This blog post was updated on April 23, 2020
Thanks to the 2015 United States Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage, gay travel has never been safer.
For the first time in the nation’s history, gay and lesbian couples were granted the right to travel domestically without concern that their marital status would change across state lines.
The United States is just one of many countries that has experienced a recent shift in attitudes about gender and sexuality. Thanks to these changes, members of the LGBTQ communities have gained greater mobility and more visibility — making international travel both safer and more enjoyable.
Whether you’re planning a trip for yourself, you and your partner, or an LGBTQ travel group, there are a variety of online resources available to ensure you have the ultimate vacation. Try using some of these to make your trip perfect.
Finding the right destination
Traveling freely is an essential human right, but every visitor should be mindful of their destination’s cultural nuances when planning a trip abroad.
While many destinations worldwide champion inclusivity, some regions aren’t safe for those who are gay, lesbian, or gender-nonconforming. For travelers who want to visit gay-friendly travel destinations, there are a wealth of tools, reviews, and advice available online.
Here are a few especially helpful resources that are worth checking out:
Since 1983, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has supported LGBTQ travelers with finding accommodations, tour groups, destinations, events, transport, and travel service providers.
Not sure where to begin? No worries. IGLTA’s “Plan Your Trip” tool allows users to search for LGBTQ-friendly options by destination, by vacation-type, or by provider. With resources for more than 75 countries, IGLTA is a terrific starting point for LGBTQ travelers-to-be.
Part blog, part planning tool, Queer in the World is a quirky resource for LGBTQ travel-junkies. In particular, Queer in the World’s Gay City Guides provide detailed overviews of must-see attractions in the world’s major cities.
These guides include a mix of general travel recommendations for your trip abroad along with a deep-dive into each city’s LGBTQ scene.
The US Department of State is a critical resource for international travelers of any identity. In addition to its standard travel advice and alerts, the US State Department has a resource compilation specifically geared toward LGBTQ travelers and their families.
From passport information, to safety tips, to detailed breakdowns of different countries’ stances on same-sex marriage, the State Department’s guidance can help gay and lesbian individuals and travel groups stay safe.
Not to be confused with the IGLTA mentioned above, the IGLA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) supports and advocates for LGBTQ rights worldwide.
What differentiates the IGLA’s website from other resources is its collection of charts, maps, and data-sets. These infographics offer an at-a-glance overview of how different countries criminalize, recognize, or protect same-sex relationships.
Choosing your own adventureFor gay and lesbian travel groups, trip planning can be daunting. It’s difficult to find activities that offer the right mix of safety, convenience, and fun. There are a few different approaches that can help visitors-to-be decide how best to plan their trip:
1. LGBTQ tours and travel packages
From luxury getaways
to outdoor adventures, LGBTQ-friendly tour operators take the hassle out of travel-planning. Some organizations manage a trip from start to finish, while others allow guests to develop a customized travel itinerary.
Travelers can choose from docent-led or self-guided trips. No matter the preference, there are dozens of results for highly-rated, LGBTQ-friendly tour operators that can help curate the perfect experience for individual, couple, and group travel.
Many destinations have districts within their cities that cater specifically to the LGBTQ community. Often called gayborhoods, these districts are gay-friendly hubs chalked full of restaurants, theaters, and other organizations.
Whether you simply visit for a weekend of for a special event, these neighborhoods provide a wide-range of activities and entities for gay and lesbian travelers. In addition, there is an official Gayborhood website that allows you to enter your destination and trip type to find the most gay-friendly travel accommodations.
are another popular option for gay, lesbian, and gender-nonconforming travelers. With endless options for leisure and recreation, gay and lesbian travelers can choose to what extent they mingle with other passengers, relax in the sun, or explore what lies ashore.
While many cruise lines champion diversity and inclusion, Cruise Critic has a helpful compilation of the best cruise lines for gay and lesbian passengers.
4. LGBTQ events
Attending a festival or event can be a great way to meet new people and establish a connection with different destinations’ gay and lesbian communities. Destinations around the world host pride parades, typically during the summer, and visitors are often encouraged to join in on the festivities.
Outside of pride season, LGBTQ events centered around music, performance, food, art, or sports are held in major cities worldwide. Check out resources like IGLTA, LGBTQ blogs and websites, and social media communities for lists of upcoming events and advice for attendees.
5. LGBTQ attractions
Even if a trip doesn’t center on a specific event, there are still opportunities to connect with a destination’s LGBTQ community. Many cities around the world are home to gay-friendly restaurants, shops, cafes, and nightclubs.
These spaces offer a scaled-down alternative to a festival or a parade, and they can create a welcoming environment for gay and lesbian travelers. Virtual tours, social media pages, and reviews from Google and Trip Advisor can give prospective visitors an idea of what to expect.
Staying safe and having fun
After researching a destination and narrowing down activities, it might be tempting to kick back and celebrate a job well-done. Still, take the trip planning process one step further by researching cultural nuances, airport security
, and gay-friendly accommodations
. Planning ahead is the best way to avoid uncomfortable — and sometimes dangerous — situations. Travelers should think carefully about their risk tolerance, and develop strategies
for worst-case scenarios.
Purchasing a travel medical insurance plan and enrolling in federal safety initiatives like the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) are two easy ways to prioritize health and safety abroad.
One of the many benefits of traveling the world is the way that it brings together people from different backgrounds and identities. Digital tools and changing social norms have helped to make travel safer and more accessible — especially for LGBTQ travelers.
Now that there is a global shift in attitudes surrounding the LGBTQ community, gay and lesbian travel is becoming an ever-increasing market. By creating and sharing online resources and fostering a global sense of community, LGBTQ travelers can be out and about like never before.
With resources like these listed above, gay and lesbian tourists and travel groups can have safe, fun, and memorable vacations.
About the Author
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.