updated 8/15/2006 4:46:47 PM ET 2006-08-15T20:46:47

Christine McIver found a surefire way to ensure some of her less-than-fond memories gathered as a trail guide wouldn't be repeated on a horseback riding vacation she was planning: She booked a women's only trip.

McIver formerly escorted horseback riders on short trips and remembers men showing off and doling out nonsensical advice to their girlfriends. So when she decided to treat herself to a 40th birthday gift of a riding trip in Wyoming last month, she eliminated the possibility of male egos spoiling her fun.

"I just didn't want to have to deal with men who thought they were better than me," said McIver, a teacher from Allenhurst, N. J. who has been riding since she was in third grade.

Reasons vary, but increasingly women are choosing to take vacations that exclude those carrying the Y chromosome and tour companies, hotels, and lodges are lining up to cater to their desires.

Travel experts are hard-pressed to deliver statistics on the women-only portion of their industry, but say it is becoming increasingly important. Marybeth Bond, an author of seven books on women and travel estimated the number of companies that run only tours for women is now about 30, up from 21 five years ago. And hotels and lodges offer all kinds of women's-only packages ranging from celebrating wedding to learning or improving skills like skiing or painting.

Lalia Rach, dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University, said women have more money and freedom than they've ever had before, so failing to address their cravings is simply bad business.

Women's only tours fill a niche for females who lack traveling partners and don't enjoy solo vacations yet don't want to risk booking a package that could be loaded with couples or lecherous singles. And since women tend to plan the family vacations, creating specialized opportunities for them is a great way to reach the decisionmaker, tourism experts said.

Le Merigot, a JW Marriott beach hotel and spa in Santa Monica, Calif., now offers a women and wine package that includes a bottle of wine, a dinner with wine pairing, massages and guides to nearby wineries.

Debra Rosenberg Matsumoto, director of sales and marketing at the property, said she hopes the package will encourage women traveling for business to stay an extra night or those who purchased the package to come back with their significant others or more girlfriends for even longer stays.

Rosenberg Matsumoto said that women have traditionally been associated with spa vacations but this package provides them with other fun activities - a combination she hopes give the property an edge.

"We see a trend of women wanting to do all kinds of things," said Rosenberg Matsumoto.

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Women traveling with Adventurous Wench, which caters exclusively to females, will often find their vacation itineraries include recommendations on where to get a massage, shopping tips, a trip to a garden or a cooking class - activities that may be lacking in packages that cater to mixed groups.

That's part of her trips' allure, said Deanna Keahey who founded Adventurous Wench in 2003 when she was parting ways with her partner and realized she was losing her primary traveling companion.

"I went on an (organized) trip and was the only single. I was the odd person out," Keahey said.

So Keahey started a company that organized the kinds of vacations she would like to take - trips that offer some physical activity such as white water rafting but also include cultural excursions and stays in comfortable hotels. The first year Keahey organized three trips. This year, the company offered 13 excursions and plans to promote 15 to 17 packages in 2007.

Keahey and others in the tourism industry say that women and men often have different travel approaches. For example, they both may want to hike to the top of the mountain, but men tend to want to reach the peak efficiently while many women don't really care how long it takes, preferring to meander through villages and markets on the way.

"I think women pay more attention and appreciate more of the local character, local feeling of a place," said Keahey. She also adds, "We don't really rough it."

Bobbi Wade, an owner of High Wild & Lonesome Horseback Adventures, said she sees tremendous differences in how women and men behave on the outings. The company began offering one women-only weekend trip five years ago. This year, it offered two weeklong vacations for women to improve their riding skills and will offer at least that many next year.

"Men are more goal-oriented," Wade said. "Women appreciate every little thing about the experience. They are more relaxed."

Janice Pearson has taken three trips with Adventurous Wench, including one two months ago to Tuscany. Pearson, a 45-year old personnel executive, said she is a passionate traveler and has no qualms about vacationing solo, but there are some trips that are hard to plan for a single person.

Pearson's first two trips with the company were sailing jaunts, excursions that she wasn't about to attempt alone

Pearson is married but said her husband doesn't like travel unless it involves golf. Since she isn't interested in meeting a potential mate, Pearson dismissed the idea of a singles' trip and didn't want to worry about joining a group that resembled Noah's Ark.

"I like the idea of women traveling together," said Pearson, who lives in Dexter, Mich. "I think it is more comfortable with just women, more fun."

On the Net:

Le Merigot: http://www.LeMerigotHotel.com

Adventurous Wench: http://www.adventurouswench.com

High, Wild & Lonesome: http://www.hwl.net

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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