Travel For Gays and Lesbians
Tour operators, resorts and travel clubs that specialize in travel for gay men and lesbians
A simple fact about specialty travel: Gay people travel differently than straight people. Gay and lesbian travelers usually like to meet other gays on the road, for reasons of security and comfort, if not to simply hang out with similar people. A booming hospitality industry has blossomed for this highly valued, double-income-no-kids market. Since lesbians and gay men (the latter especially) are praised for their dual-income, no-kids, frequent-traveler demographic, the travel industry seems to constantly jack up prices for the free-spending community whenever the word "gay" is used with "travel." But with a slowly re-bounding economy, as well as the embracing of the gay travel world by the mainstream, budget travel has risen to the forefront of the often-overpriced gay and lesbian travel market.
When trying to budget a gay holiday, the first thing to do is your homework. Excellent resources like PlanetOut.com/travel, Gay.com/travel, and OutandAbout.com list hundreds of gay and lesbian accommodations, restaurants, and travel companies, all with costs that indicate the lower-priced ones.
Gay friendly, wallet-friendly countries
An obvious budget travel strategy is to choose destinations that are gay-friendly alternatives in cheaper countries. Forego expensive New York, San Francisco, London, or Paris and try instead more budget-minded gay destinations. In Latin America, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires are all gay-positive hot spots despite their Catholic surroundings, and with dirt-cheap but sophisticated hotels, restaurants, and bars. In Europe, experience the burgeoning gay centers of Prague, Budapest, Moscow, and St. Petersburg for a fraction of the cost of Western Europe. In Asia, the Philippines, Bali, and Thailand present a gayer culture than pricier (and more closeted) Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo. If you are less adventurous, Montreal, Toronto, Cape
Town, Sydney, and Auckland all give you a highly-evolved gay English-speaking experience for a lot less than similar cities in the U.S. or Western Europe, thanks to favorable exchange rates to the American dollar. Of course many of the places listed above require long-distance plane travel, but by securing good airfares or using frequent flyer miles, you'll be able to live like a king (or queen) on a lot less once you arrive.
Penny pinching while you sleep
Ah, the politics of the gay hotel room. Checking into a hotel as a same-sex couple, and asking to sleep in one bed, is the litmus test of how gay friendly an establishment is. Although this can seem at times like pushing the envelope in rural areas and certain foreign countries, insisting on one bed versus two can often mean the difference of paying up to a 25 percent or more on the price for the room in some places.
And why check into a mainstream hotel at all? Check first for gay bed and breakfasts in the areas you are visiting: They are usually half the price of comparable hotel rooms, breakfast is included, you get a chance to meet fellow gay travelers, and you can pick the brains of your host who can more easily hook you into the local gay scene, especially in off-the-beaten-track destinations. Yes, budget gay B&Bs can be unearthed in spots like South Dakota and Arkansas, even Tijuana, Quito, and Latvia, places where staying with locals may mean the difference between feeling lost and having a gay ole' time. Purpleroofs.com list scads of gay budget accommodations, some starting as low as $25 per night.
For singles, the pesky single supplement charge has been a thorn in every independent traveler's side for aeons. This charge, which can often double the "based on double occupancy" publicized price, is incurred regardless of sexual orientation when any single joins any organized tour group. How does one get around this hard fact? By asking the tour operator if you can split a room with another single traveler on the trip, thus securing the lower double-occupancy price. Sure, you may have to put up with snoring, but at least you'll have another single comrade to keep you company and your wallet will thank you (and who knows, your roommate may end up looking like Tom Cruise).
Got a great house or apartment that is just going to go to waste while you're away? What better way to capitalize on it by swapping a week or more with another gay traveler's home somewhere else in the world? The home exchange network Mi Casa Su Casa (gayhometrade.com/) sets you up with listings of other gays for a mere $40 for a three-year membership. Anything from studios to cabins to mansions all over the world are listed, and members simply set up arrangements between themselves as to when and what will be swapped, and best of all, you can home trade as much as you like for free once you've joined.