Getaway Day: Men Go To Mars, Women Go To Venus

Destinations in Washington, D.C., like the National Spy Museum, can actually appeal to both sides of the gender aisle. (Sharyn Alden photo.)
Destinations in Washington, D.C., like the International Spy Museum, can actually appeal to both sides of the gender aisle. (Sharyn Alden photo.)

By Sharyn Alden

Suppose you have six people in a room and you ask them where they want to travel. Chances are you’ll get six different answers.

Now, if three of those people are women and three are men, their answers will probably fall along gender lines. Women tend to like similar types of destinations – but often those destinations differ from what men like.

Men and women approach travel differently. A study from the University of Minnesota on gender and travel uncovered many reasons why, ranging from biological to sociological.

Economic, too. Forbes has noted women make 80 percent of all travel decisions, take 75 percent of all cultural and adventure trips, and are expected to spend $125 billion on travel this year.

Female travelers come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Studies that included travel agencies and tour operators found the average female traveler who signs up for an adventure excursion is is 47 and wears a size-12 dress. (And God bless the researcher tasked with asking female travelers their dress size.)

87 percent of women travel for the scenery, as opposed to 87 percent of men m-- and 60 percent of women have Europe on the top of they bucket list. Sharyn Alden photo.
87 percent of women travel for the scenery, as opposed to 87 percent of men — and 60 percent of women have Europe (including Iceland) on the top of they bucket list. (Sharyn Alden photo.)

Travel agencies have taken notice of the surge of women travelers. In the past six years there has been a 230 percent increase in the number of women-only travel companies.

When it comes to travel decisions, if women are driving the ship, so to speak, how are their decisions different from men’s travel decisions (and if you’re a travel professional, how can you take advantage of these differences)? Let’s look at some specific travel situations.

  • Scenic wonders. On the road, 87 percent of women want to take in an area’s scenic beauty, as opposed to 72 percent of men, according to a Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell study. That’s 15 percent more waterfalls and natural wonders for women – and presumably 15 percent fewer ballgames and barbecue joints for men.
  • Culture-rich destinations. Both men and women like to explore ruins and museums, but when push comes to shove, surveys show that men are more interested in exploring metro hot spots like New York, Shanghai, London or Washington, D.C., than the back streets of Naples or Crete.
  • Bucket-list vacations. If they could go anywhere in the world, about 60 percent of women – as opposed to 20 percent of men — put the European continent tops on their bucket list. It may not be too surprising for seasoned travelers who know the glories of exploring old medieval towns like Bruges, Belgium, or rambling through history at Stockholm’s Royal Palace, but for newbies of either sex who are contemplating that once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s something to think about.
  • Ladies-only getaways. Women like to travel together, and favor long weekends or week-long trips to cozy destinations like Santa Fe or San Jose—places where they can easily get around. “Ladies’-night-out” packages are big sellers for many travel agents.
  • Shopping-oriented trips. These trips may be day-long ventures to shopping hot spots like Chicago’s Gold Coast, or overnight trips to cities like Dallas, Denver or San Francisco.
  • Theme trips. Book-club trips or special cruises aimed at chocolatiers, bridge players or film buffs have built-in audiences, and a majority of those takers are women.
  • Leisure travel. Women are usually more interested than guys in planning a vacation specifically around the sheer joy of kicking back and relaxing. Men are more apt to extend business trips and call it a vacation.
  • Travel insurance. According to Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, women are slightly more likely than men to choose travel insurance for their trips (though everyone should have it).

Want more? In a TNS survey of 1,000 business travelers for Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites, some interesting differences showed up between how women and men travel.

Women prepare for a trip by getting out the suitcases. Packing is a high priority. Women are more likely than men to share their travel itinerary with colleagues, family and friends. They report they often feel stressed before a trip.

On the other hand, when a trip is on the docket, men are more likely to get moving and book a hotel rather than start packing. Instead of feeling stressed, the TNS survey reported men feel calm and confident.

So what’s the dominant travel takeaway here?

If you’re squabbling with your travel mate over where to go and what to see, back up and look at the big picture. Instead of blaming your differences on crankiness, stubbornness or stupidity, consider their gender.

And then if you want to blame their crankiness, stubbornness or stupidity, go right ahead.

Sharyn Alden is a long-time travel writer with a media-relations business, Sharyn Alden Communications, Inc., based in Madison, Wis. Contact her at