When I was feeling antsy this month, it occurred to me that every year for the last several years I’ve taken a vacation in April. Three years ago it was our engagement trip to Paris. Two years ago it was a friend’s birthday trip to New Orleans. Last year, it was a group trip to Austin, Texas.
We called it a friendcation, and it involved 5 couples from across the country. We had friends coming from the west coast, upstate New York, Philadelphia and New York City. Somehow, we coordinated schedules, flights, and even airport rides from our various starting points and ended up in Austin, Texas for a long weekend. It was so. much. fun.
So how did this all come about, and how can you plan your own successful friendcation? Read on for my tips.
Assign a project manager
So maybe we originally did this because we’re all geeks, but it’s really important! There should be one point person for solidifying travel days, coordinating arrival and departure times, and scoping out the best places to stay. Otherwise, you risk everyone dropping the ball (“Oh, I thought you were doing that”) OR being overloaded with opinions. For your first trip, assign a PM you trust–or nominate yourself.
Figure out your sugar mama
I wouldn’t have thought about this on my own, but early on in the trip, one of our clever friends started picking up all the tabs. I know, that would make me sweat, too, but it was actually genius. No more post-meal bill-time squabbles about who owes exactly what and that one friend who always ends up a few bucks short or the other who eats the excess on their card (not to mention, overloading the server with the madness). Instead, one friend paid all the mealtime bills, kept the receipts, and two days after the trip, we got a nice, easy number that we owed and a PayPal account. The best part was it was less than we all expected! You just have to trust that in the end, everything evens out. (It does, honest.)
Pro tip: Open up your own tabs in bars, where some might drink others under the table.
Plan, but not too much
Solicit an idea from each person going on the trip, and add it to a to-do list or Foursquare account. You want to make sure the vintage shopper gets to hit up the antique district and the meat lovers eat their BBQ–but be flexible, too. You can also break up in to smaller groups to accomplish more. Guys vs. gals was an easy one for us! Just try to stick in the same neighborhood so you can reunite easily for an afternoon drink.
Evaluate lodging and transportation
Staying in a hotel can really break up the vibe of a group trip, and encourage couples to do their own thing. We preferred to rent out a two-family home (we got both apartments) and really go for the slumber party feel. We also saved cash by stocking up on simple grocery snacks, breakfast items and coffee, and post-dinner drinks and activities. Also, depending on your group size, it might be more affordable to focus on cabs (or public transit) than renting cars and dealing with the hassle of parking, navigating, DD’ing, etc.
Consider the group
Have you ever been invited to a friendcation with a group of people you don’t know? That can be a little strange, especially when you get a bill from some rando sugar mama after the fact. Quirks are amplified on a trip, and cliques can be hard to break. Stick to what you know works. When you’ve shelled out cash for flights, places to stay, and many dinners together, now may not be the time to test a new crew. If you want to try a new group, at least hold a few game nights or day-hangs in the park first!
Figure out your destination
Oh yea, that matters, too. What’s important to the group? For us, it was walkability. Some outdoorsyness. Hipster-centric. FOOD. Beer. Music. Affordable. Austin was an easy choice–but we have also thought about Nashville, upstate New York, Memphis, and others!
I’m all for solo-travel, but traveling with a solid group of friends is such an awesome way to bond together. I can’t wait to do it again! Pick a fun new city nearby and give it a shot, you might discover a new tradition.