Women Work Out the Kinks in the Spa or on the Trail with Females-in-Mind Vacations
We’ve extolled the virtues of gender-exclusive travel before in this space — it permits you to do exactly what you want to do, an ephemeral idea for most busy, working women and moms. Thankfully, there is no shortage of interesting companies that cater to women travelers. After an initial hit in the wake of September 11, many of these companies report a growing demand. Most of the companies we’ve listed here cater to women in their 30s-60s who are physically active and avid travelers.
Adventure Women (tel. 800/804-8686; www.adventurewomen.com) calls itself the "grand dame" of women’s travel since 1982. Domestic vacations for this year include a hike through the Arizona Sonoran Desert and one through Glacier Park, and an Alaska Safari and Bear Viewing trip. (The Downhill Ski Clinic trip in Montana just wrapped up.) The next available foray, a "Spring Hike through the Sonoran Desert in Arizona", runs April 22-28 and costs $2,395. The price covers accommodations, a guide, transportation to and from the airport and throughout your trip, fifteen meals and all entrance fees to museums and parks. You’ll have to get yourself to Tucson, pay for your own booze and other beverages, and any other meal that isn’t included. Their international trips hit nearly every continent, with a Botswana Safari, Caribbean Sail, Snorkel and Scuba, Ireland Horseback Ride, Nepal Trek, and New Zealand’s South Island. A quick glance at the company’s 2006 Trip Calendar (www.adventurewomen.com/tripCalendar.aspx) reveals descriptions of difficulty level (beginner, easy, moderate, high energy) and each trip’s activities.
Gutsy Women Travel (tel. 866/464-8879; www.gutsywomentravel.com), a division of Gate 1 Travel, tells visitors to its site "It’s your life, live it!" and their trips provide interesting, unique looks at destinations around the world. The company runs a variety of escorted and independent tours, as short as four days in the Caribbean and as long as sixteen days in China, for example.
Current air-inclusive promotions include "On the Trail of The Da Vinci Code", a nine-day guided tour that includes thirteen meals, arrival and departure transfers, and airfare from New York to Paris, and from Paris to Edinburgh. The trip takes you through Paris (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, etc.), Versailles, London, and Edinburgh, hitting all the hotspots of the Dan Brown bestseller. Their August 8 trip shows availability (their April 8 trip is already closed), and it’s priced at $3,799. Other current promotions include the six-night "Amsterdam, Rembrandt and Bruges" trip, arranged to take advantage of the city’s celebration of the Dutch painter’s 400th birthday. There are three dates–April 2 ($3,099); July 9 ($3,499) and September 24 ($3,099)–and all prices reflect the cash discount.
Shop Around Tours (tel. 212/684-3763; www.shoparoundtours.com), run by Deborah Mayer, is equally dedicated to travel and bargain hunting. Three "Shop Around Italy" trips are planned this year–March 11-18; March 26-April 2; July 22-29, and there’s a "Shop Around Tuscany" running October 7-14. Trips depart from New York and include airfare, accommodations, transportation to and from the airport and, on average, a meal a day. "Shop Around Italy" is an eight-day excursion that lands you in Milan and from there, takes you to designer outlets featuring Armani, Ungaro, Ferragamo, Gucci, Fendi, Stella McCartney and Prada, among many others. Other stops include Florence and Rome. The March departure dates are priced at $1,995; July, in high season, is $2,695. The "Shop Around Tuscany" tour, eight days in length, puts you in Montecatini Terme, home to nutrient-dense thermal waters and sends you to Serravalle, a huge designer outlet center. You’ll also spend time in Florence, with time for independent exploration. It’s priced at $1,995. The trips are also available land-only if you want to use your frequent flier miles.
Unleashed Adventures (tel. 914/967-6941; www.unleashedadventures.com) bills itself as "women’s uncommon adventure travel" with trips this year and next to Fiji, Kenya, Chile and Argentina. (Their Easter Island trip just ended, but there’s another one in 2007.) The only trip left for 2006 heads to Kenya (www.unleashedadventures.com/kenya.html) November 4-13, spends time in three different areas of the country, with experiences both rustic and luxurious. When you arrive, you’ll take game walks, and experience spa treatments and visits to Maasai villages, camp under the stars in a camel safari in the northern frontier district. This trip is unusual in that its optional tenth day allows you to spend the day in one of Nairobi’s orphanages for children with HIV. The trip, priced at $5,300, includes all your meals, activities and domestic flights, but not your international flight.
Diane Terry, the founding partner, says they are updating their website and will also be offering a trip to India, either in 2007 or 2008, that will likely include "some Himalayan hiking and a luxurious tent camp in a tiger preserve. Our trips involve some degree of roughing it, where your comfort zone is being pushed," she says. In terms of size, "our maximum number is limited by the smallest place we stay," she says, which is usually no more than 18 women.
Not only does Woman Tours (tel. 800/247-1444; www.womantours.com) lead road bike tours around the world, for women of all ages, but the company has its own blog, to boot. There are dozens of tours lined up for this year in Mexico, the Outer Banks, N.C., Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, Tour de Tetons (Yoga and Cycling), Maine, the Finger Lakes in New York, Utah, and Hawaii. Some of their tours are designed specifically for lesbians (Finger Lakes Wine Country in the fall, Glacier National Park in the summer). In the past, Woman Tours has visited New Zealand, Vietnam and Europe. The prices do not include airfare.
The variety really runs the gamut. On the high and longer end, there’s a 57-day Lewis and Clark Trail trip that starts May 1 and runs through June 26, priced at $7,690 for double occupancy. Shorter trips include the Outer Banks trip (offered in May and October), priced at $1,590 for six nights. This year, they’re also offering an eight-day "Cycling the Andes (from Argentina to Chile)" trip in November; price TBA. They offer a handful of ongoing discounts (you must call, though, to get them), like a 5 percent discount if you’re the first of six to sign up for any North American tour (except cross-country tours), and an additional 5 percent discount if you can pay in full by check within ten days of your registration. According to organization president Jackie Marchand, their tours are mostly comprised of women traveling solo. Consequently, she says "we do not charge extra for women who end up in a single room, and we trade off roommates every night."