Looking for a little quality “me” time? “Travel + Leisure” magazine lists the top resorts, programs and hotels to vacation alone:
Adventurous womenFounded in 1982 by Susan Eckert, a pioneer in adventure travel for women, Eckert is called the “grande dame of the women-only adventure travel business.” Based in Bozeman, Montana, it features one- to three-week trips all over the world for active women over 30.
Featured package: Women’s Downhill Ski Clinic in MontanaDates: January 27 – February 2, 2008Cost: $2,395 - $600 deposit; Single supplement $400
- World-class downhill skiing in incredible snow at beautiful Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana.
- Area offers skiing for all abilities: 25% beginner; 35% intermediate, 30% advanced and 10% extreme
- Over 1,200 acres of skiing with over 2,000 vertical feet of drop
- Expert women instructors, small group lessons
- Includes cooked-to-order breakfasts daily
Pamper yourself for the holidays
Located in Mexico — just 3 miles from the U.S. border and 3 hours from L.A. (you will need a passport) — Rancho La Puerta has guests who come by themselves every week. Family owned and operated, the 2007 rates for a one-week visit range from $2,690 - $4,065 per person. The establishment also offers a new cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta, that's set in in the midst of a 5-acre organic farm called Tres Estrellas. Single travelers find the Ranch a good place to visit alone since it's easy to meet other guests in a safe environment.
Give back for the holidaysSince Katrina, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) has become the leading home builder in the city. And as of July 2007, NOAHH has built 73 houses (prior to Katrina, NOAHH built 12-14 homes per year) and an additional 195 are under construction in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes. NOAHH has gutted over 2,400 homes and more than 49,000 volunteers have come to New Orleans.
Habitat provides capital — not charity — to partner families. Through the NOAHH program, low-income families who normally wouldn’t be able to secure a bank loan are given a chance to own a home. In lieu of a traditional down payment, Habitat Partner Families contribute 350 hours of “sweat equity” to the building of their homes and the homes of others.
Visitors can stay at Camp Hope — located on the campus of PGT Beauregard Middle School in St. Bernard, Louisiana — 20 miles from the central business district of New Orleans. It accommodates 600+ volunteers with a place to sleep, recreation space, wireless Internet, laundry and three meals per day including a bag lunch for the work day.
Featured package: Camp HopeCost: $20/day or $100 weekVolunteers work Tuesday - Saturday, 7:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.Volunteers pay their own way to New Orleans and for their own food and accommodations.
Get fit for the holidaysWith more than 28 years experience in the adventure travel business, Country Walkers has 75 worldwide tours, 61 classic walking tours, 7 women’s adventures, 5 family adventures and 2 snowshoe adventures. Their 2008 trip locations include North, South and Central America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific. Walkers average between 3-12 miles per day for trips that vary in length from 5-12 days. The average group size is 10-14 guests with 18 max.
Featured package: Morocco Holiday: From Fes to Marrakesh12-day adventure from December 22, 2007 - January 2, 2008Rate: $4,698Easy to moderate terrain
- Festive New Year’s Eve celebration at a restored hunting lodge in the High Atlas.
- Imperial cities of Fes and Marrakesh — visits to Kasbahs and souks (bazaars)
- Sunrise and sunset camel treks
- Moorish and Islamic architecture
- Elegant hotels, rustic alpine lodges and a tented desert camp
Whether you're headed to India or Vietnam, traveling alone doesn't have to be a daunting experience. Xander Kaplan of “Travel + Leisure” magazine assesses six countries where a little extra legwork and careful planning make all the difference:
IndiaGiven its enormous size, there are a multitude of diverse experiences you can have in India —anything from ayurvedic spa treatments in Kerala to walks through bustling urban Mumbai. The sensory overload can be overwhelming at times, and it's impossible to underestimate the importance of planning ahead. Julia Gregor, a New York City filmmaker, went to India alone on business earlier this year. At first, she was put off by "the haggling with rickshaw drivers and cabdrivers who follow you in hordes." But after she got her bearings, Gregor was compelled to stay on for five months to explore.
“T+L” tip: "I'm Indian, but when I go to southern India, I, too, need a translator," says travel agent Pallavi Shah. "It's so easy to feel threatened when you can't understand the language." While people's friendliness borders on aggressive, it's rarely malevolent, Shah notes. "You might be strolling along and someone will invite you to a wedding party or a meal in their house. As long as it's a woman or a family asking, it's generally safe to say yes."
MoroccoAfter befriending a group of North African students in France, Tricia Dowhan was inspired to travel to Morocco in 1998 to design a specific itinerary geared toward women for Country Walkers. The tour is called Morocco: Women's Adventure, and is led by a female tour guide. In general, traveling has also gotten easier for women, thanks to progressive King Mohamed VI, who has been strongly pushing to prohibit hassling in the marketplace (to bolster tourism). This doesn't necessarily mean hassling won't happen at all.
“T+L” tip: "While wandering the souks alone isn't dangerous, men can be suggestive," says agent Karen Harris. Dress modestly in more conservative areas, such as Fez and Ouarzazate in the desert — wear clothing that covers the legs, arms, and collarbone. Casablanca and Marrakesh are more cosmopolitan, though it's always wise to err on the side of conservatism.
President Alan Garcia's reelection in June, after a 16-year gap, has ushered in a period of tentative optimism. New laws require official guides to accompany hikers along the Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu — a bonus for solo women. It's least expensive to sign up in Cuzco's main square, but it's worth looking for a reliable guide to tour other parts of the country, too.
“T+L” tip: "Labor-related strikes can hit without warning in Peru, and they happen fairly frequently," says travel agent Melissa Harrison Hiatt. "I recommend going with a backup plan and taking out a trip-insurance policy through a company like Travel Guard, whose policies cover some strikes."
South AfricaA history clouded by racism and unemployment puts many first-time visitors on guard. "I didn't think I would be comfortable walking around Cape Town," says Kelly Parisi, vice president of communications at the American Foundation for the Blind, who recently returned from a trip to South Africa with her twin sister. "I was infinitely surprised."
Women should feel secure staying in the large hotels, such as Cape Grace, near Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or in Johannesburg's wealthy suburbs. South Africa's bountiful wine region and extraordinary coastal routes invite solo or small-group travelers. Safari lodges, many of which also have excellent spas, are ideal for women on their own.
“T+L” tip: "I always rent a cell phone," says travel agent Judy Udwin. You can pick one up at the airport in Jo'burg, or it's also possible to order a phone in advance through CellularAbroad.com, and it'll be shipped to you before you depart.
TurkeyOn a trip to Turkey last summer, artist Jil Nelson was surprised when her cabdriver took a detour: "When we protested, we found out he was giving us an informal tour. He had heard us commenting on how beautiful the Old City looked. When does that ever happen?"
Smooth traveling in Turkey requires little more than proper etiquette, awareness of local habits, and common sense. Women in Istanbul — especially in trendy nightclubs such as 360 and Reina — dress no different from women in New York. In mosques, people are required to remove their shoes, and women must cover their head with a scarf.
“T+L” tip: "Women traveling alone should avoid certain areas of Anatolia, such as Konya (the home of the whirling dervishes), where a woman might feel strange walking into a restaurant by herself," says travel agent Ellison Poe. "People are extremely orthodox. Even in Cappadocia, where people are accustomed to tourists, women travelers should take precautions: Dress modestly and stay in a small group."
VietnamWith an eye toward foreign investment and virtually no threat of terrorism, Vietnam has improved its infrastructure, and the arrival of hotels like the Park Hyatt has raised its tourism standards. Exploring Vietnam's diverse landscape — from sweeping rice fields to idyllic beaches — is fairly uncomplicated. "I rode a bicycle to school in Hanoi. I never felt threatened," comments graduate student Naomi Greenwald, who spent four months there as a student in 2001. If you're at all nervous about eating alone, one fun option is to take a food tour, such as Vietnam Cookery Center, which offers a half-day cooking class that includes a market tour (www.expat-services.com).
“T+L” tip: "When renting a motorbike, beware of a scam in which the bike's owner supplies a lock he has a key to. Someone follows you to steal [back] the bike, forcing you to pay," says travel agent Diane Embree. One way to avoid this is to buy your own lock. She also recommends keeping your belongings out of range of the many street children and thieves on bikes, especially in the touristy D Dong Khoi and Pham Ngu Lao areas of Ho Chi Minh City.
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