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This New Vacation Rental Service Is Changing the Game for Women Travelers

By Maggie Fuller

Jan 24, 2020

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Bloomhouse, a magical architectural masterpiece outside Austin, Texas, can be booked on Golightly.

Photo by Sabrina Bean Photography

Bloomhouse, a magical architectural masterpiece outside Austin, Texas, can be booked on Golightly.

The invite-only, private rental club aims to create a safer travel experience for women.

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There’s a new homesharing service on the block and it’s available exclusively to women. Launched on January 22, 2020, and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Golightly is a private, invite-only vacation rental club. All listings are vetted and female-owned or -managed, and only members can view and book properties. Named for the Truman Capote character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the platform intends to make renting safer for women while also building a network of female travelers.

“We hope to take some of the stress out of booking and listing travel accommodations so women can leave life’s baggage behind and go lightly,” founder Victoria O’Connell tells AFAR.

Women may be traveling more—and traveling alone more—but Golightly found, in studies by Wakefield Research, that 89 percent of women still take extra safety precautions when they’re on the road, such as double-checking locks or looking for hidden cameras. Female hosts, too, face uncertainty.

O’Connell, an entrepreneur with 17 years of experience in international e-commerce and real estate, hit on the idea of Golightly in 2018 after a London property she’d listed on another homeshare website was ransacked and destroyed by a group of male guests. Unsure if she’d ever feel comfortable renting her house to strangers again, she decided to create a network to connect hosts and guests, giving both a few extra layers of security.

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Everyone on the women-only network can invite five others, so anyone a member rents from or to is a friend of a friend (or a friend of a friend of a friend). All guests can see how they’re connected to one another. On top of that, all listings are vetted and members interviewed by Golightly staff. 

“Although Golightly is a private club, you can become a member without [an invite from a friend],” O’Connell tells AFAR. “We know that many women are the trendsetters in their group of friends, and also may hear about Golightly at different events. We have an application form on our site that you simply fill out, and then each prospective member is verified and contacted personally by me or another member of the team.” Once approved, these applicants are considered connected to a member (the team) and will receive an official invitation. The website states that the club is for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation or identity.

But this isn’t a totally “no boys allowed” situation. Bookings can only be made by women in the network, but they may travel with whomever they choose, including men—provided their hosts allow male guests. 

The Golightly interface is clean and easy to navigate.

Currently Golightly has properties in eight major U.S. cities, among them New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, and 12 countries, including places many women may hesitate to visit alone, such as Colombia, Nicaragua, and Kenya.

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The interface is similar to that of Airbnb. The homepage displays curated lists such as “Top Picks,” “Solo Travel Picks,” and “Family-Friendly Picks.” Each property page shows photos, a brief description, a 1 to 5 rating, and reviews. You’ll also find sections for “Essential Amenities” such as appliances and linens, and “Safety Amenities,” which include safety bolt locks and carbon monoxide alarms. Many listings also show walk scores, transit scores, and bike scores, if available. 

Users can search by destination and travel dates, then filter by room type, trip type (i.e., “Girls’ Weekend” or “Work Trip”), properties exclusive to Golightly, or features (hot tub, wheelchair accessible, or available crib). 

But Golightly isn’t just a homeshare service. Inspired by the tight-knit groups at women-only coworking spaces, and with a Board of Advisors primarily comprising former female HomeAway/VRBO executives, the club intends to build a community of professional women connected through travel. Networking is important, and members are encouraged to connect on and offline, so users can even filter search results by hosts’ university or industry (options include “Pro-Mom”).

Rental prices currently range from $80 for a private room in Miami to $1,000-plus per night for a country estate in Ireland. Guests pay a 10 percent transaction fee on any booking, and hosts pay a 5 percent fee. On Airbnb, hosts and guests typically share the transaction fee for home or room rentals, with hosts paying around 3 percent and guests paying around 13 percent. There’s also a $100 lifetime membership fee, but that will be waived through the end of February 2020 as Golightly grows its membership and adds more property listings. The company is also looking to add discounts and other membership perks in the future. 

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