Group Getaways with Friends

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Traveling is no exception. Vacations are more enjoyable with buddies from college, girlfriends from home, friends from life (soccer or baseball teams), and any other groups.

Reconnect with old friends, reminisce about the good old days, and make new memories that make you laugh 'til you cry with these getaway tips.

Girls getaways
Ladies, start your engines. The games, the energy, the synergy, and the drinks are about to begin. Take a wild or relaxing vacation with your gal pals on a spa getaway, wine-tasting soiree, birthday celebration, or anything goes. Can't go far? Try a mini girls getaway?

Beach getaways
Hit the beach year-round (and more heavily in the summer) at your favorite beach. Try a nude beach, join your friends at your most memorable beach, or find a new beach while on a weekend away. Here are TripAdvisor's top 10 U.S. beaches.

Road trip planning guide
Zoom, zoom. Friends, families, and other vacationers are hitting the highways and dusty roads for campgrounds, national parks, family reunions, and zero obligations. Along with sunblock, prepare for a stress-free road trip with these tips. 10 gas and money-saving tips should help as well.

Golf trip meccas
Swing and putt your way down the fairways, slugging beer and making bets against your comrades the whole time. Golf is a great way to relax and visit with friends while working on your game. Also, here are quick tips for planning a group golf getaway.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties
Are you the best man with no clue how to honor your pal with a party? If the only thing that comes to mind is a stripper, see these bachelor party tips first. Ladies, looking to make the bride smile and proud to call you her friends? Here are helpful hints for bachelorette party planning.

Spa Getaways
Just say ahhhh. Spa vactions are on the rise and spas are increasingly catering to groups (girls getaways in particular). Before you go, brush up on some basic group etiquette (so the spa invites you back!). Try vinotherapy at a wine spa, chocolate massages, or any other spa treatments for you and the gang.

More Tips for Group Getaways with Friends

Best of the Web (Getaway Related Links)


Funerals: Poignant Family Gatherings

Family life is full of major and minor crises -- the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce -- and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.
--Thomas Moore

Even sad events such as illness or funerals can bring families closer together. I was recently reminded of this while attending a relative's funeral and visiting with extended family this past weekend. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Truly.

Once we all got the news, one family passed around itinerary info in one big email string so they all knew flight arrival info for coordination. My family used about 5 phone calls to coordinate. ("Are you going? Which flight? How much did it cost?") Who knows how many other families and friends did the same thing. I got to thinking that TripHub's group travel coordination tools would save time for families gathering under these circumstances. Maybe next time. Wait. I hope there isn't a next time... sigh.

Losing a loved one or going through any rough patch together makes us acutely aware of what's important in life and strengthens relationships.

Over the last several days, I carefully observed how extended family and friends kicked into high gear to help those most in need, ordering food, grocery shopping, playing waiter(ess), coordinating transportation, organizing church services, catering, telling story after story and listening intently as others shared theirs. Laughter and tears blended to reveal kindred spirits and compassion.

New bonds were created among old family connections. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, moms, dads, grandparents. Despite the circumstances, we were able to catch up, play a few games, distract people who needed distracting, hug those who needed more hugs than usual, and in general express what we forget to so often. I came away feeling uplifted.

I think the late French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin summed it up best when he said (or wrote): We are not humans having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, having a human experience.


How to Plan a Stellar High School Reunion

By guest blogger Andrea Turk

It's official, you're old. You just received an email from a former classmate that it is time to start planning your next high school reunion. Once the shock wears off, the next question settles in. Where do we begin? Fortunately, I have assembled a to-do list that will help you organize a successful reunion (sorry, I can't do anything about your age).

Don't panic. Planning a high school reunion is a lot of work, but if you follow these simple steps, the process can be a lot of fun and virtually painless.

  1. Plan early for your reunion. Begin at least 9 months or more in advance. (Trust me, you will wish you had started a year ago!) Planning a reunion is a big production; make sure that you have ample time to complete all the important tasks.
  2. Enlist classmates to help. The more help you have, the less stressed you will be. Make sure that the committee is a diverse group from your class. You don't want the reunion to be focused on one group of people with one set of interests. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
  3. Budget wisely. When setting your ticket price include all the costs of the reunion, not just the meal. This includes the cost of entertainment, venue rental, tax, gratuity, postage, printing, decorations, Web site hosting, long-distance phone calls, etc. Be conservative when estimating attendance. You don't want to be stuck footing the bill because an item was omitted from your budget or fewer classmates attended than expected. Set up a bank account to deposit payments and pay bills.
  4. Pick a location and date early. Weekends fill up quickly with weddings and social events, so availability can be hard to find if you wait to book the event. Make sure to ask about deposits, caterers' food and beverage minimums and extra costs. Pick a menu with variety.
  5. Assemble and manage the guest list. Put a complete list of your classmates together using your commencement program, senior annual and information from previous reunions. This list should be in a database or spreadsheet that is easy to update and manage throughout the process. Include a method to track RSVPs, orders, payments, meal choice, etc.
  6. Start locating your classmates now. I cannot stress this enough. This is a huge, time-consuming process. You may have to call parents, siblings, old roommates, etc. to track them down. Use the Internet. Online phone books, alumni Web sites, and community Web sites are all beneficial.
  7. Create a fun, simple, and easy-to-read invitation. Make sure to list all the essential information (date/time, location, ticket price and attire). Also, include contact information of the committee member in charge of answering questions and responding to complaints. Don't forget to let your classmates know where to return the reservations and make their checks payable to. Include payment deadlines to encourage early registration.
  8. Get the word out early. People are busy during the summer months, so make sure your event is number one on their calendar and get the invitation out at least 4-6 months in advance.
  9. Make time for the "extras." The memorabilia displays, event program, name tags, memory books and table decorations are the things that people will remember years down the road. This will help make your reunion special, giving it character or charm (depending on theme, setting, decorations).
  10. Collect personal information on your classmates. You can compile it into a memory book for each alum to take home as a memento of the reunion.
  11. Remember, this is your reunion. Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of what is really important. Reunions are about reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about the good ol' days and looking forward to the future.

If all this prep work isn't up your alley, consider the alternative of hiring a professional reunion planner. Many companies provide reunion management services, handling all the behind-the-scenes details such as coordinating with vendors, locating your classmates and managing the database, paying bills, covering liability insurance for the event, staffing the event, and more. You can find a professional reunion planner at the National Association of Reunion Managers. Happy reunion planning!

Andrea Turk works with Reunions with Class, Inc., has been in reunion planning since 2001, and has helped more than 400 reunion committees organize successful reunions.


4th of July Brings Families and Friends Together

Wooden_boat_festival_seattle3_1This weekend I volunteered at Seattle's Wooden Boat Festival on Lake Union. While there are countless festivities taking place across the country to celebrate America's birthday, the goal is the same: take time to play with family and/or friends. One big party from sea to shining sea.

Seattle's Wooden Boat Festival is unique to this city, but the energy, sentiment, food booths, kids activities, and arts and crafts show nature could be found in any other city or small town.

Celebrating 30 years, the Center for Wooden Boats has been involved in preserving maritime history and a maritime lifestyle with sailing lessons, rentals, an outdoor museum where you can walk the docks to view the boats, and an annual festival that culminates on the 4th of July. Classic wooden boats from around the Pacific Northwest anchor into about 10 to 12 different docks with shiny varnish, impeccable interiors (well, most of the boats, at least), and designs as varied as the owners.

Wooden_boat_festival_seattle_3 After cruising on the 1922 Virginia V steamboat (one of two remaining steamboats of its kind in the U.S.) and going from upper tier deck to middle deck to lower deck (about 5 times each) I finally stood still, leaned against the railing, and took it all in. 30-ish feet above the water I peered down at houseboats and across the lake at the skyline, Space Needle and all. Complete peace.

Gliding into the dock, the hubub of a festival full of families, friends, boat-lovers, water-lovers all greeted us as we stepped off the boat back onto shore.

Holidays are great. We need more in this country. Until then, I'll be back at the festival tomorrow enjoying recess as long as I can.


Boating, the Great Urban Escape

Ah, cities with water. Whether its lakefront, oceanfront, bayfront, or riverfront, living in or visiting a city with water access can be bliss in the sultry summer months.

Dangling my toes from the bow, I went on a boat ride this past weekend with a few others. A potpourri group of friends and family. This activity is highly group-oriented, especially in a city known for having the highest number of boats per capita. Seattle waterways were jam-packed on Sunday with kayakers, power boaters, wooden boaters, canoers, rowers, floaters, pedalers, sailors, wake-boarders, water skiers, and the list goes on.

Watching other boats pass our boat, I noticed that regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status (believe me, you can tell a lot by someone's boat), everyone had a perma-grin. Water can be the great equalizer. People on boats of all shapes and sizes (passengers to match) waved and smiled as they floated by each other.

With so many people crowding the waterways, I felt privileged to help the skipper navigate by yelling, "Canoers on the port side!" and other super official-sounding lingo. I was luckiest girl in the world, for the day. Warm breeze, water splashing, scrumptious food and drinks, all in good company.

I highly recommend some form of a boating this summer, kicking your feet up, and letting the wake be your guide. Even within city limits, you can be miles away.


Groups Flock to Las Vegas

With Las Vegas dubbed the Entertainment Capital of the World, it's no wonder that our research at TripHub shows more groups planning trips to Las Vegas than any other destination.

Las_vegas_group_travel2_1Surprised? Don't be. Las Vegas has long been popular for bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weekend gambling getaways (and gawking) for guys, easy-bake wedding ceremonies or full-blown weddings, and a launch pad for visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other area attractions. And when conventioneers converge there, attendees often extend their stay and invite family or friends to join them.

Vegas continues to evolve, offering world-class shows (think Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, O, Zumanity, plus a bevy of Broadway, magic, and variety shows that thrill 'til dawn), concerts by renowned music artists, and more high-rolling resort casinos than anywhere else on Earth.

Even the anti-glitz travelers (ahem, like myself) who prefer tamer, more au naturale vacations, often admit that Las Vegas is good for entertaining and best enjoyed with a group of friends when you can double dare them to keep betting on the roulette table or give them a dollar bill to tip the dancer (that would be for the guys). The sweeping view from the top of Mandalay Bay is worth seeing, the Bellagio waterworks display dazzling, a massage at any of the luxury hotel spas relaxing, and other activities can fill your every waking moment. Sleep when you return home.

Planning a trip to Las Vegas with family or friends? Here are ideas to get you started:

  • Las_vegas_group_travel_2Plan a weekend getaway with friends, bachelor(ette) party, family vacation, or wedding using TripHub by setting up a home page for your group, inviting guests, discussing hotels, sharing itinerary information, and more
  • Book a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Soar above Las Vegas on a helicopter night flight
  • Hover over the Grand Canyon by air, helicopter, or tour via bus
  • Tour Hoover Dam, engineering masterpiece
  • Catch Las Vegas shows from Splash to Blue Man Group
  • Las Vegas wedding chapels and locations
  • Fremont Street Experience


Photos provided by Las Vegas News Bureau


Romance Via Traveling

I'm not sure if it's the thrill of traveling, alcohol shared among friends, a romantic new setting, or the free feeling of being away from home and responsibilities. My guess is it's a combination of all that can convert travelers to accidental romantics, leading to travel trysts and even some long-lasting relationships.

But be careful. Traveling can also raise toxic levels of flirtation. Enough to make any travel companion gag.

How can group trips increase your chances of meeting that Mr. or Ms. Right Now (or, better yet, that special someone for longer)?

  1. Meeting up for drinks or activities with other like-minded travelers is a great benefit of traveling when you're still single. When traveling solo (especially as a woman), it's not necessarily as easy to meet someone (or safe). However, when with a group of family or friends, you can meet other travelers, knowing you're in the safe comfort of traveling with those you trust.
  2. Destination weddings are naturally themed with romance. Attending a destination wedding as a singleton is a sure fire way to meet at least one eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Be proactive or non-chalant. Ask your friends to introduce you to anyone "special" they know who's attending. Or casually scan the ceremony for singles, and then find yourself next to them in the buffet line at the reception.

    True story: A bride groom and groomsman at a destination wedding of a friend of mine met at the wedding and struck up a long-distance relationship for over a year. They also toured around the destination immediately after the wedding day with other wedding guests. Last I'd heard, after taking a 6-month break, they are back together and may try to live in the same city.
  3. Vacationing with friends opens doors to meeting someone. Whether camping, skiing, road tripping, gambling in Las Vegas, or just doing a weekend getaway, friends of friends usually come well-recommended or at least well-researched.

    True story: A good friend met a woman who was equally as crazy about skiing as he was. Shortly after they met through friends, a big group of them planned a European ski trip in January, where they got closer and have been dating seriously ever since.
  4. Friends serve as "wing men." If you're single and traveling with a group of friends and you meet someone intriguing, chances are your friends will be encouraging. And they'll have your back in case things go awry. This makes it all the more fun to flirt and get to know someone at a bar in a different destination than when at home, you may be more likely to play it safe and stay in your comfort zone of just visiting with friends. If nothing else, you can come home and brag about the best kiss you've ever had while on the London Eye with a saucy Brit you and your friends met while on vacation.

    True story: Being as vague as I possibly can be to protect a friend of mine, let's just say I've heard the Italian Riviera is a great aphrodisiac. Limoncello helps.
  5. Travel where singles travel. Club Med caters to groups such as golf pals, sewing cirlce (many singles, too). Hedonism resorts in the Caribbean have singles activities and welcome groups. And we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Beaches around the world are also laden with possibilities. Plus, ski resorts and towns during the winter months are group gathering meccas and ideal for warming up with a cozy kiss.

In general, when traveling with friends or families, have fun, be yourself, and get into the groove of the trip. Play it safe. And be cool. In no time, the natural relaxation of the destination and comfortable group could lead to a romance of a lifetime.

Any other ways group trips can add a little romantic spice to a trip?


Practical Tips for Group Cruises

By guest blogger Jacquelin Carnegie

Before You Go

Before you book a cruise, plan to spend some time talking with your travel agent about the likes and dislikes of the group. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Some things to consider:

  • How much time can the group spend away from the office and from home?
  • Where would we like to go? What cruises and destinations best match our interests?
  • How does the cost of a cruise compare to other options?
  • What is there to do on board and at the ports you'll be visiting?
  • If you take the kids, which cruise lines offer the most appropriate activities for your children's ages?

For more information, contact: Cruise Lines International Association.

Smart Facts

  1. How long is a cruise? You can go on a voyage for three months or three days. Most people take a cruise for a week or 10 to 14-days.
  2. Where to go? Some of the most popular cruise destinations are the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Canada/New England, Europe and the Mediterranean. But, with over 1,800 ports-of-call around the world, there are plenty of choices.
  3. Themes to consider: The cruise industry has cruise lines, individual cruises and more with specialty cruises to suit nearly every interest: photography, gay/lesbian cruises, nude cruises, family cruises (think Disney Cruise Line), and more.
  4. What to wear? Pack as you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or ashore. In the evening, attire is a bit dressier. But, it's really up to you. At the "Captain's Gala," you'll probably want to wear something formal; for other occasions "suit" yourself. As you cruise from port to port, you won't have to worry about packing and unpacking. The hassles of an ordinary vacation are practically eliminated.
  5. Staying in touch: Today, most cruise ships are equipped with telephones with long distance capability, fax machines, e mail access, computers, in-cabin data lines for laptops, even laptop rentals.

Jacquelin Carnegie is a contributing travel editor to Accent magazine. For the past 15 years, she has covered international travel destinations for both consumer and business publications.


World Cup Attracts Groups

World Cup mania has taken over the global airwaves. Like the Olympics, it's a time when the world can unite (and compete) via celebration, triumph, and hope. It's a time when national news covers spirited international sports figures, reminding us there is a world outside our offices and home towns.

Whoever you're rooting for, whatever country you call home, chances are you or someone you know is tuned into the World Cup. A good friend of mine from Microsoft has Tivo, cable, direct TV, and multiple televisions in his super tech home all ready to maximize his soccer/football pleasure.

In case you don't have one of your own, here are links for coverage. Any others?

Even if you didn't get to travel to Germany this time, you can gather in groups to watch World Cup games for the next month, and raise a glass of frothy beer to cheer for your team.

Want to plan a last-minute get together with friends for the final days?


Find Solo Time on Group Trips

Need your space when traveling en masse? Socialites and introverts alike all need a little solo time to recharge. Here are easy ways to politely find your own space while still enjoying the group parties, meals, events, activities, and hoopla.

A family reunion, bachelor party, or weekend getaway group agenda doesn't always have to be your agenda. One thing rings true on group trips, especially family reunions. There can be a lot of hanging out time or slower pace in doing things to accommodate for the slowest group member and herding the troops. After a couple of days, finding ways to get some personal space is just fine. Good friends or family should understand. Many will likely copycat your actions (or have already scheduled solo time for themselves). It's quite natural.

So, take that leap. Get the most out of any group vacation by returning relaxed (not revved) using these tips, ideas, and resources.

  1. iPod independence: Bring iPod, put earpieces in ears, close your eyes and tune out others and into yourself. Shuffle or create a travel play list ahead of time. Play list ideas:
    i. songs that inspire you
    ii. songs that fit the mood of the destination you're visiting
    iii. work-out songs for running along that Caribbean beach
    iv. comedy acts downloaded
    v. walking tours downloaded (see podcast tours below)
  2. Podcast tours are a growing trend in travel sightseeing, a new way for individuals to absorb the rich history, culture, and get insider tips for exploring. Gadling also agrees: have iPod, will travel.
    i. Lonely Planet – free, regular podcasts
    ii. Soundwalk – off the beaten path urban tours, must be purchased and downloaded to computer one by one
  3. Journal. Who wouldn't respect your request for a little alone time to jot down memories, thoughts, rants, raves of the trip?
  4. Arts and crafts: Draw, paint, knit or whittle. So much scenery, so little time. So many crafts to make, as well.
  5. Comforts of home: Bring at least one comfort of home along on your trip… animal slippers, aromatherapy candle, your favorite bubble bath, nail polish for painting your toes or nails (men, feel free to do the same if that’s your bent)
  6. Books: Most people bring books for plane rides, down time between transfers, and down time in general. A basic for down time which can double as nap time if you read with sunglasses (no one will be the wiser if you position your book and head on a pillow just so). How about books with Sudoko, crossword puzzles, and other mind games? Or are you the trashy romance novel type? John Grisham or Michael Crichton fanatic? See also Gadling's recommendation of classic books available in audio format for iPods.
  7. Dog therapy: When retreating temporarily at any group event, nothing's better than throwing a stick for a dog or taking pouch for a walk. Your companion doesn't require conversation and will be loyal all day.
  8. Yoga or jogging: Yes, two polar opposites on the yin yang spectrum of energy, but both can give you the same thing – time to yourself while staying fit.
  9. Just say NO. While the main objective of any group trip is to be together, taking time for yourself shouldn't catapult feelings of guilt into your conscience. Learn the delicate art of politely declining for certain activities.
  10. Space out. Walk the city, beach, destination and let your thoughts and imagination be your guide. One of the most relaxing elements of travel can be finding quiet time to ponder your current situation (career, lifestyle, health, relationships) or simply letting go of it all and fully immersing yourself in the now to contemplate lapping waves, patterns in the sand, or the origins of Pina Coladas. Our uber tuned-in lives taking over every waking moment (even podcast tours can be invasive if your vacation goal is to fully relax without much stimulus).
  11. Contact home base. Step away from the group to stay in touch with kids, family, others at home. Lifehacker comments on a USA Today article that highlights how easy it is becoming to call home from abroad. Even if you’re traveling in the U.S. with easy access to a phone, you may be able to use "an urgent phone call" as an excuse to duck out of a group event. The group can head off for hiking that day while you meet up with them after a tall, cool beer and the paper.

Any other ways to step aside from group gatherings to recharge with solo time?