From luxury getaways to outdoor adventures, LGBTQ-friendly tour operators can manage a trip from start to finish. Some organizations also offer docent-led or self-guided trips.
When booking, look for a hotel brand that scores high on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. This will make it easier to fly under the radar.
1. Know Your Rights
Like all travelers, LGBTQ couples must take into account the laws of each country and region they visit. Some 71 countries criminalize consensual same-sex relationships and gender expression, and 15 countries ban cross-dressing.
It’s also important for LGBTQ people to know their own comfort level with “passing” as cis or heterosexual. Some individuals may be able to travel safely with minimal risk to destinations that have anti-LGBTQ laws and attitudes if they’re comfortable passing as straight, and keeping their sexual orientation private when interacting with locals.
Same-sex parents who travel with young kids should make sure they bring copies of each child’s passport and birth certificate (and adoption papers if applicable), as well as emergency contact information for family back home. They should also check the U.S. State Department website for current security updates and travel advisories before they depart, and consider signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment program.
Knowing which hotels, resorts, and destinations are queer-friendly can make all the difference in an LGBTQ travel experience. Many large hotel brands, including Hilton and Fairmont, have initiatives aimed at reaching LGBTQ visitors, and some individual properties have a reputation for being gay-friendly. Adam Groffman, who blogs at Travels of Adam, has a comprehensive list of LGBT-friendly hotels and destinations for the LGBTQ traveler. His advice: “Know the laws and culture of your destination before you travel.” You can also find LGBTQ-friendly events, meetups, and accommodations on social apps.
2. Be Prepared
Being prepared can mean having extra cash, having a backup plan if your travel plans go awry, and knowing what to do if your partner gets sick. It also means having a career that doesn’t require you to be tied to a physical location—a not-too-secret secret for many LGBTQ travelers.
Being a prepared traveler means being aware of local laws, customs, and cultural sensitivities in destinations you visit. It can also include attending a Pride event or checking out LGBTQ-centric websites, like the IGLTA and Equaldex (an interactive map-anchored website that keeps tabs on LGBTQ rights around the world).
For hotels and resorts, making it clear to LGBTQIA guests that they’re welcome and supported starts long before they check into your lobby. “Great first impressions are made from the first moment a person sees your property in a search result, reads your description or finds it in a LGBTQIA-friendly filter,” says Salvato.
Adding LGBTQIA-friendly keywords to your property descriptions and using inclusive language on your website will help you attract this lucrative market segment. It’s also important to make your employees aware of what is and isn’t OK, and what it means to treat everyone with respect and inclusivity. This goes for LGBTQIA guests as well as all other types of travelers. In fact, a study found that 69% of LGBTQIA people say they prefer to stay at hotels and resorts they know are inclusive.
3. Stay Safe
One of the most difficult things for LGBTQ+ travelers is to balance a desire to see new places with an understanding of how cultural and legal environments can make travel more challenging. Gay and lesbian couples, in particular, often face more challenges when traveling than their straight counterparts. This can include everything from navigating hotels that are not LGBTQ-friendly to dealing with hotel staff who question the validity of same-sex marriages.
This can be complicated when traveling to countries where homosexuality is legal but not widely accepted. In these cases, it can be helpful to research laws and culture beforehand. This will help LGBTQ+ couples decide how “out” they want to be in a given country. For example, in some nations, holding hands or requesting a double bed at a hotel can be considered a public display of affection and may be illegal. This is true even in some countries that are largely tolerant of LGBTQ+ people, such as Morocco.
For instance, in some parts of the world, it is still customary for gay men to wear long pants when visiting certain areas. This can be upsetting for many LGBTQ+ travelers, but it is important to comply with local culture. In general, being mindful of surroundings, maintaining a low profile, and disclosing as little as possible are good practices to follow when traveling abroad.
4. Make Friends
Having a group to explore with can make the experience more fun, plus it can help you avoid situations that might put you in danger. Look into group tours of the place you’re traveling to — some companies are even gay-friendly!
While LGBTQIA travelers may face some prejudice, the majority of people are welcoming. You’ll find LGBTQ-friendly restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and more around the globe. In fact, some major hotel brands are committed to inclusivity and train their employees on how to welcome LGBTQIA travelers, like Hilton and Fairmont.
Make it a goal to talk to new people — and try not to assume gender or sexual orientation when you do. Use your research to find LGBTQ-owned and -friendly spaces, and consider an LGBTQ-focused meetup or event while you’re there. For instance, check out Utopia Asia or ILGTA for local guidebooks and listings.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and be open about your sexuality if you feel comfortable doing so, but be mindful of the local laws and culture. For example, in Egypt, it’s still illegal to discuss your sexuality with others publicly, and identifying as gay could get you in trouble. In addition, respect people’s pronouns and gender identities to create a safe space for everyone. This is a great way to show you’re an ally, too!