Looking for spots that are great for group travel? Check out these destinations. Photo: Adobe Stock/Neon Shot

The best-laid plans often involve the best of friends. Vacationing with friends and chosen family can be a welcome respite or a weeklong party – it’s up to you! Whether you are looking for a destination close to home or traveling to a far-away city, there are LGBTQ+-friendly options if you know where to look.

Finding welcoming and safe places to enjoy is top of mind for queer and transgender travelers, according to the research group, Community Marketing and Insights. 80% of LGBTQ+ travelers rated finding a welcoming and safe travel destination as “very important” or “important” in CMI’s most recent tourism and hospitality survey.

So, how do you find welcoming places that fit your group’s needs and provide a safe space for the community? Check out some of our suggestions below.

Road trip

If your group is planning to stay stateside, there are endless opportunities in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ group travel. Welcoming big cities like San Francisco and New York City and queer enclaves like Provincetown, Massachusetts, offer much for travelers to enjoy. Party people, art lovers, foodies – there’s a place for everyone.

Sunset on Saugatuck’s Lake Michigan beach. Photo: Michael Deemer/Shutterstock

If you’ve never been to Saugatuck/Douglas, Michigan, you may be surprised at how majestic and vast the shores of Lake Michigan are. The larger town of the two, Saugatuck, boasts a professional theater playhouse, gay-owned shops, restaurants, galleries and unbeatable sunsets. Groups can score vacation rentals in the far-from-sleepy coastal town for weeks or months at a time. Just a little further down Blue Star Highway is the famed Douglas Dunes Resort, which has been welcoming LGBTQ+ men and their friends since 1981. Cottages that comfortably fit up to six guests are available, along with a cabaret venue, club and lounge.

Wine country is a vine spot for group travel. Gather your friends and head to Sonoma Valley in Northern California and schedule a tour with Out in the Vineyard or make a plan for Gay Wine Weekend, June 14-16. Dance the night away with your pals and some pinot and enjoy a dinner with winemakers at this yearly event. Don’t miss a stop at Equality Wines in Guerneville, where each sip supports LGBTQ+ causes and was founded by Matt Grove and Jim Obergefell. Yes that Jim Obergefell.

Fort Lauderdale has 24 miles of beaches and many LGBTQ+-owned establishments. Photo: Lance Asper/Pexels

On the other side of the country, Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a queer and trans-friendly destination with beaches, countless LGBTQ+-owned businesses and LGBTQ+-themed events happening daily. While Florida has made headlines recently for its anti-LGBTQ legislation, the city of Fort Lauderdale is led by Mayor Dean J. Trantalis, the city’s first out gay mayor and has “the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country” according to Visit Lauderdale. It is also the host city of Southern Comfort, an annual transgender-focused conference. An airport in both Fort Lauderdale and an hour away in Miami makes it an easy destination to reach by air or car.

Something different

The Belmond Group, which runs luxury hotels, train trips, cruises and more, has been a partner of IGTLA since 2014. In 2017, it started an LGBT advisory board with members who work in the queer travel industry, from travel agents to activists and influencers. If you and your friends are looking for a more “White Lotus”-type experience (minus the murder), Belmond properties and excursions might just fit the bill. Hop on a train for a four-night trip from Paris to Vienna and back on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Or a seven-night trip through Southeast Asia which ends with a stay at the Jimbaran Puri property in Bali.

Punta del Este, Uruguay is one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Photo: Pedro Slinger/Pexels

Uruguay is quickly becoming a top spot for welcoming LGBTQ+ travel. The small South American country has over 400 miles of coastline with stunning beaches, plus bustling metropolitan areas and lush grasslands. Outdoorsy groups will find adventures like horseback riding and hiking. There are numerous LGBTQ+-friendly resorts and hotels to check out including Sofitel Montevideo and the adults-only Live Hotel.

Cross “seeing the Sphinx ” off your bucket list with LGBTQ+ travel company VACAYA’s “Ancient Wonders” cruise, which takes you and your friends through Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt via an eco-friendly small luxury ship. Dine on gourmet meals while crossing the Suez Canal, be awed by the Great Pyramids and UNESCO World Heritage sites, then return to the ship for performances by VACAYA’s specially curated entertainment.

Cruising together

VACAYA offers vacation travel including cruises and resort trips for LGBTQ+ adults. Photo: VACAYA

In addition to VACAYA’s smaller adventures, you can find larger cruises to the Caribbean and beyond for your group. (VACAYA also allows up to four guests in their cabins for select trips.) According to their website, there are “no other large-scale travel companies on earth serving the entire LGBTQIAPK community” which sets VACAYA apart. There are still spots open for the 2024 Caribbean Cruise for seafaring groups.

Olivia Travel offers large and small cruises as well for “lesbians and LGBTQ+ women” and offers discounts for groups of seven or more. Olivia is known for their lesbian and queer-centric entertainment and for providing a safe space for women travelers since 1990. Olivia, which was once a women’s music label, celebrates 50 years in business in 2023 with specialty cruises and a resort trip.

Atlantis Events has been creating cruises and resort vacations for gay, bisexual and queer men for over two decades and offer a few large and small cruise vacations in 2023. For the first time, Atlantis is kicking off its Prima Caribbean Cruise with an excursion to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. You and your group can expect top-notch entertainment alongside massive pool and dance parties.

What LGBTQ+-friendly spots are on your group travel list? Email us at newsisout@localmedia.org.