Women are traveling solo more than ever -- and not just for work. Nor are we only talking about mid-life self-discovery pilgrimages in the style of "Eat, Pray, Love." These days, a variety of single-serving travel options make it not only easy, but appealing, for women to take a vacation without their family, husband, or "getaway girlfriends."
-- Lena Katz
The "women traveling solo" trend as we know it started with business travel. When women started traveling for business as frequently as men, the whole "road warrior" hospitality model had to change. With safety consistently being named as a top priority among female travelers, hotels began to bring back the yester-year institution of female-only hotel floors. Bella Sky Hotel in Copenhagen made worldwide headlines for doing this last year--particularly when a male guest complained of gender discrimination and won. However, it's far from the only property to designate some ladies-only spaces. Premier Hotel in New York City, Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver and the five-star Naumi in Singapore all have female-only floors. (Photo courtesy of Bella Sky Hotel)
The notion that a woman might actually choose to vacation alone is without historical precedent, although spa retreats have been the occasional exception to that rule. "The spa" can be a euphemism for everything from a plastic surgery center to a rehab facility--but sometimes, a spa is just a spa. In the case of the newly reopened BodyHoliday in St. Lucia, it's a luxury all-inclusive wellness resort that nicely balances indulgence (i.e. blindfolded wine tastings) with healthy pursuits (tennis, Pilates, fencing). BodyHoliday's September Solos fitness-inspired program is perfect for all the women--and perhaps a few men, too--who want to get in shape and don't need their bad-influence friends around in the process. Our only criticism: next year, offer it in May as well. (Photo courtesy of BodyHoliday)
Though perhaps it's not technically solo travel, small group tours are a great way for women to see the world, make new friends, and still get the exhilaration of discovering a new place for themselves. "These days, women are giving themselves the gift of new experiences whether it be in celebration of a birthday, a divorce or just being able to live life to the fullest," says Linden Schaffer, owner of New York-based wellness company Pravassa. Approximately 85% of Pravassa's clientele are female, and the company's specialty is wellness vacations in diverse destinations from Puerto Rico to Italy. The itineraries mix group activities like yoga and cultural exploration with plenty of down time, which people can enjoy on their own or as part of the group. (Photo courtesy of Pravassa)
Perhaps no two words are more galling to the solo traveler than "single supplement." Yet cruise companies have long maintained that with double cabins being the norm, it's impossible for them to properly price out the cruises without assuming two passengers to every cabin. Anyone who wants to take up the space of two persons must pay for it. Except not anymore. The Norwegian Epic and Royal Caribbean Radiance both offer single cabins as of 2012. Though some complain that Royal Caribbean is making a "token gesture" with its three single cabins on the Radiance, Norwegian has 128 single cabins on the Epic, with commitments for a similar quantity of single cabins on new ships scheduled to debut in 2013 and 2014. (Photo courtesy of BodyHoliday)
And though they can't redesign their ships, some small-ship companies including Uniworld and International Expeditions have done away with single supplements fee on more than 25 Amazon and Galapagos small-ship cruises in 2012 (they will announce dates with no single supplement for 2013 soon). For those who can sail on those dates, it's even better than a single cabin, because you get a two-person space instead of a stripped-down single berth. And finally, a nod to the Grand Velas all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Nayarit and Riviera Maya for a program that has nothing to do with solo travel, but takes a step toward busting the myth of "only two-parent families can afford proper vacations." The Single Parent Rate Promotion not only waives the single supplement fee for single parents with kids, but also cuts the child's rate by 50%. If there's a second child in the same accommodation, it's only an extra $87 per night (at Riviera Nayarit) or $99 (Riviera Maya). This promotion is valid through December 19, 2012, because while Mother's Day comes only once a year, a mother's love is every day. (Photo courtesy of International Expeditions)