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Make mine a single, please

Like to go your own way? Elderhostel and rail trips are among the options that won't break the bank.

October 26, 2008|Jane Engle | Engle is a Times staff writer.

About a quarter of Americans took a leisure trip by themselves in the last year, according to the latest annual survey by Ypartnership/Yankelovich Inc. Yet most of the travel industry seems as geared toward couples as Noah's Ark.

Solo sojourners typically get charged for two to stay alone in a room. On cruises and tours, thanks to single supplements, they may pay hundreds or even thousands more than the standard price.

So, it's extra hard for a single traveler to stick to a budget. But here are five suggestions. (These trips are examples; prices and availability may change.)

Pursue your passion: Chances are, you'll find like-minded people.

Lifelong learners age 55 and older might consider Boston-based Elderhostel, which runs educational tours in the U.S. and abroad. Among them is a five-night "San Antonio [Texas]: History, Culture and Traditions," starting at $729 per person, double, or $979 with single supplement, including lodging, lectures, field trips and most meals but not airfare; many dates.

For lovers of the outdoors, the Sierra Club organizes dozens of U.S. trips for less than $1,000, such as a week of skiing and snowshoeing near Truckee, Calif., starting March 22.

Go on a cruise: Surprised? Even with single supplements, cruises can be economical because fares have fallen. And with hundreds of fellow passengers and dozens of daily activities, you're unlikely to get lonely or bored.

Fares for a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise from San Diego on Holland America Line recently started at $680, including fees and taxes, or less than $100 per day. That was a good deal. But even at $1,179, the price with a single supplement, it was $168 a day.

Only a handful of lines, such as Britain's Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, offer single-occupancy cabins, said Diane Redfern, a travel writer in Gibsons, Canada, who runs a website for singles, Connecting Solo Travel Network,

Guaranteed shares, in which cruise lines assign you a cabin mate, are also getting rare, Redfern added. But some travel agents and tour organizers, such as Florida-based Singles Travel International, can help match you up with compatible companions.

Ride the rails: On the train, it's easy to meet other travelers. Or you can keep to yourself, reading and watching the landscape. For a weeklong whistle-stop adventure that can cost less than $1,000, fly from Los Angeles to Seattle and take Amtrak's scenic Coast Starlight south, stopping for a day or two in Portland, Ore., Sacramento and San Francisco (via Oakland).

Overnight at hostels, often a short walk or bus ride from downtown rail stations. Dorm beds can cost as little as $20 per night. Many hostels also have private rooms, which, while more expensive than the dorm, can be cheaper than staying at a hotel.

You'll face one overnight on the train, and a decision: Should you buy a sleeper? Here's where you suffer as a single. You'll pay twice as much because they're priced for two. Consider snoozing in your seat instead.

Another downside is that long-distance trains often run late, so don't count on a tight schedule.

Lend a hand: Volunteer vacations can be good for the soul and the pocketbook. Expect to work hard during the day and share a room at night. But in your free time, you can explore often-scenic destinations.

The nonprofit Habitat for Humanity could use you to build housing for the needy. Upcoming trips include Honduras (March 7 to 15, $1,265 plus air).

The nonprofit Global Volunteers, based in St. Paul., Minn., offers opportunities in 20 countries and the U.S., such as renovating homes and tutoring youth in West Virginia ($995, plus airfare, for a week; many dates).

Take a day trip: This is the cheapest option. And when you go it alone, you can be spontaneous about when you leave and where you stop.

Southern California's beaches are the envy of the world. When was the last time you visited one?

Explore the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles, the Little India area of Artesia or Antique Row along Sherman Way in Canoga Park.

The Los Angeles Conservancy offers walking tours of historic neighborhoods and landmarks starting at $10 ($5 for members).

You may find your own backyard is fascinating.


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