American women have come a long way since the days when "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver" were popular TV shows, when most women were too busy with their domestic lives to think about jet-setting. Today, however, women are the leading consumers in the travel market. Now women, young and old alike, are forging their independence, trying out new activities, and gaining a stronger sense of self through travel. Not coincidently, women-only tours and travel experiences are on the rise.
"Women-only travel is definitely a growing trend. From when I started in the early 90s, I've seen an over 200 percent increase in the number of women's travel companies," says Evelyn Hannon, editor of Journeywoman, the first and largest online travel resource for women.
Teresa Rodriguez Williamson, founder of TangoDiva.com, an online travel magazine and community for women, says that there are presently about 75 established women-only travel providers, with more options cropping up and diversifying into niches within the women's travel market. "Now you have companies and individuals who focus on women's specific interests—say cooking, hiking, painting, and surfing," says Williamson. "By next year you will easily find tours custom-designed for everything from women who love to knit and hike to women who enjoy painting and meditating."
To help you to determine whether a women-only vacation is right for you, I asked women's travel experts and ordinary women who have been on women-only vacations to discuss the benefits. I also looked at vacation providers that offer these types of trips—both tour companies which dedicate all of their business to women-only trips and other providers that run occasional women-only programs—and have highlighted here some of the best options I found.