Girlfriend Getaways

Taking a sojourn with your gal pals has become all the rage, as an increasing number of women discover the freedom of traveling with friends. 

Girls on the Go

These days, you’re as likely to see girlfriends traveling together as couples or families. Almost two thirds of Canadian women have been on a girlfriend getaway, according to a 2007 survey conducted by Leger Marketing.

They are embarking on all kinds of trips: spa, adventure, culinary, ranch, shopping, city, often designing an itinerary around female-centric activities that guys typically eschew.

It’s not just young single gals, but women of all ages, according to  Marybeth Bond, author of 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways in North America and 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways Worldwide. Young women in their 20s and 30s who are still establishing their career and may have young families tend to go on one- or two-night trips, while baby boomers, who have more disposable income, are going on one- to two-week trips. The size of the group varies: anywhere from two to 20 (for a reunion).

Why have they become so popular? Societal shifts have made girlfriend getaways possible. “I think it is more acceptable today [for women to travel together], especially older women,” says Dr. Berkeley Kaite, a cultural studies professor in the English department at McGill University. Additionally, as more women than ever are working, they have their own income.

But it’s more than that. At the heart of it, girlfriend getaways offer women a female bonding experience. “We talk, we laugh, confess, we confide, maybe we imbibe too much, and we talk about things that the guys aren’t interested in,” Bond explains. And though there are still women who are apprehensive of leaving their hubbies behind, others welcome the break. “You can be in a relationship and love your partner, but you can still say, ‘Gee, I need a few days to chill out,'” Kaite explains.

For these reasons, Rick MacSwain, partner, leisure marketing at  Uniglobe Geo Travel in Edmonton expects the trend to grow.

Get with the Program

If you haven’t experienced a girlfriend getaway, maybe it’s time. Here are some tips to help make the trip a success:

Before the trip, set some ground rules. “You need to communicate about how much you’re going to spend, whether you snore, whether you prefer to have your own room,” says Bond.

During the trip, make sure you incorporate some “alone” time into every day so that each person has a chance to fully pursue her own interests and everyone gets a break from the group. Also consider putting money in a kitty for expenses so you aren’t nickel and diming each other.

Safety First

Other considerations? Safety, for one. Yeah, it sounds boring, but you would rather be safe than sorry. Take care when driving, avoid walking on the road at night (stay on the sidewalk), and ask the hotel concierge if it’s safe for women to visit a given area or destination by themselves. Also, make sure at least one of you brings a cell phone on your trip-check with your cell company to ensure the phone will work at your destination-and then enter the phone numbers for your hotel, the police, and the Canadian embassy.

And, of course, play safe. “Women can get wild when travelling by themselves,” says Dr. Dominique Tessier, medical director of the Medisys Travel Health Clinic in Montreal, so don’t leave your drinks unattended because unscrupulous people may slip drugs, such as GHB, into your glass, which may leave you vulnerable to assault or robbery. Also, use protection if you indulge in any hanky-panky.

Stay Healthy

Look after your health, as well. Before you go, make sure to pack the medical basics such as headache pills, band aids, tweezers, etc. and any medication you’re taking. Ask your doctor if you need to take along medication specific to a region: for example, malaria pills or high-altitude pills. You might be tempted to purchase medication on the road, but Tessier warns that it may not always be available or safe if you’re abroad.

Additionally, you might need to get a vaccine for your trip.  The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention web site has a travel section where you can search by destination to find out which vaccines you’ll need.

Even with these precautions, travel insurance is a must as illness/accidents can happen and hospital stays are very expensive.

During the trip, be mindful of what you eat. Avoid uncooked food due to the risk of Hepatitis A, salmonella and other diseases, says Tessier. Also, steer clear of ear-piercing, tattoos and acupuncture because contaminated instruments or ink can lead to Hepatitis B or C.

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