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Writer and Frommers.com contributor Carrie Havranek joins host Kelly Regan for a discussion and dissection of the "girlfriends' getaway" trend. From upscale hotel pajama parties to shopping excursions in Dubai, Carrie and Kelly explore the pros and cons of women traveling with women. Listen for great ideas about planning women-only trip: what to do, how to do it, and where to get started with your research and planning.

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Top Tips from This Podcast

See transcript below for links to more information.

  • Gender Specific Travel: Try Women's Travel Club, or Gusty Women Travel.
  • Travel Alone: No need to go with people you already know. Join a group and make new friends.
  • Do Your Research: Read up online about what others have done. Try the message boards at frommers.com or adventuredivas.com.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Announcer: Welcome to the frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit www.frommers.com.
Kelly Regan: Hi, and welcome to the frommers.com podcast, the latest in our continuing conversations about all things travel. I'm Kelly Regan, editorial director of the Frommer's Travel Guides. I'll be your host. My guest today is Carrie Havranek, a contributor to frommers.com. Carrie has written several articles for our website about the increasing popularity of women taking trips with women, and she's here today to talk a little more about this trend: who's taking the trips, what kind of trips they're taking, and why she and I both do not like the phrase "girlfriend getaways."

Carrie, welcome! Thanks for being here.

Carrie Havranek: Hi, I'm happy to be here.
Kelly: Great! Well as I said, today we're talking about women traveling with other women, which is something we're definitely seeing as an overall travel trend. I think it's both a trend towards taking more special interest trips in particular, as well as towards women-only travel. One recent survey I saw, found that asking 1500 hundred women, 50 percent of them had taken a ladies only trip in the past year. I think you've seen some interesting statistics as well, right?
Carrie: Yes, I have actually. For my most recent story for the Frommer's website, I got some stats from the Travel Industry Association. The last year they have stats for is 2005, and it says "American women took 48 million trips last year with just the girls, an eight percent increase from 2004."
Kelly: That's pretty incredible.
Carrie: It is. Then it says, "Women-only trips are really popular among the older crowd. Half of the trips are taken by those over the age of 50."
Kelly: Wow! That was another thing that I was going to ask you about. Could you talk a little bit about who's taking these kinds of trips, and what kind of women are gravitating toward these types of vacations?
Carrie: I think it's certainly a little bit of what the survey indicates, these people who are retired or maybe sort of winding down their careers or working part time, so boomers are traveling, of course. But there are also women from different generations traveling with each other, grandmothers and daughters and mothers. It's a way to get people together who live in different states and different countries, and there's also some degree and I think we've talked about this before a little bit -- of getting away, these bachelorette getaways, getting away before your wedding. So, I think it really spans the gamut. There are all different kinds of these trips that women are taking. It's not just women over 50 or girlfriend getaways per se.
Kelly: Right. What's interesting is that I think you also find, as you were saying, professional women getting together to take these trips, or women who want to take time out from their professional/personal lives and just kind of have some of their own time. David Lytle, who is my co-host for these podcasts, actually had a great phrase. He called it not a biological family reunion but your chosen family reunion; these people who you are very close to who might be, as you said, scattered around the country or all around the world. You get together to have this kind of reunion.
Carrie: It's also important to know, if I can just interject for a second that there are travel companies that specialize in this that we've featured before, that make a point of telling women who are interested in traveling, you don't have to come here with somebody you know. You can travel solo, and by the end of your trip you're going to have all these new friends. If you're a single traveler, don't be put off if you can't necessarily find somebody who's schedule meets yours. You could wind up with a whole new crop of friends.
Kelly: Yes, I think that's a great point. It's also providing single women travelers with a forum to travel to a place on their own and with no infrastructural support they might feel a little bit too intimidated to go. But within this kind of framework it definitely gives them a chance to see a place they might not see otherwise, and it also connects them with like-minded travelers.
Carrie: Absolutely. I think that gender exclusivity too creates this safety net or this sisterhood in a way; you don't necessarily have to be self-conscious about anything and you can just kind of be yourself. I guess there's some merit to that as well.
Kelly: And it's interesting, you just called it gender exclusive travel; it's also referred to with kind of this instant marketing term "girlfriend getaways." Just to be clear, you and I really hate that phrase. [laughs]
Carrie: Yes, also "chick-trips". That was another one I saw recently.

[laughter]

Kelly: Exactly! I think that the reason why is not just the point that you just made, which is you don't have to travel in this way just with girlfriends; you can do this by yourself. But I also think it's important to know that we're not really talking about only the kind of get-together that I like to call the "13 going on 30 get-together" which is lots of girls in their pajamas lip-sinking to Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield." I think that there's a tremendous amount of freedom in the kind of trip that you can structure in this way. And the articles that you've written for the website recommend several types of offbeat trips, so I wanted you to talk about those for a minute.
Carrie: Oh gosh, there have been so many things that I've encountered. There are a lot of adventure travel companies. There are a lot of travel companies that focus specifically on shopping; I think one is called "Shop Around Tours" that goes to Italy regularly. There are all kinds of things. Specifically, Women's Travel Club is taking a couple of really interesting trips much later this year, but their trips seem to sell out pretty early. If you're interested don't forget. [laughs]
Kelly: Right, right, don't delay.
Carrie: They're taking one trip to India; they're taking a long trip to India, and another trip to Dubai and Oman. Who's going there? I mean who has the guts? A bunch of women going to Muslim countries! It's pretty ballsy, you have to give them props for taking that kind of exploration and saying, "Yeah! Why not?"
Kelly: Dubai is actually a pretty serious shopping destination in it's own right. People gravitate there for electronics and stuff like that; a lot of duty free things as well. So Women's Travel Club, even though it sounds like it's a club, they actually run tours.
Carrie: Yes, a lot of these clubs have memberships and that's one of them. There's a nominal fee and it creates a sort of sense of ownership. It also gives you additional discounts at times as well, and different incentives for members only, that kind of thing.
Kelly: There was another trip that I saw, another organization, called Gutsy Women Travel that also does tours. I saw one online recently that I thought sounded really great. It was an eight-day tour of Napa Valley on the California coast. What I thought was interesting about it was that it also incorporated elements of some sort of educational travel and also just more special interest things because part of what it was, of course, that you get your time in L.A. And San Francisco, but the trip also encompassed touring some wineries, and also getting a cooking demonstration with the Culinary Institute of America. So again, these trips can range across a different spectrum of experiences.
Carrie: Yes, this is true. I've certainly seen the same. That's for sure.
Kelly: What about women who might want a getaway that's closer to home or just not as long? Maybe they don't want to spend two or three weeks going to India, but they want to get together and and go away for maybe three or four days. Do you have any tips for seeking out trips like that?
Carrie: I would say that there's more that's close to home than you realize. A lot of hotel chains have these kinds of specials regularly. The Kimpton Hotel Group does a "Girlfriend Getaway" package. There's two at the Muse Hotel in Times Square, one called the "Fashion Youth" package that includes magazines delivered to the room, admission to the Met Costume Institute American Chic Exhibit; and they also have these Sex in the City pajama parties. There's that approach too. The package includes in-room massages, midnight milk and cookies, and other super-schmaltzy, girly-girl, over the top things.
Kelly: It's interesting. The show's been off the air for a couple of years now, but it still seems to have captured a kind of consciousness, in that it's still being referenced in this way.
Carrie: Yes. And created its own milieu.
Kelly: I've seen trips similar to that in Las Vegas at some of the big casino hotels. I think the Venetian does a package like that where they'll do things like breakfast in bed and other perks, besides just having the room.

Yet another point to bring up is that you don't just have to take a package that's specifically called a girlfriend getaway package. A lot of these hotel chains have spa packages or pampering packages where it could be for anybody. It could be for a husband and wife. It could be for friends. It could be for you and your mom. You can expand this definition to include any kind of package for two people that involves something fun to do.

Carrie: I would also like to add that there are opportunities with bed and breakfasts or inns that are closer to home, if you want something that's on a smaller scale, or if you want to go to the countryside as opposed to the city. Bedandbreakfast.com recently did a survey of its innkeepers across the U.S., and determined among other things that in 2005, the Pennsylvania Redding and Burkes County Visitors Bureau welcomed 2,115 women via their trademark girlfriends getaway itinerary.
Kelly: Wow.
Carrie: They also noted that among their innkeepers, those who responded to the survey, host an average of 10 to 12 of these getaways annually, with one B&B topping out at 75 a year. Most of the interests are some of these stereotypical things that we talked about: shopping, spas, dinners, great restaurants, which is great.

Then another smaller component, about 27% mentioned wine tasting or drinking wine as some sort of component of their offer. So topping on a smaller scale, on a place that's maybe a couple of hours away from you as opposed to in the larger cities that consistently draw lots of crowds and tourists and things like that.

Kelly: Sure. And I think that with smaller places like that, with bed and breakfasts and with inns, you actually have the opportunity to talk with the innkeepers. They might even be willing to help you customize a package. It doesn't have to be just a one size fits all thing. Maybe your favorite inn at the beach or the countryside, as you said, doesn't offer something like that specifically. But if you talk with them, if they're used to delivering a personalized sort of service, they might be willing to work with you to design something that would work for your group.
Carrie: Absolutely. I think too that some of the things I've encountered with the bed and breakfast trips is, some places are so small that you may be the only group there. So you've literally taken over the joint. That's kind of cool, in a way, because it gives you this really private, fun experience.
Kelly: As we wind down our conversation, do you have any advice to give to people who might be looking for a way to start to get ideas for this kind of a trip? We've talked about how broad this definition can be, and that the sky's the limit in terms of the different types of possibilities there are. Where should people start if they're trying to come up with some ideas of trips to take?
Carrie: On the frommers.com site, there's an area called trip ideas, with a section on women travelers. There's a compendium of resources for travelers, including lists of tour operators. There's message boards, blogs. There's resources like books, publications. There's organizations that link women around the world for travel options. Getting travel buddies, finding roommates. All sorts of things.

It's really a little dizzying when you think about it, but this gives you a great place to start, and then you can branch off from there.

Kelly: Right. I was looking at some of these sites in preparation for our podcast, and I found a site that you had compiled in this list called adventuredivas.com.

And there's a PBS program of the same name. What's really nice about it is, it doesn't specifically recommend tours, per se. It's really more like dispatches from the front lines of travel, where women are posting messages about living in Hong Kong with four roommates in a room that was the size of her bathroom back in the states, and things like that. So, it gives you a really interesting perspective on some places that you might just be interested in from an armchair travel perspective. There was another dispatch from someone who's in Mongolia and talks about what it's like to travel around there.

The ideas don't necessarily just have to be going to tour companies sites and seeing what kind of trips are offered, but really sparking your interest by showing you what kinds of trips other women are taking. Maybe that leads you down a path that's your perfect trip.

Carrie: That's so true. Inspiration comes from the strangest places sometimes.
Kelly: That's all the time that we have for today. I've been talking with Carrie Havranek, who writes for our website, frommers.com, and who's been covering the increasingly popular trend of women only travel for the site. Carrie, this was a really interesting conversation. Thanks so much for being here.
Carrie: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Kelly: Sure. So, join us next week for another conversation about all things travel. I'm Kelly Regan, and we'll talk again soon.

This podcast is a production of frommers.com. For more information on planning your trip or to hear about the latest travel news and deals, visit us on the web at www.frommers.com, and be sure to email us at editor@frommermedia.com with any comments or suggestions.



Transcription by CastingWords