Agency finds success in catering to women travelers

While most girl getaways are arranged informally among friends or relatives, a ladies travel club in Carnegie has provided the planning and arrangements for women-only trips all over the world since 2006.

JustLadies Travel Club, based out of J&L Travel but a separate entity, has helped organize these trips for all sorts of women: single, divorced, widowed, retired, working and homemakers. Ages range from roughly 45 to 70, with most trips arranged for groups of 10 to 14 women. And it offers a group for the solo woman traveler.

The club organizes a trip about once a month. "We just got back from Africa, a safari in Tanzania," said Joanne Letcher, who founded the club with Peggy Westbrook. "We're taking a group of 13 to Paris in May."

Some of the women have become such good friends on the trips that they have started taking excursions without the club's founders. "And that's great," Ms. Letcher said. "We'd like to see more of the women organizing trips themselves and coming up with ideas. We're better off if we organize the trip, but they go themselves."

That's something that has evolved since the club was founded nearly six years ago, Ms. Westbrook said.

"I would say the biggest change that we've had is the amount of friendships that have come out of this," she said. "That was our goal from the get-go."

While there are women-only travel clubs across the country, what makes JustLadies different is monthly dinners it holds so participants can become acquainted before trips or to stay in touch after they've traveled together.

Years ago, when the founders would discuss trips at the dinners "everyone would sit there and listen, it was quiet," Ms. Westbrook said. "Now, we can go in and we can barely get a word in edgewise. It's fun, but wow! That has been the biggest reward."

In 2011, 80 women traveled at one time or another on one of the trips. Sometimes a wife will bring her husband, which is OK, too.

Coming later this year are trips on a mega yacht on the Italian and French Riverias and another in southern Italy. Others being planned are to Portland, Ore., and the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival this fall in New Mexico.

Although women do not have to join the club (cost is $40 a year), those who do get advance notice on new trips, a number of discounts on travel and insurance, a quarterly newsletter and other benefits.

"Our Paris trip sold out almost immediately," Ms. Lechter said.

For more information:; 412-276-6727.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:27:34