What do women (travellers) want? Deeper immersions, stimulating conversations, accessible toilets – and lots of shopping.
Not all women want these things, of course, and some men might appreciate a dose of retail therapy themselves. But it's true that men's and women's expectations of travel frequently differ. And with economic empowerment enabling women to become more discerning and assertive, they're choosing overwhelmingly to travel with the people who understand them best: other women.
It's not all bad news for men, though: couples travel is also growing, says futurist and founder of mytravelresearch.com, Carolyn Childs. For those lucky men invited on such trips, here are some of the ways – from dead serious to taking-the-mickey – you can become better companions for the women you're travelling with.
"Let us shop!" declares Sarah Hoyland, director of the Classic Safari Company and its Secret Women's Series subsidiary. Markets, souks, boutiques and factory outlets offer women an opportunity to indulge their (almost) universal love of shopping in exotic new locations.
As Hoyland says, "no two black handbags are ever the same, so refrain from even asking why we would be looking at a new one in Jaipur, Marrakech, Buenos Aires or Cairo. Shopping in an exotic location is simply bliss."
WORKING TO OUR STRENGTHS
When World's Expeditions' PR manager Michele Eckersley and her husband Andrew Lawson's youngest child finished school, the couple took a sabbatical from work and set off on a gap year. They soon discovered the importance of dividing jobs according to one's capabilities.
"It didn't take us long to work out who should do what, but because there are a whole range of different daily tasks, there can be a few – how shall I say? – 'moments'," Eckersley says.
"He's better at directions, so better for him to take a lead on that. I'm better with planning and online research – like finding the best day walks, city highlights or accommodation – so better for me to do that. I'm better at making keys work in doors and he's better at checking weather and packing the day pack accordingly."
ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES
The best travel companion, man or woman, is someone with a sense of adventure and curiosity, is a thoughtful traveller, and can roll with the punches when things don't go according to plan, says media advisor Sue Finn.
"Whenever I travel with my husband, we have a pact that whatever happens – missed connections, queues, delays, crowds, getting lost, poor weather, bad food – we'll take it all in our stride. And we do."
REINING THINGS IN
Men can add a lot to the mix when travelling with women by simply being a cut-back version of themselves, says Marika Martinez, founder of Women's Own Adventure.
"They should try to stay a little more in the background and not take over. Women are generally less competitive than men so while men may race to be the first or the best, women take a slower pace and enjoy the journey. They also tend to help each other along the way more so than men."
GIVING US SPACE
Energy levels, sleep patterns and leisure preferences can necessitate periods of separation, as Michele Eckersley discovered on her adventure.
"Although we didn't end up needing days apart, there were a few times that we'd arrive somewhere and he'd be keen to take off on a walk and I'd want to just sit in the room and read/journal/communicate with friends and family via social media."
Engaging in activities separately has another benefit: it makes for great conversation when you reunite at the end of the day.
KEEPING AN EYE ON US
In a perfect world, women wouldn't have to worry about being accosted by men, but as we know all too well this is a common – and unpleasant – occurrence, especially in traditionally chauvinistic regions.
So while we'd rather not have to ask, we'd appreciate it if you'd be our allies in situations where our space or security is being threatened. It would be a bonus if you'd take the lessons from such incidents back home to your male friends, who often underestimate the harassment women have to put up with.
It's not true that women speak more than men (especially in public forums) but we do tend to love a chat – and the sense of connection such interactions conjure between us and the people we meet on our travels.
As Carolyn Childs says: "I do think women, on average, tend to be favouring deeper immersion, more cultural connection and perhaps also more positive outcomes for the communities they visit."
Knowing this, men would do well to bite their tongues when their female travel companions are locked in friendly conversation with strangers.
Travelling is an intensely personal experience, and men's and women's expectations can differ wildly. Clarify your expectations – and those of your companion – before you take off and you'll find yourself clashing less over unscheduled shopping expeditions and prolonged sleep-ins.
"I need my travel companion to be upfront with me, so we can collaborate and undertake a journey that is memorable for us both," says disability program manager Lowri Williams.
"As long as expectations from both parties are made clear, you can make a plan to keep both travellers happy."
Accept that sometimes women just don't want you to come along with them – especially on itineraries encompassing special interests like design, gardens, food, fashion and shopping, says Carol Prior, founder of boutique travel company By Prior Arrangement.
"I really think that all-women trips are becoming much more popular now because women are more independent and enjoy travelling without their partners."
Her (tongue-in-cheek) advice to men? "Stay home and make sure you give us the credit cards!"