7 Simple Ways to Be an LGBTQIA+ Ally While Traveling

Here's how to support the queer community when you're on the road.

Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community may not be the first thing you think about while traveling, but doing so is easier than you might think. And after a tough year, we can all appreciate the support wherever we are — maybe even especially when we’re away from home. Here are some simple ways you can add a little allyship to your fun out of town.

Offer support while you shop, eat, and sleep

It’s easy to find LGBTQIA-owned hotels, tour companies, and activities (that are also hetero-friendly) nowadays. Doing so supports them staying in business for other travelers, and also for queer locals who may consider them a second home. Once you’ve decided where you want to go, just hop on sites like The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association to find thousands of queer-owned/friendly businesses that welcome all travelers. Beyond hotels and tours, you can find out where to support local LGBTQIA-owned restaurants, shops, spas, and more at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. For some of our favorites, here's a list of queer-owned businesses that offer fun, food, and more in travel-worthy locations.

Give LGBTQIA+ people space if they need it

It’s always great to be supportive of queer spaces, but it’s also important to give an LGBTQIA+ person their space if they want that, too. If you’re traveling with a queer friend or family member who feels more comfortable exploring spots like gay bars and clubs on their own, don’t be offended. Instead, remember that these spaces may be sacred to them — maybe one of the few places where they are free to be themselves without judgment. Of course, there are plenty of bars where you’d be welcome, and if your friend invites you along, cool. Just do your best to make this experience about supporting a community, not your individual needs.

Celebrate the community, but not just during Pride

Celebrating Pride is a great way to show support and have a lot of fun, too. But there’s more to being an ally than partying it up once a year. Consider adding LGBTQIA+ events to your travel plans no matter what time of year; or making a whole trip out of special events like the Bloomington Pride Film Festival or Gay Wine Weekend in Sonoma, California. For something totally different, check out some rodeos, courtesy of the International Gay Rodeo Association. Besides being a great ally, supporting arts and cultural events such as Provincetown Women’s Week and Dixon Place’s Hot! Festival is a perfect way to build community and meet some really cool and inspiring people.

Plan ahead to help everyone feel comfortable

A blissful beach getaway may seem perfect for everyone, but it's important to think beyond generalizations. For example, if you’re traveling with a trans or nonbinary person, scoping out locations to make sure there are gender-neutral changing rooms and facilities can help avoid a potentially stressful situation. And if your friends don’t feel safe visiting areas with anti-LGBTQIA+ laws or other discriminatory practices, don’t pressure them into going. There are plenty of destinations where everyone can have a great time without feeling like they have to hide their sexuality or identity. States like Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Nevada, Illinois, and others have laws that protect the LGBTQIA+ community and help make everyone feel welcome.

Do a little homework

Sometimes, learning a little can go a long way. Instead of treating your LGBTQIA+ loved one as your personal Google, devote your beach reads to titles that will help you understand and be sensitive. Or pass a plane or train ride en route to your destination listening to podcasts like Food 4 Thot, a round-table discussion on queerness, pop culture, and current events; and Nancy, which features personal stories about how the LGBTQIA+ community defines themselves and the journey it takes to get there. These will help you anticipate and support your loved ones’ needs and challenges, on vacation or elsewhere, without having to ask them to explain themselves every time.

Protect other people's privacy while on the road

Your gay, bi, trans, or queer friend may be totally out and proud at home, but be careful not to out them in a new place if they’re not comfortable with it. Have a conversation before you start your trip about when it’s okay to use someone’s preferred pronouns or speak about their sexuality in public. If you’re ever unsure, let them take the lead.

Speak out to others and each other

Being an ally means being there no matter what — including in uncomfortable situations, like when hearing an LGBTQIA+ person being called a slur or misgendered while traveling. As an ally, it’s important to speak up if it’s safe to do so. Also know that you’ll probably make mistakes, too. When that happens, don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity to better understand things like how someone would like to be identified or what labels not to use. Allow — or even better, ask — your LGBTQIA+ friends and loved ones to correct something you might have said or done incorrectly. If there’s something you don’t get or need help with, ask them to explain it in a way that doesn’t feel like a burden to them. Remember that even the smallest efforts on your part can go a long way.

Orbitz believes everyone should be able to travel freely, no matter who you are, who you love, or where you’re going. Discover LGBTQIA-welcoming hotels, plan queer-friendly trips, and get inspired to vacation. You’ll feel welcomed whenever you book with Orbitz. Travel As You Are.
Mark Jason Williams writes essays and travel articles and is working on a travel guidebook for LGBTQ couples. He can be found at www.markjasonwilliams.com.