Our World What women want on tour

Australian Walking Holidays, Vietnam
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Discover the reasons why women are choosing women-only travel groups.

Like-minded. It’s a word that crops up persistently when exploring women-only travel groups. It arises as a motivation, an experience and the reason so many women walk away with lifelong friends.

“There are many different reasons our guests decide on a women-only tour but I think it really is the ability to travel with like-minded women with a shared passion for travel,” Travelling Divas owner Andrea Powis, says.

Likewise Girls on Tour founder Judy Polkinghorne sees women-only travel as a launch pad.

 “Some women don’t have the confidence to travel alone and Girls on Tour provides a platform for them to join other like-minded women to experience places they may otherwise never travel to,” she says.

Travelling with like-minded women can also be about oneself. “There is something special about sharing your adventures with like-minded women,” World Expeditions chief executive Sue Badyari says. 

“The shared experience away from family and work pressures can allow you to take some time for yourself, push personal boundaries and make some great lifelong friendships along the way.

“And there’s certainly a great element of camaraderie and team spirit that exists in an all-women group. And a mix of ladies coming together from different parts of the globe to embark on a great adventure is very attractive.”

Ladies may choose women- only travel for a number of reasons. 

Some don’t have friends who have a desire to travel, some don’t have partners who wish to travel or with the same travel bug and some find themselves without a partner later in life. And of course, some are just looking for an adventure with like-minded people.

Ms Polkinghorne says before a trip even begins the group has something in common — the destination that’s been chosen.

“Women who join our tours are independent, they like to travel alone but not necessarily ‘alone’,” Adventurous Women director Sue Hile says.

She says often while it’s great to go off adventuring on your own during the day, it is always nice to have dinner with someone at night and share the day’s stories.

Journeys of the Spirit founder Julie Baker says many of her guests come from a traumatic circumstance.

“Often when we get sick or a crisis happens in our life we get the chance to look at what surrounds us and ask is this working for me,” she says.

“These journeys are about bringing your whole being back into balance, about being a human being not a human doing.”

Another common theme that weaves through women-only travel is the lifelong friendships formed by travellers.

Ms Powis says a lot of friendships have resulted from her travels, with many ladies going on to travel again together, not necessarily on a tour.

“Our guests walk away with a renewed level of confidence and a whole heap of new friends,” Ms Hile says. 

So why bother? Why not a mixed group?

 Women-only groups can inject confidence into participants and allow the itinerary to be shaped to the group’s interests — whether it be hiking a mountain, relaxing in a day spa or giving the credit card a workout.

“I find there is a group cohesiveness because the tours are focused on women’s interests and their needs exclusively,” Ms Hile says.

“We all behave differently in mixed company. 

“Our guests feel relaxed, safe and secure to let their guard down possibly, more than they would in mixed company.” 

Ms Polkinghorne says it isn’t long into the trip that she finds the camaraderie building and within a few days, a cohesive group of travellers is shaped.

While Journeys of the Spirit offers many mixed journeys, it also has several women-only retreats in India, Bhutan, Spain and next year, Arizona.

Ms Baker says women flourish in an all-female environment, with a feeling of safety.

“Women are givers. Especially the baby boomer generation who haven’t been taught how to give to themselves first. You are more able to give to others when you are full,” she says.

There are also practical benefits. Women-only travel gives the option to comfortably twin share and eliminate the dreaded single supplement.

Ms Hile says her guests usually range in age from 35 to 70 but lately she has noticed an increase in 70-plus travellers.    

Travelling Diva’s main market is 40-plus, and Girls On Tour’s average age is 62 but has stretched from 24 to 87 years old.

So what are the hot list of destinations for women-only travel? 

Travelling Divas has added Russia and Kenya itineraries this year, seeking out insider experiences hard to find by the solo traveller.

“In Russia we are having dinner with an English- speaking university professor in Moscow so we can talk to him about what it was like in communist times and non-communist times,” Ms Powis says. 

“Having access to those people, having dinner with locals and learning about the culture and what it is like to live there brings a destination alive rather than just going there and sitting on a bus and driving around looking at it.”

Besides favourites such as Italy and New York, Croatia and northern Europe were proving popular with Travelling Divas. Iran, Sri Lanka and Peru were her hotspot picks.

Ms Hile says her walking tours were becoming more popular and Australian tours were in demand because of uncertainty about some destinations.

Top picture: Australian Walking Holidays in Vietnam.

Fact File

Upcoming tours

Borneo: Departing on May 7, Sue Hile leads a 13-day trip with highlights including seeing orang-utans, The Headhunters Trail, Mulu National Park, travel by longboat, sleeping in a Longhouse and Bako National Park. The tour costs from $3350, including accommodation, meals and excursions as per itinerary, tour manager and leader and internal flights. adventurouswomen.com.au

Karijini and Ningaloo Reef, WA: Departing Perth on August 17, this tour visits Kalbarri National Park, Ningaloo Reef and Karijini National Park. The 13-day adventure includes transport, guides, 10-nights camping under the stars, two-nights motel accommodation and meals. adventurouswomen.com.au

Hepburn Springs and Daylesford, Victoria: Departing on August 6 and led by Andrea Powis, travellers can indulge in spas, walks, dining, wineries and meditation. The tour costs $1999 per person, twin share ($2349 single) including accommodation, return airport transfers, meals as per itinerary and tours. travellingdivas.com.au

Croatia: Departing on September 1 from Dubrovnik and led by Andrea Powis, tour highlights include a food and wine walking tour of Dubrovnik, a day-trip to Montenegro, sailing around the islands of Trogir, truffle hunting in Istria, and dining at Lake Bled Castle. Prices are from €5555 ($7639) per person, twin share ($9343 single) with a willing to share option and includes accommodation, transfers, meals as per itinerary and guided tours. travellingdivas.com.au

Camino, Spain: Departing on September 26, this offer costs $7150 with a single supplement of $850 and includes accommodation, most meals with wine, airport transfers, luggage transfers for the Camino walk and guides. journeysofthespirit.com.au

Kerala, India: Departing on August 5, this includes 14 nights at an Ayurvedic health retreat from $3800 per person, twin share ($4500 single) as well as transfers, Ayurvedic vegetarian meals, all treatments, daily yoga classes, meditation and Pranayama. journeysofthespirit.com.au

Heyson Trail and Flinders Ranges, South Australia: Departing Adelaide on August 6, this 6-day, fully supported trek costs from $2295 per person including meals as per itinerary, wilderness guide and support staff, outback accommodation and transport. worldexpeditions.com

Vietnam Charity Challenge: Departing Hanoi on November 13, trek for 10 days while raising funds for your favourite charity. From $1990 per person (plus fundraising) this includes most meals, transfers, guide and twin and multi-share accommodation. worldexpeditions.com

Laos and Myanmar: Departing on March 31, this 18-day journey from Vientiane, Laos to Yangon, Myanmar includes Water Festival celebrations, a cooking class, a cultural show and time at Inle Lake. The tour costs $7727 per person, twin share, including flights from Australia, internal flights, accommodation, meals as per itinerary, tours and guides. girlsontour.com.au

Canada and Alaska: See North America in Spring on a 21-day tour departing on April 29. Highlights include British Columbia’s lakes and mountains, a journey on the Rocky Mountaineer train and a 7-night Inside Passage cruise. Priced from $11,833 per person, twin share, it includes international flights, accommodation, meals as per itinerary, the cruise and the train journey, tours and guides. girlsontour.com.au