Solutions – sort of – for some solo travelers

For msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin site, I’ve been researching two new, and two very different, tools for solo travelers.

Invite for a Bite

While it’s likely to draw disappointed traffic from travelers plotting Twilight and/or vampire-themed trips, Invite for a Bite is actually a new online social network for women who don’t like to eat out alone.

Site-founder and Cheltenham, England-based jazz piano teacher Cressida Howard created the site after hearing a group of women on a BBC radio program agree that eating alone was one of the major downsides of traveling solo.

“It’s a problem I’ve had myself in the past,” Cressida explains on the Invite for a Bite site, “Most women aren’t comfortable going into a bar or restaurant on their own, especially in the evenings when they’re surrounded by romantic couples, or drunk men with not very romantic intentions.”

Her solution: a website where solo women travelers can make plans to meet other women for a shared meal.
Once signed up on the site, a woman can create a profile and post a “definite” or “maybe” meal invite that includes a specific date or date range and other details such as what’s brought them to town. T

The site has only been live since early March, but there are already more than five pages of invites for shared meals in cities such as Boston, Paris and Perugia, Italy.

Miss Travel

A very different site for solo travelers was launched this week by Brandon Wade, CEO of the controversial “sugar daddy” sites SeekingArrangement.com and SeekingMillionaire.com.

Wade’s new site, Miss Travel, is advertised as a travel dating website to connect “the broke and beautiful” with “generous benefactors” willing to fund “dreams of travel.”

The site invites “Attractive Travelers” who are “open minded people who loves [sic] to travel, but lacks the budget to do so,” to sign up for free. “Generous Travelers” willing to pay the travel expenses of attractive travelers may also sign up for free, but must pay a fee if they want to communicate with any of the beautiful-but-broke travelers profiled on the site.

Is Miss Travel a good way for women to find a great date and a perfect travel buddy?

The experts don’t think so.

“Relationships steeped in equality, mutual respect and intimacy do not begin with ‘Fund my travel experience because I’m hot.’ Some relationships are transactional, and this is no different; slapping a fancy name on it doesn’t change what it really is,” said sexologist and relationship expert Logan Levkoff.

“It sounds like it could be a form of prostitution, said Pepper Schwartz, Chief Relationship Expert at Perfectmatch.com. “Or if no sex happens, an escort service.”

Schwartz advises those seeking a relationship or free travel steer clear of this service and urges both ‘generous’ and ‘attractive’ travelers who go ahead and use the site to consider doing criminal checks before leaving home.

“Of course a really thorough check might cost a couple of hundred dollars, which is sort against the point of the journey for the attractive hitch hiker, but it doesn’t take a PhD to see both parties could be in jeopardy.”