While nobody can predict exactly what shape travel will take as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs and rises and ebbs again, industry experts are in agreement on two trends that are likely to emerge: road-trip or closer-to-home travel, and travel to destinations where you can spend the bulk of your time outdoors or in spaces that minimize close contact with strangers. Several LGBTQ-friendly or -dedicated tour companies and destinations are at the forefront of travel-soon planning, and have developed confidence-building programming to help travelers dip their toes back in the vacation pond.
Note: We can’t make recommendations on exactly when it will be safe to travel to densely populated destinations, so keep checking the CDC travel advisory before making your decision.
Most of the operators listed here are offering flexible booking and cancellation policies; make sure you read the fine print to know what you’re entitled to, should travel restrictions go into effect before your trip.
Budget LGBTQ Travel
GetYourGuide is a booking platform for a variety of different walking tours and immersive food and beverage experiences, from the nearly next door to the far-flung. The tours themselves are inexpensive—most range from $20 to $75—but you’ll need to travel to the tour location.
For the most affordable walking tour in our region, head for the New York City Pride Tour, which takes you to famous LGBTQ sites like the Stonewall Inn. If you’ve got a little more cash to work with, take advantage of ridiculously low airfare and head for Savannah and the Drag Queen Guided Pub Crawl and Sing-a-long, Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ History Tour, or the LGBTQ Castro Tour of San Francisco.
Prefer a personalized party for you and your friends? Mahi Mahi Cruises offers private tours of Salem Harbor aboard two ships. The smaller Finback can hold up to 47 passengers—not that you’ll want quite that many. Weekend hourly rental rates clock in around $500, but if you’re splitting the fee with a dozen friends, it won’t break the bank.
Moderately Priced LGBTQ Travel
For between $160 and $300 per night, depending on the booking dates, you can choose from some active self-exploration and events that benefit LGBTQ nonprofits.
The Hotel Ithaca, the only independently owned hotel in its area, is offering a special LGBTQ Walking Tour package. With its self-paced, app-guided tour of sites significant to queer rights and culture, it offers an overview of one of the first cities in the US to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The package also includes a deluxe room for two, a bottle of wine from the nearby Finger Lakes, and a picnic lunch for two. Proceeds benefit Out for Health, an LGBTQ wellness program managed by Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.
Prefer to jump straight to relaxation? DELAMAR Hotels is hosting an LGBTQ Pride Package at three of its Connecticut boutique properties: Greenwich Harbor, Southport, and West Harford. They’ll be donating a portion of their proceeds to True Colors, an LGBTQ youth organization based in the capital city. In addition to a beautifully appointed room, the package includes a 10 percent spa discount for a couples’ massage or facial, a $25 credit at their on-site restaurant, a bottle of wine, and two hand-beaded rainbow bracelets.
Mix celebration with activism in Natchez, Mississippi, at Y’all Means All. This October weekend festival features a mix of historic home tours, social events, and live performances by the previous likes of Grammy-winning country artist Ty Herndon and drag supernova Nina West. The capper is the Battle of the Belles, where local straight guys get prettied up and compete for the Miss Fableau crown. Last year, most events were free, with the Battle of the Belles ticketed at $50, and proceeds going toward a local mental health and suicide-prevention program. (Keep checking the website for updates on dates, performers, and prices.)
Snowbunnies, take note: with airfare at its lowest in years, airlines offering flexible cancellation policies, and air-travel restrictions predicted to ease in the winter, the timing will be ideal for hitting the slopes for Sun Peaks Resort’s Peak Pride weekend event series. Located in British Columbia and hailed as “one party where all the He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, and They/Them/Theirs get to hold hands and celebrate being fantastic in the snow,” this late-February/early March event is a great bet for the ski social set. Tickets for individual events range from free to about $60; resort fees go from budget to luxury, depending on the Sun Peaks property.
Luxury LGBTQ Travel
If you’ve been socking away for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’re in luck.
Villa Bacchus is a gay-only guesthouse (with room and a chalet rental) tucked in the picturesque woods and vineyards of Provence and near the postcard-perfect beaches of the Cote d’Azure. Stick around to enjoy the spa, private terrace, heated pool, and garden. If you go in November, you can plan a side trip to Nice, a little over an hour’s drive away, for Nice So Fétiche, a weekend leather and fetish fetival. Take part in a cocktail party, dinner, tour of nearby Monaco, visits to local gay bars and clubs, and a Leather Brunch.
Seasoned luxury tour company Zoom Vacations, founded in 2002, is beginning to book active LGBTQ trips for fall, winter, and beyond. Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Herb has been hearing from previous tour alumni who are champing at the bit to travel again, and predicts that luxury won’t just mean swanky accommodations; what will really matter to travelers, he says, is smaller tour groups, a feeling of privacy, and situations that allow them greater control over their environment—and their health and safety. Zoom Vacations tours travel to Peru, Thailand, South Africa, Turkey, and more, and each traveler gets a gift bag stocked with necessities, including hand sanitizer, at the start of the trip.
Canada-based Detours Travel, which has been leading gay adventure travel expeditions since 2012, has an inherently forward-thinking trip planning approach, thanks to their small group sizes and focus on outdoor recreation. Director of Operations Shane Bingham explains that the company is working closely with its destination partners to determine their readiness to welcome visitors, from making sure hotels, restaurants, and other attractions are following sanitation guidelines to monitoring health and travel advisories. Detours hosts a wide range of trips, most between eight and thirteen days long, to locations all over the globe: Peru, Thailand and Cambodia, Greece, Spain, Israel, South Africa, and more.
Picnic Island, located in the Freycinet National Park of Tasmania, may have a luxury price tag, but it’s not your typical high-end experience. Instead of a fancy-pants chain hotel, you’ll get an Australian island—yes, an entire, off-the-grid, seabird-colony island—all to yourself and up to nine friends. Kick back in an idyllic beach cottage, or hang out on the shoreline, watching dolphins, seals, or the occasional whale glide by. For a more active experience, try kayaking, fishing, or yoga in one of the add-on nature tours. Although the island welcomes travelers of all backgrounds, owner Clem Newton-Brown has a history in advocating for the LGBTQ community. A former government official, he worked on a variety of programs and initiatives, including one to expunge the criminal records of men who had been convicted of homosexual behavior in the days before it was it was decriminalized.
Robin Catalano believes in the power of storytelling to connect communities and cultures. She’s applied her creative approach to writing for magazines, books, blogs, websites, and a wide variety of marketing projects, and has published more than 75 articles and 1,000+ blog posts. As an editor, she has worked on more than 350 books for publishers including Penguin Random House, Workman, and Simon & Schuster. She has also served as a book coach for independent authors, helping them take their ideas from concept to print. An avid traveler and travel writer, Robin lives, reads, and writes voraciously in upstate NY.