Ever the wanderlust but not wanting to travel alone, I organized the first Women’s Journeys trip to Peru with 17 women, all traveling together for the first time. Women’s Journeys has now allowed women to travel to six unique countries, cover thousands of miles, see multiple World Heritage Sites, and make lifelong friends and memories.
Here are 10 essential tips that help Women’s Journeys run smoothly and can guide you in arranging all-women group travel, too.
1. Set Expectations Ahead Of Time
Discuss price ranges, activity levels, and roommate arrangements in advance. Once travelers are clear on the details, they can determine whether or not the trip is for them. Many times we bring along small items to share with local women and children. We’ve distributed lotions, crayons, small children’s books, and granola bars, which don’t take up much space and the locals appreciate, but it’s best to have everyone on board with these types of efforts and objectives from the start.
2. Poll The Group
This is the best way to determine which activities are of interest and to include as much as possible of what the group enjoys. If the group likes to cook, include a cooking class. If the group likes to hike, include hiking. In India, we learned how to cook chapati. It’s important to be flexible and willing to shift gears. In Cuba, we found ourselves running early and added catamarans and snorkeling to our itinerary. The gorgeous, sunny day out on the water turned out to be one of the many highlights of the trip. We knew how to fill our extra time because we knew what our travel companions’ interests were.
3. Planning Is Critical
Review and research the highlights of your destination, considering timing for each event, which days sites are open or closed, travel times to reach each location, and which mode of transportation you will be taking. Consider, for example, if your group would be okay with train travel rather than taking a private bus. Rather than sit in the traffic of Tokyo, we used the public transportation system and loved experiencing another part of Japanese culture.
4. Meet Beforehand
Get together to ask and answer questions. Meeting in advance will make everyone feel more at ease with both the trip itinerary and with each other. Because of the geographic distances between our travel companions, we use online conference calling. After brief introductions from each traveler, we have an agenda with time allotted to respond to travel concerns. These concerns usually involve packing tips, phone usage overseas, visa and immunization requirements, and money questions. It’s also fun to create a recommended reading list for your destination in advance.
5. Try To Ensure The Group’s Compatibility
Women going through similar life events tend to have more in common. Set an age range for the group. Women’s Journeys was created for women between 40 and 70 to empower them as they experience a unique part of their life cycles. Some travelers are widows or divorcees who are traveling independently without their partners for the first time and many have significant others who simply don’t want to travel. Others are single professionals who joined Women’s Journeys to get out of the corporate world and enjoy themselves without having to do loads of planning. Each of these groups of women have more in common than not. From these trips, we’ve each made life-long friends.
6. Stay On Track
Each day, review the schedule of events. At the end of each day, set a meeting time for the next morning. This early morning meeting in the hotel lobby is a good time to address any concerns or respond to questions that may have come up during the day prior. It sets the tone for what to expect for the day and gets everyone on the same page. With days of touring tightly scheduled, you don’t want to waste time waiting for travelers to get their luggage down to the van. Setting meeting times and a somewhat predictable routine will ensure everyone knows what time they have to be all set and ready to go.
7. Practice Flexibility And Non-Judgement
These allow for each woman to make the most of her travel experience without being penalized for doing so. Not everyone likes to do the same things. And some people just need some downtime from being with a group. If someone wants to sit out a planned event and explore on their own instead, just make sure to have a check-in time when you connect at the end or the beginning of each day. We had a couple of women in Peru who were too tired to go out so they ordered pizza to the hotel and passed on the evening event.
8. Safety First, Always
Count off if necessary, have buddies, check in with each other. No matter what, no one gets left behind! And regarding food, no fruit or vegetables abroad unless they’ve been peeled or boiled. One person’s illness can be either a positive memorable experience of caring or a nightmare of a distraction from reaching your next destination in time depending on how you all pulled together. One traveler in Uganda was driven to the local hospital after being up all night with stomach issues. Travel insurance is a must and traveling with a medicine cabinet helps, too! Travel prepared with a first-aid kit that includes the basics, like antibiotics and aspirin.
9. Prepare For Long Drives
Ice-breaker questions or songs make the time go by faster. In Vietnam, our tour guide brought along his guitar. We drove through Vietnam singing old American folk songs!
All-women travel is much more than the location visited or the sites seen. Everybody has a story to share and traveling on long drives provides conversations of “Oh, that happened to me, too!” or “How did you handle X?” Make time to bond as you get from point A to point B.
10. Last But Not Least, Agree To Have Fun
Through Women’s Journeys, our group has been laughing our way around the world together. If someone is uncomfortable, they are encouraged to share their concerns to problem solve together. Solutions can be as simple as rearranging the roommate situation or adjusting the itinerary. In Uganda, we found ourselves with an extra hour, so we took a boat ride to the source of the Nile. Sometimes, it’s the spontaneous solution that provides a most interesting memory -- just like in everyday life.
Planning your first group getaway, or just want to know how to ensure an upcoming trip runs smoother? Read up on common group travel challenges and how to overcome them.