How to pick the best travel tour for you
Women buy most of the travel in the US, women do 60-65% of all adventure travel and women under 40 and over 60 are the two fastest growing groups of solo travelers. Women are a hotel’s most profitable client- so say hoteliers! So with all this attention, why is it still so hard for a woman to choose a tour?
There has always been confusion about how to choose travel, but with the onset of the internet, many women are too overloaded with choices and dilemmas. Travel companies of differing quality appear the same. Ease of website navigation can influence the choice of trip. Deal mentality, fueled by frequent flyer mileage mania, has us looking at the deal instead of the destination. FAQ sections on websites do not tell women what we need to know. Finally when solo women click on an affordable dream trip: a huge single supplement surcharge ruins it.
So how are we to choose a tour appropriate for us as women?
Here are tips from one tour operator who happens to be a woman and who takes solo tours for her own personal vacations.
Look at the people in the tour company’s photos. If they are older, younger, fitter, or fancier than you, don’t go! Women feel more comfortable if the group is less than 20. We like to make friends not be part of a moving mob. If a brochure shows a large group standing in front of the bus, rethink your choice. If it sports a couple dancing on the terrace, re-think again! An all woman trip is one answer to going it alone.
Check what is included in the trip. Optional time means you will be on your own! Free time on days out can mean you get stranded. Example: you have completed the morning tour of Venice and the guide says , ”Now is your optional lunch and free time until we leave at 5 p.m.” To a woman this means lunch on her own in a lovely but unfamiliar city and an afternoon where she cannot even retreat to her hotel.
Safety is more important to women than for men, due to more than physical strength differences. We wear too much jewelry and carry loaded purses, which in turn make us more vulnerable. We are sometimes too polite when accosted by strangers. The best street stance is a confident walk, for a woman who is dressed down, with NO jewelry and a fanny pack tucked into her belt. Women should walk with valuables away from the street. If a stranger approaches, forget your mother’s coaching, and do not be polite.
Ignore requests from strangers; we all look like tourists when we are and locals are truly not asking us for information!
Hotels The best hotels for women have less than 100 rooms, a small lobby, outside café which means pedestrian traffic in front. A female friendly hotel should have a concierge, gym with an attendant, tea room (easy place to meet other solo women), proximity to public transportation. The doors must have peep holes, double locks, a safe and no catwalk. Reception area should be away from other guests so no one knows your room number.
Different interests are apparent women travel. Women are generally more interested in culture, people to people experiences and ‘in depth’ talks in museums and sites. We like to visit private homes, and pursue our hobbies when we travel. We are less keen on long meals and, though we usually do not admit it, we are more keen on shopping. We tend to do more homework and want a meatier trip. Look for groups that encourage this individual approach and who try to help you with your interests.
Tour structure Count the number of nights in the trip; most tour operators post number of days and include travel days. For women free time is better later in the trip; giving us time to make friends.
And be good to the guide; women tend to under tip so guides often pay more attention to men and couples. Tip like the big boys and you will reap the benefits! Ask about the longest day, earliest morning and the bathroom situation (another women’s bugaboo.) If you have limited energy or do not do well with jet lag, ask what your alternative is if you wish to skip an event in the trip.
Financial default is a concern for all travelers but, as we earn less and value our vacations more, financial security is key. For safety, look for industry memberships like ASTA, for travel insurance from a strong company (Travel Guard and Travelex are examples). Check the tour company’s bonding and licensing, and only pay by credit card for both deposit and balance. Read the small print on booking forms and make sure the company has an actual street address. Call the company to talk before you book.
Destinations safe for women. This is a moving target with geo-political changes. Check not only US State Dept but also Canadian, Australian and UK foreign office comments on your chosen destination. Really in doubt? Call the hotel and ask the operator if she walks in the neighborhood.
But do travel, with common sense packed into your head and a sense of flexibility and fun.