The idea of a girls holiday is seen as a rite of passage. Those sun-drenched, alcohol-infused trips are a mainstay of our late teens and twenties, memories that go down in the mythology of your friendships, keeping the embers going when life gets in the way of creating new experiences together. I'm not a believer in New Year's resolutions, but if I were I would align myself with Sophie Turner, who has pledged on Instagram to make the next 12 months another "year of the girlies".
When I first wrote this piece back in 2019, based on a statistic that an increased number of women were choosing to go on holiday with friends over their partners, I had, in opposition to the figures, noticed that those all-girl breaks were fading. Once a concrete pillar in our annual calendars, they felt more movable – and that feeling has only intensified over the past few years. As we grow older and our lives become filled with partners and children, priorities naturally shift and time becomes scarcer. Even if budgets do extend to both a holiday with family and another with friends, it can feel indulgent to do so. For a million reasons, taking a break with your best pals just doesn’t seem practical.
As the years go on, obstacles are thrown at friendships that wrap themselves round girls holidays like a damp, cold blanket – relationships, work, children. Not all friendships can and should survive these stages, but the best ones do. There's also societal pressure to contend with – the negative comments underneath Sophie Turner's aforementioned social-media post are very telling of how we view mothers who also prioritise their female friendships. Somehow, women are seen as less caring and competent as parents if they value and make time for their friends.
But if the idea of jetting off to an exotic locale with your closest women might be unfeasible now, it won’t always be. There is no point in our lives where friendships become unimportant or unnecessary. Spending time with the people that sustain us is one of the most nourishing and healthy things we can do. Sometimes it pays to leave our partners or children at home and remember who we are away from them.
As impracticable as it might seem, the number of women going on holiday with their friends, rather than their significant others, has seen a marked growth. Women-only tourism has boomed in the past three years – in 2021, it was reported that the number of female-only travel companies had increased by 230 per cent, presumably due to demand. There's also been a rise in female-focused hotels and overseas accommodation – elevated spaces designed for travellers to relax and recharge. The private SuperShe Island, located off the coast of Finland, offers a retreat for women to be themselves and learn from one another, complete with stylish cabins, Finnish saunas and spa services. Some, like the Bliss Sanctuary in Bali and Cummari in Sicily, are targeted specifically at women travelling solo, but often result in guests becoming friends beyond their stay. “There is no greater reward than seeing women who were a part of Cummari spending time together in other parts of the world,” says founder and international correspondent Michelle Titus. “Often, people who didn’t even stay at the same time, but are part of our community, end up meeting up in London, Amsterdam, or most recently in New York. I have former guests who are now helping each other write manuscripts or obtain citizenships or visas. It’s extremely rewarding to see.”
It’s particularly fitting of Cummari, given that the word means ‘women who are like family’, but who aren't necessarily blood-related. Such has been the popularity of the concept that Titus has since expanded the idea from the original co-living space in Catania to female-focused retreats held in different, but equally beguiling parts of the island – the next of which takes place in February this year. “Women are finding a natural way back to each other right now,” she says. “They really just needed the opportunity to connect with a part of themselves that’s been long lost or banished through a variety of cultural reasons. In Italy, we have a phrase called ‘il dolce far niente’, which translates as ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’ – not having a reason or a goal. That what we aim for at Cummari.”
Now in my mid-thirties with a child, I see even more reason to escape for a few days with my closest pals. The older we become, the more responsibilities we acquire and, as women, we're not always very good at considering our own wellbeing. We need a break from the emotional labour of our lives and to be free of everyday expectations and duties in order to cackle, scheme and comfort one another in a way that goes beyond a few hours at a restaurant or bar. While trashy, binge-drinking travels spent in cheap b&bs might not seem as appealing as they once were, a good all-women holiday is still an enriching experience because, frankly, female bonding doesn't age. You might not drink with reckless abandon in quite the same way (the increasingly debilitating hangovers just aren’t worth it), but it is entirely possible to get drunk on the company of your best friends. Our travel adventures might look different, the skinny-dipping less spontaneous, the nights out noticeably shorter and the tolerance for sleazy lotharios much lower, but it’s no less fun. If anything it’s just more comfortable – and involves better food.
There is no engagement or wedding to prove how fulfilling or vital our friendships are, so perhaps a holiday – your precious, rare time – is still the biggest form of recognition. The more responsibilities we accumulate, the more important it is to be able to steal a few days away with the women who helped shape us; those who remind us of who we are independent of people who might depend on us at home, whether partners, parents or children. Maybe I'm finding grandiose ways to justify a holiday, but taking mental and physical space away from our everyday circumstances to refuel and recharge can only benefit everyone, including those we leave behind. It is OK to crave uninterrupted time with our friends somewhere beautiful.
With that in mind, we make the case for the adult girls holiday. Here's why you should book one:
1. You'll strengthen your friendship
There is nothing like the intimacy of a week or weekend away with a friend to intensify your relationship. As we get older and the sleepovers and long nights out peter off, it's easy to fall into the habit of only seeing your friends in bitesize chunks – for dinner or drinks when you dedicate the majority of the evening to catching up on what you've been up to in the interim. But friendship is based on experiences, memories and the kind of chat that spans the silly, the deep and the frustrating. You won't cover all that with a few hours in the pub, but you will with a holiday away. It's all very well to reminisce, but you need more to fuel that friendship fire than that now-ancient time you got drunk and danced on tables in your teenage years.
2. It's wildly freeing
There is nothing that feels more liberating than getting on a plane with a best friend or two and removing yourself from domesticity. It doesn't matter how happy your relationship is or how much you love your children, spending quality time in an unfamiliar location, whether on a Sicilian beach or in a beautiful castle in Wales, makes us all feel younger – reminding us of the uninhibited joy of school and university. All there is to worry about is making sure you're wearing enough sun cream and where you're going for dinner that night. While you might have put your alcohol-fuelled days behind you, that "fuck it, we're on holiday" attitude still applies.
3. You're more likely to meet new people
When you're with your friends, you're more open to chatting to new people, and that doesn't necessarily have to mean romantic potentials (although it could). Couples understandably tend to be more cocooned and less willing to meet anyone outside their bubble. In all-female company, you will explore more – you'll see more of the nightlife because going out with your partner is not the same. There is a far greater chance you'll do things you didn't expect – whether driving mopeds through an island without a license or dancing until the sun comes up.
4. You will party more
While it's fulfilling to spend a day visiting local attractions, you've truthfully only seen half a city or a destination until you've experienced it by night. Places have different personalities under a cloak of darkness, and you're definitely more likely to make an effort to explore nightlife if you're with friends, rather than a partner and children. Days just last longer with your friends: where you might go for dinner and a drink with your partner before going back to the hotel, nights with girlfriends tend to go on later – whether you head to the clubs or just spend the evening putting the world to rights over a lengthy dinner.
5. You'll remember why you became such good friends in the first place
In the same way that going on a romantic break can revitalise a relationship, going on holiday with friends can help you remember why you first became friends. You're seeing your closest pals at their most relaxed, away from the pressures of normal life. It's everyone's respite away from the daily grind, so you're more likely to be on good form.
6. You'll talk through each other's life problems
Women have an incomparable ability to talk about everything, but sometimes when we meet up for a quick catch-up, there isn't time to go through our deepest worries or problems, and definitely not how to solve them. With unlimited time on your hands, you can both work out how your friend is going to get out of that job she hates, or that niggling issue you have about your partner. There is time to be mutually, fully supportive.
7. Not all plus-one integration is going to work
Many of us have, at some point, had a fantasy about the way our partners or children are going to mix. Our paramours will be best friends, bonding over shared interests and humour. Our children will adore each other, maybe one day they’ll marry. The oft reality is that these integrated scenarios where we force our loved ones to socialise are usually awkward. The partners run out of conversation, maybe the children just don’t see eye to eye. All of this is OK. If your crew are a merry band, then perfect. If not, don’t try to force it – holidays should be relaxing. Just go with the girls instead.
8. You'll have a holiday song that will make you smile for ever
There will be that one song that you play over and over again, whether by the pool, on the dancefloor or in the car, and every time you hear it, it'll make you smile and remind you of why the main friends in your life are as important as family.
You Might Also Like