Women know that much of life is about compromise, but when you’re embarking on a travel adventure, why play by everyone else’s rules?
If you’re a solo traveler eyeing that Alaskan cruise, you’re probably also dreading the singles mixers, and if you’re a married mom packing up the family’s bags for a European expedition, you can pretty much forget about leisurely museum strolls or Michelin-starred restaurants.
Sometimes, when you embark on a travel adventure, you want to be able to do what you want to do, which is where women’s travel clubs fit in.
An increasing number of companies are creating women-only tours that mean no husbands, boyfriends or young kids are allowed. Some tours integrate traditional sightseeing with “female-friendly” activities like antiquing, wine tasting, shopping and spa visits, while others have created outdoor adventure packages for women only.
Phyllis Stoller founded The Women’s Travel Group in 1992 after she realized that she had much more vacation time than her husband. “I didn’t want to meet a man, and I didn’t want to travel with only elderly people,” says.
So instead, she launched her own company and embarked on her first women’s only trip to London. “We were able to do things that couldn’t be done in a mixed group. We went to the ballet; we visited furniture and jewelry collections.”
Many of these clubs offer a yearly membership for about $40, which takes care of administrative costs and usually gets you reduced prices on airfare and lodging. With the benefit of group discounts, trip organizers can create specific itineraries that include meals, hotels and guided tours, while adding on all the female-friendly frills.
The concept of traveling with only women comes with its ups and downs. In a group of women from different backgrounds, chances are that you may not get along with everyone, but no one expects you to move in packs all the time. And with 10-20 travel companions, you’re almost certain to find a partner for activities that you want to pursue, be it exploring an outdoor market or eating an early breakfast at the corner café. Plus, there’s the opportunity to share experiences with women that you may never have met otherwise—those who travel with friends tend to isolate themselves from strangers, whereas in a group, you can have a Midwestern granny snorkeling alongside a Californian mother of three.
According to Stoller, the only real negativity she has experienced is when visiting countries where a strong female presence isn’t always welcome. In those cases, she tends to hire male guides or bus drivers, or allow male travelers to join the trip, in order to provide some level of safety.
Here are a few companies that might offer what you’re looking for in a women-only vacation:
Women’s Travel Group
Based in New York this club offers several trips a year throughout the world. The group was started in 1992 and offers luxury smart tours for women. Itineraries are enhanced by SITA World Tours, a USTOA company, which provides tours with international expertise and local staff in many locations. Tours are inclusive of 4.5/5-star accommodations and many meals. Tours are led by professional guides, expert speakers, and home visits within itineraries that cover untapped parts of each country. Upcoming tours are to Argentina, Yunnan Province in China, India with the Pushkar Camel Mart, and South Africa. 800-421-5643 x 1518 (Bookings at SITA), www.womenstravelgroup.com
Women Traveling Together
If you would like to combine thought-provoking art, outdoor adventure, and southwestern culture, Women Traveling Together (WTT) has many unique options for you. In April of 2008, WTT will be venturing through the red rock canyons of Sedona, Arizona on a seven-day quest complete with a new hike every day, plus a day of bouncing through the canyons on a Jeep tour. In July, a European adventure will take you to the Perigord Dordogne Region, located in the southwest corner of France. Spend your travels exploring ancient castles, meandering through a vast system of caves, and indulging in truffles and foi gras (Perigord is known for it!). 410-956-5250, www.women-traveling.com
Operating since 1987, this tour company specializes in small-group active travel, with several trips geared solely toward woman. An upcoming tour of Copper Canyon, Mexico brings women to the natural wonder that is deeper and broader than the Grand Canyon. You’ll also ride the famous Chihuahua al Pacifico railway and spent time with the native Indians to learn their traditional firsthand, starting at $1,695 for a 10-day trip. An upcoming multi-adventure tour of New Zealand features 16 days of exploring the rugged south Island, including hiking through the famous national parks and glaciers, bicycling through rural regions and kayaking the Milford Sound. 206-932-8352, www.adventureassociates.net
Concerned about being surrounded by marathon women? Adventure Women ranks its trips by activity level—from easy to high energy—so you won’t find yourself desperately gasping for breath or alternatively, traipsing miles ahead of the pack. Established in 1982, this company usually hosts women ages 35-65 years old. The groups tend to be small, about 12 women, and they organize several domestic and international trips each year. June 2008 presents travelers with an Alaska Wildlife Safari and Bear Viewing expedition. For $3,995 women will hike, bear-view, sea-kayak, and take a two-day cruise from Seward with expert guides pointing out orcas, puffins, sea lions, otters, and humpback whales. 800-804-8686, www.adventurewomen.com
You can get in touch with your “inner wench” with Adventurous Wench, a company that tries to combine outdoorsy adventures of varying intensity with more relaxing activities (shopping time is always factored in). The company prides itself on conjoining the fun of all women’s travel by day with the comfort of all women’s company by night. In August of 2008 Adventurous Wench will merge with the land and sea on a trip to the San Juan Islands off the coasts of Washington state and Vancouver, British Columbia. Ladies may explore hidden coves in sea-kayaks, cruise with a naturalist and watch passing Orcas, and hike through ancient forests for the price of $2,195. 866-419-3624, www.adventurouswench.com
If high intensity is your game, take a look at Sierra Wilderness Seminars, which has special women’s-only hiking and climbing tours, both domestic and abroad. A two-day Mount Shasta summit climb is designed for women in good physical condition, and moves at a rather fast clip up the mountain. This trip also includes advanced instruction on axe use, route finding and mountain safety. If you’re just getting your feet wet in the world of mountain climbing, the slower paced three-day hike may suit your needs, with beginner’s instruction for setting up camp, reading maps and basic rope travel. For the more ambitious, international adventurer, Sierra Wilderness is heading to the peaks of Peru in June 2008 for a breath-taking (literally, the air is thinner) expedition to 21,200 feet. This trip offers more technical climbs and an optional Illimani extension leg. Although pricey at $2,595 sans extension, the trip will focus on crevasse rescue, rappelling, knotting, multi-pitch climbs, short-roping, and belay techniques. 888-797-6867, www.swsmtns.com/womens_adventures/index.html
Canyon Calling Adventures for Women
Looking for activities that go beyond hiking? Canyon Calling Adventures offers multi-activity trips that cater to your outdoorsy spirit. Canyon Calling leads women on trips with a new and different activity each day. To top it off, Canyon requires nothing more than a “moderate” level of fitness so that women may engage in everything from sea-kayaking, glacier-walking, horseback riding, white water rafting, sailing, and hiking. Coming in 2008, Canyon Calling will be venturing out to Sedona, Arizona for hiking through the arches to Devil’s Bridge and a Jeep tour on the Broken Arrow Trail, starting at $1,595. 928-282-0916, www.canyoncalling.com.
By Sarika Chawla and Athena Arnot-Copenhaver for PeterGreenberg.com
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