'Women-Only' Trips Represent a Growing Travel Trend
Benefits include 'no primping' and 'a different level of bonding'
“Girlfriend Getaways” to spas, all-inclusive resorts or gambling meccas have long appealed to women who enjoy traveling with female friends and family members. More recently, though, groups of women are heading out to ride horses in Mongolia, learn burlesque dance moves in Paris or go on a photo safari in Tanzania.
On some trips, participants also get to know local residents. “A growing array of women-only tours, particularly to the Middle East, Asia and Africa, are giving Western participants a behind-the-scenes look at how local women live and work in societies quite different than their own,” reports Skift, a firm that “deciphers and defines global travel trends.”
Often, the travelers are women of a certain age. Barbara Rivera, 71, signed up for a women-only dog-sledding trip along the north shore of Lake Superior with Adventures in Good Company, based in Baltimore.
"A lot of the women who go with us are widowed or divorced, or they don't have friends who can travel. But they are still open to new experiences, and they want adventures and challenges."
“I’ve traveled with women-only groups and with mixed groups, and I’ve found that couples don’t always integrate well with other participants,” says Rivera, a retired banking executive from the Chicago area who recently moved to Blairsville, Ga. “Also, on women-only trips, it’s not a competitive environment. There’s no primping, and everybody seems more like themselves. It’s just more comfortable.”
We had to ask: Was dog-sledding comfortable?
“It was spectacular. We had a full day outside in sub-zero temperatures, but we broke trail in fresh snow, with no evidence of anyone having been there before us,” Rivera says. “I was excited to be in such a beautiful environment.”
Tour Companies Now Focus on Trips for Women ‘More Thoughtfully’
Marian Marbury, 67, founded Adventures in Good Company some 20 years ago, and her company has always specialized in women-only trips. “These trips are not at all about the absence of men,” she says. “They are about women being with women, enjoying the companionship. The connections that women form are significantly deeper than on mixed trips.”
Itineraries planned for, and led by, women are “more an enduring trend” than ever, Marbury adds. “That’s because companies — even the big players in adventure travel — now are focusing on trips for women more thoughtfully than they once did.”
Marbury’s company offers more than 80 trips to destinations around the world, and most of her clients are between their mid-40s to late-60s, “with a fair representation of women in their seventies and eighties,” she says. “A lot of the women who go with us are widowed or divorced, or they don’t have friends who can travel. But they still are open to new experiences, and they want adventures and challenges.”
Some Travelers Want Workshops; Others Seek Out Retreats
Sometimes, women also want to learn something.
The founder and creator of “Go! Girl Guides” and the annual Women’s Travel Fest in New York City, Kelly Lewis also is the CEO of Damesly, which she launched in 2016 so she could offer workshop-based travel for professional women. Some destinations include classes in nature photography, creative writing, public relations or travel writing. A few focus on personal growth. Others are just for fun. Participants range from 35 to 65 and older.
“We all are more similar than we are different, and our trips bring together women in different stages of their lives to bond through one shared passion,” Lewis says. One of her favorite destinations is Hawaii. “We bring a life coach and we also offer lessons in surfing, snorkeling and hula, working primarily with women-owned businesses wherever we travel.”
Balanced Rock offers a “Women of Color Wilderness Retreat” once a year in Yosemite National Park in northern California. The four-day trip combines backpacking, survival-skill building and mindfulness meditation exercises. “A participant in one of our weekend workshops suggested this trip, and we’ve offered it for twelve years now,” says Heather Sullivan, managing director and co-founder of the nonprofit, based in El Portal, Calif.
“We go into the high country and set up a base camp near a lake. It’s all about being in a beautiful spot where we can have facilitated discussions in a safe place around social justice, equity and inclusion,” Sullivan says. “It’s always a powerful, transformative experience.” Balanced Rock also offers retreats for mixed groups at Yosemite, many focused on yoga. The age range is 18 to 65-plus.
Sage Advice on the Benefits of a Women-Only Trip
A women-only trip to three national parks last summer appealed to Darleen Kahl, 71, and Sue Poteet, 70, partners for almost 30 years and residents of Milton, Del. Austin Adventures, based in Billings, Mont., offers the eight-day trip. Kahl, a retired educator, says she and Poteet chose the trip primarily to see Yellowstone National Park, “but all the scenery was phenomenal — truly a trip of a lifetime.”
Kahl notes, “We’ve gone on trips with mixed groups and on women-only trips, and both are fun, but you get a different level of bonding and communication on women-only trips.” Poteet, retired from a career in banking, agrees. “Sometimes in a pack of folks, someone always wants to be the leader, but this trip was just a bunch of women experiencing something together, having a good time,” she says.
That sums up my experience on a rejuvenation retreat for women last spring in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, Calif. Road Scholar offers that trip, and the company (formerly known as Elderhostel and geared to older adults interested in lifelong learning) is expanding its women-only trips for 2020. Two of the new options are the Camino de Santiago in Spain and a European hiking trip.
Other companies that offer women-only travel include Adventurewomen Inc., Women Traveling Together and Wild Women Expeditions. Check with the companies for current destinations, travel dates and prices.
Wondering whether you should sign up? Marbury, from Adventures in Good Company, offers this advice: “This is the time to do it. Women our age know it isn’t going to get any easier.”