Solo travel tips and deals to consider amid COVID-19

Solo travel offers a fringe benefit: It allows you to be selfish. You can do whatever you want whenever you want.

Hmmm … that sounds a lot like our current lifestyle in quarantine. Want to eat lunch at 4 p.m.? Do it. Want to skip the workout and watch TV instead? Why not? There’s no one around to shame you.

Social distancing — especially for singles — can be a lonely proposition. But it also reaffirms some of the benefits of being alone. You don’t have to worry about someone else’s sleep schedule, hourlong baths or habit of leaving pistachio shells everywhere.

Perhaps those are reasons solo travel is expanding despite the coronavirus’ overall effect on the travel landscape. Going it alone has definite pluses, and tour operators are seeing an uptick in solo-cation bookings. Granted, many of the trips are six months or more in the future, but companies report a definite trend. And they’re adding perks to sweeten the deal.

The bargains are all over the map, literally, and appeal to a wide range of travelers. There are camping deals for solos; mini-tours for beginning travelers ages 18 to 29; bike tours for cyclists who delight in hitting back roads; and European odysseys for people who have missed the cities, museums and rivers of the Continent.

Overseas Adventure Travel, known for its small-group tours, has seen solo bookings mushroom, with more than 24,000 single travelers signed on for 2021. Chief Executive Brian Fitzgerald attributes the surge to pent-up demand for travel and notes that he’s not surprised because “solo travelers tend to be resilient and independent.”

The organization has boosted availability for singles by 76% over 2019 and is offering many low-cost single supplements, the bane of solo travelers, or waiving them altogether. The supplement is a premium charge that tour companies or cruise lines levy on singles because they’re the sole occupant of a room.

But the pandemic’s fallout has erased some single supplements. Even Cox & Kings, one of the oldest premium tour companies in the world, has eliminated some of its extra charges for singles after conducting a May survey that indicated its clients were clamoring for solo opportunities. “The market,” said spokeswoman Sue Livsey, “is very, very robust.” Among the tours without a supplement is a Panama and Costa Rica adventure.

That means travelers can find good deals by shopping for tour operators and cruise providers that waive the single supplement, offer smaller rooms or help you find a roommate.

One place to start is the website Solo Traveler, which features tours, cruises and other travel products for singles. The site emphasizes tour companies that have no or low (less than 20%) single supplements, said Tracey Nesbitt, the editor. Listings are updated monthly and emailed to 55,000 subscribers.

Current deals include:

  • Colorado River rafting trip, Holiday River Expeditions. Six days from $1,135; no single supplement. Various dates in 2021.
  • Utah Explorer, Active Adventures. Six days from $2,898; 50% single-supplement discount for Solo Traveler readers.
  • Women in Wine, Napa & Sonoma, Girls’ Guide to Paris. Five days from $4,375; no single supplement. Feb. 19-23.

Nesbitt is a confirmed solo traveler herself. “I learned right away, on my first international trip with a friend, that traveling on my own would be my preference going forward. The freedom to do and see what I want; to change plans on a dime if I discover something new along the way; to learn about myself and what I am capable of — this is what I love about solo travel.”

Besides overseeing the website, Nesbitt moderates the Solo Travel Society Facebook page, which has more than a quarter of a million followers — nearly half of whom are millennials, Nesbitt said.

”Our readers are itching to get out there again as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. For now, the focus may be on domestic travel, or saving for bigger bucket list or luxury trips, but many are expecting to return to international travel next year.”

The pandemic, of course, put everything on hold. But solo travel was gaining in popularity even before the coronavirus hit. The last few years were good ones for singles, with tour companies and cruise lines starting to reduce single-supplement charges.

A few river cruise lines offer such deals, including AmaWaterways, which has a solo travelers special with 25% to 50% off single supplements. In addition, the line has some single-occupancy staterooms that require no supplement payment.

Riviera River Cruises is taking its program one step further: The line is eliminating all couples from eight European cruises planned for 2021. All cabins and suites on the ships will be filled by solo travelers. Instead of 169 passengers, the ships will carry 88. And solos won’t have to pay a single supplement.

Here’s a sampling of some other travel deals offered by companies that specialize in solo travel:

  • Eighteen-year-old to 30-something novices can explore the West on a road trip from L.A. to San Diego, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, Ariz. They’ll also hit the hills and cable cars of San Francisco with G Adventures on this weeklong trip for $1,002 per person; single supplement $199.
  • Bike fans can challenge themselves to pedal across Death Valley on an eight-day van-supported spring tour with, encountering acres of wildflowers, shifting sand dunes and desert mountain ranges. $1,499 per person; no supplement.
  • Millennials who want to see some of the nation’s great cities can take an Intrepid Travel tour from the Big Apple to the Big Easy — New York City to New Orleans — by way of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. From $1,629; single supplement $210.

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Hotel deals and safety tips for coronavirus era road trips

That great American tradition, the road trip, has come roaring back. And California’s hotels are offering special deals to help: free-night stays, food and beverage credits and room upgrades. One is even offering guests a $300 case of wine and spirits for staying two nights.

To seal the deal, the facilities are coupling the promotions with stringent new COVID-19 sanitation policies, hoping to assure guests that rigorous steps are being taken to protect their health.

But do you want to risk it?

Huntington Beach residents Randy and Mary Johnson decided the answer was yes. Their grandson Beau was turning 4 in Seattle, and the Johnsons didn’t want to miss it. Plus, they desperately needed a travel break.

But the couple didn’t want to fly. Instead. they hit the road and put their medical training to work; he’s a physician, she’s a nurse.

“We looked like crazy people at the hotels we stopped at,” said Mary. “We took a bucket of cleaning supplies into every hotel room we stayed in and immediately cleaned any surface we would touch: the remote, the nightstands, the bathroom faucets.

“I was totally over the top,” she said. “I even brought our own sheets.”

Hoteliers might say her vigilance was unnecessary. But given the virus’ continued spread, feeling safe is important.

Of course, the safest thing to do is stay home; California discourages nonessential travel.

But experts say staying in a hotel is relatively safe if you take precautions. Rankings published by the Texas Medical Assn. rate staying at a hotel as riskier than visiting a grocery store but safer than visiting a beach or attending a backyard barbecue.

It’s important to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and state officials, wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain social distancing. Avoid elevators, lobbies and other public areas, and ask for a room that has been unoccupied for a few days, if possible.

And make sure you find a great deal before leaving home.

The coast

Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, a newly renovated historical hotel on Catalina Island

Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, a newly renovated historical hotel on Catalina Island, is one of 15 island hotels offering a third-night-free special this summer.

(Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel)

Cool off in the San Diego area on the 15-acre peninsula that’s home to Loews Coronado Resort. Tap into the hotel’s “Park. Play. Extend Your Stay” rate for a weekday price that starts at $199 or a weekend rate of $219. Lucky you: The package includes free parking, a daily $25 food and beverage credit, a room upgrade and 4 p.m. late checkout. Taking the kids? A different Loews Coronado deal offers a second room for 50% off. You’ll also find summer deals at Loews hotels in Santa Monica and Hollywood.

On Catalina Island, more than a dozen hotels are taking part in a third-night-free deal. You’ll have to ditch the car and hitch a ride on IEX Helicopters ($298 round trip) or on a ferry such as Catalina Express ($75 round trip). But rates start at $109 a night midweek. Two to try: Hotel Atwater (from $279 per night) and Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel (from $250 per night). Both recently reopened after major renovations.

Palm Springs

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa

Get a hot deal in the Palm Springs area at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa.

(Greater Palm Springs CVB)

Hot deals are a natural here during the summer. Check out the Greater Palm Springs website to find 25%-off deals, third-night-free bargains and easy room upgrades.

Or book the Saguaro Palm Springs, where August travelers will find weekday rates starting at $89 per night and weekend rates from $149. The promo code is CALOCAL.

Looking for something higher-end? Check out the tony JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, reopening Aug. 31, where you can save 33% by staying three nights (pssst … that’s one night free). Weekday rates start at $174; weekends at $247. The promo code is P50; the rate is good through Dec. 31.

Santa Barbara

It’s hard to find a good deal in this slice of paradise. Hotels such as the Rosewood Miramar Beach tout specials that start at $996 per night.

There are options for budget travelers. The original Motel 6, for instance, which opened in Santa Barbara in 1962, has rates that start at substantially less than $200. A plus: Rooms were recently renovated.

You can find other deals on Visit Santa Barbara’s special offers web page, where the Santa Barbara Hotel Group lists many midweek rates less than $200 per night.

Central & Northern California

Pacifica Hotels, with more than 25 locations from San Francisco to San Diego, has launched a 30%-off Discover California special. This hotel group is a favorite with folks traveling to the Central Coast; it has several small hotels in beautiful Cambria with weekday rates from $138 to $189 and weekend rates from $209 to $258. California residents who book before Aug. 31 receive 30% with promo code CARES. And you can stay any time before Dec. 31.

If you’d like to try something different on a trip north, book a couple of nights at AutoCamp Airstream trailer parks in Midpines, near Yosemite National Park, or in Guerneville on the Russian River.

Airstream trailer at Auto Camp Yosemite

Go glamping in a custom-built Airstream trailer at Auto Camp Yosemite.

(Aaron Leitz)

The luxe parks feature custom-built, tricked-out trailers that appeal to people captivated by quirky chic or midcentury design. And there are spa-like bathrooms, Tempur-Pedic mattresses and luxury bedding. Visitors usually pay $500 or more per night in the summer. The Auto Camp Summer Road Trip Package is from $299 per night with a two-night minimum and runs through Oct. 31.

How about taking home a free case of wine and beer after your next Napa Valley visit? The case, estimated to be worth $300, is an amenity available to guests at Vista Collina Resort, which has nine on-site tasting rooms.

The package, which includes a stay in a luxury suite, has a downside: You must stay two nights; the rate per night starts at $529. Or skip the free wine and stay at the Tuscan-style resort for as little as $272 per night.

Either way, you’ll find lots of space to make it easy to socially distance, said David Ryan, managing director.

“The big advantage we have is that we sit on 40 acres of land, so the opportunity to have a getaway with peace of mind is easy.”

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Pandemic-era airfare deals harder to find as vaccines boost travel

Manhattan art gallery partner Axel Katz found himself with far more free time than usual when his Dacia Gallery temporarily closed in March 2020 and he recovered from COVID-19 soon after. The 27-year-old filled the void that followed by traveling to destinations both domestic and abroad, scouring the internet for extreme airfare deals that started popping up during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The low airfares he paid were almost as memorable as the sights he saw. In May 2020, Katz flew roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles for roughly $150. In January 2021, he purchased a $34 roundtrip ticket from New York to Naples, Florida. 

Katz estimated he’s taken nine trips in the past year, at times enjoying perks including entire rows of seats to himself as tourism vaporized. “I’ve never travelled this much in any other 12-month period,” he said. 

Axel Katz, a partner in Dacia Gallery in New York, took advantage of rock-bottom airfares to travel widely during the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve never travelled this much in any other 12-month period,” he said. 

Courtesy of Axel Katz

Today, empty planes and rock-bottom airfares are harder to come by as more Americans get vaccinated and reacquaint themselves with air travel. The accelerating vaccine rollout has also coincided with spring breaks and summer vacation planning, leading many Americans to online booking websites. Airlines are finding they no longer have to slash prices quite so heavily to draw leisure travelers. 

“The deals between Thursday and Monday are not significantly better than they normally would be this time of year,” said Bob Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Company, an airline industry consulting firm. 

“There is still discounting out there,” Mann added, “especially for mid-week travel, which is normally where business travelers are but they aren’t now [with in-person business meetings still largely on hold].”

Busiest travel day of the year

Still, Americans who’ve been cooped up for more than a year, including college students, are now eager for recreational travel. Miami’s popular party destination South Beach was overtaken by such large crowds of spring breakers that the city of Miami Beach on March 20 declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (The curfew was extended this week.)

Miami Beach imposes emergency curfew amid par…


The number of travelers passing through airports each day is ticking up, too. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1.5 million passengers Sunday, making it the busiest travel day of 2021 for the U.S., according to CBS News transportation correspondent Errol Barnett. 

The number of airline passengers has exceeded 1 million for 11 straight days, according to the TSA, Barnett reported. That’s despite recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against traveling, and suggestions for Americans to delay trips or at east get vaccinated before traveling. 

Fares no longer dirt-cheap, but still low

Industry analysts say airfares have been inching upward since last month, as vulnerable groups of Americans gained access to the vaccine and COVID-19 business restrictions began to loosen.

Travel expert and Harrell Associates founder Bob Harrell, who tracks airline-pricing trends, said “shockingly low” pandemic fares are rising again as “leisure travelers come out of their holes, get vaccines, and starting moving around and going on spring break.”

“As demand finds its way into the market, the airlines are increasing prices,” Harrell told CBS MoneyWatch. 

The average minimum domestic leisure fare — meaning the cheapest available one-way ticket price on the market — across 300 different routes for the week of March 16, 2020, was $52, according to Harrell’s analysis, based on data from airlines and online booking sites. That rose 14% this year to $59 for the week of March 15, 2021.

Gas prices rise as travel increases across U….


Fares have been rising steadily by the week, too. That $59 low represents a 6% jump from $56 — the lowest average fare for the week of March 8.

For a week in mid-March in 2020, the lowest available one-way fare from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas to San Jose International Airport in California was a mere $84. A year later, the lowest available fare for the same route is already in the triple digits — an increase of 33% to $112. The lowest one-way rate for a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Orlando, Florida, has also jumped, from $18 to $34 over the course of a year, according to Harrell’s analysis. 

While fares are starting to rise across the online booking site Expedia, they have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. “Airfare prices are still lower overall compared to 2019,” a company spokesperson said. 

Currently, prices for mid-April, one-way flights from New York City to Orlando on Expedia start at around $230, compared to an average price of $300 for the same route in 2019. 

“It’s worth noting that we are seeing airlines respond to the increased demand, so these lower prices aren’t likely to last too much longer, especially for popular destinations and routes,” the Expedia spokesperson said.

Last call for low fares

Despite signs of life in the tourism industry, data from fare aggregator Kayak show it’s still a good time to save money on travel, even if airfares are starting to rise. Searches for summer travel have been increasing by up to 27% each week since the beginning of the month, according to a Kayak spokesperson. 

The search site recommends that travelers book trips now to lock in relatively low fares before the travel industry rebounds in earnest. Its data already show an average monthly price increase of 7% for the 100 most-searched destinations from the U.S. Prices for flights to Destin, Florida, for example, the site’s top trending destination for summer travel, are up 60% this year.

For a sweet deal, consider Mexico, Kayak suggests. Average prices on flights to Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Mexico City are still down at least 15%.

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Holidays: Experts predict holidays to resume by spring – but warn cheap deals may run out | Travel News

Holidays: Experts predict holidays to resume by spring – but warn cheap deals may run out | Travel News | Travel » TechnoCodex

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Here’s a roundup of top-notch travel deals, whether you’d rather staycation in Alaska or venture abroad

We’re in between the two tallest pillars of the retail universe: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And many travelers are itching to go somewhere.

It’s a delicate balance for travel companies offering deals, though. Coaxing travelers to fly, to sail or to stay somewhere when COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in many communities is challenging for companies. After all, there’s still no vaccine to fight the coronavirus and preventive measures — masks, physical distancing and hand-washing — can be difficult to enforce.

Also, each state or country has its own protocols for entry, which may include advance testing, quarantine on arrival, or both. And those entry requirements change all the time.

So this week, travelers who are shopping for deals are betting on a vaccine and for improved testing and mitigation conditions in 2021. Feeling lucky?

The Alaska Collection by Pursuit is offering a 40% off sale for 2021 adventures here in Alaska. This includes Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, Denali Backcountry Adventures and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

My favorite boat ride in Seward is the six-hour “National Park Cruise,” which departs Seward’s small boat harbor, heads out Resurrection Bay and rounds the corner to visit Aialik Bay. Regular price for the cruise is $169, plus tax, and lunch on board is included. Cruises start on May 1, 2021. The sale price using the code CYBER40 is $112, and there’s no discount on the taxes.

Major Marine Tours also is offering a 40% off sale for its cruises in Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park.

If you want to stay overnight in Seward, which is a good idea, stay at the Seward Windsong Lodge. The hotel opens May 14 and the sale pricing brings the cost down from $179 to $107 per night. Use the discount code CYBER40.

Up in Talkeetna, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is opening for spring break starting on March 6, 2021. The rooms are much cheaper, and the snow will be ideal for skiing, cycling or snowmachining. The regular price is $129 per night, but the sale price is $77 per night. When the lodge reopens for the summer season on May 15, 2021, the rates go up to $229 per night. Using that same discount code brings that down to $137 per night, plus tax.

At Denali National Park, the company Pursuit offers a daily tour from the park entrance all the way back to Kantishna, at the end of the 92-mile park road. The Denali Backcountry Adventure tour includes a meal at the end of the road at Denali Backcountry Lodge. Very few travelers get this far back in the park. It’s a great opportunity to get the perfect shot of Denali, with Wonder Lake in the foreground.

Denali is reflected in a small pond just east of Wonder Lake in Denali National Park on August 23, 2006. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

Usually, the bus tour is $199 per person, but the sale price — including the $15 Denali National Park fee — is $134.40. The discount code is a little different: CYBER40DBA. The tour leaves from Denali Cabins, located 8 miles south of the park entrance. However, the bus will pick you up at other hotels or campsites.

Denali Cabins consists of 46 individual cedar cabins. Usually, the summertime rate is $169 per night, plus tax. But using the CYBER40 discount code, the cost comes down to $101 per night.

There are other Black Friday sales for hotels, but none caught my eye like Fairmont Hotels. I got on their mailing list after staying at their beautiful hotel Chateau Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park.

This is a big hotel in a spectacular setting. The rate when we stayed there was more than $500 per night. I used some credit card points there, as well as at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge farther north on the Icefield Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

Of course, both of these hotels are off-limits to us right now, since the Canadians don’t want visiting Americans to potentially spread COVID-19.

But Fairmont has some beautiful hotels around the world, including the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. I checked the sale price for a stay in January: $185 per night. The Kea Lani resort in Maui also is a Fairmont resort, but I could not find a date where the Black Friday discount would work. The rack rates started at more than $500 per night.

It’s worth surfing around the Fairmont site to see if there’s a property that works for you in Chicago, California’s Sonoma County or Scottsdale, Arizona.

A view of the Hurtigruten’s vessel MS Roald Amundsen, docked in Tromso, Norway, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. (Terje Pedersen/NTB scanpix via AP)

One cruise company that stood out, though, is Hurtigruten. This Norwegian company has the craziest itineraries: around Iceland, to Antarctica and to Greenland. They also offer some itineraries around the coast of South America, in the Caribbean and in Alaska.

There were a few airfare specials on various airlines, but none here in Alaska. Sometimes, when there are no super-specials from Alaska, you have to cobble together a ticket to San Francisco or Los Angeles, along with a ticket to your final destination.

Cathay Pacific has some good Black Friday deals for travel starting in April. So, clearly, they’re banking that travelers will be allowed to visit by then. Here are some of the best rates:

• San Francisco-Taipei: $475 round trip

• Los Angeles/San Francisco-Ho Chi Minh City: $480 round trip

• Los Angeles-Manila: $469 round trip

• Los Angeles-Denpasar, Bali: $474 round trip

Other destinations also are available, including Tokyo and Singapore. But at this time, American citizens are not allowed to visit. Travelers on Cathay Pacific can earn Alaska Airlines miles.

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