All travelers deserve a safe and happy vacation experience. Here, a few ways that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers can get inspired, book the right trip, and have a blast.
Travel is all about discovery. And while many destinations welcome diverse visitors, not all of them are sure to be friendly toward out-and-proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers. On the bright side, members of the LGBTQ community tend to be both adventurous and prepared. With that in mind, queer couples know to flex their travel savvy when pondering their next Valentine’s Day, adventurous getaway, or everyday vacation. Here are some pointers for crafting the perfect—and safe—vacation to suit your fancy.
1. Research Your Short List
Step one: Narrow down the top destinations for your next trip. Step two: Be discerning. Ask yourself and your partner what’s most important. Does it matter if it’s OK to show affection in public there? Do you care if that locale has anti-gay laws? (Yes, some countries and municipalities do enforce those laws.) Are you willing to travel somewhere where certain attitudes could diminish the experience? Be sure to research your short list of places, starting with “Before You Go” LGBTI travel advice from the U.S. Department of State, and the Equaldex LGBTQ global knowledge base (equaldex.com).
2. Make Safe Choices
Safety is doubly important when traveling internationally, where the local customs and protections may not work the same as at home. Discriminatory behavior or rude comments may occur anywhere, of course. But in a foreign city, the safest response to offense of any kind is to walk away, and avoid any chance at escalation. In a hotel, restaurant, bar, or other establishment, consider notifying management or security if intolerance rears its ugly head. Communication can be the best step for personal protection, and for long-term change.
3. Find Gay-Friendly Businesses
Even in the least likely, or most far-flung countries, including those where diverse visitors are not necessarily welcomed, there are LGBTQ-owned or -friendly travel companies. The fastest way to find those preferred tour companies, lodging, local tourism bureaus, airline partners, and more is via IGLTA.org, the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. And specifically for hotels, check out TAG Approved accommodations (tagapproved.com).
4. Consider Attending an LGBTQ Event
If safety is your travel priority, a Pride or other gay event could be just the ticket. Cities around the world host LGBTQ film festivals. Sports lovers will enjoy the annual Gay Games, World OutGames, and gay ski weeks. And festivals for women, transfolks, and other niche interests build community all year round in various locations. (Check out IGLTA’s robust events calendar at IGLTA.org/events.)
5. Read Gay Travel Publications & Blogs
There are many LGBTQ-specific publications, and most have regular travel sections—great for finding vacation ideas. Lesbians will especially appreciate Curve magazine’s frequent travel features, while all devoted travelers can find inspiration in Passport, the only travel magazine reporting for the gay community. There’s also a fabulous list of queer travel blogs, with some especially insightful firsthand destination reports from Travels of Adam, Dopes on the Road, and Two Bad Tourists.
6. Filter Your Search Results
Travel search engines are great ways to explore deals and discounts. Fortunately, many of those helpful sites offer filters or specific pages catering to the LGBTQ community—including Orbitz, Expedia, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Marriott. You may discover new places to travel with these providers steering you in a more inclusive direction. (You can also track gay-friendly travel providers from their ads in LGBTQ publications.)
7. Visit Destinations’ Tourism Web Resources for LGBTQ Travelers
Corporations aren’t the only ones who understand the value of serving LGBTQ travelers. Many destinations also actively pursue gay adventurers. Better still, many have dedicated web pages to inspire visits to their cities and countries. The list of gay-friendly locales is long, especially in North America and Europe. You’ll find robust resources from places including Sweden; Spain; Vancouver, British Columbia; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and New York State; and, of course, California (to name just a few).
8. Join an LGBTQ Tour
If traveling with an organized tour sounds fabulous, there are several LGBTQ tour companies and travel agencies eager to serve. Women will appreciate Olivia’s array of land or sea tour options (olivia.com), while men can find enticing packages from Zoom Vacations (zoomvacations.com) and others. And among niche-interest tour companies, Wild Rainbow African Safaris (wildrainbowsafaris.com) takes mixed groups of travelers on unforgettable voyages through Africa.
9. Find Local Shows
Once you’ve settled where to go, it’s time to focus on what to do. Take the initiative to research performance venues and nightclubs before your trip to see what’s on event calendars during your stay. In most towns with a “gayborhood,” you can usually find fun drag brunches, queer comedy nights, and other live performances that will put you squarely in the local LGBTQ mix.
10. Make Local Connections
One of the best parts of living in the digital age is connecting personally with LGBTQ locals prior to a visit. Hop online or on an app like Grindr (grindr.com) or Her (weareher.com) to seek out your destination city, and see who’s there ready with tips for visitors like you. (Just be sure to clarify your intentions right away, since some apps are dating-centric.)