Earlier this year, U.K.-based freelance writer Genevieve Wheeler began chatting with a Boston guy on a dating site who she said looks like former One Direction singer Zayn Malik. Two weeks later, they were strolling down Lombard Street and eating tacos in San Francisco on a cross-continental date.
“It just makes sense because a lot of people — myself included — travel solo and it is fun to meet up with people where you go,” she said of MissTravel, the free site where they met. “Worst-case scenario, you don’t have fun, but best-case scenario, you make a friend or a romantic connection.”
She was relieved when she met her date and found he “did not look like a murderer.” Violence against women travelers has been reported more frequently in recent years, though experts say this could be because more women are traveling alone.
After weighing these concerns, Wheeler decided to go on the date anyway. “If you go on a trip and meet someone at a bar and go home with them, I would argue that is more dangerous than traveling with someone you met and vetted beforehand online,” she said.
Talia Goldstein, dating expert and founder of the matchmaking service Three Day Rule, said apps like these can be great for romance, as studies show couples who have adventures together grow closer and stay in love longer.
‘If you go on a trip and meet someone at a bar and go home with them, I would argue that is more dangerous than traveling with someone you met and vetted beforehand online.’
Sporting the slogan “never travel alone,” MissTravel allows users to search through potential mates not just by photo, but also by vacation destination. It’s part of a new wave of travel dating sites that let people choose a destination date that goes way beyond the cliché of grabbing a drink.
MissTravel offers three payment options when planning a trip: “I’ll pay for us,” “You’ll pay for us,” or “We’ll split the trip cost.” This gives users the opportunity to travel to exotic destinations free to meet strangers for a date, saving an average of $1,500 per trip, according to MissTravel spokeswoman Hannah Dela Cruz.
It comes with one important caveat: It was founded by Brandon Wade, the man behind search sites SeekingArrangement.com and WhatsYourPrice.com, on which “attractive” women sought “sugar daddies” to pay them. But despite the name being geared toward women, Dela Cruz insists that MissTravel is meant for a wider range of users than these past ventures. (Some beg to differ: One woman, a former financial adviser, said she traveled to nine countries for free by having her date fund her trip.)
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Other travel dating sites don’t have options where others pay for the vacation: TravelHostDate describes itself as a service more like Couchsurfing, an online community for travelers seeking free lodging and guides from locals in destinations. It has a verification process that requires members to have at least two photos and hold up an image that includes the phrase “TravelHostDate” to avoid scams.
MissTravel was founded by the Brandon Wade, the same the man behind SeekingArrangement.com. But a spokeswoman insists MissTravel is meant for a wider range of users.
Tourbar, another travel dating app, aims to “increase the chances of meeting a new partner while traveling alone.” Without a payment option, it simply functions as a travel-specific dating site that lets solo travelers meet up with one another and with local hosts.
MissTravel also offers users safety tips for traveling, noting that they “are advised to use their best judgment to screen potential travel partners.” Advice for travelers includes making reservations in their own name, sharing the contact information of the person they are meeting with friends and family, and share a safety contact’s information with the front desk of the hotel where they are staying.
But some people have Amanda Louise, a Japan-based model, described her experience on the site as “terrible,” as she was repeatedly contacted by men who wanted sexual relationships and paid companions to accompany them on business trips.
“I never knew ‘travel dating’ was a euphemism for an intercontinental escort service,” she said. “It is devastating if you are seeking genuine old-fashioned friendships with travelers from the opposite gender that could potentially lead to a long-lasting relationship.” (Dela Cruz said escorting is against the MissTravel terms of service and is grounds for permanent removal from the app.)
Travel dating may be particularly appealing to millennials, who are more likely to use online dating apps and tend to value experiences over physical purchases, Dela Cruz said. Of more than 800,000 MissTravel members world-wide, nearly-one third are millennials, she added.
To avoid uncomfortable or even dangerous situations on these apps, ask to meet in person before traveling together if you live in the same city, or at least Skype or FaceTime
Make sure to set ground rules and expectations beforehand: Are you looking for a casual fling or a serious partner? Will you stay in the same hotel room, or separate ones?
Dating expert Meredith Golden had one more tip for travel daters: “Pick a travel partner who lives in the same city as you,” she said. “This way if something brews while you’re traveling, it can continue to flourish post trip.”
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/would-you-go-on-a-vacation-with-a-complete-stranger-there-are-dating-sites-for-that-2017-11-09