Travel Lightly With These 10 Female-Friendly Services, Recommended by Women
By Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman Publisher
While hotels, Airbnb, booking.com and local rentals might top-of-mind for many women, we wanted to explore other ways to travel cost-effectively, including homestays, hospitality exchanges, housesitting, and volunteering.
Some of these, like Servas and 5W, are well-known to long-time solo travellers. All of them offer cost-effective alternatives for women to travel. Since we published this list originally in our Travel Lifestyles feature, we’ve had a few additions. If you have recommendations to share, please add them in the comments.
#1: Servas (Hospitality Exchange)
Servas International is an international, non-profit community of hosts and travellers was founded in 1949 in the aftermath of WWII. Now with 20,000 members, it aims to help build “world peace, goodwill and understanding” by providing opportunities for people to connect with others of different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. Members can be both hosts and travellers; hosts do not charge for accommodation but there is a maximum of two nights, after which payment can be requested.
To join, you must submit a letter of introduction, provide references and participate in an interview and orientation process. Annual fees are based on country, but range from $10 to $85 per year. For example, in Canada, an annual membership is $24 per person plus a $70 Travel Fee. Each traveller must have a Letter of Introduction with an e-stamp, valid for one year, which must be made available to your hosts. Traveller e-stamps are valid for 12 months from the date of receipt of payment.
“Check out Servas Peace School in Turkey. I taught English to the kids in a small village close to the Syrian border 12-13 years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. Currently, they are doing some interesting things online with kids from all over the world.” – Marilyn
To learn more: https://servas.org/
#2: World Packers (Volunteer in Trade for Accommodation)
World Packers connects travellers looking to exchange their skills for accommodation by matching volunteers and hostels around the world, and offers placements with internationally recognized NGOs and non-profits in more than 130 countries. The website is free to join/make an account on initially (you can sign in with Facebook) but once you find a host you’re interested in messaging, the fee is $49 for the year.
“This is my go-to now, and provides a wide range of volunteer opportunities where you can volunteer in trade for free accommodation.” — recommended by Nora
To learn more: https://www.worldpackers.com/
#3: WorkAway (Cultural exchange, working holidays and volunteering)
WorkAway is a similar site to Worldpackers that lets travellers volunteer on farms, hostels, or social projects around the world in return for free accommodation. It’s the largest work exchange website in the world, with over 1 million hosts available. Most projects listed on WorkAway are in Europe.
“You can go all over the world and for something with a family or school or hostel or farm in exchange for room and usually board. Most are a few weeks or months.” — recommended by Nancy
To learn more: https://www.workaway.info/
For the past two and a half years, I’ve been on a downsizing journey. Now that all the hard work is done preparing for travel, I’m thinking not just about where I will travel, but how.
#4: Trusted Housesitters (Home and Pet Sitting)
Trusted Housesitters connects home and pet owners with sitters to solve a common problem – how to travel cost-effectively, and have your pets looked after when you do.
There are memberships for owners and sitters, and a combined membership. Pricing for owners ranges from C$139- $299 and a sitter membership is from C$139 to $189 a year. A combined membership, which includes both pet and house sitting, is C$189 to $349 a year. This gives you unlimited pet & home care from verified sitters at no extra cost and other benefits. Unlike some other websites, TrustedHousesitters does not require that you have a police background check in order to house sit.
To learn more: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/
#5: Semester at Sea (Founded in 1963, Semester at Sea (SaS) is a study-abroad program that takes place on a cruise ship. The current academic sponsor is Colorado State University. Nearly 73,000 undergraduate students from over 1,500 colleges and universities have participated in Semester at Sea. During the semester the ship circumnavigates the globe, docking at 10 or 11 ports from North America east (across the Atlantic) or west (across the Pacific) and visiting 10 to 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America.Multi-country study abroad)
Our founder Evelyn Hannon wrote about her Semester at Sea experience as life-changing. Learn more from Marillee on our JW Advisory Council. Marillee also hosts our West Coast Community Call on the second Thursday of each month.)
SAS is now booking for January 2022 with. a 106-day, 14 country trip that goes from Japan to Germany.
For more information: https://www.semesteratsea.org/
#6: 5W: Women Welcome Women Worldwide (Hospitality Exchange)
Long-time JourneyWomen will know 5W, as it’s called, with fondness. Founded in 1984, 5W is a ‘friendship-based’ model where you can visit or host other women in their homes. There are over 2,000 members in every continent except Antarctica.
Recently, I spoke with Caroline Stevens, who has been with 5W for 22 years and is based in London. Caroline says that the community is still mourning the loss of beloved founder Frances Alexander, who passed away in September 2020, but that member-only gatherings are being planned by local chapters in Italy and Seychelles for 2022.
An essential condition of membership is to sign the promise of confidentiality, and agree to rules of general courtesy, consideration and common sense. If you can’t host another woman, there is a ‘day host’ option. To join, there is an annual fee of £37 ($51USD/$67CDN) and a renewal fee of £27 a year, with an option for a friendship donation.
To learn more: https://www.womenwelcomewomen.uk/article/home.aspx
#7: International Greeters Association (IGA)
Founded in New York in 1992, IGA is a worldwide network of more than 140 city/region Greeter organizations, sharing a common
drive to create a unique experience, by connecting visitors with enthusiastic local volunteers. They are volunteers who welcome solo travellers and serve groups of up to six people. There are approximately 144 Greeters worldwide.
Greeters welcome visitors to their city and take them on a personal, two- to three-hour walk showing them the city beyond the guide books and off the beaten track During the walk, visitors discover the city on foot or using public transport network. Whether visiting a city for the first time or as a regular visitor Greeters welcome them to their city and look forward to showing them a part of “their” city. You can find a Greeter or become. a Greeter.
To learn more: https://internationalgreeter.org/
#8: Friendship Force International
With over 15,000 active members, Friendship Force is a non-profit cultural organization focused on promoting understanding, cultural education and citizen diplomacy through homestay Journeys and personal friendships. It is based in more than 60 countries and in six continents, with over 300 Journeys taking place each year.
Lyn says: “It is small group travel, not limited to just women, but because of the safety factor most journeys are majority women. The foundation is clubs visiting other clubs, but if there is not a club near there are individuals who join in the various journeys.”
Martha says: “One of the founders of FFI was Jimmy Carter (when he was Governor of Georgia), and its mission is to cross political boundaries through home stays offering cultural exchanges and friendship. FFI is in 60 countries and offers week long home stays with local families. In addition to getting to know the family you stay with, you also have time to visit local sites and see your destination through their eyes. What better way to learn about a country than to share your experience with someone who lives there? Friendship Force believes a world of friends is a world of peace and that it can change the way you see the world.”
For more information: https://www.friendshipforce.org/
Two women-focused homestays are included on our list. Although they weren’t recommended, I’ve spoken to both CEOs and believe they are aligned with our vision for women’s safety.
#9: Golightly (Women-Only Homestay and Home-Sharing)
Launched in January 2020, Golightly is an invite-only private club providing a vacation rental and home-sharing platform for women. To join, you can be a ‘friend of a friend’ or go through a verification process (as I did when I joined!) To book, you must be a verified member to book or view listing details. During the pandemic, the membership fee of $100 is waived, and membership has risen to 1,500 properties, and 6,000 members worldwide. Golightly’s advisory board is comprised of experienced advisors from VRBO and Homestay.
CEO Victoria O’Connell has many years of experience in the vacation rental sector. She says that approximately 40% of members are women over 50. Trust and accountability are the cornerstones of Golightly, which offers an online concierge service has helped women find long-term stays, relocations, or places to isolate near family during the pandemic. She also wants women to give back to communities where properties are, by volunteering when they travel or other acts of generosity. There is also a networking aspect where you can search properties by industry, such as education or film, and get local recommendations and invitations from the hosts.
Note: No recommendations yet
For more information: https://www.wegolightly.com/
#10: femmebnb (Women-Only Homestay and Home-Sharing)
Based in Toronto, this home sharing and rental service has been three years in the making. Founded in November 2020 by entrepreneur Yaa Priscilla-Birago, the idea began after Yaa had a bad Airbnb experience on a solo trip in Rome in 2017. Through her own research, Yaa discovered that many women have experienced horrific situations, ranging from hidden cameras, sexual assaults, sexual/street harassment, microaggression and many more when they travel or use alternative accommodation.
Membership is currently $4.99 a year, which includes a social networking platform to alleviate safety issues associated with women’s travel by helping them rent spaces from other women, connect and find friends within a private women’s travel community to maximize safety.
femmebnb plans to offer AI-based itineraries and is using crowdfunding and government grants to start the business. The company targets women 18 and older as travellers and is hoping that older women will join as hosts. There is currently a two-year waitlist.
Note: No recommendations yet
For more information: https://www.femmebnb.com/membership
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