One of the best holidays for women is a good ol’ girls’ trip. Nothing beats being with your girlfriends as you bond over new experiences, see new sights and maybe even meet new people.
There are actually studies done that conclude that female-only travel – especially with your best friends – can improve wellness and happiness in many women.
Three women share their perspectives as well as some misconceptions about girls-only holidays.
Women can plan a holiday just as well as men, if not better. This is what Norhidayah Abdullah believes, as proven by the numerous trips she has organised with her female varsity friends in the past three years.
“We can do the budget too, ” she says.
Norhidayah adds that when it comes to the topic of women and travel, there are simply too many misconceptions.
Some of these are that women struggle with navigation, are too weak for adventure-based activities or that women spend too much money on shopping.
“Not to forget, sometimes women are said to be clingy during a holiday. That is not true. There are many girls out there who are independent, ” says Norhidayah, 24.
The fresh graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia says she enjoys the planning process as it brings everyone together.
“We will list out the places we want to visit, the price and check the distance to other nearby attractions. We even save everything on Google Maps to make sure our trip runs smoothly, ” she details.
Norhidayah and her friends prefer to keep their girls trips close to home. To date, they have travelled together to Langkawi, Ipoh and Penang.
There are several things that the young women want to check off when they travel together.
“The itinerary must include places with the best shopping experience, especially places that sell cute souvenirs. We also look for the best eateries as well as unknown spots for photo sessions, ” she says.
Norhidayah adds that she carefully plans her travel clothes.
“The outfits are important when we go on our holiday, ” she says, adding that the perfect trip would usually include some #OOTD (outfit of the day) posts on social media.
Being young Muslim women, they stress the importance of halal travel too. Norhidayah also makes sure the hotel or hostels they stay at have a private bathroom.
“We also look out for hotels with complete amenities and facilities such as iron, hairdryer, towel and parking spots, ” she explains.
Safety, of course, is a major concern for a group of women travelling, even in Malaysia.
“Safety is something we struggle with, especially during road trips. There might be road bullies who will try to annoy you with their dangerous driving skills. When some drivers see a woman behind the wheel, they can be very rude, ” she shares.
Norhidayah hopes that the authorities and travel operators will create a travel landscape that is more women-friendly. On the top of her wishlist is more female-friendly rooms with hairdryers and sanitary bins.
Moving forward, she will be planning more trips with her close girlfriends.
“The best way to bond with your best friend is to go on holiday together and enjoy every moment, ” she says.
Some rest and relaxation for herself – away from the kids and house chores. That is what Eileen Cheah looks forward to whenever she goes for holidays with her schoolmates.
The entrepreneur has been going on women-only holidays with her classmates from Penang’s St George’s Girls’ School almost yearly now, since 2014.
“My girls-only trips have been rejuvenating. I always come back from these holidays feeling refreshed, ” says Cheah, 43.
Personal well-being aside, Cheah notes that her time away from home teaches her young sons – Joel, Gabriel and Adriel – to be more independent.
Cheah’s flexible work hours means she’s able to spend most of her time with her kids. The only time her children would be at home with dad is when she goes on her annual girls trip.
“It will teach my kids to be more appreciative of the chores their mother does at home – and that life is hard without mum to help them, ” she reveals with a laugh.
“I felt guilty about leaving my family behind the first time I went for my trip, but it wasn’t like I was gone the whole week. The most I have been away is four days, ” she says.
Cheah counts herself lucky as her mother or in-laws would come over from Penang and Perak respectively, to keep an eye on the kids when she is away. Sometimes, her husband would take time off from work to be at home.
After the first holiday to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with over a dozen classmates, Cheah has gone on other girls trips to Chiang Mai and Bangkok (in Thailand), and Bali, Indonesia.
She now prefers to keep the trips more intimate with just a few close friends.
“It’s easier to manage a smaller group. You need to travel with people with the same interests. Only then will there be less dispute and drama, ” she reveals with a laugh.
There are other advantages to going on an all-girls holiday, Cheah says. One of it is the sharing sessions.
“We will spend some time just sitting down and talking to each other. We chat about family life, things that we would like to do and things that we haven’t done. Sometimes, we talk about the good old days in school, ” she shares.
Since her friends are working professionals, Cheah says they don’t mind splurging for more quality holiday experiences.
“Travelling in your 40s is different from travelling in your 20s. When you are a bit more affluent, you can afford to stay in places that are more convenient or feels safer.
“I feel that travel for women would be a bit safer when budget is not an issue, ” she says.
In general, though, Cheah thinks travel is much easier and safer for women now.
“In the past, I could only rely on guide books and friends’ recommendations, ” she says, adding that she has not encountered any untoward incidents.
That being said, Cheah thinks all women – especially mothers – should recharge on a holiday with their close female friends.
“Take the time to create good memories, eat some good food and do some shopping. When you come back to your family, you will feel better and be more refreshed.”
Taryn Foo and her best friends Jocelyn, Millicent and Sharon have travelled to over 20 countries together in the past two decades.
They have seen the Aurora Borealis in their pyjamas, almost missed a flight to Vancouver (Canada), tried haggis (a Scottish savoury pudding) and once dragged their luggage through thick snow in Hokkaido, Japan.
“We are comfortable travelling together because we can be our true, authentic selves while enjoying each other’s company, ” says Foo, the mastermind behind most of the group’s excursions.
She adds that their holidays deepen their friendship. While travelling, they spend plenty of time with each other, to the point of knowing each other’s habits and pet peeves.
For the career-driven ladies, travelling lets them get away from their hectic workplace.
“We will go window-shopping, try out the local onsen, treat ourselves to good spa and high tea sessions. We just relax and watch the world go by, something some men may not like to indulge in, ” she says in jest.
“We formulate our full itinerary based on the places we want to go to and then work around it by looking for the best accommodation. We then book transportation, either by trams or trains, ” Foo adds.
The ladies opt for accommodations that satisfy three things: safety, convenience and reasonable pricing.
“We all agreed that it is alright to pay more for better accommodations, ” she says.
Foo, however, says that disagreements may occur and some plans might not work out as expected.
“Sometimes even when the schedule is planned out perfectly, we need to make adjustments. Since it’s inevitable, you need friends who can adapt to changes, caring enough to notice if anyone is not feeling well and adventurous enough to try new things, ” she says.
On another note, Foo says technology has made travel more seamless and safer for women.
“Modern technology like Google Translate and GPS make it easier for us to communicate when in foreign countries and allow women to find their hotels without needing to ask around, ” she says.
The biggest hurdle is moving around with heavy items. Some hotels do not have lifts so they need to carry their luggage up several flights of stairs.
“Travel operators can provide a better travel experience for women by being more sensitive to their needs, such as making sure there are sufficient toilet breaks during long-distance (ground) journeys, ensuring that the accommodation has elevators, providing detailed maps as well as a portable weighing scale that would help women who tend to over-buy things, ” Foo shares.
Above all, Foo thinks the people you travel together with can make or break a trip.
“As travel mates, you have to have an easy-going attitude and take into consideration all views and opinions, ” she says.
Foo adds that there is also a misconception that women tend to quarrel easily or are often too noisy when they travel together.
“These aren’t true if you travel with your best friends whom you know well. Every conversation and every trip with great friends will lead to a deeper and more meaningful friendship.
“Travelling can be fun when you are travelling with the right people, ” Foo concludes.
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