Photo: A woman biking in Italy

A biker gazes at the Italian town of Assisi from the valley below.

Photograph by Aaron Huey

By Margaret Loftus

Whether you're single or married to a homebody, being a solo traveler on a group trip—where coupledom is often the norm—can leave you feeling like a third, or thirteenth, wheel.  But that's changing as more travelers hit the road by themselves. In 2009, 22.2 million out of 170 million Americans traveling for leisure purposes traveled alone, according to the U.S. Travel Association. As a result, more travel companies are marketing to the solo crowd with offers on everything from dropping the dreaded “single supplement”—a surcharge on top of published double-occupancy rates—to matching single travelers up with like-minded companions.

Tauck World Discovery, for example, has more than 40 tours and cruise departures where the single surcharge is reduced. On top of saving anywhere from about 60 to 80 percent off the normal single supplement, the special pricing virtually guarantees that other solo travelers will be on those trips. Country Walkers offers private tours that can be made up of women only, many of whom are keen to avoid the meat-market mentality of some "singles-only" tours and cruises. Absolute Travel provides a service that pairs compatible clients who would prefer not to take a trip alone. Even adventure outfitters are gearing expeditions to solo travelers: kayak specialist H2Outfitters plans paddling excursions along the coastline of Montenegro for "like-minded singles."

While many singles-only departures aren't intended as matchmaking opportunities, some are. The important thing is to quiz the outfitter. Even for regular departures, a good company should be able provide you with a breakdown of the group by gender, age, singles, and couples. And if you decide to go it alone, ask the operator if it will match you with a roommate to avoid the single-supplement.

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