Looking for an excuse to start planning that girls-only getaway you’ve been daydreaming about? If you’re searching for inspiration, we went to the experts: two local women who have been traveling with their girlfriends for decades.
Martha Pullian of Citrus County takes one or two vacations each year with her BFFs, one of whom she’s known since they were teenagers. Tina Galvin of Marion County has been traveling with the same core group of girlfriends for 15 years now.
Any successful vacation requires good planning. Both Tina and Martha are the organizers for their respective girls’ trips and were happy to share practical tips and suggestions.
Save The Date
With today’s hectic lifestyles, this may be the toughest challenge. You’ll need to start planning many months—even a year—in advance. Once you agree on a date, everyone puts it on their calendars and considers it “set in stone,” with a life-or-death emergency being the only valid reason to not attend.
Years ago, Tina and her friends set aside the week before Labor Day as their designated annual girls’ getaway and have stuck to that ever since. If it works for your group, this is a great way to simplify the “when” of your trip.
Your getaway can be as frugal or extravagant as you wish, but in order for the trip to be fun for all involved, finances should be discussed during the planning stages. Agree on the overall per-person budget and how you’ll handle expenses during the trip, such as excursions, activities and eating out.
You can split everything evenly, or each person can be responsible for her own expenses. (The latter could be appreciated if, for example, one person isn’t a drinker and the others polish off a couple bottles of wine each evening at dinner.) There’s no hard-and-fast rule here, but deciding ahead of time will simplify things so no one is left guessing.
One option is to pick a destination that is the same general travel distance for all attendees. Another choice is picking a destination none of you have visited before. Martha and crew chose Chicago one year for this reason.
On the other hand, once you find a destination you love, you might want to make it your pick every year. Tina and her friends went to several different locations before they settled on Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Everyone loved the setting and available activities, so now they go to the same town every year, but stay at different places for a change of pace.
“If your schedules are flexible and you can be spontaneous, sometimes you can book a cruise close to your available dates,” says Martha. “We did this one year because we got a great deal.” Just make sure everyone in your group has a valid passport!
Then there’s the accommodations. Should you stay in a resort, rent one big house or cabin, or opt for separate rooms in a B&B?
Any of these can be excellent options, but the accommodations you choose should be based on your specific group, including individual quirks and sleeping habits. This is when knowing your traveling companions is important. And be honest during the planning stages; if you absolutely don’t want to share a room (or bed), speak up ahead of time. It could save hurt feelings down the road.
“One year we rented a big house where each person had their own bedroom; other years we’ve shared bedrooms,” Tina relates.
“I’m fine with sharing a bed,” adds Martha, “so long as it’s king-size.”
If you do share rooms, pair up friends who have similar routines. For example, the gal who’s up at 6am to get in a morning run is not the best roommate for the friend who prefers sleeping late and can’t function without that first cup of joe.
Staying Busy… Or Not
Don’t assume you have to do everything together to have a fabulous time. You can decide on several “non-negotiables” (that restaurant with the rave reviews, the highly touted museum exhibit, etc.) where everyone will show up, but let people feel free to go their separate ways the rest of the time.
“We always make plans to have dinner together each evening, but often split up and do different things during the day,” says Tina. “There’s a 5-mile hiking loop that some of us do every morning, but not everyone wants to hike and that’s fine.”
“On days when some want to sleep in, others will meet for an early breakfast, and then we all catch up mid-morning,” says Martha.
Take flexibility into account when planning and packing, but whoever’s in charge of organizing should let everyone know if there are any specific wardrobe requirements. Do you need to dress up a bit for that great restaurant? Are flip-flops and a bathing suit cover-up as fancy as you’re going to get? If the destination climate is radically different from home, be sure to pack accordingly.
“One of the reasons we love going to the mountains the last week of August is that it’s about 30 degrees cooler than Florida,” says Tina, “but you have to remember that when packing!”
If you plan your trip around a specific event, at least part of your itinerary is set. For example, two different years Martha and friends planned their getaway around the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. This meant a good part of the days would be spent at the tennis tournament, while additional activities were tacked on at the beginning and end of the trip.
Planning vs. Spontaneity
Yes, it takes planning to make the trip happen, but once you’re there, every minute doesn’t have to be scheduled. This is, after all, a vacation, a chance to escape the pressure and responsibility of everyday life. If you don’t want to wear makeup all week and you feel like having a glass of wine in your PJs after lunch, that’s OK. You’re in the company of friends.
“The best part is seeing everyone in a relaxed setting with no agenda,” adds Tina. “Sometimes we just sit around, drink wine and catch up. The time flies by.”
“When we took a cruise, we enjoyed the fact that we could do lots of activities and go to all the shows, or we could just chill and relax,” says Martha.
Much potential for irritation and frustration can be eliminated by simply being considerate and planning ahead. For example, be sure the steakhouse where you’ve made reservations includes meatless options for the vegetarian in your group. Cut some slack for your friend with the fear of heights so she can skip the zipline outing without guilt.
“And make sure the friend who snores gets her own room,” laughs Tina.
Some women are fine going with the flow and letting someone else plan activities, but if something is important to you, speak up.
Finally, if you know these friends well enough to travel together, you’re probably already aware if certain topics of conversation can get awkward. Respect differences while making the most of everything you have in common. After all, you’re with “your girls,” so savor every memory-making moment.
And in case you needed an added bonus for booking the trip, those very friends you love to hang with do more than just make you laugh. It turns out they’re good for your overall health, too.
According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, adults with strong social networks have reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure and unhealthy body mass index (BMI).
Research released by the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, reveals that travel is linked to decreased risk of heart attack and depression and also promotes brain health.
So if friendship and traveling have both been linked to healthier living, then traveling with friends might be just what the doctor ordered.