because they don’t have a travel companion.
“The single traveller continues to be largely ignored by mainstream tour operators or forced to pay an unfairly high single supplement.” (The Telegraph, 2015)
“Each year, 9 million American women travel overseas alone. 72% of lady travelers in 2014 were enthusiastic about traveling solo … Over 40% of those surveyed said high cost is the main reason they do not travel solo.” (squeezepod.com, 2015)
Also see Wikipedia on the single supplement.
From the point of view of two travelers sharing a room (or several as part of a round trip), however, it seems fair if they do not pay more in total than solo travelers alone in their own room(s). At least it will be this way if solo travelers have rooms of the same size and equipment available in a hotel or as part of a round trip like those sharing rooms.
Hoteliers, again, often simply think in terms of rooms (and not people) and as already mentioned there are fewer and fewer “single rooms” out there nowadays. Hotels and other accommodations often simply set their prices per room and don’t care if it is used by one or two people (at least in today’s common case of “double rooms”). Rather less often you will encounter price differences depending on whether you want to book the same room for 1 or 2 persons – unless due to additional services such as breakfast, which are usually charged per person.
So, whether single supplements in general or to what extent they are “fair” or “unfair” depends very much on the respective point of view. From a moral point of view, however, one could be in favour of solo travelers not paying more than two travelers per person for rooms (and thus also for round trips etc.). Because on the one hand solo travelers often simply do not have smaller rooms available, which they could select. And on the other hand, solo travelers already have to struggle with additional problems when traveling alone (loneliness, motivation to get out alone, suitable places in restaurants, security, etc.), which is why it would be nice if they would at least not necessarily have to pay more than two travelers per person for the same hotel or the same tour.
A good argument for affordable and suitable offers for solo travelers and singles on the part of hoteliers and tour operators, in addition to the moral reasons mentioned, is that they are an uncomplicated, large and growing target group in front of which they can position themselves in a friendly and profitable way. If solo travelers are offered spacious double rooms or the like (instead of smaller single rooms) at a lower price (in the ideal case completely without single room surcharge, i.e. at half the price), nothing speaks against it from our point of view and probably that of most solo travelers.
Since single used rooms (no matter if smaller or not) will also cause lower “operating costs” and solo travelers can become grateful regular customers (and possible future travelers in pairs), an accommodating friendly price for solo travelers is also economically – and at least morally – worth considering.
In any case, we will advocate for no or only very small, comprehensible single room surcharges for accommodations and tours, or offer these ourselves wherever possible, in the interest of solo travelers.