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Women-only travel popular option for all ages

Marilyn Trager, of Vero Beach, Fla., wanted to see the world, but her husband didn’t want to travel out of the country.

So Marilyn, a retired registered nurse (“retired but not tired,” the 80-year-old says) did what many women are doing these days: She began traveling without her husband.

Since 1997, Trager has taken four trips with the Women’s Travel Club, a tour company for women only based in Bloomfield, N.J. She has visited Costa Rica and Eastern Europe and has been to the Ixtapan de la Sal Spa in Mexico twice.

The trips have been wonderful, she said, and her husband “doesn’t object at all because he knows I’m curious and he’s delighted I’m going in a group of other women who are as interested as I am.”

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While she’s off on her travels, her husband, attorney George Trager, goes to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. “It makes for a healthy marriage to have a little space - you don’t have to be bound to each other all the time,” Marilyn said.

Increasingly in retirement, women are going on trips without the men in their lives if they don’t share their interests, which often center on gardens, spas and antiques.

The Women’s Travel Club (www.womenstravelclub.com) has been organizing trips for women since 1992, and takes more than a thousand women a year on tours to the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa and other destinations, said Phyllis Stoller, managing director. Traveling with a group of women with similar interests is cheaper (you’re matched with a roommate, avoiding single-room supplements), friendly (you meet other like-minded women) and flexible (there are many tours to choose from), Stoller said.

The Women’s Travel Club and another company, Woman’s World Travel (www.womansworldtravel.com), are two of at least 23 tour companies that have been operating for at least two years and offer two or more women-only trips each year. That’s up from seven companies in 1995, said Marybeth Bond, author of nine women’s travel books, including “National Geographic’s 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways” and “Gutsy Women.”

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“Women - young, old, single, married and widowed - are traveling together,” said Bond, 54. “We are better educated, better paid. We like adventure, new experiences and enjoy the company of our girlfriends.”

Men have always had their fishing and hunting trips, said Bond, who’s been traveling with girlfriends, her mother and sisters since she was 18 and, for the past 18 years, with her two daughters. “More women are traveling with the full support of the men in their lives: Their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and significant others,” Bond said. “Increasingly he says, ‘Honey, I’m going fishing with my buddies (or hunting or golfing), so please take a trip, too.’ Or he says, ‘I have no interest in going to Santa Fe, but you go.’”

Once the women decide to travel, working out the logistics is easier with a group tour, Stoller said. “It’s really hard to find people to go with you, so a group is the answer,” she said. “Even if you find someone to go with you, you are very obligated to them, to do what they want to do. In a group, you are not obligated to do something, as you’ve all agreed to the itinerary already.”

Group touring offers camaraderie, Trager said. “They introduce themselves, you have time on the bus, and in the dining room if you see someone from the group you can join them.”

Time spent with other women is nurturing, Bond said. “When we travel together, we laugh ‘til our sides ache; sometimes we cry together. We relax in the accepting company of our gal pals.”

“We come back recharged, rejuvenated and recommitted to our careers, our lives, our husband, and our marriages - we might even miss him a little,” Bond added. “Often, we need to get away to appreciate all that we have.”

Humberto and Georgina Cruz are a husband-and-wife writing team who travel and write this column together. Send questions and comments to AskHumberto@aol.com or GVCruz@aol.com.