Once upon a time the most well traveled women were either celebrities, socialites, royals, or leggy “air hosts” on airlines such as Braniff International Airways or Pan Am. In other words, the ladies who were placing pins around the globe were either wealthy or worked in the travel business.
Oh, how times have changed. Today, women are piloting planes, heading up major travel corporations, and traveling at the same rate as their male counterparts. According to the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, women are the fastest-growing segment among business travelers in the U.S. based on a 2011 report, causing travel companies to rethink their design and their approach. Enter the rise of all-women hotel floors, designer amenities, and plush robes among practicalities like privacy, safety, and connectivity.
While there’s an ever-growing segment of women jetting from coast to coast and continent to continent for business, there’s also a dominant contingent plotting their own map coordinates for pleasure—a trend appearing way before powerhouse author Elizabeth Gilbert chronicled her soul-searching adventures in Rome, Indonesia and India in her bestselling book-come-movie, Eat Pray Love.
“I’ve been traveling for more than 25 years and much of that has been solo” says Beth Whitman, founder and editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick, a women-to-woman travel publication consistently topping best-of blog lists. “While I’ve always encountered female travelers (solo, with friends, partners, and family) around the globe, women are traveling more now because we have access to so much accurate information online that makes us feel more comfortable—even in the most remote destinations. As we’ve grown more empowered and confident in our travels, there’s now more acceptance for women to travel.”
It’s this access, aptitude, and natural-born need for connectivity (in every sense of the word) that is literally and figuratively placing women on a purchasing pedestal. Today, women influence 85% of all purchasing decisions and account for 58% of all online sales according to Skift Trends Report on The Rise of Female Business Travelers.
With more influence comes more license to travel. While it used to be considered gauche for ladies to take a break from their family or work obligations, more and more women are saving a slice of their earnings for solo trips or girlfriend getaways.
My group of girlfriends is a perfect example of this once-trend-now-reality. We’ve been venturing out on girlfriend getaways since we started working. Fourteen years later, some of us are single, some of us are married, some of us have kids, yet all of us recognize the need to escape and recharge with “the girls.” Case in point: this once- or twice-yearly trip is something that’s held so sacred, it’s booked a year in advance.
So far, most of our trips have taken us to urban centers or beach towns. Occasionally, we’ve braved the Great Wide Open camping, though after a few brushes with torrential downpours and leaking tarps, my group is ready for glamping. When I tell them chic camping is like staying at a wildernessy five-star hotel at the intersection of “roughing it” and “the lap of luxury”, I’m not sure any of them will miss draining their bank account at Barneys.