Before the internet opened up the world of travel, LGBTQ travelers had few options for exploring on their terms. Men would have to get their hands on the bulky Spartacus guide and hope any establishments listed were still in existence upon arrival. The Damron Women’s Traveller was among the options available for lesbians. (Just hide the book in a magazine and hope no one notices.) Since then, though, LGBTQ travel has become a far richer experience across the world.
Take Seoul, South Korea: As recently as the mid-1990s, gay venues were mostly clustered near the downtown municipal garbage dump in Chongno. Since then, Homo Hill in the city's Itaewon district has thrived for more than a quarter century. And no need to carry around those awkward guidebooks (which were heavy, and are largely out-of-print anyway): Whether you’re in Seoul, São Paulo or Sofia, it’s easy to figure out where to hang out by looking online — that is, if the apps haven’t contributed to that establishment’s decline.
So, while it’s easier to vet LGBTQ-friendly accommodations and venues now more than ever, that does not mean exploring many time zones away comes without any risks.
Take, for example, what occurred a few months ago at a boutique hotel in Sacramento, California. Two Black women who were being affectionate at a swimming pool were harassed by a group of white women who found such romantic moments “offensive.” Fortunately, their awful story had a more positive ending, as the rest of the crowd surrounding the pool were supportive of the couple; plus, the security team summoned to kick out the two women instead … escorted out the homophobic crew who had started the needless fuss in the first place.
The evidence suggests, however, that LGBTQ travel is not always smooth sailing. Research from one travel portal suggested more than half LGBTQ travelers said they had travel experiences that were uncomfortable or outright negative within a property at which they had stayed. Half of them also reported experiencing discrimination while traveling. That’s on top of the annoyances that can become microaggressions, such as couples being asked if they need to book separate rooms, pressure to change behavior or appearance, or getting those awkward stares in a hotel dining room or restaurant.
Bottom line: Vacations are too few and far between, and sometimes you just want to be around your own people. Or, you want your temporary hosts to be folks that get it and have learned to mind their own business.
To that end, since its founding in 2014, MisterB&B has emerged as a leading LGBTQ travel platform in recent years, and is well worth a visit or two — or more. At first, the site was a skeleton version of Airbnb, limited to accommodation, and with few safeguards. That could lead to uncomfortable conversations such as “can you just pay in cash when you arrive” and skeevy situations where would-be hosts end up hitting travelers up on Grindr. Well, in fairness, the latter is always a random possibility.
Nope, MisterB&B is no longer a slippery slope that can quickly become a hookup site. It’s much more than that now, far more sophisticated and offers way more services.
Yes, accommodation is still the bread and breakfast butter driving MisterB&B. At last count the site claims more than 100,000 LGBTQ-friendly hotel rooms, more than 300,000 hosts and the ability to make a solid travel decision based on some 270,000-plus reviews. It also behooves hosts and guests alike to be verified, a fairly rigorous series of steps that can help avoid any awkward arrivals after a 10-hour flight. Nodding to the reality of the pandemic, there’s also a process that pushes hosts to ensure they’ve followed rigorous cleaning protocols.
Online LGBTQ travel guides are available for the more popular travel destinations, there’s a Pride calendar along with listings for other events, and yes, one can even sign up for a rewards program, for which you can cash in points with MisterB&B or partners such as Adidas, Sephora, Spotify and Starbucks. In addition to the WiFi filter (doesn’t everyone check that one?), there are options for pet-friendly and kid-friendly hosts. If sleeping in a tent is your thing, that’s an option, too.
Oh, and in a nod to reality, if you're looking to avoid the prying eyes of the office busybody, there is — sigh — discrete invoicing, too.
Bottom line: If you are seeking a different experience when on the road, check MisterB&B out. Like Zillow, it can become a rabbit hole of exploring homes far away, only the prices are far more affordable, and you can actually stay for a night or two.
Image credit: Stanley Dai/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.