The nature and possibilities of LGBT travel change as the world itself does, in thrilling and sometimes scary ways. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, gay couples throughout the country could suddenly travel through all fifty states and not lose their status and protections as married people. But protests against gay marriage still flare up periodically in western Europe and laws continue to be passed throughout the world—if they are not already on the books—that criminalize same-sex relationships and relations.
The tastes of travelers who fall under the (extremely broad) LGBTQIA label—people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, intersex, and/or asexual—are far from uniform, but safety and acceptance are priorities we all share. Travel + Leisure works hard to find journeys and destinations that offer the splendor and luxury, comfort and security, all travelers—regardless of their sexuality or gender expression—deserve.
As LGBT travelers plan their vacations, there is the option to go on explicitly gay vacations, though there can a little bit of generational divide: older people often (but not always) prefer openly gay holidays and destinations, while younger folks are sometimes less interested in historically gay spaces. Still, overwhelmingly—if not exclusively—gay vacation spots continue to provide LGBT holiday-goers with a relaxing environment that is refreshingly free of homophobia or fear. Fire Island in New York, Key West and Miami Beach in Florida, and Provincetown in Massachusetts are all reliable beach communities. New Orleans, San Francisco, and New York also offer safe haven for their incredibly diverse LGBT residents and visitors. Massachusetts’s Northampton and North Carolina’s Durham offer the same but on a charming, small-town scale. For those who want a more structured vacation, explore resort or cruise packages that cater specifically to LGBT travelers.
International Gay Travel Though the U.S. is far from free of homophobic speech, actions, or environments, gay travelers who plan domestic vacations are reasonably well-protected by federal laws and national cultural norms. (Though this, like so many cultural experiences, will vary not only from place to place but also from, say, bar to bar.) Internationally, over 70 countries criminalize same-sex relationships while, even without discriminatory laws on the books, the cultural climate of others may make gay travelers feel uncomfortable or unsafe. The good news: many fantastic destinations have made gay-friendly culture a priority. Try Antwerp in spring, Stockholm in summer, Scotland in fall, or Vietnam in winter. Cruises that cater to gay travelers also travel throughout the world.
The most reliable way to find LGBT-friendly destinations, hotels, and services is through travel agents who work specifically with LGBT clients. These agents will have built relationships with trusted hotels and guides and have the experience of years of cumulative feedback from customers. The State Department's LGBT Travel page can also be a good resource. Check back with T+L for the latest news, recommendations, and tips.