Phyllis Stoller had 5 1/2 weeks’ vacation as a corporate banker. Her husband had only two weeks.
Take a trip, he would say. I do not want to go alone, she would answer. Her friends would not commit or they could not afford it. Stoller figured she was not the only woman in the world who wanted to travel but did not want to go solo, so she started the Women’s Travel Club in January 1992 from her home in Aventura, Fla.
It turned out she was right, there was a need for group trips designed exclusively for women. Today, the club has more than 1,000 members who take about 40 trips a year that range from the hinterlands of Turkey to a spa in Massachusetts. The first trip, she decided, would be to London. I made a brochure and mailed it to every woman I had met in the last 40 years of my life. I took three friends with me as my guinea pigs, and we went to the ballet at Covent Garden, and to the furniture section of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The consensus was that I should do this.
Fourteen women went on the clubs first official trip to England. More women went on the second trip to London, even more on the clubs third trip, which was to China, and 25 women went on the fourth trip to Turkey, a tour led by a Turkish divorce attorney.
The club was bought by ABC Destinations travel agency, but Stoller, remains the managing director. Members range in age from 17 to 84. For their $35 a year dues, they get newsletters about upcoming trips and the bargaining power that comes with buying as a group. And since most members want a roommate, single supplements are not a problem.
We design the trips for women’s needs, we make sure there are lighter foods available, and we always include a few things that women might not want to do alone such as taking a nighttime walk, Stoller says. The group has nothing against men; it is just that group dynamics are more comfortable without them.
Members often travel with mothers, daughters and sisters.
The most exotic trips fill up first. India is very popular because a lot of men do not want to go, and it is very spiritual and has amazing shopping, Stoller says. Women make up 56 percent of the adventure market. The club has hiking, rafting, sailing and fly fishing trips, and is starting golf trips next year.
But the group also has tea at the Ritz in London. One of those things women want to do but not alone, Stoller says. An adventure can be something as little as ordering a glass of wine, or taking a walk in Delhi, or sitting at a table in a European cafe.