Women-only holidays run by women

New female-run tour companies are launching in droves to help inspire women and give them a new space to network.

An art exhibition in Mexico. Image credit: Wild Terrains
An art exhibition in Mexico. Image credit: Wild Terrains

There’s a new kind of holiday company lighting up the travel industry, challenging female guests to explore the most unforgiving deserts and the most extremes peaks, often under their own steam. These female-run companies encourage clients to challenge themselves and take a holiday that will change their mind, body, and soul.

These holidaymakers are female creatives, executives, and leaders in their own industry all joined by a common philosophy to get more out of life, and an array of female-run tour companies are launching to help them achieve their potential. 

The companies offer boutique trips that take female guests to unique parts of the world, from women trekking in Patagonia, canyoning in Utah, or biking in Ladakh. They are helping customers empower other women by helping them to support female-run start-ups where they travel. Guests can join a female artist on a street art tour, meet women winemakers, or be shown around a city by female architects. 

This isn’t just an Insta trend, it’s practically a movement. AdventureWomen – one of the pioneers of female travel companies – announced its sales rose by 44 percent last year while the phrase “solo women’s travel” has also been trending on Google. It’s clear the market is set to grow further. A recent study by British Airways found 75 percent of women were planning to take a solo trip in the next few years. Pinterest has also seen a 350 percent increase in women pinning solo trips since 2014.

AdventureWomen was one of the first holiday companies established for women run by women. It is owned by Judi Wineland and daughters Erica and Nicole. Go-to holidays by AdventureWomen include surfing in Baja, horseback riding in Costa Rica, and trekking to Everest Base Camp. 

AdventureWomen founder Judi Wineland. Image credit: Supplied
AdventureWomen co-owner Judi Wineland. Image credit: Supplied

Wineland said a range of factors were fueling the rise in solo female travel.

“While this varies by country and culture, women today are earning more and feel they deserve to invest in themselves in impactful ways,” she said.

“Many are delaying having kids and choosing to remain single longer.

“They are working more independently, and often more entrepreneurially, as they leverage technology and the web and are less locked into more traditional career paths.”

The internet is not only making women more geographically mobile, but it’s also helping to inspire women to see more of the world, Wineland said. 

“Social media has enabled the viral sharing of ‘trophy travel’ experiences, which is much more powerful and real-time,” she said. 

“The advent of women travel bloggers, who travel the globe sharing their fun with their followers have fueled a ‘Hey, I want to do that’ lust for adventure in off-the-beaten-path destinations and a desire to seek out and find unique, local experiences.”

Photographing on safari. Image credit: Supplied
Photographing on safari. Image credit: Supplied

For a long time, AdventureWomen was an outlier, one of the few showing a gap in the market for women-only travel. Now that has changed, and a wealth of female-led companies have launched to help women push boundaries and challenge themselves. 

Over the past few years, AdventureWomen has been joined by Wild Terrains, run by solo traveler Lauren Bates; WHOA Travel (Women High On Travel) founded by adventurers Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton; Culturati Travel Design owned by the former Editor in Chief of Travel + Leisure Nancy Novogrod, and Damesly launched by Go! Girl Guides owner Kelly Lewis, which gives women the chance to learn a new skill and network with fellow professionals while they travel. 

One of the latest companies inspired to uplift solo women wanting to travel is Wild Terrains, which was created in 2018 and offers small group vacations to Portugal and Mexico, giving female travelers the chance to support female-run businesses. 

Founder Lauren Bates said she wanted to create something that ran a little deeper than the single pursuit weekends being made available to women. 

“I believe globally we tend to market to women in a very one or two-dimensional way that misses the mark on what women are really craving in terms of experiences and connections,” Bates said.

Wild Terrains founder Lauren Bates. Image credit: Supplied
Wild Terrains founder Lauren Bates. Image credit: Supplied

When launching its trips, the Wild Terrains team looks for places where women are breaking boundaries and working on innovative projects.

“If you look at the itineraries of other tour companies, you’ll find the majority of the local businesses they support with their tours are male-owned.” Bates said. 

“That felt like a true disconnect to me.

“If I was going to be bringing groups of women to a destination, I felt a responsibility to support local, women-owned businesses.”

In the short time that the company has been operating, it’s already had a major impact. The team has seen many women go home after their trip and make big life changes – quit a job, start a business, move to a new country.

Bate said the change wasn’t inspired by what they saw, but who they met. 

“Many have told me that the conversations with the other women in the group inspired the leap,” she said.

Image credit: Wild Terrains
A group of women on holiday in Mexico. Image credit: Wild Terrains

While these boutique companies may have been the first to notice the sea change, larger travel companies are also responding to the uplift. Intrepid Travel recently launched women-only expeditions to the Middle East; Conde Nast Traveller magazine created an online community for female solo travelers called Women Who Travel, which has 138 thousand members; and outdoor specialists REI recently launched a division for women, after seeing female bookings rise by 60 percent since 2010. Women represented 58 percent of its bookings last year. 

The rise in women-only trips has also created a domino effect within the travel industry itself— Intrepid Travel recently boosted its female guide numbers and set itself the goal of doubling its female tour leaders globally by 2020.

Thanks to industry-leading companies such as AdventureWomen, the travel industry is finally recognizing that women are looking for more than cupcake-filled spa weekends —they are looking for something that is both inspiring and life-changing, which is what these companies aim to deliver. 


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.