If the 2009 comedy “Couples Retreat” starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Malin Ackerman, and Kristin Davis, is any indication, romance-oriented travel has a become popular way for couples to connect or reconnect. Perhaps it’s fitting that Vince Vaughn’s breakout role was in “Swingers” because the latest hot (although hush-hush) travel trend seems to be a combination of both comedies — Swingers Travel.
When an email came to the JohnnyJet.com team informing us of the latest deals and trends in “Swinger’s Travel,” we’re not gonna lie – our eyes opened wide and our jaws dropped. The responses ranged from, “is this a joke?” to those three lovely letters: W. T. F. However, we strive to provide travelers of all kind the information they need to book, plan, and enjoy travel – no matter what kind – so it was worth consideration.
Here’s the deal – Johnny and the team may be travel insiders, but we can’t say we’re insiders on this form of travel. At least not yet. But we consulted some experts and found that there are plenty of people out there (and we’re not judging!) who do take part – more than 75K in California alone, with Palm Springs becoming a well-known hot bed (pun intended). Indeed swinger’s travel is on the rise and we’d be remiss to not inform our readers of this growing trend, otherwise more nicely known as “lifestyle travel.”
It is estimated that there are over three million people in the U.S. who subscribe to this lifestyle. “People are shocked when they find out that their family, doctors, teachers, and neighbors may actually be swingers,” said Todd Crawford, founder of Love Voodoo Travel. In addition, he said, most major cities have swingers clubs for those in-the-know, where people can meet and engage in, well, extracurricular activities.
Whether you agree with this type of “lifestyle” or not, there’s no question it’s a trend to watch. While strictly nude travel growth has slowed down over the last decade, the clothing optional and lifestyle/swinger travel market has grown. Combined they account for nearly $600 million spent annually on travel, which includes cruises and resorts, flights, and incidentals, according to Bob Hannaford, President of Couples Cruise, one of several small lifestyle cruise brands on the market.
Hannaford says they have several cruises a year from small specialty cruises to the Galapagos Islands to entire ship takeovers of the Oasis of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas. “In my opinion, this is the only real professional company doing lifestyle cruises of any substance,” he says. Couples Cruises are only open to couples, not singles. Last year’s Couples Cruise on the Oasis of the Seas, which accommodates around 2,200 people, was sold out a year in advance with a waiting list to boot.
In addition to cruises, there are a number of small specialty lifestyle resorts and large resorts that feature lifestyle weekends. Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica for example, is the oldest, largest, and most famous “lifestyle friendly” resort in the world. It is operated by SuperClubs, which also runs Rooms and Breezes resorts. Hedonism, which is open to both couples and singles, is known to offer better rates than their competitors due to its overall size with 280 rooms that are typically at full capacity during high season in the Caribbean, October through March.
Dig a little deeper and you find that most of the lifestyle resorts are connected in some way. The Original Resorts brand runs a number of properties in Mexico, from Cancun and Cabo to Playa Del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. Caliente is a lifestyle resort in the Dominican Republic that also maintains a nude resort in Tampa.
There are also several lifestyle conventions each year that target this niche of travelers, the most significant of which is Naughty In Nawlins. Last year they had more than 800 attendees and expect a larger turn out this year.
Together, Hannaford, Crawford, and Kevin Levee, GM of Hedonism Resorts, are one of the reasons this industry is growing so fast. Currently, there are 10 full ship charters for lifestyle/swinger cruisers and another four for strictly nude cruisers. What has happened, they say, is a lot of crossover in the markets. “Not all nudists are swingers and not all swingers are nudists,” Hannaford says, “but each segment combines for cruises and vacations at resorts like Hedonism, Desire, and Caliente.”
They say there is also an even larger, emerging market of what they call “lifestyle lite.” “These are not necessarily couples that participate in swinging or feel comfortable being totally nude, but they like the sexually charged atmosphere, the erotic theme parties and they like being topless or being around other topless or nude people for their vacations,” Crawford says. “A travel destination without kids is also a motivating factor for these couples and singles that are on the fringe of the nudist and swinger market.”
Hannaford continued frankly, “When you think about Fantasy Fest in Key West, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the wild parties taking place in Lake Havasu, or pool parties like Rehab at the Hard Rock in Vegas, and the topless pools in Vegas as well as the lifestyle resorts and cruises, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of people that are looking for something a little more risqué than the average traveler and these fringe lifestyle people are creating the boom that we are seeing in today’s adult travel market.”
Bottom line, it’s a growing travel trend and now you know. A word to the wise, should you choose to click on any of the links in this post, do so with caution and without children around please. And if your partner or spouse isn’t on the same page of curiosity or interest, be sure to clear your cache and browser history.
About the author: Lindsay Taub is an award-winning journalist with over a decade of media experience as a journalist, investigative reporter, editor, publicist, and producer. She has published in The Tennessean, The Patriot Ledger, Boston Magazine, and The Boston Phoenix, among many others. She is an LA-based writer and media strategist, working independently for a variety of clients, outlets, and publications around the U.S. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub58.