En español | The travel industry has discovered a new market: Women who want to have adventures with other women — without men. The Travel Leaders Group’ latest Travel Trends Survey of agents found that women-only journeys and active and adventure travel were among the top specialty-travel trends across all ages.
Tour operators, no surprise, are catering to them, offering — along with women-only wellness retreats and cultural tours — lots of sportier experiences focused on activities like kayaking, biking or hiking. Road Scholar's senior VP for programs, JoAnn Bell, says, “We find that, especially with active outdoor programs, some women feel like if there were men on the trip there’d be more pressure to pick up the pace: ‘Will I be able to keep up with my male counterpart?’ Unless you're a great athlete, you always feel some insecurity about slowing down the group, but we find that the women are very supportive and tolerant of all levels.”
Road Scholar (catering to travelers 50 and older) has 43 women-only trips this year, up from 14 in 2011. They include a wellness- and walking-focused trip in Costa Rica; a “learning, writing and walking” journey along the Oregon coast with nature walks, yoga and help with fiction or memoir writing; and a challenging six-day hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, with accommodations at a modest inn near the trails.
"People love them,” says Suzanne Rommelfinger, a senior manager of Road Scholar's North American programs, of the women-only trips. “I do think the bonds are different when there aren't couples in the group. It's just really special, really magical."
Jane Detloff, 75, a retired teacher in Minneapolis, has been on 14 women-only group bike trips around the world, most recently in Chile, through VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. “It’s noncompetitive — we encourage and help each other,” she says, “and I think that really appeals to women.”
Adventure Women, a Massachusetts-based travel company, is offering 46 trips for women — most of whom are between 50 and 65 — this year. Co-owner Erica Landerson says that in 2020 they're planning to add 25 more trips, “purely based on demand.” Landerson says many women come solo, but they're seeing more mothers wanting to travel with their adult daughters: “It creates a wonderful bond between them."
Iceland: A Mother-Daughter Adventure
Another active trip, this one for moms and their adult daughters; together you'll visit the Blue Lagoon, walk in Snæfellsnes National Park, snowmobile up a glacier, ride an ATV up Mount Hagafell, tour Reykjavik and visit a farm to sample local glacier-water-brewed beer and fresh homemade rye bread. One day starts off with horseback riding and ends in a soak at a hot-springs spa. Travelers stay in hotels along the way — all, if not luxury, then “special,” says company co-owner Erica Landerson. “The idea is having adventures as well as a nice place to put your head and good food and wine at night.” $5,590, airfare not included.
2. REI's Women's Adventures
San Juan Islands Women’s Weekend
One of REI’s growing number of specialty trips designed only for women (they have more than 20 now), this small group trip includes three very full days of sea kayaking (like as much as six hours each day) in the Pacific Northwest with a female naturalist guide pointing out sea lions, seals and dolphins, plus bioluminescent phytoplankton on moonlight paddles. Accommodations are tents — it's not glamping, you'll need to bring your own sleeping bag — but the gourmet fireside dinners cooked up by your guide include regional wines and sunset views. After you book your adventure, you’ll be assigned a Trip Specialist, “a woman who's there to help you prepare and answer your questions along the way.” REI's trips are popular with moms and adult daughters, as well as women who come solo. $875.
3. Road Scholar
Walk on the Wild Side in Yellowstone
A six-day trip to the National Park in Montana, with hikes guided by a naturalist; it includes visits to Yellowstone's Grand Canyon and Old Faithful, but guides try to take groups to lesser-known areas to avoid the crowds. What people really love about it: You can go at your own pace. Every day travelers choose from three small-group guided hiking options, from challenging (3 to 7 miles over uneven terrain) to easy, with some walking/hiking on boardwalks and paved trails. The five nights are spent at the Yellowstone River Motel in Gardiner — definitely nothing fancy but located directly across from the park, with elk and mountain goats often within view of the motel. Hearty breakfasts and dinners are at a restaurant in Gardiner, with bag lunches for the daily adventure. $1,549.