These days, it probably wouldn’t come as any surprise to you that women are a formidable force in travel. Women make up more than half of today’s leisure travelers, and are responsible for nearly 85% of all travel decisions – for themselves, their friends, their spouses, and their families!
And those stats are climbing. In the past few years, searches for solo female travel tips, top solo female travel destinations, and advice on getting started have increased steadily as more and more women feel empowered to take a trip.
As a woman in the travel industry myself, I know travel blogging is skewed largely towards women, which is great as women still make up just 36% of small business owners worldwide. But in many ways, the opposite is still true of the larger tourism workforce. While 54% of employees in tourism are women, they often earn 14.7% less than their male counterparts, and are nearly 6X less likely to reach an executive leadership position.
Crazy, right? You would think that if women were making the majority of the travel decisions worldwide, they might have an easier shot at getting representation at the top of the food chain in the tourism industry, no?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
It’s because of this disparity that I get extra giddy when I learn about different women-owned businesses in travel that are rewriting the script, forging their own paths, and normalizing women getting a seat at the table in the tourism industry.
While it might seem small, booking with, buying from, and supporting woman-owned travel companies not only benefits women’s travel, it directly boosts gender equality in tourism and the opportunity to both explore – and earn – on a level playing field.
So, I spoke with the female CEOs and founders of some of my favorite woman-owned travel companies to spotlight their amazing businesses for you.
From adventure apparel, to social enterprises, to travel communities, to unique experiences for both men and women, here’s why these companies need to be on your radar, if they aren’t already!
Woman-Owned Travel Companies That Should Be On Your Radar
- Founder / CEO: Beth Santos
- Type of Travel Company: Community, Events
- Website: sheswanderful.com/join
What Is Wanderful?
Wanderful is an international collective of travelers and travel content creators on a mission to make travel better for all women. Wanderful offers a hybrid online/offline membership community giving women the chance to make lifelong travel connections both at home and abroad through a global hosting network, an exclusive 24/7 member app, and local chapter events in cities around the world, plus travel and professional webinars hosted by an in-house team of resident experts. They are the creators of the popular travel marketing event WITS (Women in Travel Summit), the annual Bessie Awards, and the first major outdoor travel festival by and for women, Wanderfest.
How Did Wanderful Start?
Beth started Wanderful as a blog in 2009 while living in Sao Tome and Principe, a small two-island nation off Africa’s west coast. The reality is that women make 80-85% of consumer decisions in travel, but are woefully underrepresented in travel industry marketing and leadership. They’re constantly faced with messaging related to safety or fashion — and not much in between — and lack a strong support network. Wanderful was first created to share some of the real stories of women, and now does so much more, challenging the travel industry to do better, amplifying the work of women who are content creators and small business owners, and encouraging travelers to be mindful of their local impact and the effects of their travels.
What Makes Wanderful Unique?
Every month, Wanderful donates a portion of member dues to an organization doing great things for women and girls around the world. They also do a lot of work in equitable representation and DEI, and especially in supporting and amplifying the voices of a diversity of women.
I am so excited to be speaking at Wanderful’s upcoming Women in Travel Summit in May 2022. Grab your ticket to the conference using this link and get 15% off with my code – RACHELJEAN15. Hope to see you there!
2. Kind Traveler
- Co-Founder / CEO: Jessica Blotter
- Type of Travel Company: Hotel Booking, Giving Back
- Website: kindtraveler.com
What Is Kind Traveler?
Kind Traveler, a women and veteran-owned public benefit corporation, as well as the first socially-conscious Give + Get hotel booking and media platform that empowers travelers to positively impact the communities they visit. Through the Give + Get platform, travelers can unlock exclusive rates and perks when they give a minimum of a $10 donation to a locally vetted charity that positively impacts the community they are visiting. 100% of donations go to charity and travelers will receive impact metrics to learn exactly how their dollars are being put to work with various community and environmental charities. To date, travelers can explore 140 hotels and 100+ charities in 22 countries.
When booking with Kind Traveler, travelers will additionally learn about the initiatives Kind Hotels have in place to advance community impact, environmental sustainability, and individual wellness. Lastly, through the Kind Traveler Blogzine, travelers will find educational content to inspire responsible and sustainable travel, learn about the regenerative practices of hotels, women-owned hotels, destinations that are advancing stewardship, and more.
In a recent Kind Traveler study, 96% of travelers indicated that it was important to ensure their travel dollars made a positive impact in local communities. However, more than 50% of travelers find this to be confusing or don’t know how to make a positive impact within communities. Kind Traveler makes it easy to find hotels committed to social responsibility and give back in a meaningful way to charities that are woven into the interconnectedness of the health and wellbeing of communities and destinations. In turn, trip satisfaction increases, and travelers are filled up with a sense of purpose knowing that they are helping to leave destinations better than before they arrived.
How Did Kind Traveler Start?
During a trip to Belize, Jessica and her co-founder, Sean Krejci, witnessed heart-breaking poverty, polluted swamps, and the plight of emaciated dogs on the streets. As animal rescue volunteers in the U.S., they had a difficult time ignoring the begging dogs. They made a choice to feed the dogs and unintentionally inspired other travelers to get involved. The feelings of helplessness turned to hope as they yearned for a way for their travel dollars to make a lasting, meaningful impact in the local community.
When they returned home, they asked themselves: “What if we could create a way for travelers to easily make a meaningful positive impact within the communities they visit and in turn, be filled up with a greater sense of joy and purpose while traveling?” After years of development, the answer was Kind Traveler.
What Makes Kind Traveler Unique?
Kind Traveler has 10 core causes and 100+ charities that are actively advancing the UN Global Goals. Causes range from wildlife conservation, environmental sustainability, human rights, public benefit, arts and culture, and more.
A $10 donation can go a long way! Here are a few examples of what a $10 donation can do:
- Plant 10 trees with One Tree Planted, helping to restore forests and create habitat for biodiversity
- Provide a clean water filter that serves up to 2,500 per day with Imagine Thailand Foundation
- Provide three weeks of food to three rescued wildlife patients with the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW Clinic)
- Founder / CEO: Tara Cappel
- Type of Travel Company: International Adult Study Abroad Programs
- Website: sojrn.travel
What Is Sojrn?
Sojrn is a modern study abroad program for adults. Sojrn allows people to travel while working remotely and learning something new alongside a diverse community of curious individuals.
How Did Sojrn Start?
No stranger to launching travel companies, Tara actually first launched a company called FTLO Travel (For the Love of Travel) in 2016. She designed this company to help people in their 20s and 30s have perspective-broadening travel experiences while making new friends and supporting local economies. Travel had a huge impact on Tara as a kid growing up in the middle of Idaho, and she wanted to help others have similarly impactful experiences even if they didn’t have someone to travel with. They plan amazing itineraries that attract adventurous, fun people around the same age (25-39). It’s an approachable and social way to travel while still having genuine, “slow travel” experiences that ensure tourism dollars benefit the local community.
Tara then dreamed up the idea for Sojrn during the pandemic when FTLO couldn’t run trips, and she had a lot of time to think about what travel could look like post-pandemic if people took their laptop with them and could immerse somewhere for a longer period of time. At the same time, Tara observed how many people were rediscovering latent interests and hobbies during the pandemic, and how it brought them joy during an incredibly difficult time. She fused the concept of extended travel with learning something new in a supportive, experiential environment, and Sojrn was born.
What Makes Sojrn Unique?
From learning about wine tasting in Tuscany, to practicing your Spanish with a private tutor in Colombia, Sojrn’s mission is to provide an opportunity for adults an opportunity to learn something new, and foster new creative interests, while working and traveling.
At the core of Sojrn (and FTLO) is a dedication to cross cultural understanding and keeping money in local communities. At times, their trips cost more than competitors because they are adamant about using local, independent suppliers, not large corporations who trade in cheaper mass tourism.
Not only does this help keep money in the community, it provides a better experience overall.
- Founder: Priyanka Juneja
- Type of Travel Company: Community, Female Travel Safety
- Website: hera.travel
What Is Hera?
Priyanka believes that everyone deserves to feel safe everywhere. Hera exists to empower women to travel fearlessly through detailed safety guides, a community of other travelers, and a network of trusted partners so that any woman can take her next trip with confidence.
Hera’s destination guides (called HerCity guides) include specific safety information relevant to women travelers such as who to contact in case of an emergency, how to travel safely at night, areas of a city to avoid, where to stay, COVID-19 information, etc. They also include information and resources for how friendly a destination is for POC and LGBTQ+ travelers. Through the Community, women travelers from all over the world can connect with one another, get travel tips from local experts, view their curated list of recommended hotels in destinations, and so much more!
Hera just launched at the end of January 2022, and they gearing up for so many more HerCity guides on the horizon. If you subscribe, you’ll be updated as more detailed guides become available.
How Did Hera Start?
Hera began after Priyanka was supposed to travel solo in Cairo, Egypt. After seeking advice from friends and doing her research, she still couldn’t figure out how to safely explore the city alone. The best advice she got from people was to either stay at the hotel a majority of her stay or change her trip entirely. Frustrated, she chose the second option. She remembered thinking to herself that the travel industry needed to do better.
There have been countless times where she has been concerned for personal safety on the road or felt that destinations were off limits unless you were traveling in a large group. After talking to other women, she found out she wasn’t alone. 100% of the women she spoke to expressed similar concerns. With that, she got to work on Hera the very next day.
What Makes Hera Unique?
Everything Hera Travel does is to support women. Not only does Hera help women travel fearlessly but they also support and promote women-owned businesses in destinations worldwide, such as hotels, small businesses, and tour companies.
Priyanka was gracious enough to offer my readers an annual membership to Hera for just $19.99, using the link above, which is 50% off the normal price for access to this community and its safety resources. Thank you Priyanka!
5. The Animal Experience International
- Founder / CEO: Nora Livingstone
- Type of Travel Company: Ethical Volunteering, B-Corp
- Website: animalexperienceinternational.com
What Is The Animal Experience International?
Animal Experience International is a B Corp that connects people to safe, ethical and authentically beneficial animal volunteer programs. They are a woman owned Canadian company that was founded in 2011 by a travel expert (Nora Livingstone) and a wildlife veterinarian (Dr. Heather Reid). The programs offered range from one-week group adventures to months-long solo immersive experiences, but what links them all is that they are in the service of animals and all locally run and supported – making sure they are economically and socially responsible while being environmentally sustainable. From wild horse and shark conservation in Mongolia or South Africa (respectively) to rescue and rehabilitation of dogs and monkeys in Nepal and Malawi – there is an ethical program for every animal lover.
How Did The Animal Experience International Start?
Nora and Dr. Heather started AEI because they both saw a great need for travelers to have a guide while they searched out authentic volunteer programs. They also saw a role that needed to be filled as a conduit between international programs and travelers. Programs need volunteers but often lack the resources to have a full-time volunteer coordinator, marketer, recruiter and/or health and safety officer. Their roles are as important to the traveler as they are to the animal conservation and welfare programs. Bringing in travelers who have the correct expectations and had their questions answered quickly and effectively means the centers are able to operate at a higher capacity. AEI came from the very simple idea that people who love animals want to help them but often times don’t have the capacity to find other helpers.
What Makes The Animal Experience International Unique?
Being a B Corp, AEI has been audited every few years to show that there is a true quantifiable benefit to their business and their programs. So, when they say they specialize in ethical and authentic volunteering, they have the math to back it up. In an effort to demystify ethical, sustainable and justice based travel, they do everything they can to educate people on what they know rather than just tell people to ‘trust them’.
They are making life-long ethical travelers through these practices.
My good friend Lauren went on a trip to Guatemala with Animal Experience International and absolutely loved it. You can read about her firsthand experience here!
6. Legit Trips
- Co-Founders: Kristen Sargent, Megan Lundquist
- Type of Travel Company: Local and International Group Trips
- Website: legittrips.com
What Is Legit Trips?
Legit Trips is a women-owned boutique travel company, specializing in hand-crafted small group itineraries. They curate an adventure that includes the well-known “best of” a destination while also uncovering hidden gems. Their average group size is 10-12 guests, and they welcome solo travelers, groups of friends, and couples. Their mission is to help you discover the world together, and they believe the joy of discovering a new place is better when shared. You can choose everything from an easy beach weekend in Cozumel or Belize, to a 9-day cultural experience in Thailand.
How Did Legit Trips Start?
Megan Lundquist and Kristen Sargent dreamt up Legit Trips eight years ago on the beach in Belize. Both avid travelers already, they’d been organizing an annual friends’ trip which continued to grow in size until it became the first-ever official Legit Trip. The business has been run very similarly ever since – using feedback from customers to plan new trips, and growing through incredible word-of-mouth references and referrals. Megan and Kristen are best friends who love to work together and travel the world, and they built the business to meet these two goals. They never intended for Legit Trips to be for everyone, but they’ve always strived to build a community, create connections, and serve the people that want to explore the world with other like-minded, adventurous individuals.
What Makes Legit Trips Unique?
Legit Trips carefully selects the destinations and vendors they work with to ensure their itineraries are good for the people, places, and animals they visit. They always choose local companies – from boutique hotels to tour guides. They’re particularly passionate about the ocean and regularly support efforts to protect and clean up our oceans.
The team also constantly keeps in touch with local friends in these destinations to understand the needs of the places they visit and invite their guests to bring needed supplies. Overall, they aim to leave a positive imprint on each place they have the great privilege to visit.
I am partnering with Legit Trips to lead my very own all-women’s retreat to Morocco in October 2022. Travel with me and experience Legit Trips for yourself! Use this link to reserve your spot!
- Co-Founders: Nada Raphael, Joelle Sfeir
- Type of Travel Company: Socially Responsible Tours in Lebanon
- Website: tourleb.org
What Is Tourleb?
As a socially responsible tour operator with a pledge to RESPECT (Responsible, Experiential, Sustainable, Personalized, Empowering women and local Communities, and Trust), Tourleb’s goal is to make visitors fall in love with Lebanon, while promoting Lebanon as a destination.
Tourleb offers customized and personalized experiences throughout the country. Visitors can create their own unique way of discovering the country as Tourleb works with local partners everywhere. Food, wine, green tourism, animal sanctuaries, natural reserves, historical sites, local coffee shops, NGOs and marginalized populations, crafts, arts and designers… the only limit is the visitor’s interest.
Each outing Tourleb provides directly generates a fair income to 3 to 5 local families.
How Did Tourleb Start?
In 2013, Tourleb saw a great movement of change in Lebanon. Activists, new ideas, and new projects were creating a ripple of a change. Having lived in Canada, the founders of Tourleb noticed that Lebanon is definitely a place North Americans don’t typically ever think of visiting because of its bad reputation. They wanted to reverse the narrative and show people that Lebanon is actually a great place, with very warm and hospitable people, good food, and tons of incredible historic sites and landscapes.
Local initiatives, development projects, and success stories of creative fellow citizens fuel Tourleb’s passion to showcase the country, as well as surprise and delight visitors who almost never expect to discover and experience everything Lebanon has to offer
What Makes TourLeb Unique?
Tourleb is committed to supporting local business, fair travels, women-owned businesses and women empowerment, access for differently abled people, youth education, and more.
Furthermore, Tourleb is committed to the economic support and advancement of local tour operators on the ground in Lebanon. 100% of the money local operators request, they receive as a pass-through from Tourleb, who is committed to attracting curious travelers and generating steady tourism for Lebanon.
I recently traveled to Lebanon with Tourleb and without a doubt, it’s been one of my favorite trips of my life. Mention my blog, Rachel Off Duty, when you reach out to Tourleb to see some of the itinerary days we planned together for my visit (and perhaps even do them yourself!).
8. Puebla York
- Founder: Sequoia Armstrong
- Type of Travel Company: Sustainable Culinary Trips in Japan and Mexico
- Website: pueblayorkinc.com
What Is Puebla York?
Puebla York curates sustainable culinary trips to Japan and Mexico. Puebla York wants to empower travelers to explore Japan and Mexico through meaningful culinary experiences and slower travel with an emphasis on supporting small and/or women-owned businesses.
How Did Puebla York Start?
Puebla York started in 2019 as an ethically-sourced apparel brand inspired by the urban energy of New York City and the familial spirit of Mexico. Sequoia had worked in the restaurant industry for many years alongside colleagues from Mexico-most being from Puebla, Mexico. Sequoia wanted to create a brand that would give back to the community while putting the planet first. The name comes from a brief comment Sequoia had made at work with colleagues about New York being Puebla York. Her colleagues laughed and the name just stuck.
In 2021 Sequoia pivoted the business to focus on services and digital products. However, tours continue to be available and can be custom-curated to you – it all begins with a quick discovery call to learn your unique interests.
What Makes Puebla York Unique?
Puebla York has given back to RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) from the beginning, and Asian American Advancing Justice-Atlanta in 2021.
Overall, the emphasis is to give back to causes and organizations that support women and children. Outside of this, Puebla York supports as many small and/or women-owned businesses as possible.
- Co-Founder / COO: Camille Rumani
- Type of Travel Company: Immersive International Culinary Experiences
- Website: eatwith.com
What Is Eatwith?
Eatwith is the world’s largest community for culinary experiences in 130+ countries and 1,000+ destinations. They connect people who are seeking unique and immersive experiences with their hand-selected local hosts, in private homes and exclusive venues. You’re invited to pull up a seat at dinner party in an elegant Paris home, enjoy an Italian feast with a Roman family, take a cooking class in Tokyo, or marvel at the Manhattan skyline over a rooftop brunch. From home cooks and food lovers to Master Chefs and Michelin-starred culinary experts, they have all been curated by the Eatwith team and they all share one special ingredient: a passion for bringing people together through food.
Eatwith is for people who want to do something different, have a great food experience in a more casual and unique setting, discover a talented chef, learn about a new culture or lifestyle, and meet other people along the way.
How Did EatWith Start?
Eatwith was founded in 2014 by two French entrepreneurs, Jean-Michel Petit & Camille Rumani. Camille was living and working in Beijing and had been invited by her Chinese friends to spend Chinese New Year and other celebrations with their family.
Through these experiences, Camille discovered the power of sharing food with strangers while traveling, and how it enables people to discover a new culture from the inside. That inspired her to create a platform to facilitate these experiences and gather a community of local hosts around the world.
It became her mission “Bringing people together through food.”
What Makes EatWith Unique?
Camille has always been an advocate for women in Tech, and has devoted herself to sponsoring events to encourage women to have a career in Tech. At Eatwith, 60% of their team is women, including in their C-Level executive leadership. It’s something really close to her heart.
Sustainable food is also something Eatwith prides itself on prioritizing, from farm-to-table to local and seasonally sourced products. They’ve also been encouraging Eatwith users to donate to the United Nations World Food Programme, via the ShareTheMeal app. It’s proposed to any user after they book an Eatwith experience, and they’ve collected +800 meals so far. Anyone can join that program using this link.
10. Wild Bum
- Founder: Mollie Krengel
- Type of Travel Company: Curated Travel Guides
- Website: wildbum.com
What Is Wild Bum?
Founded by travel devotee and community advocate Mollie Krengel, Wild Bum is an online global marketplace that offers comprehensive, curated travel guides. Designed by Guide Architects—real travelers who are passionate about sharing their insider travel knowledge—Wild Bum Guides provide a blueprint for travelers around the world to plan their next adventure. Mollie aspired to connect people like her – who LOVE and geek out over travel research or even gems in their hometowns – with people who want to travel meaningfully but feel completely overwhelmed with the process.
How Did Wild Bum Start?
Mollie was essentially creating a version of Wild Bum on her own – curating and selling travel guides. The core of her passion for travel is founded on health and well-being. She wholeheartedly believes that travel is not a luxury, but rather an essential part of our fulfillment and well-being. The more she and her family traveled, the more people began seeking out her research and advice – information that she spent months and months putting together.
In January 2018, she came up with the concept of building a platform that united a global community and brought people together to share this same skill. She wanted people to be able to search for travel blueprints not only by destination, but by travel type, season, budget and so on. She also envisioned each Guide Architect having their own “shop” / profile, linked to their Instagram so that it could form true community / connection and help support all of their pursuits – beyond Wild Bum.
There are so many cool people in the Wild Bum community! As a scientist (background in Human Biology and Positive Psychology), Mollie’s dream is to turn Wild Bum into the thought-leader behind inspiring more Americans to use their hard-earned vacation days. The Wild Bum website launched at the end of 2018, and now has over 1,500 Guide Architects who live all over the globe.
What Makes Wild Bum Unique?
What gets Wild Bum fired up is the life-changing magic of travel. The science is boundless – improved overall health (physically, physiologically and mentally), a renewed zest for life, perspective, increased creativity, taking fewer sick days at work, life-long memories and connections made… and it goes on and on.
Wild Bum’s mission is to be a part of and a catalyst for travel’s life-changing ways. During Wild Hive adventures (Wild Bum’s own curated trips), philanthropic projects have included:
- Renovating a rural school in El Salvador
- Installing clean water filters and stoves in Mayan homes
- Helping build the first-ever community center in rural Colombia
If you are an avid trip planner or have unique expertise in any particular destination, you can also sign up to be a Guide Architect and make money from your knowledge! I have a few guides on Wild Bum myself, which you can find using this link.
- Founder: Puja Seth
- Type of Travel Company: Adventure Apparel for Women
- Website: drifted.co
What Is Drifted?
Drifted designs modern and versatile outdoor + travel apparel. The brand is made specifically for women who love to get outdoors, explore nature, and seek out adventure travel, but also enjoy going to stylish events or restaurants. So, Drifted makes clothes that can take women from the gritty trail to a classy art gallery without ever having to change – always feeling confident and prepared for the occasion.
How Did Drifted Start?
Puja and a group of friends were traveling in Morocco and they had a day planned to go for a hike in the atlas mountains. After their 8-hour hike, they had reservations in town for drinks and a fancy dinner at a swanky lounge in Marrakech. They didn’t have time to change between plans, and they needed to stay in the same outfit for the day. That ended up being the most difficult part of the day – navigating what to wear for a day on the trail and an evening in town. They ended up having to change their plans strictly because they didn’t have suitable outfits that could do double-duty.
Puja quickly realized this problem was a very female-oriented issue because women’s outdoor clothes were designed initially for men and never accounted for a woman’s natural body shape, or how we actually travel and adventure. So, she grabbed a sketch pad and started designing pieces that worked from trail to town, and Drifted was born.
What Makes Drifted Unique?
Drifted is a very small business – run by Puja, who is a mother of two kids under 2. Drifted makes it a non-negotiable pillar to choose sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing when developing their products, and they believe supporting businesses that align with their values can move the needle in creating a new and better consumer culture.
- Founder / CEO: Kim Callender
- Type of Travel Company: Digital Platform for Solo Female Travelers
- Website: solotrvlr.com
What Is Solotrvlr?
SoloTrvlr is an online membership platform by women, for women. Their platform makes it easy to discover, save, and share tips and recommendations from incredible local women and seasoned travelers. While open to everyone, SoloTrvlr takes a “female-first” approach. Content is tailored to the things that matter most when you’re exploring on your own – whether a full-on solo holiday or a business trip away from home.
From avoiding dodgy neighborhoods, to understanding how to best blend in at the café, their guides curate the intel you need to navigate like a local. Best sushi spot for one? Female-run vespa tour? Secret jazz club? You’re covered.
How Did Solotrvlr Start?
From SoloTrvlr Founder, Kim Callender: “I’ve found that as women we give so much of ourselves to others, whether it’s our career, partners, friends, or family. Solo travel becomes a bold, radical departure from that – taking time just for you. It’s both empowering, and freeing! And yet, the narrative so many of us hear around traveling alone starts with “be careful” and “be safe”. While those are valid concerns, they shouldn’t need to be barriers.”
Kim strongly believes that with the right knowledge we can navigate anything, and anywhere. Building on her background in design and tech, she set out to create an app where women could share the information that’s most important, unlocking the best parts of our cities for each other. Think of it as having your best friend’s sister in whichever city you land!
What Makes Solotrvlr Unique?
Supporting local, independent businesses is core to SoloTrvlr’s mission. Their team actively seeks out women-owned, POC-owned, and family-run restaurants, cafes and more in the cities they cover.
Being a paid membership product means they can do all of this, and more, without burdening small businesses.
From incredible group trips and work-cations, to communities designed to foster safety and knowledge, to unique ways to give back while exploring, these days, there’s a woman-owned travel company for any traveler. It’s up to us to find and support them!
Hope this woman-owned travel companies roundup has inspired you to do just that. If you found this article helpful, please leave a comment below!
Read This Next:
- The Best Travel Conferences for Women in 2022
- International Women’s Day: How to Empower the Women in Our Lives
- The Best First-Time Solo Female Travel Destinations
- Stories Beyond the 9-to-5