Call them gender-exclusive vacations. Call them trips for women only. Or call them girlfriend getaways. No matter what you call them, the impetus is pretty much the same -- sometimes, women just want to get away and travel with their own gender. It creates a comfort level, a feeling of safety -- psychologically and physically -- and a camaraderie that anyone who has been a Girl Scout, been in a sorority or perhaps attended a women's college can attest to. And according to the Travel Industry Association, American women took 48 million trips in 2005, an eight percent increase from 2004; nearly half of those women were over the age of 50. We've rounded up some specials -- some by companies that specialize in this and others by resorts and hotels -- which should give you something to consider for winter and spring travel.
Many of popular trips run by The Women's Travel Club (tel. 800/480-4448; www.womenstravelclub.com) for early 2007 are already full, have waiting lists, or otherwise limited availability. But in honor of its sixteenth birthday this January, the club has temporarily eliminated its membership fee of $65 on two popular upcoming trips to Italy, and extending the free "bring a friend membership" if you invite a buddy, for a total savings of $130. The trips included in this special are the March 9-17 excursion to Sicily, and the March 16-24 trip to Tuscany. Additionally, if you book both trips, you can save $100 off your trip price. The Sicily trip includes seven nights in four-star hotels, daily breakfast, four dinners, and -- here's something to make you hungry, or at least chuckle -- one cannoli tasting. It's priced at $1,750 plus airfare, estimated at $575 from JFK, for starters, and additional taxes of $95. The Tuscany trip includes transfers, a tour manager, seven nights' accommodations, five dinners and one lunch with wine tasting, a half-day walking tour of Florence, and full-day Tuscan/Chianti, Lucca/Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena excursions. The trip is priced for $2,049 for ten members and $1,899 for 15 members, with fees for single travelers. Flights are not included but you're encouraged to call for pricing.
In late January, there's a trip to Ixtapan de la Sal Spa in Mexico whose status is wait list only, but never fear -- the trip is running again March 4-11. It's a luxurious getaway to a spa resort about 65 miles from Mexico City that includes six massages, three facials, three reflexology treatments, two hair and nail treatments, a mud treatment, three golf or tennis lessons, use of the gym, sauna and steam rooms and more than a half dozen other aerobics, yoga and pilates classes. Taxes and gratuities are included and the price $1,124 for double occupancy ($1,272 for single) and does not include the January departure's trip to Taxco for silver shopping. The spa's grounds consist of tropical gardens, a nine-hole golf course, mineral and thermal pools, and opportunities for tennis, hiking and more.
Adventurous Wench (tel. 866/419-3624; www.adventurouswench.com), which prides itself on ecologically and socially responsible tourism, as well as having a good, adventurous, time, runs all kinds of trips around the world. Find your sea legs, and quick, and go on this "Tropical Sailing Adventure" with scuba diving, stargazing, snorkeling and swimming to the British Virgin Islands (February 11-17; the February 4 departure is sold out), aboard a private yacht with a gourmet cook. The trip is priced from $2,695 for a shared cabin or up to $3,395 for a large single cabin. Included in the price are meals starting from lunch on your first day to lunch on your last, wine beer and standard bar, kayaking, water skiing, and other activities. Airfare to and from the Virgin Islands is not included; neither are crew tips, the ferry from St. Thomas or airport transfers. You can also choose from trips to Ireland, New York City, Santa Fe, Greece, Tuscany, Costa Rica, San Juan Islands and Patagonia.
Sacred Sites Tours (tel. 612/823-2442; www.sacredsitestours.com), which leads trips for women and girls to sacred places in Great Britain, is offering one trip this year, to Scotland, June 9-19, priced at $3,555 per person, based on double occupancy. The fee is due in full by February 9. The trip, which is limited to twelve people and still has space available, is called "Scotland: Temple of the Moon & Sun" and spends time in the highlands. Participants then travel by ferry to the Orkney Islands to remote goddess sites, and return back to the mainland to the Camster and Clava Cairns, Inverness and Loch Ness. Lodging includes local inns and B&Bs along the way. The director's services, lodging, breakfasts, ground and ferry transportation and entrance fees are included; lunches and dinners, along with tips, are not included. On the first day the group meets at the Glasgow International Airport -- so you must get yourself there.
Woman Tours (tel. 800/247-1444; www.womantours.com) offers what it calls "inn-to-inn biking tours" mostly in locations across the United States, with some forays into overseas destinations. Currently they're offering a special at various levels of discounts. You can get a five per cent discount if you are the first of six to sign up for any North American tour, excluding the cross-country tours. Reservations must be made at least 90 days prior to departure. You can receive an additional five per cent discount if you meet the aforementioned criteria, pay in full by check within ten days of your registration. If you really like to plan ahead, Woman Tours has trips posted not only for 2007, but also in some cases, 2008 and 2009, too.
The web site is well organized -- you can search by location or date -- and easily see the length, price and activity level classified right in front of you. Upcoming trips worthy of note include Hawaii: The Big Island, described as an economy trip, priced at $1,990 per person for eight days over medium to advanced terrain, February 3-10. You're lodged in some places in triple occupancy rooms, and the trip includes five breakfasts, one lunch, five dinners, snacks, van support, trained guides and detailed cue sheets. You start at Kona and explore places such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Hilo rainforest.
Unleashed Adventures (tel. 914/967-6941; www.unleashedadventures.com) offers just a few, but spectacular women's adventure travel opportunities per year, including a February 24-March 4 trip to Patagonia, that visits Chilean wine country and the Futaleufu River (prices start at $3,995). It's a river rafting adventure that also includes a stay at one of Santiago's private hotels, Casa Real (right on the grounds of award-winning Santa Rita Winery), a private flight down the northern Patagonian coast, and more. According to the trip itinerary, professional masseuse will accompany the group the entire week. If you're balking at the price, consider all that you will see and do and the expertise of the professionals who will guide you.
The city of New Orleans can certainly use a little love and a little tourism these days. There's a special called Clicquot Clique, named in honor of the French widow whose champagne company bears her name. Stay at International House (tel. 800/633-5770; www.ihhotel.com), a boutique hotel, for a weekend getaway with an indulgence in Veuve Clicquot Rosé. The accommodations start at $99 per night but the package price of $325 per person includes a split of champagne, French manicure, customized perfume from Hove and a glow-in-the-dark pillow case and nightgown. Two week's notice is required for reservations and the package is offered currently without expiration date, based on availability.
Head south of the border to Mexico's Hacienda de los Santos (tel. 877/278-8018; www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com/lossantos) in Alamos, which is offering a Girls' Fiesta, priced at $765 per person for travel now through June 14. (Starting June 15 and going through August 28, summer rates apply: $635 per person) It's a getaway for a three nights' stay in a guestroom with two queen beds, margaritas and botanas on arrival, round-trip transfers, six spa treatments (three per person), one dinner for two prepared by resident Chef Rene Duarte, full breakfast daily, all gratuities and taxes.
Another resort in Mexico, Marquis Los Cabos (tel. 877/238-9399; www.marquisloscabos.com) has a special that's not exactly cheap -- starting at $3,050 per person -- called "Sense of Pampering" although it is currently a 25 per cent off savings. The five-night special includes all kinds of amenities, including private health consulting with a spa specialist, daily buffet breakfast, rental car for three days, five lunches and one dinner at any of the onsite restaurants (or room service), one gourmet dinner, two body massages, one manicure and pedicure, spa credit of $50 per person, late checkout (4pm) and VIP airport transfers. Your room is a junior suite or private pool casita with oceanfront view, hydro massage bathtub and separate shower, and Italian linens. It's valid for travel now through May 31.
In Miami, the Whitelaw Hotel in South Beach (tel. 305/398-7000; www.southbeachgroup.com) has a bachelorette special that's a weekend package requiring a four-night stay minimum, priced at $150 per night. Included in this package are the following: gag gifts champagne, dress-up party veil and the attendance of local models at your own personal "Farewell to Dating" party. As part of your stay, you receive cocktails during happy hour, daily continental breakfast, roundtrip airport transfers, and VIP club passes for hotspots in South Beach.
Finally, if you love nature, live close to Newfoundland, or regularly travel there, you might be interested in the Tuckamore Lodge (tel. 888/865-6361; www.tuckamorelodge.com), although its "Outdoor Woman" deal certainly would be better in warmer months than in the immediate future. Priced at $2,550 CAD (approximately $2,184 USD) per person based on double occupancy, it's a nature-oriented getaway with hiking, wildlife identification, fly-fishing and instructive sessions on wilderness survival, first aid, orienteering (that's learning how to use a map and compass) and firearms safety and handling. It's not all schooling though; there's kayaking and a bout tour of Hare Bay, where you'll see a seabird sanctuary. Blackout dates for June 18-24, July 2-8 and July 30-August 5.
Talk with fellow Frommer's readers on our Women Travelers Message Board today.