Local Women Have a New Tool to Help Them Overcome Practical Barriers to Planning Travel
We know “friction” can stop an object in motion, and when it comes to women making travel plans, that principle is in full effect. Women might dream of seeing the world but get hung up on practical questions like “Who can go with me? Will we be compatible as travelers? Is it safe? What can I do within my budget?” Even married women with children might crave a trip where they get to prioritize their needs and preferences, but they struggle with how to make that dream a reality.
Angie Panel Scioli and Teresa Panel McCombs, sisters with deep ties to the RDU area and their family’s local travel agency, are on a mission to make sure women’s travel dreams enjoy smooth sailing from idea to implementation. Their inspiration was a 2013 trip to celebrate their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary: they invited friends and extended family to join them on a cruise and quickly realized that independent travelers would pay double for a single stateroom or run the risk of sharing tight quarters with an unsuitable roommate.
Angie noted that “neither of those options seemed attractive, so I started looking for practical solutions. I thought surely there would be a matching service of some sort, or a companion pool. A quick internet search for ‘female travel companion’ took me to some places I certainly did not want to go.”
Early efforts to develop web-based solutions led to dead ends as the sisters ran into technical and time limitations. Then, free tools like responsive Google forms became more available, the travel industry came to a standstill due to Covid, and Angie retired from full-time work as a public school teacher. A window of time and opportunity presented itself for the sisters to talk and problem solve.
Teresa recalls, “We decided to do a ‘proof of concept’ right here in the RDU market and use our resources and know-how to develop a simple process for finding like-minded local women ready for travel. We can scale up to other markets in time.” The sisters are affiliated with Travel Experts, a national network of over 400 independent travel consultants headquartered in Raleigh..
The travelsistersnetwork.com website lays out the rationale and process. Women take a simple survey to define their interests, budget, itinerary preferences, and lifestyle choices when they travel. They receive a unique code - one of 40 possible ones - that will help them identify the most suitable “travel sisters” for them. They can then take their code and join any of ten Travel Sister Circles that focus on different interests - food, art, nature and science, etc. They can participate in online platforms provided by the Travel Sister Network or create, declare, and moderate their own. When 500 women have registered, Angie and Teresa will plan a local event where Travel Sister Circles can meet in person and start choosing destinations and itineraries aligned with their Travel Sister Circle profiles.
Angie reflects, “ We think this is the perfect mix of online and face-to-face interaction that will allow women to have confidence they can travel safely and tailor the experience to their specific interests and preferences. We can’t wait for our motto of Girls, Get Together, GO! to become manifest. After the nightmare of the past 18 months, we all deserve a perfect vacation!”
Interested persons can monitor the progress of the Travel Sister Network by following the blog featured on the travelsistersnetwork.com website. Those who take the survey and register their results with the website will also get a newsletter and email correspondence about upcoming local events.