Meet the local entrepreneur behind the first women-only tour operator in the UK


Manchester entrepreneur Mel Stephens has been busy globetrotting since the age of 18. She’s made regular trips to Canada, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and her favorite destination of all, Thailand.

She’d always had someone to travel with until she found herself newly single in her 30s with all her friends settled down. As an experienced jet-setter, Mel didn’t mind flying out and spending some time alone so she booked a five and half week trip to Bali.

Travel Queen Owner Mel checking out Koh Mook resort

However, she figured that she’d miss the company of others and would have more fun if she met people to enjoy her time out there with, too. So with this in mind, she put a lot of time into researching the hundreds of different group tours on offer, focusing on those she hoped wouldn’t make her feel too old. Then she booked several of the best-rated as part of her Bali adventure.

Long story short, despite booking onto tours that were advertised as covering ages 18 to 35, when she arrived she found that the calibre of both the company and experience wasn’t  what she’d been looking for.

Whilst she met some lovely people in Bali, she discovered that the majority of existing tours may advertise as being suitable for travelers up to 35, but in reality they mostly catered to fresh-faced teens and early twenty-somethings.

As an experienced traveller she felt  that the tour operators could’ve tried harder to offer some better places and experiences.

“I paid a decent amount for each of the tours, and while parts were good, some places we stayed were dumps, and we just seemed to be following the masses. The experienced traveller in me kicked in and I started to feel like I was being ripped off for staying in rubbish places and disappointed they hadn’t found better places and experiences. I knew you could find real gems for great value if you were prepared to put in the work to get to know a place.”

This left Mel feeling she could do a better job and that a new kind of tour could have the potential to be really popular. Surely she couldn’t be the only one feeling too young for an over 60s tour, and too young for a ‘gap year’ type holiday.

She also didn’t want to do a singles tour and believes you don’t have to be single to just fancy a fun holiday with other women.

“Maybe you’re with someone but they don’t want to go where you want to go, fancy doing what you’d like to do, or maybe they’re just not as adventurous. Maybe they would like to go, but can’t get the time away from work or family. Maybe you’re single but not necessarily looking to meet someone but just a great holiday with the girls. Or maybe you just want to do something for yourself.”

So Mel returned home to set up Travel Queen, the UK’s first tour operator dedicated to group tours for women and hasn’t looked back.

She designed an amazing two week women-only tour of Thailand, applying her 18 years of travel experience to test every part of the trip, from checking out the safety of every single place you stay – including what it’s like to walk back at night, so if you want to go back alone you’ll feel safe – to personally researching and meeting every Thai hotel, boat company and activity provider involved with the tour. This guarantees they meet strict legal and financial requirements through the company’s membership of the Travel Trust Association, which guarantees the same financial protection as ABTA.

Travel Queen Owner Mel with a Thai supplier

Mel has spent time discovering destinations off the beaten track, some of which that she guarantees no other company currently goes to, built in plenty of time to relax, and has made sure you won’t have to walk too far anywhere in the heat with your backpack after arriving at your destination.

Travel Queen tours have been designed to be adventures done in style, meaning you’ll explore a huge mix of destinations but with carefully planned and comfortable travel in private air-conditioned minibuses and speedboats. Forget public buses and slow ferries.

Travel Queen’s two week Thailand Adventure tour includes seven destinations, including the stunning Khao Sok Rainforest and six beautiful islands from the lively to the chilled and the less developed.

There are 13 experiences and trips included, which range from meeting elephants in the jungle to private snorkelling trips in longtail boats, cooking and cocktail classes, temple visits, cave swims through to secret beaches, and short hikes leading to stunning viewpoints and even some spa time.

The group sizes are kept small with a maximum of 14 like-minded women, luxury accommodation spanning 5* beachfront hotels, luxury tree houses and traditional Thai bungalows on the beach. What’s more, Mel will be your group leader on the November tour.

Mel is hosting a Manchester launch party for the tour on Saturday 21st April at 2pm at Banyan bar and restaurant in the Corn Exchange. So if you would like to find out more about Travel Queen and get access to some special discounts off the next tour in November, make sure to book your place soon to avoid missing out. Find out more about the tour here.



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