Taking a Trip with your Gal Pals? Resources for Women’s-Only Travel
By Janine Devine
Now that the United States has three vaccines in distribution, relief seems in-sight. Border closures and travel restrictions are now beginning to lift across the globe. The urge to get out and experience freedom is undeniable.
You might feel entitled to your own getaway, and rightly so! Traveling with friends can be satisfying, empowering, and yes, even a challenging exploration of yourself and your destination.
In the last two decades, the concept of — and products for — women-only travel has seen tremendous growth, but women-only trips are not about the absence of testosterone. They are about sharing similar life experiences and participants explore new ones in a non-competitive environment. We want to help you plan your own.
Here are some travel resources to provide inspiration and illuminate the path to specialty suppliers and support services. On your journey, these will also provide some essential tips on budgeting, gearing up for your escape, and strategies on the ground in your destination. This is by no means an ultimate list, but we’re sure it will start you packing.
Inspiration for Traveling with Friends
Travel blogs, podcasts, guidebooks, and travel guides are great starting points for inspiration and practical information. Now’s the time to fuel your wanderlust by reading and listening to them.
Focus on the destination or region as a first step.
→ Short or lengthy? Deciding on that will help you begin planning and determine how far you wish to travel, to start.
→ International? If you are considering international travel, check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your departure date.
Here are our favorite spots for some women-only travel guidance.
Journeywoman, the first travel website and community for women travelers, is inspiration itself. Since 1994, it has been motivating women to view travel as empowering.
Find whatever you need on everything women-only travel here:
→ smart packing lists
→ tips on where to stay
→ how to make the most of your time
Search for advice on road trips or staycationing if you want to travel with friends in the United States. For international travel, find authentic experiences and insider info for off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Check Journeywoman for Hot Deals with approved suppliers to save money and “native” guides to eat, shop, and get around like a local in many cities.
Go Girl Guides is the first publisher of guidebooks for women travelers. They make books available in digital and print versions. Their books are made for women, by women with a focus on solo female travel but a lot of it will apply to traveling with friends.
The company’s annual conference – Women’s TravelFest will kick your travels, networking, and even business opportunities, up another notch.
Women Who Travel is a series of podcasts curated by Condé Nast Traveler magazine exploring the importance of travel for women, as well as women for travel in the world today, on a personal as well as global scale.
SoloTravelerWorld, while not exclusive for solo female travelers, is a blog founded by two women for taking to the road alone. Everything is from a women’s perspective and has excellent travel tips on budgeting, traveling safely, and organizing meet-ups with other like-minded travelers.
You’ll find insider knowledge from locals in many destinations, insights into buying travel insurance, along with featured experiences from suppliers who don’t impose single supplement fees.
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Booking for Traveling with Friends
You may already be a big fan of Airbnb or Booking.com’s listings of apartment and home rentals or perhaps you’ve already been using a travel agent. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a DIYer but with having to navigate the intricacies of airfare policies, border crossings, and weather conditions that can change on a dime, it often pays to have a qualified travel agent in your back pocket to be your trusted source for travel advice.
Use a Travel Agent
Ask friends or relatives for referrals or check with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which lists their verified travel agents. Although you can’t sort by gender, the listings include pictures and short bios, travel specialties, and continuing education. CTA or CTC appearing after agent names stands for Certified Travel Associate or Certified Travel Consultant and indicates their level of training.
Opt for Women-Only Experiences
Many individual and chain hotels feature floors dedicated to women travelers. Some resorts offer themed weekends like The Resort at Paws Up in Montana. The Wonder Women Series is getaways with food, wine, and, occasionally, cattle rustling for women only.
There are few hotels catering to and staffed solely by women. Most are located in India and the Middle East, but that may change.
A “one to watch” is FemmeBnB, Toronto-based social networking and home-sharing/vacation rental platform. FemmeBnB’s focus is on maximizing safety, peace of mind, and comfort. At the time of publishing, their inventory was limited to a few locations. With any luck, this AirBnB alternative will expand in the future.
AdventureWomen got its start in 1982 and is perhaps the oldest supplier on this list. They offer over 42 small group trips annually, each classified with the particular level of fitness and exertion required for each journey, so guests can determine the most appropriate trip for their needs, one that will challenge but not overwhelm. Enjoy camel-trekking through exotic Morocco, enjoying the spice markets and the flavors of the country’s cuisines while staying in a tented desert camp. Or explore Thailand’s floating markets, take cooking classes, and spend some time caring for elephants at a conservation park.
Canyon Calling has been offering small group adventure tours since 1996. for women of all ages, with domestic and international travel experiences geared toward moderately fit women. Canyon’s package prices are all-inclusive and solo women travelers are not subject to single supplement fees. In the United States, thrill to hiking in the Colorado Rockies and white-water rafting on the Gunnison River, while enjoying farm-to-table dining, microbreweries, and the occasional mineral spa soak.
On the other side of the world, Canyon Calling will have you sailing in New Zealand, sipping local wines, and staying on sheep farms and a traditional Maori homestead. Their maximum group size is 12 women.
Goddess Retreats is an Australia-based tour operator that has been creating “divine” experiences for women in Bali since 2003. Their program focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, with multiple daily offerings of spa treatments, guided meditations, and yoga sessions. Organic gourmet meals and wholesome, sinful snacks are also part of the indulgent packages.
The Travel Divas is an innovative, award-winning, group management company curating and hosting authentic events for women of color since 2007. These are more than mere tours, Travel Divas is a vivacious lifestyle community inspiring women to journey beyond their comfort zones, sprinkling a bit of ‘black girl magic’ around the globe.
Olivia, in operation for over 30 years, is an icon in the travel industry. It caters to the travel needs of women in the LGBTQ+ community. Olivia creates safe and accepting spaces to see the world with its complete buyouts of cruise sailings, resorts, and tours. With Olivia, women can travel in comfort as their authentic selves while they enjoy exclusive experiences, ranging from a week-long stay at a Caribbean all-inclusive resort to an Amazing Amazon Adventure Cruise.
The Women’s Travel Group was started by a New York City-based travel advisor some 29 years ago. Now a part of SITA, a well-known tour operator, owner Phyllis Stoller curates and guides her women-only discoveries of international destinations, including exotic destinations like Bhutan and Nepal or indulgent French journeys including Paris and Loire Valley Chateaux.
Health and Safety
Especially during the ever-changing pandemic situation, it pays to do research and be aware of your destination before you take that trip.
Check Current Global Health Status
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are always great sources of invaluable information and risk assessments.
Register Your Trip
STEP Travel is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service from the United States Department of Consular Affairs, a division of the Department of State. Enroll your upcoming trip; at home, you’ll receive alerts for the country(ies) you have selected and while abroad, your travel details are registered at the nearest US Embassy, should there be any emergencies in the place where you are. STEP can also connect you to your family back home if they need to reach you in an emergency.
Insure Your Tickets
Travel insurance can be the ultimate lifesaver for you and your trip, for injuries, baggage loss, trip interruptions or any variety of circumstances beyond your control. Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive, if somewhat complicated to buy. Your tour operator can often recommend an insurer they partner with.
Fair warning, they will get a commission from your purchase of a policy. Allianz Travel Insurance provides a wide array of coverage plans. Newer firms like World Nomads allow you to purchase insurance when you’re already on the road.
Make It Your Own
Haven’t found what you want from our list? Try thinking out of the box. Many conventional tour operators are including exclusive experiences in their portfolios designed for and led by women.
If you’re looking for something very particular, say touring around the counties in Ireland where your mother’s family originated or exploring spirituality and the earth’s mysteries in Peru?
Discover off-the-beaten-path regions in-depth with specialty educational tour operators like Scholarly Sojourns or Where There Be Dragons.
Create your own group! Minimum sizes for private tours can start at as few as eight participants. Design your own tour, your own way, with a specific destination and theme. Your tour operator will recommend sites to visit, activities to enjoy, and connect you with locals to meet and engage within your destination. Experts like a community leader or academic specialist will lead your tour. These are perfect ways to enjoy and explore transformational experiences with friends or co-workers, the ladies in your yoga class, or with the members of your photography club.
Involve Friends! Exploring a destination on your own or with other women is a rewarding, empowering experience. If this is the first time you’ve considered travel like this, there’s never been a better time to explore yourself and the world as it begins to re-open. To lift a phrase from Goddess Retreats’ site, something wonderful happens when women come together and share their experiences.
Wondering where you can go in the wake of COVID? We’ve rounded up destinations with minimal restrictions to travel.
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