The all-girl group tours are designed for women by women.
By MARY ANN ANDERSON
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
OK, ladies -- and ladies only, please -- if travel is your passion, then you've come to the right place.
You may be single, widowed, divorced, or even a married woman with a fuddy-duddy hubby who doesn't like to travel. All your neurons are firing up for adventure, and you're yearning to experience exciting, even exotic destinations and meet new friends.
The thing is, you don't want to go solo.
So now what?
You either go by yourself, which is certainly no fun and can even be slightly intimidating, or you pack your high heels and hiking boots, your cameras and your courage, and then call a tour company designed for women only and set out for what promises to be the trip of a lifetime.
Innovative group travel
Women-only travel is relatively new -- Susan Eckert of AdventureWomen pioneered the concept in 1982 -- but it has since grown into one of the most innovative and creative strategies of group travel.
A women-only trip brings together women from all walks of life. A typical group may include singles, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, sorority sisters, cousins, close friends, or members of a book club or garden club. They may or may not know one another, and they come from all over America.
And it doesn't matter if you're a teacher, a housewife, a secretary, a bonds trader, a nuclear scientist, or a waitress, because everyone becomes friends before the end of the trip.
Women-only sojourns are designed by women for women, so with a little research, you'll find whatever suits your fancy, including trips devoted to spas, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, cooking, history, wines, music, the arts, shopping, gourmet dining, even fly-fishing and African, Asian, and Indian safaris. Oh, the places you'll go.
Grown-up slumber party
In a recent story in Time magazine, Gutsy Women Travel's Gail Golden has compared women-only travel to a pajama party, but where everyone is "only taller."
While it's certainly true that girls just wanna have fun, there are other reasons why single women like to travel together, primarily because they feel safer in groups than alone.
Since the first women-only trips sprang up in 1982, there has been an increased demand for them. The concept is that women simply like traveling with other women, and many of them become such good friends that they often travel together on future trips. Everyone is there for the fun, for the adventure, for the bonding experience.
Women also tend to enjoy things that most men don't, such as taking shopping excursions, enjoying cultural events, and sampling new and different things. That commonality helps make the trips even more special.
And it doesn't matter where you want to go, because there is something out there for every woman. Here are a couple of pretty good examples.
UFor the cowgirl in you, AdventureWomen offers trips to the "Wild West," including one to a Montana guest ranch, another to Yellowstone, yet another to Utah. AdventureWomen will also take you to all seven continents, whether it's trekking in Nepal, sailing the Greek Isles, or discovering Iceland's fire and ice.
UGutsy Women Travel, a division of Maupintour, one of the oldest and best-known travel and tour companies around, offers everything from weekend miniretreats to weeklong national and international excursions. Their destinations include popular destinations from Hawaii and Sedona to the more offbeat places like India, Korea, and New Zealand.
What's it like?
What is a women-only trip like? On a recent Gutsy Women trip that focused on the charm and history of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., the diverse group included ladies from California, Virginia and Michigan. Their ages ranged from mid-30s to early 70s. A few were widowed, one or two were single and never married, while others were married but simply wanted time away from that fuddy-duddy hubby.
Most of the women had never been to the South before. Some had never worked professionally, yet others had. Among the group were teachers, lawyers and housewives. One had worked on the presidential campaign for George W. Bush. Another owned a travel agency.
Gutsy Women tours are professionally planned and aimed directly toward women and their interests. The groups stay at upscale hotels, quaint inns, and elegant resorts and spas, and everyone is always given free time to explore and shop on her own.
With a group size that never exceeds 15, everyone is afforded warmth, closeness and individuality, things that are generally lacking in larger tours.
A women-only tour can enrich you by opening up new worlds and new attitudes, but it also gives you time to relax and have a good time without the worry of tending to a fussy husband or children or fretting about the perils of traveling alone.