Solo travellers can get a lot from tours, says Eli Orzessek.
I would like to head away overseas for a significant birthday but most of my friends either have their trips planned or no money or dates that don't gel with mine so I am thinking of going on my own.
Any ideas on Contiki tours/cruises for middle-aged people travelling on their own as everything seems to be based on "share twin". I'm not looking for a "singles" cruise, just like-minded travellers going solo.
The main way to avoid solo supplements is to share a room with someone else on the tour - that's the way it's done with Contiki. I wouldn't balk too much at sharing a room with a stranger. Most of the time, you're doing so much during the day that you're likely to fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow. And you might end up with an interesting new friend as well.
For example, Topdeck have no extra charge, but they'll assign you a roommate. Insight Vacations offer no solo supplement on some trips, while others are heavily discounted.
Intrepid won't charge you extra if you share a room, while Trafalgar offers discounts on single supplements - some up to 100 per cent.
I asked my contact at House of Travel whether they have any recommendations for tour companies particularly well-suited to solo travel.
They suggested Innovative Travel's Travel Companions Clubs for something a little bit different. The Travel Companions Club does have a singles supplement, but they think it would fit your criteria well. Some House of Travel stores also offer a pairing service, where they can pair you with like-minded travellers to avoid the singles supplement altogether.
Before you choose a company, make sure you're in the target audience to guarantee a good fit - pictures from previous tours should give you a good impression. I also look for companies that use local guides - it's the best way to learn about a place.
As for cruising, I covered this last year. Royal Caribbean's Ovation and Anthem of the Seas both have single cabins, at no extra cost. P&O also offer single cabins aboard a number of ships in the fleet, including Arcadia and Britannia. On Cunard, single statesrooms haverecently been added to the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary II.
Norwegian, Holland America, Costa and Crystal Cruises also cater well to single passengers, and as far as river cruising goes, Avalon sometimes offers deals for solo travellers with no single supplement.
I hope you find something that takes your fancy - and perhaps our well-travelled readers will be able to suggest some other companies.
Lucy Patterson, a frequent traveller to Vietnam, wrote in to recommend the website vietnamvisachoice.com for getting a pre-approval letter for a visa on arrival. Several readers recommend the visa on arrival over getting one from the embassy before you go.
However, Jayne Richardson said her son flew to Vietnam with Malaysia Airlines earlier this month and was told he wasn't allowed on the plane without a visa (or perhaps the pre-approval letter), but managed to sort it via Flight Centre at the airport.
Lisa Burgi wrote in to tell about an experience she had with over-booking flights. Last year, her party was told at Dubai Airport their Emirates flight was overbooked during a stopover to Zurich. "We persisted in asking nicely to be put on the plane but it wasn't going to happen, which resulted in approximately eight hours hanging around Dubai airport.
"The lady at the counter looked very harassed by people many going off at her ... I believe due to our calm demeanour, she said she'd compensate us with free adult flights from Auckland to Zurich (four of us) to be used within a year."
That's a pretty generous compensation - I'd be happy to be bumped for that.