Women travel together for these and many other reasons -- which is why a growing number of tour operators and travel clubs have formed to cater to intrepid female travelers. These companies have fun, audacious names like Gutsy Women Travel and Wild Women Travel, and they offer a plethora of women-centric trips from hiking excursions in the Rockies to gourmet tours of Tuscany.
Whether you want to take an organized tour or would rather plan your own independent gals' getaway, there's a wealth of resources out there for women travelers. Below are our best safety tips for women traveling on their own, as well as a list of the top female-centric travel sites and vacation providers.
Single Travel: Tips for Going Solo
General Tips for Women Travelers
Most tips for women travelers, and indeed all travelers, come down to one thing: common sense. It's the kind of stuff your parents told you growing up -- don't walk in strange neighborhoods after dark, lock your doors, don't leave your valuables lying around, be alert.
An intrinsic part of traveling is paying attention and adapting to the cultural milieu in which you travel, which means an awareness of gender roles and expectations. Learn everything you can about the values and customs of a country, and be aware of how you should tailor your behavior to fit into that culture.
Don't do anything you can't imagine a local woman doing (or yourself doing at home) -- like following strangers to out-of-the-way places or accepting lodging or rides from men you don't know. It's also not a good idea to wear flashy jewelry or show a lot of money in public places.
But more than that, be aware of local attitudes toward women in the country in which you are traveling. Do women tend to wear concealing clothes in that country? If so, don't draw attention to yourself with short shorts, plunging necklines or tight tank tops. Many women travel experts recommend wearing long, loose-fitting clothes when traveling internationally, which also offers the added benefit of concealing money belts.
In some cultures, a woman traveling alone is considered to be available. If you want to ward off unwanted advances from foreign men, try wearing a (fake) wedding ring. Avoid eye contact with unknown men, as this may be construed as an invitation.
Know the equivalent of "911" in whatever country you're visiting, and make sure you have a functioning cell phone with you at all times.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member back home and be sure to check in regularly by phone or e-mail. It's also a good idea to register your presence with your home country's embassy when you're traveling internationally. (For more information, see Travel Warnings and Advisories.) Finally, when you leave your hotel, let the front desk know when you should be expected back.
Walk confidently, as though you know exactly where you're going (even if you don't!). Don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look at a map or rifle through your purse; distracted travelers are easy prey for thieves.
Conceal some cash in your shoe, sock or bra -- enough to pay for a cab ride if you find yourself in a dangerous spot.
If you are attacked, use caution when reporting the crime. In certain countries, police may not be very sympathetic to female victims. Your hotel or embassy can advise you of the best course of action.
Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy or uncomfortable in a certain situation, move on.
10 Simple Tips for a Smoother Trip
Hotel Security Tips
Choose the right accommodations. Hotels that require room access through a lobby area are infinitely more secure than motels with access from the outside. We also recommend choosing a B&B or inn rather than a large hotel with a cavernous lobby and hundreds of rooms. Loitering strangers are much more conspicuous in smaller lobbies, and many women feel safer and less anonymous at a property where the front desk staff recognizes their face and is aware of who's coming and going.
Before booking a hotel, research the neighborhood. How safe is it? Are there nearby businesses that will be open and busy after dark? It's worth paying a little extra for a hotel in a more secure neighborhood.
Avoid first-floor rooms -- break-ins are less likely on the upper levels of a hotel. Ask for a room near the elevators.
When checking in, ask the desk clerk to write your room number on a piece of paper rather than announce it. If he or she announces it in a crowded lobby, ask for a different room.
When you enter an elevator, position yourself next to the button panel and make a mental note of where the "alarm" or "bell" button is so that you can push it if needed.