By Rachael Funk
We’re here, we’re queer, we’re ready to travel! Unfortunately for a lot of folks in our community, wanderlust is matched by travel anxiety. How do we know we’ll be safe? Is this destination truly gay friendly? Are we going to have to do the dreaded “one bed or two” charade at every check-in? How many more “staycations” can we endure before we lose our freaking minds? Though planning a trip abroad can be a different process for everyone in this varied demographic, we’ve come up with a few ways to help address first-time travel jitters.
Safety first – do your homework
At the risk of sounding like everyone’s alarmist mom: don’t forget travel safety varies for each person, depending on where they fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. In some places where lesbian couples wouldn’t get a second glance, transgender travelers may have to deal with an extra helping of nonsense. Make sure you have a strong understanding of what to expect in terms of tolerance, local laws, and what kind of conduct is considered socially acceptable. Nothing sucks the joy out of an exotic getaway quite like being blindsided by bigotry.
Don’t be shy about crowdsourcing travel suggestions from your like-minded friends. If you’re the first of your crew to venture out, websites such as Equaldex and IGLTA are helpful for getting a handle on gay rights around the world, friendly businesses, and safe destinations.
Update your passport
The world is evolving and so are you! Has your name changed? Is the correct gender indicated on your passport? Does your picture still look like you? You might have updated your driver’s license when it expired, but make sure the stuff on your passport matches up, too. You don’t want to get stuck in a stressful inquisition at customs when you could already be unpacking at the hotel. Here’s a helpful guide for how to make changes to your passport.
Take the same precautions abroad as you would at home
Being on vacation doesn’t make you immune to shady strangers. Think of your vacation as your first high school party; keep an eye on your drink, be aware of your surroundings, and trust your gut if something feels wrong. Better to risk FOMO than your safety. If you’re using apps to meet people, have an exit plan if things don’t go well – especially if you’re traveling alone. If things go really wrong, you can use this website to find a US Embassy for help.
Find trustworthy accommodations
One thing’s for sure – no matter which country you visit, you want to feel secure about where you sleep at night. The TAG Approved® website is a great way to suss out welcoming hotels and avoid a stay that’s breathtakingly problematic. Type in the city where you’re headed and they'll list out the who, what, and where of the area’s certified gay-friendly properties.
Check out the local gay scene
If you’re in a tolerant country, you can be out and about! Learn some facts about that country’s gay history! Find the best drag show in town! Buy something from a gay-owned business! Just don’t forget you’re a representative of your home, so if you’re going to do something that makes the rest of us look bad, at least make it a good story.
Keep a travel journal
It’s been scientifically proven by intensive professional research (probably) that vacation days pass much faster than work days. When you’re exploring a new place, details get fuzzy and Instagram just doesn’t cut it. Protect those sweet memories by writing them down at the end of the day; it will be a great keepsake to look back on with a warm heart and a smile on your face. If you’re not sure how to begin, we have a few thoughts.
Travel is a beautiful gift that not everyone gets to experience, so go all-in! Start a Pinterest board, buy yourself some travel swag, send your friends too many articles about where you’re going. You’re allowed to get a little travel-crazy; this trip is the most exciting thing since Kate McKinnon!