Trip Coach: July 24, 2007
Beth Whitman, author of 'Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo,' answered your questions on solo travel.
Beth Whitman: Hi, Janet. It depends on whether you're talking about a tour or creating your own itinerary.
There are a number of tour companies that cater to women travelers, many of them are solo women in that they aren't traveling with anyone they know. Try:
Adventures in Good Company
Wild Women Expeditions
When I book my own adventures, I generally go to the major travel booking engines first and work from there. I get pricing for airlines and hotels from Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity and then check the websites for the hotel or airline that has the best deal to see if I can do just a tad better if I go direct. (If you run into a snag with your reservation, customer service will generally be better if you booked directly through a hotel or airline and often the price is the same as if you had booked through a travel booking engine.)
For hotels, I check out sites such as TripAdvisor to see if there are any recommendations (or alerts) for the hotel I'm considering booking.
Forums such as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree and Fodor's Talk will have up to date info about particular destinations.
If you're really ready for an adventure and interested in meeting the locals, try:
Women Welcoming Women Worldwide
These sites/organizations will allow you to connect and stay with locals at no charge. They are all excellent ways of traveling around the globe on a budget and ensuring that you'll meet lots of people along the way.
Overall, the key is to do your research, whether it's on or off line, and become familiar enough with your destination so that you can feel and act confident when you get off the plane. Also, I recommend having your first night's stay booked in advance and, if possible, have a ride waiting for you at the airport so you aren't trying to figure out where to go while also trying to work through jetlag.
New York, N.Y.: I am trying to plan an affordable trip of the west coast for next year. I would like to fly from New York to Los Angeles to start the trip. From that point, I'd like to spend a day in Mexico, a day in San Francisco, a day in Portland, three days in Washington state to visit family, one day in Vancouver, British Columbia, and then drive back to Los Angeles to fly back to New York. How would you recommend that I purchase this trip or plan the trip?
Beth Whitman: Unless you have a specific reason for starting out in LA, why not fly from NY to Seattle and then book another ticket from LA back to NY? Many online booking engines now allow you to book one way tickets for a reasonable fare. Sites such as JetBlue and Southwest often have online specials that you could take advantage of as well.
You could rent a car in Seattle or check into the availability of a DriveAway (in which you are given the "job" of driving a car from one destination to the next).
Starting your trip in the Northwest would allow you to work your way down the coast after visiting Vancouver and seeing your family. You could then easily meander, stopping in Portland, San Francisco and LA and then head down to Mexico for a day (though I don't know how much of Mexico you'll really be able to see in just one day).
Holdenville, Okla.: I plan to take a trip via Summer Bay Resorts to Cancun Aug 10-14. I'm traveling alone and 67-years-old. I've been to Cancun a couple of times, but not since Hurricane Katrina. Is there anything I should be concerned with? I plan on taking a tour to the pyramids and or Tulum.
Beth Whitman: Hi, Fran. I have not heard of any additional issues in Cancun since Hurricane Katrina but I haven't been there myself since then, either.
I'd start with Summer Bay Resorts and ask them if anything has changed since the Hurricane. They may not be completely forthcoming, but you can give it a shot.
I'd also visit with travel agents in your area and ask them if they know of any issues. Be upfront with them and let them know that you may not book with them but that you are looking for information on the region. I bet they'll have some great info to share with you.