Tips for Women Traveling Solo, From Dining Out to Hotel Safety
By SHIVANI VORA, 7 August 2017
Suzanne Randolph, 60, knows firsthand that it can be daunting for women to travel on their own. In her more than two decades of frequent solo travel, Ms. Randolph, a former art adviser, says she has encountered her fair share of challenges. “Finding a place to eat and getting plugged into the local scene of your destination isn’t easy when you’re alone,” she said.
Her new venture, a membership club called the Alix Experience, addresses the lack of resources for solo female travelers and is currently available in New York City and London, with Paris and San Francisco debuting this fall. For an annual fee, ranging from $750 to $2,000 per city, depending on the level of service, women have access to a concierge staff that assists them throughout their trips; the staff suggests welcoming restaurants and will help travelers book services such as yoga classes and manicures. The Alix Experience also gives women travelers the chance to connect with each other during events like wine tastings and art gallery tours.
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Randolph.
Q: You say that the idea for the Alix Experience was inspired by your own solo travels. How?
A: No matter what city I was in, it was hard to find a place to eat on my own. A lot of popular restaurants weren’t necessarily inviting. In Paris, for example, I remember going to a French seafood restaurant, where I had awful service, and many of the diners stared at me.
Beyond dining, it was also hard finding where to get my hair done early in the morning when most salons are closed or where I could take a great spin or Pilates class.
Can’t a hotel concierge help with these needs?
Hotel concierges are great, but they often have set relationships with restaurants and other service providers, which can influence their recommendations. The local Alix concierge doesn’t play favorites. Our recommendations are based on blind trials using our own money.
Also, unlike a hotel concierge, we host events for our members. Our event in April in New York, for example, was a private tour of the Whitney Biennial with an art curator, followed by cocktails at Untitled, the museum’s restaurant.
How are the needs of female travelers different from those of men?
I find that women want alternatives to dining at their hotel. They also feel more of a need to maintain personal routines such as their yoga classes or manicures.
What kinds of hotels should solo female travelers look for when it comes to safety?
They should pick a smaller boutique property where they are known to the staff because in larger properties, they can be anonymous, and the sense of security and personalization is not as strong. Also, that hotel should be near good public transportation because you want to be in an area that’s busy, not remote.
Are there certain cities you think are more suited to solo female travelers?
New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Paris would top my list. They are all walkable, which is nice because it’s easy to get around and take in the sights.
Also, they are cities with late-night activities such as theater in New York and London and museums in Paris like Palais de Tokyo, which is open until midnight. With options to entertain yourself at night, you can have a very full day and never feel alone.
Any tips for dining alone at a high-end restaurant?
Some restaurants have beautiful bar areas — a good option for those who want to have an elegant meal out.
But if you don’t want to eat at the bar and want the full pomp and circumstance, go for it. I’ve often gone to high-end restaurants when traveling because I really wanted to try the food. The staff will pick up on your interest and usually respond with warmth and extra attention. When I was at a restaurant in Düsseldorf last year, the owner was so welcoming that he even had a glass of Champagne with me.
What’s the best part of traveling without anyone else?
You set your own tempo because there’s no negotiating with another traveler. Women — me included — often have anxiety about hitting the road solo, but once they actually do it, they will realize that it’s worthwhile adventure.
Is this the answer to the holiday horror of travelling alone? The new travel trend connects singletons with like minded solo travellers.
By LIZ HOGGARD, 11 June 2017
Suzanne founded The Alix Experience, a membership organisation for professional women who travel globally for business and leisure
- An art consultant for 25 years, Suzanne often found herself travelling alone
- She later realised she could use her expertise to set up her own business
Every time I travel solo, I vow to have a night out. I plan to dress up, linger over a martini in a cool bar, then try out a new restaurant. I rip out reviews from glossy magazines. I make lists. But I always lose confidence.
My default position is to find an anonymous bistro, retire to a corner with a novel, and be in bed by 10pm.
Where on earth does a single woman visiting New York go on a Saturday night?
Not this time, though. On this trip I have Suzanne Randolph to help me.
Suzanne founded The Alix Experience, a membership organisation for professional women who travel globally for business and leisure. She emails me a choice of woman-friendly venues. ‘I’ve made reservations at two places downtown,’ she says airily. ‘Just choose the one you like best.’
I decide against the ironic-sounding Wallflower restaurant, but Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria looks gorgeous — and it is, with communal tables so you’re not so conscious about dining on your own.
‘Great choice,’ I tell Suzanne when she joins me.
An art consultant for 25 years, Suzanne often found herself travelling alone: ‘I was always pressing my nose up against a restaurant’s window to see if it was a good place to eat as a solo woman diner. If I sat down in a restaurant and felt uncomfortable, I’d leave and try somewhere else.’
She spent years keeping lists of the best spots and making recommendations to friends before she realised she could use her expertise to set up her own business.
VIP business travellers can pay $29.99 (£23) a month to join a more exclusive tier that offers profiles of vetted members. If you’re in a city and fancy company, you simply switch your profile to ‘visible’ to meet like-minded women travellers on the site.
No one is implying that women travellers are less adventurous than men. Far from it. But we do need to keep safety in mind.’
Alix is just one of a new breed of concierge and networking services solely for female globetrotters.
Carolyn Pearson, a former head of technology at ITV Productions, set up Maiden Voyage, a travel support company for professional women travellers, after a lonely business trip to LA.
‘I booked the weekend off before my meeting to go shopping, visit Santa Monica and go to the beach. But it felt impossible to go to a restaurant alone on a Saturday night in a strange city.’
On her return to her home town of Leeds, she conducted market research and found many other women also spent lonely evenings in their hotel rooms.
Today the company is in 100 countries and has 11,500 members — membership is free for individuals, but companies pay for their female employees to join.
To become one of the company’s certified ‘Female Friendly Hotels’, an establishment must have double-locking doors, a 24-hour manned reception and discretion when communicating your room number: ‘We tell hotels not to ask if you want one key card or two, or broadcast your room number at breakfast.’
They work with a chauffeur company for airport pick-ups, and can advise you on local business etiquette and dress codes.
Today Maiden Voyage has volunteer ‘ambassadors’ in 70 cities who will share their little black books ‘and will probably meet you for a coffee or do something nice for a few hours’.
Travel club Thelma & Louise, which helps you find the perfect travel companion, came about when co-founder Christine Davies, a former film director on the BBC Holiday programme, wanted to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock) during a trip to Australia to visit her sister.
She couldn’t persuade her husband to join her, so Christine’s sister put her in touch with an Australian friend who was in the middle of a divorce.
The two made a plan via the internet and booked a five-day trip through the Red Centre of Australia. The adventure was such a success, Christine and her new friend called themselves ‘Thelma and Louise’ after the Nineties film.
Meeting the needs of women travellers makes business sense, as research shows women are more likely to book a multi-night stay than men.
‘It’s the rise of what the travel industry call “bleisure”,’ says Pearson, ‘where people combine business and leisure. You might add on a couple of days at your own expense, or check out of your four-star hotel and into a budget hotel at the weekend.’
Women account for half of all business travellers. ‘And it’s the hotels that get what we want who will be the winners,’ Pearson adds. ‘Hotel du Vin in Birmingham has just put double locks on their rooms because they want to work with us.’
Rather than cowering in a dark corner with a novel, like me, here finally is our chance to explore a city properly.
‘It’s about feeling you can walk into a restaurant and be acknowledged,’ says Suzanne Randolph. ‘I can say proudly that in all the travelling I’ve done, I’ve never once ordered room service.’
Cheers to that!
BBC News: "Dine in peace: The firms supporting lone female travellers"
By Sarah Treleaven, September 15 2016
The following article appeared on the "Business" section of the BBC News website, part of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
If you've ever stood alone on the street of a foreign city at dinner time, with your stomach rumbling, you'll know this feeling. You'd really love to sit down to a tasty meal in a comfortable restaurant, but everyone around you will be chatting merrily and exchanging glances over their glasses of wine. You'll be drinking a toast to your smartphone and staring at the wall, or the window, or your plate. Plus if you are a woman on your own you may receive unwanted advances or looks.
Suzanne Randolph worked as a fine art advisor, and travelling a lot, she often found herself alone and facing the problem of finding a restaurant where she would feel comfortable to dine as lone female. "I was always pressing my nose up against a restaurant's window to see if it was a good place to eat as a solo woman diner," says the former fine art advisor.
And if the venue was a bar, she didn't want it to have a "happening singles vibe", or be full of guys hanging out after work. Suzanne spent years keeping city lists, and making recommendations to friends and acquaintances, before she realised she could use her expertise to set up her own business. She came up with the idea of a travel concierge service that caters solely for the needs and wants of women.
Launched in May of this year, her company, the Alix Experience, invites women to take out membership, which costs from $2,000 (£1,500) a year for a single city. For that fee, not only will the company book a table for you in a top restaurant, but it can also secure tickets to popular events, provide detailed city guides and arrange cooking classes and spa days. It can even get someone to do your shopping, and book you a personal trainer. The service first started in London and then New York. Paris and San Francisco are set to follow later this year, and the company plans to expand to a further 30 cities over the next five years.
It might sound like a niche market, but Alix Experience is part of a small, but growing number of concierge and networking services just for female globetrotters.
Xenia Horne, a professional harpist based in Norfolk, in the east of England, found she could do with some help when arranging a work trip to India. "I had been booked onto an overnight train journey in a mixed sleeping compartment," she says. "All my colleagues advised against this, both in terms of personal safety, and the amount of sleep I would likely get."
She decided she wasn't comfortable with the plan, and got in touch with Maiden Voyage, another female-focused travel support company set up in 2008 in Leeds in the north of England. Maiden Voyage put Xenia in touch with an Indian travel company, which switched her itinerary to a flight, and then a car with a driver. "It enabled me to organise a much more sensible trip," adds Xenia.
Maiden Voyage's founder, Carolyn Pearson, set up the service in 2008, following a lonely business trip to Los Angeles. Upon returning to the UK she did some market research, which confirmed that many other business women were in her shoes - spending evenings in their hotel rooms to avoid the embarrassment of going out for dinner on their own, or receiving unwanted attention. Maiden Voyage now has 8,000 members, operates in more than 80 countries, and offers services including recommending female-friendly hotels and restaurants, as well as cultural training for women going to less familiar environments.
Membership is free for individuals, but companies pay for their female employees to join, and the company's corporate clients include oil and gas companies, luxury brands, and universities.
But perhaps the most attractive thing that both Alix Experience and Maiden Voyage offer is the chance to avoid being stuck on your own in the first place. They both promote networking opportunities, such as regular organised dinners. At Alix, six members can meet in a restaurant to share ideas around a specific topic, or listen to a guest speaker. And the company also arranges for small groups to visits art exhibitions, or fashion shows and sports events together.
Jessica Robinson, founder and chief executive of New York-based security business Pure Point International, says a recent Alix Experience event was "a unique and wonderful opportunity to be able to have a great conversation over wine with incredible women". But is there really a need for such women-only networking, and women-only concierge services?
Kate Torgersen, founder of Milk Stork, a breast milk delivery service for travelling mothers, says it is all about women feeling more confident to ask for what they want. "As women are occupying higher and higher levels in organisations, they're able to make demands."
Carolyn Pearson says she has seen similar changes since launching Maiden Voyage. "When I first started, there was an emphasis on not treating women differently," she says. "But services that explicitly cater to women do better [in terms of demand], and the industry has cottoned on.
"I wanted to create a network for women to connect and have dinner, and do nice things."
By Debra Bokur, Global Traveler, July 15 2016
With the tagline “Making the Unfamiliar Familiar,” the new luxury ALIX travel concierge service is geared specifically toward executive-level solo women travelers — curated by a team of multicultural women from backgrounds in hospitality, law, finance, art history and corporate strategy. Membership includes networking opportunities, new options for exploring both familiar and unfamiliar cities and curated experiences for making the most of leisure time through spa therapies, exercise sessions with personal trainers, beauty and wellness activities provided by ALIX’s select partners.
ALIX was founded by Suzanne Randolph, whose own experiences led her to identify a lack of cohesive travel services for professional women traveling on their own. Acting as a global resource, the service provides networking dinner experiences with guest speakers in top restaurants, tickets to sold-out events, daily errands, reservations, security details and access to exclusive arts, fashion, sports and entertainment.
Currently available in London, New York, San Francisco and Paris, ALIX plans to expand to include more than 30 cities worldwide by 2020 including Shanghai, Milan, Geneva, Seoul, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Sydney, São Paulo, Chicago, Zurich, Dubai, Toronto and Brussels.
I just got the inside scoop on a new members-only international concierge service for solo female business travelers and I think it is divine. The ALIX experience has launched in London and will be available in Paris, New York and San Francisco by the end of 2016, with plans to launch in more than 30 cities over the next five years. This new platform, which was designed by women, offers tailored experiences to make your trip exceptional, from reservations at trendy restaurants to exclusive cultural experiences. Check out the member benefits:
Dedicated Concierge Service
No request is too extravagant for ALIX’s concierge team, which provides recommendations and arrangements for female travelers, such as obtaining the just-in Burberry bag from Harrods or arranging a spa day at the Bulgari Hotel.
ALIX has curated exclusive experiences from London’s wealth of cultural happenings. From wine tastings and cooking classes to talks by leading international figures, the experts at ALIX are constantly in search of new, meaningful moments. Non-members can also access ALIX à la carte for a taste of membership offerings, including featured restaurants and selections from the events calendar.
ALIX for One
ALIX has hand selected the best restaurants, lounges and bars for the solo diner, such as Pollen Street Social’s market-driven seasonal menu and the exquisite high tea at Kensington Palace’s Orangery.
The ALIX Table
Solo travelers can connect with other members at the ALIX Table, an organized dinner series. From Michelin-starred gastronomy to authentic Indian curry, these dinners aim to provide members with memorable dining experiences at London’s most exquisite restaurants while creating opportunities for women to engage and connect.
ALIX has developed an exclusive set of partners in London to help members feel at home while traveling. Major partners include: Grace Belgravia, London’s leading health and lifestyle club for women; Garde Robe, the world’s only luxury wardrobe storage and “Cyber Closet” valet service; and La Compagnie, a boutique business-class airline servicing New York, Paris and London.
ALIX Neighborhood Guides
ALIX produces Neighborhood Guides that highlighting the best cultural landmarks, restaurants and shopping in the city.
By Douglas Gray, Premier Traveler, May 20 2016
The Alix experience is now available in London. This is a concierge service designed to meet and exceed the needs of the professional business traveling woman. This is a member’s only service that once enjoyed will make the member wonder how she ever traveled without it.
The Alix member’s only experience has just launched their concierge service to the international destination of London, England. This service makes the trip to a far away land more enjoyable, rewarding and effortless for their elite members.
The Alix concierge service is a very exclusive for members only. This service was created by business women with a target audience of the professional business woman and traveler. The purpose of this one-of-a-kind service is to pamper their clients with any and all of their needs when they are away from home.
With Alix expanding to London, the handpicked staff members have been in this type of service for over a decade now. This experience is now available to the professional business women who are members of Alix so they can conduct their business in an atmosphere that is supportive, secure and to their comfort level. This makes it easier for them to be highly productive while on their business venture.
The concierge service from Alix has staff members that will fulfill your every request. No request is too big or too small. By having native Londoners in charge of the staff and part of the Alix staff, they know their city and how to accomplish just what the busy traveling lady needs and has requested. This can include the latest hand bags from the most exclusive store in London and tickets for the must see shows that are about to start.
While in London, members traveling alone can enjoy dinning and meeting other female business professional at the Alix table that are arranged and the most exclusive restaurants in the city.
You deserve the best and an Alix membership makes it happen with just a phone call or message.
By Celebrate Woman, May 19 2016
Women are some of the world’s frequent travelers. If you’ve ever traveled inside the country or abroad, you do know how much toll the traveling can take. Flights, overlays, delays, taxis, checking in and checking out, transportation to the meetings – wow, that is just a small portion of all that business travelers have to go through, think through and arrange ahead of time where it is possible.
Now, check this very unique service for women who travel for business – The ALIX Experience! I am superbly delightful and curious to test out this new thing on the travel market – Concierge service for us, women who travel for work!
One-of-its-kind, The ALIX Experience has been founded by a woman-entrepreneur Suzanne Randolph. Being a business traveler herself, Suzanne recognized early on how limited the resources and points of reference are out there for busy woman who travels frequently. To address these needs, The ALIX Experience has been born.
This concierge service for traveling business women will open first in these 4 markets, followed up by dozens more: London, New-York, San-Francisco, and Paris.
Check out what every business woman can now have when on the road! I am superbly excited for this type of concierge service catering to us, women.
Dedicated Concierge Service
No request is too extravagant for ALIX’s concierge, a London-based firm with senior staff dedicated to ALIX. Led by a London native with ten years of experience, she and her team can provide discerning recommendations and arrangements for female travelers. From scoring last-minute tickets to obtaining the just-in Burberry bag from Harrods or arranging a spa day at the Bulgari Hotel, the concierge team can take care of any and all needs.
ALIX for One
Whether a client is looking for traditional British fare or trendy contemporary cuisine, ALIX has hand selected the best restaurants, lounges and bars for the solo diner, such as Pollen Street Social’s market-driven seasonal menu and the exquisite high tea at Kensington Palace’s Orangery. As The ALIX Experience marches through the global market opening, every city will cater to each woman with her preferences.
The ALIX Table
Solo travelers can connect with other members at the ALIX Table, an organized dinner series. From Michelin-starred gastronomy to authentic Indian curry, these dinners aim to provide members with memorable dining experiences at London’s most exquisite restaurants while creating opportunities for like-minded women to engage and connect.
ALIX has curated exclusive experiences from London’s wealth of cultural happenings. From wine tastings to cooking classes to talks by leading international figures, the experts at ALIX are constantly in search of new, meaningful moments. Non-members can also access ALIX à la carte for a taste of membership offerings, including featured restaurants and selections from the events calendar.
ALIX Neighborhood Guides
Every city with ALIX concierge service will have highlights of the best cultural and local happenings. Look what the agency has done to the London experience!
ALIX has produced nine London Neighborhood Guides, each highlighting the best cultural landmarks, restaurants and shopping in the city. Whether pinpointing the best brunch spot in Chelsea or the trendiest gallery in Marylebone, ALIX’s guides provide comprehensive suggestions for female travelers.