Now more than ever, women are joining together and hitting the roads less traveled
It’s fitting that when I interviewed the two travel industry experts for this female-focused travel story, both were heading out on women-only trips of their own. No, it’s not your imagination. Women are hitting the roads in bigger numbers than ever before. And, more often than not, they’re taking their gal pals with them.
“We’ve always done women-focused tours, but of late it has been exploding,” says Teri Hurley, founder/owner of Endless Love Travel, a custom travel curator for upscale milestone events. “I try to design tours that are a blend of cultural immersion, exploration, indulgence, wellness and activities, but also try to build in camaraderie. I think that latter part is what so many women are looking for on these trips.”
While G Adventures, a leader in small group adventure travel for nearly 30 years, doesn’t offer women-only trips in their portfolio of some 750 trips around the world, they can create ones for private groups. That also includes arranging for a female CEO—a “Chief Experience Officer” in G terminology is their signature local on-the-ground guide and expert—for the trip.
“With female travel in general, and especially with solo travel, there has been a huge burst of demand,” says Alex Sanchez, G Adventures consumer marketing manager, who works on the company’s direct-to-consumer side. “Travel in the context of G Adventures gives people the opportunity to travel independently but confidently as you have the freedom and growth of being a solo traveler, but you’re not necessarily alone.” A recent study at G Adventures showed that 60 percent of their travelers and solo travelers were female.
Contrary to what people might think, says Hurley, this increase in demand for female-only trips isn’t just by those who might have lost their partner, or their partner is no longer interested in travel. While that is part of this trend, it’s more about women doing it because they want to.
“They want time with other women and time for themselves,” she says. “It can be moms or busy professionals that need a break from their routines. Women are now able to say, ‘I’ve earned this, I deserve this and I’m going to do this.’ That’s the mindset that has changed and that’s the fascinating part to me.”
To craft the one-of-the-kind small group trips she’s known for, Hurley, who has more than two decades of industry experience, creates travel personas of her clients. She then uses that detailed information to match them with the right travel experience, so it fits their personality.
“I design every trip based around what is right for them and I strive to provide education and transparency,” she says. “That way they are comfortable with the process and are making informed decisions. In the end, it allows me to do the job I’m supposed to do, which is to be a dream-maker and not an order-taker.”
G Adventures offers 10 travel styles to choose between
At G Adventures, the trips offered also go beyond the obvious. “It’s this dual, shared experience between the traveler and community, where you have the responsibility of being an ethical and conscious traveler and really experiencing authentically the places you travel to,” says Sanchez. “That’s our mission: create life-changing experiences by giving people the opportunities to create and embrace community.”
Beyond a range of destinations available, G Adventures also offers 10 travel styles from which to choose, including wellness, active, marine and family. Their National Geographic Journeys offer unique tours designed to go deeper into the cultures and habitats of the places explored.
Further supporting its core community mission, G Adventures formed a partnership with Planeterra, a non-profit focused on turning travel into impact. “They go around the world in search of local groups and communities to help them leverage different skills to create small businesses that then can become part of G itineraries,” says Sanchez.
One such program, Women With Wheels, taught women in India how to drive and once they obtained their licenses, they were employed in travel-related jobs. “A female traveler who has never been to India might feel more comfortable being picked up by a female driver,” says Sanchez. “It’s an awesome way of empowering and supporting women, not just as travelers but also in the travel industry.”
Travel Tips for Women
As with any type of travel, there are inevitable issues and challenges that will come up for women travelers.
“The biggest challenge is fear and preconceptions and sometimes the worse things are in their heads only,” says Hurley. “But the more women travel, they find they are perfectly capable of handling themselves in many situations and their self-confidence grows. This is also one of the main reasons why women look to travel together because it truly does help provide a stronger safety net.”
To help educate her travelers, Hurley creates a private Facebook page for each trip. There, along with a list of rules, terms and suggestions, she posts about the to-be-visited country’s culture, clothing styles and news.
The Facebook page also serves as a way for the group to get to know each before they meet face-to-face, instilling a sense of mutual respect. “This way they kind of know each other by the time they arrive,” she says. “You don’t have to love everyone you’re traveling with, but you do need to be considerate.”
Women especially need to be very aware of their surroundings, know where they are going and listen to their instincts, she adds. Additionally, keep phones charged and use a battery backup. Once you get to your room, check the door locks and perhaps bring a travel door stopper.
Hurley also has plenty of travel tips we all could benefit from. Researching your destination is vital, she says, including visa and vaccinations requirements, dress code restrictions and hand gestures that might be considered rude. She recommends always learning a few polite phrases in their language. “If you want a pleasant experience, it’s best to acclimate to their social norms and not insist on staying with your own,” she says.
Travel insurance is another must. “Insurance is here to protect you against all the things you can’t predict,” she says, providing 24-hour support. “They even have a concierge service. It’s not just cancellation, illness or injury.”
A free service for U.S. residents
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a government-run program, is another service Hurley recommends. “This is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to receive latest security updates from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate,” she says.
As far as luggage, get a tracker, she suggests, and make sure you have ID on the inside and outside. Take a picture of your luggage with your cellphone, and before you get on your flight, check with the air carrier online so that you know what to do if your luggage gets lost.
And what happens if something does go wrong? “The unexpected happens to everybody. It’s a matter of how much can you plan for to try to avoid and in many instances you can’t,” says Hurley. “You have to be willing to pivot very quickly, go to plan B and go with the flow to the best of your ability.”
At G Adventures, having local teams on the ground for every trip planning for any eventuality that could happen goes a long way in helping when situations do occur. Additionally, Global Connection Officers (GCO) help field traveler questions internally. And once a trip is booked, G Adventures has a process called Good to Go, a system of checks and requirements for the traveler. “We have people making sure that the process beforehand is seamless for the traveler as it can be intimidating,” says Sanchez.
And once you arrive, Sanchez offers one very important piece of advice:
“Check your privilege at the door and be somebody who is ready to receive experiences and be a steward of wherever you are going.”
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By Lisa Shames