Lesbian Solo Travel: All the Things to Know Before You Go
Here's how to stay safe and have a great time on your next trip—even if none of your friends want to join you.
After over a year in lockdown, most of us are more than ready to hop on a plane or make other travel plans this summer. If you have never traveled solo before, there is no better time to explore a new destination by yourself—after all, post-pandemic, most of us are used to spending more time alone than we ever were before. We already know female travelers have bigger safety concerns than men; but lesbians may face additional challenges such as awkward questions from strangers about orientation, finding a community to hang with when they're on the road, and more. Read on to find the best lesbian travel destinations, what you can expect, and suggestions for making it your best trip yet.
Best-bet destinations to explore solo
If this is your first solo trip, I recommend starting with a domestic trip. You won’t have the language barriers and unfamiliar traditions, and you can utilize apps you already know well (maps and more), without having to rely on WiFi access or buying an international data plan.
The most important thing to start with is deciding what kind of trip you want: an outdoorsy getaway that involves hiking and nature, a city trip with culture and nightlife, or maybe a road trip to simply get a change of scenery.
If you are looking to take a city trip, I suggest starting with a gay-friendly city. If you’ve already been to popular gay-friendly cities such as New York and San Francisco, and are looking for something new, consider these spots:
Austin, Texas: Austin has a large queer community and a great LGBT nightlife with an amazing food scene (self-guided breakfast taco crawl, anyone?). The city offers an eclectic mix of art — museums, street art and galleries — and sporty activities like kayaking or stand up paddling on the Colorado River, both unique ways to see the city. While you’re there, check out the terrific live music scene featuring country, rock, blues and folk.
Columbus, Ohio: This is another stellar destination for queer travelers. The city has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the US so you’ll find several queer-owned local shops and gay bars there, including Slammers Bar and Pizza Kitchen, one of the last 15 remaining lesbian bars in the country.
P-Town or Puerto Rico: If you are in need of a beach getaway, consider Provincetown, Massachusetts, the best-known queer holiday destination in the US, where you won’t have any issues connecting with other queer travelers; or Puerto Rico, which is the gay-friendliest island in the Caribbean and doesn’t require a passport.
California's Pacific Coast: For a great road trip, California’s PCH Highway from San Francisco to San Diego is one of the most scenic drives in the US. If you are looking for a less touristy alternative to this popular route, start your trip in queer-friendly San Francisco but head north instead of south, and drive up the Northern California and Oregon coast. Take a detour through Sonoma Wine Country, where the small town of Guerneville is a popular queer haven. You might even be able to plan your trip around one of their annual LGBT events, such as Gay Wine Week or Sonoma County Pride. If not, you can still dance the night away at one of the two gay bars in town, the landmark Rainbow Cattle Company, or the r3 Hotel bar.
Instead of finishing your road trip in Portland (where you should check out the popular gay bar, Crush), drive a couple of hours further north to Astoria, a quaint town right on the Columbia River with an interesting maritime history. Astoria is known for its lively LGBTQ community and has plenty of outdoor activities: hiking trails, canoeing, swimming or beach combing. The Astoria Coffeehouse is a queer-owned bistro that is worth visiting, and if you’re lucky, you may be in town for one of their queer parties, called Q Night.
Attend a queer event to find community
If you want to include a queer component to your trip, plan around a lesbian event or a gay Pride parade so you’ll be surrounded by like-minded queer women and lesbians.
Wikitravel is a great starting point to find events. Check out the gay and lesbian travel section where you’ll find an extensive list of the largest Pride events in the world. Other recurring events for lesbians include Dina Shore in California, LadyFest in Atlanta, Girl Splash and Women of Color Weekend (both in Provincetown), and Girls in Wonderland during the annual Gay Days at Disney World Resort in Orlando.
Decide how to handle personal questions
If you are a femme lesbian, traveling solo may prove easier because nobody can tell your sexual orientation from just looking at you. You won’t get any funny looks when you walk into a women’s changing room or a women’s restroom. If you're a butch-presenting lesbian, however, you might find yourself having to come out repeatedly in certain situations—if you take a tour with other people, if you rent a room in a shared accommodation, if you take an Uber, and so on. There are plenty of situations in which the “partner question” could come up. Decide in advance how you’ll handle it so there will be less stress and more vacay while you're there.
Take steps to stay safe
Make sure to research your destination thoroughly (especially the specific area of town you'll be staying in), arrive during the day, and don’t have all your valuables and credit cards on you when you are out exploring. While there, always be conscious of your surroundings, be vigilant when you are going out by yourself at night, and take taxis instead of public transport or walking if that makes you feel safer. Make sure your phone is charged or pack a portable charger so that you’ll be able to find your way back to your hotel or call for a ride no matter where you are.
Make lesbian friends while away
If you are traveling independently, meeting other lesbian travelers or local lesbians can add to the fun. In my travels, I’ve found that there is usually at least one gay bar in the place I’m visiting, but lesbian bars are becoming more and more scarce. Lesbian parties can be a great alternative, or addition, to your itinerary.
A quick search on Google or Facebook for "lesbian events" plus the name of your destination, or "queer events in x" are a good starting point to meeting up with other lesbians. FaceBook in particular has become increasingly useful for lesbian travelers in the past few years. Do a quick search in both "groups" and "events" with the keywords "lesbian," "queer," and "LGBT."
Try Meetup.com to see what’s happening in the place you’re traveling to. In larger cities like New York, Miami, or San Francisco, you’ll find happy hour meetups but also hiking groups, book clubs, and more—a great way to meet lesbians with similar interests.
Dating apps have become the easiest way to connect with local lesbians (even if you’re not looking to hook up) in order to meet up with someone for a night out or to have a drink. Download the apps Her, Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and OkCupid before you leave on your trip; then share your travel plans in your profile and be transparent about what you are looking for. HER, the largest lesbian dating app, also has a listing of lesbian parties, meetups, festivals, and other happenings, so you can also see what is going on in the place you are visiting. You can also use LEX, which started out as a personal connections Instagram account and has since evolved into a text-based dating and social app. You can post an ad on LEX announcing that you’ll be visiting and connect with other lesbians even before you arrive.