SMALL GROUP TRAVEL
Why women’s trips are special, tips for solo travelers, sustainabilty & more
Adventures in Good Company leads tours for women with adventurous spirits, to over 100 destinations, in the U.S., and around the world. Their roots in group travel go back to the early 1990s. The company’s predecessor, Woodswomen, was a non-profit that pioneered women’s outdoor recreation and leadership.
Many of their guests, mostly women 50+, have been traveling with the company for more than 20 years. Every itinerary incorporates at least one type of active exploration: hiking, paddling, horseback riding, yoga, and more. Most recently, they’ve added active wellness retreats, to appeal to a wider range of interests and offer a different pace of travel.
Kelly Kimple took over as owner and CEO in January 2020, just before the pandemic. You might say the last few years have resembled one of AGC’s adventures, with challenging terrain and uphill climbs. But things have improved as women have returned to adventuring.
I recently spoke to Kelly about the rebound of travel, what makes women-only trips special, and an under-the-radar travel destination. Kelly, a conservation biologist, also shared why she believes adventure travel can support conservation. And what exactly is slackpacking, I asked. It sounds like my kind of trip.
Kelly’s answers have been edited for space.
Susan: The pandemic was a very difficult time for the travel industry, and you had just purchased the company in January 2020. What has the recovery been like, and what kind of trips are travelers seeking now?
Kelly: We started running trips again in the fall of 2020, which was pretty early on, looking back. The outdoor nature of our tours helped, and there was a deep trust in what we did. I’m proud of where we are now and that we were able to rebuild.
People are looking for adventures where they are using their own power to explore, such as hiking or paddling, and smaller groups where you can get outside of the typical tour zones and really see a place. We are seeing that trend overseas too. A lot of people want to go to Europe, but also some other international destinations are popular. Most of our trips for this year are sold out.
What Makes Women's Trips Unique
Susan: Adventures in Good Company offers trips for women only. What do you think makes women’s trips unique?
Kelly: I think it’s the ease of it, there is less pressure. We put a lot of focus on it being a community, not a competition, and being a supportive environment and creating a safe place, physically as well as emotionally. I think it’s easier when you’re with women, to have those deeper conversations, to focus on camaraderie, and to make real connections. Our guides really focus on that too. A lot of our guide training is based on group dynamics and creating a place where people feel safe.
Adventures in Good Company Travelers
Susan: I agree. Women’s trips are really special. Can you tell me more about who travels with Adventures in Good Company.
Kelly: Most of the women who travel with us are 50 and older, and some are in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s. We get fewer women in their 30s and 40s. And when we do get someone in their 20s, they are usually traveling with an older relative or a friend. We have a high repeat client rate, almost 80% — a lot of these women have been traveling with us for the life of the company, so 25 years.
First-Time Solo Travelers
Susan: Travelers in their 80s, that’s remarkable! What would you say to a woman who is interested in a group tour, but is nervous about joining as an independent traveler?
Kelly: I think nerves are natural and most of the women who join our trips are coming for the first time, alone. I would recommend don’t go too far outside of your comfort zone on a first group trip. If you’ve been nervous about traveling abroad and you’ve never traveled abroad, maybe do your first trip a little closer to home.
Don’t push yourself to do some major hike, if you’ve never hiked 15 miles. Do something that feels a little more comfortable, that excites you about the itinerary, and fits where you are at. If sharing a room with someone is what you are most nervous about, select a trip where either you can have your own room or everyone just has their own room. This is your vacation, pick whatever sounds like the most rejuvenating experience for you right now.
Sustainable Group Travel Adventures
Susan: Wonderful advice. Let’s talk about responsible and sustainable travel. What are some of the things a traveler should consider when selecting a group tour that is going to have a positive impact on the place and people they visit?
Kelly: Group size is always the first thing I look at for a number of reasons. Huge groups don’t lend themselves well to being out on the trail or paddling. And it’s difficult to support local lodging and restaurants when you are traveling in a huge group. So I would look at your itinerary, where you’re going, where you are staying, and the places you will visit. Our groups are small for a reason*. We are a small business, so we always look to support other small businesses.
(AGC’s tours are typically a maximum of 14 guests).
Adventures in Good Company's Women Tour Guides
Susan: You have your own guides who accompany every trip, even overseas tours. In addition, you employ local guides on international trips. Tell me more about this approach and how it grew from your origins as Woodswomen.
Kelly: Yes, we employ our own guides, they are independent contractors. We have almost 50 now. Some of our guides came over from Woodswomen. It was the first of its kind to develop trips for and led by women. They had developed a guide leadership program for women, and a lot of those philosophies have carried over to Adventures in Good Company.
Having two, sometimes three, of our own guides on a trip is our way of making sure we are creating the experience that we want our travelers to have. On international trips, our guests often know our guides from our domestic trips. So it’s creating that trust. It allows us to ensure that who we are as a company is represented in the experience.
Susan: I saw that Adventures in Good Company offers several “slackpacking” trips. I’m intrigued. Can you explain what that is?
Kelly: Slackpacking is known in the through-hiking world; you get someone to take your pack for you to the next spot. This is something that is a signature to us. We are the only tour operator I know of that offers this as a service and that has created slackpacking itineraries. Most of them are on the Appalachian Trail. We have a lot of sections, from Georgia to Maine, where you complete a continuous section of the trail and hike with just your daypack. At the end of each day, you go back to a nice lodging and a meal that the guides cook and to a shower and a bed. And then you pick up where you left off the next day. We’ve been doing it for a long time and are really proud of it.
An Under-the-Radar Destination
Susan: I imagine you are often considering new destinations. What is an under-the-radar destination that adventurous travelers should consider?
Kelly: We recently did a trip to Guyana. Our most intrepid travelers were very excited about it. If you like to get off the beaten path, if you like nature and conservation, and indigenous cultures, that’s the place to go.
Susan: And where is somewhere you would love to go next?
Kelly: I am going to Portugal next week, so I will say that. I am very excited; I’ve never been. I keep hearing so many people say it’s their favorite place and they love it, and want to move there — just so many good things about it. I am going on one of our tours and I am just along for the ride.
Adventure Travel & Conservation
Susan: Your education and background are in conservation biology. And you believe that adventure travel can play a part in conservation. Can you share your perspective on that?
Kelly: It’s about being in a place that helps you connect to it and develop an appreciation for it. And it’s bringing your heart to it; you have to feel that emotion and that sense of awe. That allows you to care enough to do something to protect it. I think it’s an overall shift in our thinking and our awareness of how we exist in nature and in the world.
Susan: Thank you, Kelly. Have a wonderful time in Portugal!
Kelly: Thank you, Susan.
Explore Adventures in Good Company’s upcoming trips: Find Your Adventure.