FOR SINGLE SENIORS
More than 16 million Americans over the age of 65 are unmarried, according to the 2010 Census, but you wouldn’t know it by the travel industry’s “double occupancy” default, which often dings solo travelers with punitive surcharges. But there are vacations that waive those fees or offer free roommate-matching services — meaning your single status doesn’t have to deter your wanderlust. “Don’t let age be a reason for losing touch with inherent spirits of adventure and curiosity,” urges Diane Redfern, the Vancouver-based founder of Connecting: Solo Travel Network (cstn.org).
Even Phileas Fogg needed the help of his French valet to pull off his around-the-world-in-80-days jaunt. So if the idea of going it totally solo is a little daunting, consider booking through a tour operator primarily catering to mature singles. With Travel Buddies (800-998-9099; travelbuddiessingletravelclub.ca), a Canadian-based group, you can knock off more than a dozen foreign ports by splurging on its upcoming 27-day “Bucket List” cruise from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Venice, starting at $6,144; other trips have a more modest price tag. Overseas Adventure Travel (800-955-1925; oattravel.com) has just waived single supplements (the fee charged to vacationers traveling alone) for all its upcoming small-group trips to far-flung lands, from Mongolia to Morocco.
Ever dreamed of floating down the Danube? A riverboat cruise offers an intimate setting for seasoned singles to make connections — with dozens rather than thousands of fellow passengers — while seeing inland treasures from castles to cathedrals. Plus, hoping to encourage bookings, several cruise operators, such as Tauck (800-788-0080; tauck.com) and Boston-based Grand Circle Cruise Line (800-221-2610; gct.com), have either waived or reduced single supplements on their 2013 European river cruises.
Even the most happy-go-lucky single can suffer a stab of loneliness come the holidays. Instead, spend Thanksgiving — or, better yet, Valentine’s Day — partying with other 50-plus singles on a Caribbean getaway organized by Singles Travel International (877-765-6874; singlestravelintl.com). Or, instead of humming “Auld Lang Syne,’’ ring in the New Year while on the company’s trip to Ecuador, rapids-rafting included.
If you’re a woman of a certain age, you might appreciate the Cougar Cruise, connecting older women and the younger men who favor them. The five-night mid-December cruise on the Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas is cosponsored by the Singles Travel Company (408-449-5118; singlestravelcompany.com) and the Society for Single Professionals, and departs from Tampa with stops in Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico. Seven Wonders Solos (408-705-4127; singleandsolotravel.com), a travel company offering trips to singles over 40, hosts a cruise in February on the Star Princess sailing around Cape Horn, with an optional on-land excursion to Peru’s Machu Picchu.
For a vacation that stretches your brain rather than just your pocketbook, discover Boston-based Road Scholar (800-454-5768; roadscholar.org), a nonprofit run by Elderhostel Inc. With about 6,500 programs, all helpfully ranked by physical activity level, you can try your hand at watercolor painting in Sedona, Arizona, or birding in Cape May, New Jersey. Better yet, pay no single supplement and spend two weeks next year studying ancient Mayan culture in Central America. (Assuming, of course, those December 2012 doomsday predictions fail to come through.)
FOR GAYS & LESBIANS
A gay-friendly vacation can mean a same-sex couple need not endure being quizzed at check-in about their request for a double bed. Or it can mean a resort that caters exclusively to gays and lesbians. Knowing this demographic is more likely than the overall US population to have a passport and actually use it, mainstream companies from Delta to DoubleTree have launched programs to attract these vacationers. “We’ve seen a huge increase in both gay- and lesbian-owned and -friendly accommodations,” says J. Scott Coatsworth of the San Francisco-based website PurpleRoofs.com. “We’re closing in on 5,000 listings now — and they’re popping up in unexpected places, including China, India, Russia, Zambia, Kenya, and more.”
Small towns and more
You’d expect to find hotels catering to gay vacationers in Palm Springs and P-town. But how about Eureka Springs, Arkansas? In fact, this tiny Ozarks hamlet boasts a sizable gay community and the Magnetic Valley Resort (479-253-0200; magneticvalleyresort.com), a clothing-optional getaway for men. Also off the beaten track: New Hope, Pennsylvania, which marks its 10th annual Pride Week & Parade in May with a mile-long rainbow flag borrowed from sister city Key West. Stay and play at The Raven (215-862-2081; theravennewhope.com), a 10-room inn whose Oak Room bar offers male revues and a Lipstick Mondays drag show and where a Sunday afternoon Tea Dance is held on the deck. If an all-inclusive mega-resort is more your scene, Atlantis Events (800-628-5268; atlantisevents.com) has reserved Club Med Cancun for its gay and lesbian vacationers the last week in April.
New York may now have THE OUT NYC (212-947-2999; theoutnyc.com), the city’s first hotel catering to same-sex travelers, as well as established gay-friendly attractions, but Las Vegas is nipping at the Big Apple’s heels. This fall, Sin City saw its first Gay Days (888-942-9329; gaydays.com), a collection of parties and outings that has been held annually in Orlando for years. In December, an 80,000-square-foot disco called Krave Massive (702-836-0830; kravemassive.com) and touted as the world’s biggest gay nightclub should open in Las Vegas; it joins Drink & Drag (702-489-3724; drinkanddrag.com), a bowling alley staffed by drag queens that launched this year.
In February, Atlantis Events (800-628-5268; atlantisevents.com) will take over Royal Caribbean’s 3,700-passenger Independence of the Seas for an eight-night Caribbean cruise catering to gay men. Meanwhile, Olivia (800-631-6277; olivia.com) serves the female market, with two southern Caribbean trips in January and February marking its 40th anniversary.
The party/festival circuit can keep your calendar hopping. Around Thanksgiving is Miami’s long-running White Party Week (305-576-1234; whiteparty.org), offering pool parties, dances, and other events. Then head to the slopes in January for Aspen Gay Ski Week (866-564-8398; gayskiweek.com), featuring hot tub parties, costume races, and more. In February, go down under when Sydney’s Mardi Gras (mardigras.org.au) celebrates its 35th year with an entire month of festivities.
With a fifth of same-sex couples now braving parenthood, savvy vacation outlets are starting to cater to the kiddie crowd. New York-based trip operator R Family Vacations (917-522-0985; rfamilyvacations.com) organizes summer camp experiences at Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, and Wonder Valley Ranch Resort in Sanger, California. Or, how about the Happiest Place on Earth? Though not sanctioned by Walt’s people, Gay Days (888-942-9329; gaydays.com) at Orlando’s Disney World is one of the country’s largest pride events, attracting more than 160,000 guests. It will be held May 28 to June 3 in 2013; expect to see a sea of participants’ red shirts at the Main Street USA parade and beyond.
BY THE NUMBERS
> Top US destinations for LGBT travelers
1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Las Vegas
Source: Community Marketing Inc.
Melissa Schorr is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.