When it comes to travel, one doesn't have to be the loneliest number.
At least that's what Konnie How ard, a 40-year-old Orlando, Fla., office manager, would like to think. But since a divorce three years ago, she hasn't traveled as often as she would like. "I don't enjoy traveling alone," she said, "and the extra charges for singles can be very expensive."
We asked several experts to advise Ms. Howard, who said she likes cruises, and can be "very flexible" about a traveling companion:
* Eleanor Berman, author of "Traveling on Your Own," a book with extensive information on travel resources for single people, said Ms. Howard should try to look at singlehood as an advantage. "Now you have the opportunity to plan a trip in which all you have to do is please yourself," she said.
Travel-matching groups can help singles find trip companions, Ms. Berman said. One of the most well-established is Travel Companion Exchange, an 11-year-old group with more than 5,000 members across the United States, most of whom are age 40 or older. The group uses a "personals" system for matching people for platonic or romantic vacations. It's a good idea to get ++ to know each other via a short trip or visit before taking a big excursion, Ms. Berman suggested.
Singles should focus less on coupling and more on making friends, Ms. Berman said.
"Do something you think is interesting, in a place that you would like to go to, with a small group," she advised. "Then you have got a common ground. You are sharing an experience. A bond forms. You're making mistakes, doing dumb things together. How can you not get to know each other?"
* "Go to a place where there are like-minded people," said Dianne Seidler, a travel agent at Zenith Travel in Orlando, Fla., who advises single travelers.
All-inclusive resorts are a good value for singles and sometimes have special programs, she said. Club Med locations in Cancun and Martinique are good singles destinations, she said, and have low single-accommodations supplements of 10 percent to 20 percent.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are good times to find other single people traveling, said Ms. Seidler. She recommends a Dec. 19-26 cruise from Miami aboard the 1,000-passenger Caribe. The "singles-only" sailing will have special activities and stop at Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios and Blue Lagoon Island. Rates are $665 to $1,745 per person, double occupancy.
For more adventurous clients, Ms. Seidler recommends Galivanting, a New York singles tour operator for ages 25 to 55. The company has a wide range of exotic tours for "older, more upscale" travelers, she said. Costs range from $994 per person for a four-day Utah trip to $2,995 for a 13-day trip to Kenya.
* "If you are expecting to meet Mr. or Ms. Right for a long-term relationship [on a singles trip], you are going to be disappointed," said Randy Russell, managing director of Singleworld, a company that has been offering singles cruises jTC and tours for more than 35 years. "Maybe for the week it happens. Go to have a great time and meet interesting people."
Mr. Russell was once a cruise director for Singleworld, which books blocks of rooms on more than 700 cruises each year and provides a significant amount of social lubrication -- including cocktail parties and excursions -- to help break the ice for the travelers.
Galivanting, 515 E. 79th St., Suite 20F, New York, N.Y. 10021; (800) 933-9699 or (212) 988-0617.
Singleworld, P.O. Box 1999, Rye, N.Y. 10580; (800) 223-6490. Catalog is free, membership is $25 per year.
"Traveling on Your Own," by Eleanor Berman (Clarkson N. Potter, $12.95), available at bookstores or by phone, (800) 733-3000.
` --Orlando Sentinel