What exactly is GirlFriendCircles and why are they hosting trips?
GirlFriendCircles.com is a website committed to promoting healthy friendship among women. Founded by Shasta Nelson, the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen, she wanted to make it as easy as possible for women who value making new friends to meet each other. While most events and connections are made locally in the US and Canada, GFC hosts a number of international trips each year as a fun way to help women travel and connect!
What is the focus of the GirlFriendCircles TravelCircles?
These TravelCircles are unlike any other trip you can ever go on because of two special features:
Bond with new friends! Most travel is either with people you already know or with groups where you're herded like cattle. We keep our groups small and meaningful! Every one of our trips has an ambassador whose sole focus is to make introductions, lead some sharing (i.e.'"What was your favorite part of today?"), and keep the energy good and loving in the group. Our groups are kept around 10-ish so small enough to connect and yet large enough to always have someone up for going with you on a side excursion (the group doesn't have to be together all the time!) Imagine journeying with a dozen other amazing women up for an adventure!
Enjoy the focus on women! We'll still see all the famous sites and experiences of every destination, but we're also being super intentional about adding some experiences that will connect us with women in each country: cooking classes, visits to a couple agencies that are helping women's issues, dance classes, meaningful conversations with local women about their life in that country, etc. So we're not just traipsing through a country, but we're doing so with some intention to respect and meet our sisters in other countries! Go women!
What is the style/philosophy of GirlFriendCircles Travel?
Eco-consciousness & Social Responsibility: Our travel partner Altruvistas is committed to making sure that as much of our travel money as possible is used for supporting local economy. Their goal is that we really connect with the country and the people by getting off the tourist trail, connecting with locals in conversations, and supporting some philanthropic organizations along the way. This means, for example, that rather than stay in familiar US hotel chains, great care is given to stay in locally owned hotels that, on a rare occasion in certain countries, may be more humble than we’re accustomed to in the US but will always be chosen because they are clean and safe.
Affordable fun: We try to plan the best trip with as many special moments and highlights as we can while keeping the price as low as possible. We try to find boutique hotels and will cater to great location over fancy.
Diverse Itinerary: Some groups cater to outdoorsy/adventure, some to literature and art—we try to do a little bit of everything! That means we will always see the famous sites and pick a few important museums, try to show you a bit of the country, connect you with a few community organizations so you can find out the needs of the country, and then schedule some really special moments like cooking workshops, dance classes, and shopping excursions.
Multi-Generational: Some of our best feedback has come from women who were surprised how much they loved the multi-generational connections made on these trips. There is something really magical about reminding ourselves that we can connect and love far more people than those who are most like us. On most trips we have women spread out in ages 21-65!
Loving Connection: All our trips will have a GFC Ambassador along whose job is to help facilitate some connection and foster healthy group dynamics. Our goal isn’t that you just travel with others, but that you get to know them and love them!
You’re an adult! We trust you! While we hope everyone is as conscientious of the group as possible (i.e. showing up on time, being kind), we most definitely don’t see our role as baby-sitters! If you need a day off—take it! If you would prefer to skip the museum and sit in a café instead—do it! Just let us know what you need and prefer—we’ll aim to please!
What sizes are the TravelCircles?
Our groups can be anywhere between 6-12 women, with the average size being 8-10. Small enough to rent our own private van, fit into cute restaurants, and not feel like we are lost in a huge tourist group, but big enough to find someone we relate to, to learn from each other, and to schedule special features for.
Who exactly is in charge of these trips?
While GirlFriendCircles chooses the destinations and approves the itineraries of every trip before we invite all our GirlFriends to join us, it is Altruvistas, a registered and licensed travel agency who will oversee our trip. Altruvistas, is an eco-conscious and socially responsible company, who is charge of communicating all trip details, answering your questions, hiring our guides, contracting all lodging, ground transportation, and activities, etc. We chose Malia and her team because of their integrity, strong reputation in the eco-tourism industry, and their passion for scheduling local experiences that are off the beaten path. All your liability forms are with them directly and we are covered under their insurance.
Once on the trip, you are in the care of two people at all times-- a local guide who oversees logistics (hired by Altruvistas) and a GFC Ambassador (sent by GirlFriendCircles) who is there to love on you and foster healthy group connections!
What’s covered in the price of the trip?
Itinerary & Logistics: research and scheduling all events
Hotel: a double room for every night of the trip (single available for extra)
Local Guide: who is hired for the entire length of the trip to oversee all logistics and translate for the group
GFC ambassador: to act as liaison and group connector
Transportation within the country: whether by private bus, airplane, boat, or cab
Two meals every day (plus tips): Usually breakfast and lunch
All entrance fees: to all sites, museums, and workshops
A paid guide at museums: to teach and answer questions
Donations: to local philanthropic agencies on our behalf
What isn't included in the price?
Airfare to/from the destination country
Tips for bus driver, guide, hotels
One meal a day (so you can eat wherever you want!)
Why isn't airfare included?
If your trip includes a domestic flight within the country then that price is included, but we don’t include the price of airfare to and from our destination country because some people want to use their miles, some prefer 1st class, and some want to fly a particular airline. We’ll just tell you when to arrive by and let you decide your preferred way to fly. (One site we love for pricing your flight is www.hipmunk.com.)
Are these 5-star trips?
No you won’t be staying at luxury or high-end hotels because we want more women able to afford to come with us. With that said, while we keep the trips to 3.5-4 stars, we want the experience to be amazing so we spend a little extra to add the special touches! We’ll always try to choose the hotel with the rooftop with an amazing view, in a fun neighborhood, or with local charm over a fancier hotel outside of town. Safety, comfort, and charm are our priorities.
Do you offer payment plans?
Yes we do! A $500 deposit is required to reserve your spot on a trip, and then you can work out a payment plan with Altruvistas. Trips can also be paid for via credit card.
Are single rooms available?
Yes! Just ask Altruvistas what the exact price difference is on your specific trip.
What are the benefits of traveling in a group?
Special Opportunities & Access: A group can schedule special experiences (lunch with a local professor, a workshop to learn how to make a local dish, a tour of an artists local gallery) that individuals traveling alone are less likely to know about or be able to schedule.
Meet New Friends: In a group you’re bound to find several women you connect with on different levels and all our groups intentionally foster conversation and connection.
Stimulating Conversation: During lunch you can share what you most enjoyed during the last tour, in the bus be a part of a conversation about politics in that country, or join another woman for drinks in the evening and get to know each other better.
Support: We’re here to help each other whether you forgot a hair dryer, want copies of someone’s photos, or feel stressed about riding on the boat—we are in it together! And your guide can help you find the nearest grocery store, tell you about the best art, and answer your questions.
Ease: Everything is planned for you. You don’t have to stress about local transportation, get lost on your way to the hotel, spend half the day trying to figure out what you want to do, worry about not being able to read the local signs, or risk showing up to something on the day they are closed. It’s all taken care of for you!
What should I keep in mind when traveling with a group?
- Flexibility: Everyone is different and it’s impossible for an itinerary to reflect the energy levels and desires of every person in the group 100% of the time. Adopting a bit of a “go with the flow” mantra will inspire!
- Honesty: Do you need vegetarian food? Is something wrong with your hotel room? Do you want an afternoon off? Was there a museum you’re sad isn’t on the itinerary? Is the group walking too fast? Would you prefer the museum guide to go on without you so you can just take photos on your own time? Please communicate with the guide, or the group, about your needs. We want to be helpful but we need to know what you need!
- A Loving Heart: Chances are high that someone will annoy you at some point! In many group dynamics, it’s normal for there to be some frustration part way through the trip while everyone is trying to get their bearings and adjust to the unfamiliar. Come with the intention of being as generous of spirit as you can be!
What if I’m an introvert and feel anxious about being with people the whole time?
We have tons of introverts come and we’d love to have you! Everyone is different so you just do what you need to do whether it’s take an afternoon off to just explore on your own, read your book in the evening in your room, or put headphones on in the bus. We facilitate some initial connection so it’s less stressful on anyone to have to make small talk or to worry about what to say. And while we value connecting, much of the time is spent letting everyone do what they want to do and talk (or not) with whoever they want.
Past introverts who have traveled with us have said things like “This was actually easier than hanging out with my friends back home!” and “I am shocked how close I feel to everyone.”