Girls Trip Ideas And Tips For Planning One

RMPDE9743 (1)If you are a girl and you do not have a couple of girl friends that you want to go escape real life with for a few days…you might reconsider your friendships.  I have been incredibly lucky and blessed with some amazing girl friends!  Women I have connected with in different ways for different reasons.  And, I think I could easily say that I would travel with each and every one of my friends and maybe even some that I might throw more in that acquaintance category.  Finding travel buddies can be an interesting dance…finding places to travel with them, can be almost as tricky!  So, in this post I hope to give you some ideas of where to go, the type of gal pal to take with you, and some tips that might make group travel just a little easier!

The idea of getting away from dishes, drama, and drudgery is appealing to most women.  So, the thought of a girls trip with friends is usually a no brainer.  The tricky part is working time into your schedule and not breaking the bank in giving yourself a break!  When things are important to us, we usually find a way to make it happen.  When you and your girl friends start imagining the possibility of a girls trip…it usually starts with very big, and very exciting plans…by the end it has whittled down into something fun and manageable and perfect for your group!  A girls trip can be sooooooo many things!  I’ll break down some ideas into categories, and hopefully get your wheels turning for your own girls trip excursion.

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Theme Trips.

Wine Tour.  This is one of those options that I think, the more the merrier!  Wine tours can be easy get-aways with large groups.  Most wine regions in the U.S. are like Disneyland for adults.  So, many options…you can cater this type of trip any way you like…and you could easily make it an annual trip, and not have the same experiences twice.  The most well known wine region is of course Napa Valley, but there are lots of regions in the U.S. making good wine.  In the same area as Napa is Sonoma, other large wine regions are Willamette, Oregon and Yakima, Washington.

Food Tour.  Find a couple of your foodie friends and get to eating!  This type of trip can be easy with a small group of  3 or 4…large groups can be nightmares for dining out.  Just a few foodie spots for thought…New Orleans, Portland, ME, Portland, OR, Charleston, Austin are all great regional food destination.  I’d also throw cities that have major culinary institutes in the mix…New York, Los Angeles, Napa, Las Vegas, and San Antonio.   These are huge cities that you will see in other lists as well, but the food scene in these places are amazing!

Retail Therapy Tour.  Who doesn’t love a little retail therapy? No retail therapy list would be taken seriously without NYC.  Most people would never associate Honolulu with shopping, but it totally is a shoppers paradise!  Other ideas…Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and of course the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  Pay down your credit card balances and then grab a couple of girls that know how to shop til they drop!

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Relaxing Trips.

Spa Retreat.  There are amazing spas all across this great country!   Arizona is loaded with them…Pheonix, Scottsdale, and Sedona are all great spa vacation getaway destinations.  Napa, CA has great spas.  If you are a mid-westerner like me, you’ll be happy to hear that a spa in Lake Austin, TX makes many, many top 10 spas in the US lists. Do a little research, I’m sure you can find an amazing spa retreat not to far from where you live!  Bring your friend that loves to be pampered or is a little into alternative medicine with you here!

Beach Vacay.  Easy, breezy, and beautiful!  Grab your swimsuit, your weekender bag, and your best girl friends and head to the beach.  Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Punta de Mita, anywhere in the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, or South Carolina…just book it and go!

The Great Outdoors.  Lots of women find hiking, horseback riding, skiing, and other outdoor adventures relaxing.  I get it!  Just being in the great outdoors surrounded by fresh air and out of the chaos of the city can be super relaxing.  A few unconventional girls trip ideas…National Parks in Northern California or Utah, hiking in Colorado, Arizona, or Arkansas, or go work a dude ranch in Montana.  Grab you workout buddy for this trip.  No doubt these would be memorable get-aways!

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Big City Living.

There are plenty of big metropolises to visit in the U.S.  The draw of the big city vacations is that they often offer a wide variety of activities, which can be useful…especially if the group is large.  Again, a quick easy no-brainer list…NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas!  Bring your walking shoes and your credit card…you’ll need them both!  This trip is for your trooper friends…the girls that are up for anything!

Posh, Over-The-Top.

Thought I’d throw this in there just for fun.  With enough time and money anything is possible…charter a yacht in the Caribbean or Croatia, rent a penthouse in NYC, how about an oceanfront beach house in Malibu…there’s always Paris, the Tuscan region in Italy, or Santorini!  When one of you girls gets something in this category planned…count me in!!!

IMG_3046So, hopefully by now I’ve gotten your girl trip wheels turning…let’s talk about how to get it planned out!  As in all things, communication and flexibility are key if you actually want to make a girls trip happen.  There is no “right” time.  You just need to pick a date that is far enough in advance of everyone’s schedule that the trip ends up being almost the only thing on the schedule, and then let life work itself around your trip!  It’s easiest to let one person be the “lead point”, otherwise there is too much confusion.  Make sure to pick someone who has great communication skills AND THE TIME to invest in keeping the trip organized.  Delegation skills are also sometimes useful for your “lead point”, just make sure that if a task is delegated that the info goes back to your lead to communicate out to the group…I promise it just makes it easier!  I’ve recently come across an app that I seem to really like that is for group travel.  It’s a place where itineraries, reservations, and expenses can all be easily found and tracked.  It’s called Coordin8.  It’s a little work on the front end, but I think worth it for what it provides.  A couple of thoughts for good measure…large groups require more advanced notice and more planning.  I know that’s a no-brainer statement, but if you have never traveled with a large party, it’s something you have never even thought about…I promise!  I’m all for preparedness and schedules…in fact, I love structure!  But, make sure to schedule in some downtime and BE FLEXIBLE!  Also, if there is something you really want to do…speak up, and vice versa.  Things can get sticky in group travel.  Girls trips go so much better when we drop our expectations about the place we are going or the plans we’ve made, and are so much more enjoyable when it becomes more about spending time with dear friends and just having an experience with them that you’ve never had before!  Make sure to set at least a “ballpark” budget before you book anything.   You want everyone on the same page on approximately how much they will be responsible for.  Spending more does not always directly correlate to a better trip.  There are lots of ways to travel on the cheap if money is tight.  An amazing girls trip does not have to be anything extravagant…in my opinion the most important thing to have for your girls trip is a comfy place to hang out!  If your traveling somewhere by plane, 4-5 days is the sweet spot as far as longevity of the trip.  If by car, 2-3 is usually plenty of time to catch up, reconnect, and not break the bank!

There are lots of decisions to be made.  All of those decisions about how you will get there, where you will stay, and what you will do will all unfold as you whittle your wants down to the perfect girls trip for your group!  Half the fun is planning and just having something to look forward to other than what you’re going to make for dinner and who is picking up the kids from soccer!  Text your best girlfriends and get something on the schedule…I promise you will not regret it!!

Just for fun I’ll throw in some good shoe options for girls trip travel!  If you’ve ever tried to walk the Las Vegas strip or vineyard fields in heels you know that shoes can make or break your trip!  And, you are not allowed to take ugly shoes on a girls trip…these things are important people!

Vineyard Shoe Optionsherehere, and here.  It’s agriculture ladies…heels are no bueno here!  But you still need something nice for amazing dinners out!

Beach Shoe Optionshereherehere, and here.  It’s the beach!  Don’t be overdressed!  Cute, comfy and casual is key!

Great Outdoors Options:  herehere, and here.  Functional, comfy, then cute in this category!

Big City Options:  herehere, and here.  Any kind of fashion slip on sneaker will do here…your feet will thank you!  Save your heels for dinner!

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Safety Tips For Your Girls Trip

My generation (Gen X) and any generation of women after me has been told…you are capable, you can do anything you set your mind to, you don’t NEED a man for anything.  And, while I absolutely believe this is true, I do believe that in some ways women have to work smarter and harder than their male counterparts.  There is a huge movement in the travel industry for solo female travel.  While some women must travel solo for work or some choose to travel solo for pleasure…myself…well, I whole-heartedly believe travel is best when it’s shared!  All of that said, there are some smart things that women should be doing in their travel, be it solo or with a group of gal pals, to make their trip safer and therefore more enjoyable.  Safety should be a priority in travel, period.  And that safety begins in the planning phases before you ever spend on dime on booking your trip!  Here are 5 tips that I hope help your travel safety game.

Research

This one to me is a no brainer.  Do your homework…gather information on where your going..especially if it’s out of the country.  Check The State Department for travel advisories.  Other good resources to check out…read reviews on Trip Advisor, find Facebook travel group…they are everywhere, general travel and travel specific to where you are trying to go.  Do you follow someone on Instagram that lives where you want to travel?  Send them a message, most are more than happy to give you the inside scoop.  My point is, it’s so easy to gather information…you just have to look.  Figure out what part of town your hotel or AirBnB is in.  Will you be able to safely travel to and from your accommodations to the things you want to do while you are there?  Will you be using public transportation?  Figure out your safest means of getting around.  Check with your accommodations to see if they offer in room safes.  Having a safe inside your room is a must.  Lastly, spend the extra money to be safe. If you are traveling solo or with a small group of girls, spend the extra money to stay in a safer location, in a place that offers valet service…if you can’t afford to spend the extra $20 here and there for your safety…you probably need to save a little more before you go.  DO YOUR RESEARCH!  You might find that you enjoy the research part almost as much as the trip…almost.  Often times the research part will get you even more excited about your upcoming excursion.

Don’t Travel With Valuables

In all transparency, I struggled with this one for years.  I had some jewelry that hubs had bought for me that I never wore unless we went somewhere fancy…which generally only happened on vacation.  I left this jewelry in our hotel safe once.  My heart sank so low, I felt like I was going to puke.  The jewelry was bought for me on our very first trip together…so not only would it have been an expensive loss, but it also was an irreplaceable memento from a very special trip.  I did recover the jewelry, Thank God, but I learned my lesson…don’t pack anything that you can’t live without, and make hubs take me to nice places at home so I can wear my “good” jewelry!  I understand that sometimes you can not avoid traveling with valuables.  In those cases, make sure to pack them in your carry on, not your checked luggage.  Always keep them on you or locked up in your room safe.  There are lots of good travel bag options with anti-theft type features like this cross body bag, this messenger type bag, or this cute backpack.   All of these options are slash resistant and come with RFID technology to keep your credit card information safe!

Blend In

When traveling alone or in a small group, try to blend in.  If you can’t blend in do your best to not stand out!  When I travel without hubs I leave my designer purses, clothes, and accessories at home!  I don’t even take my designer dupes with me.  Designer dupes have gotten really good, and it’s hard to tell the difference from a glance, examples herehere, and here,  which is great at home…but I don’t want to give the appearance that I have more than what I actually do on the road.  Part of your pre-trip research should be about how you should dress and pack for your vacation.  Being overdressed or underdressed paints an unnecessary target on you…unless that is your goal.  On my last girls trip to Grand Cayman my friend and I were slightly, and I do mean very slightly, overdressed for a very casual dinner out at a place that the locals frequent.  We were enjoying our dinner when we were approached by a couple of pirates…yes, I said pirates.  WJOKE1050

The pirates ended up being harmless enough, but they definitely had us on high alert!  Couple of things about unwanted attention.  If you are out, and for any reason you feel uncomfortable make sure that you can be seen and heard by others.  Speak louder, so that others around you can hear what’s going on.  Don’t be afraid to say no or hurt someones feelings by  declining a drink, help, or unwanted attention.  In this particular situation, I had my eye on both pirates, our personal belongings and the waitress….who I made eye contact with frequently.  Being cautious is not rude…it’s necessary.  No one has ever died from hurt feelings.   That being said, if my friend and I would not have been overdressed for this establishment, we may have gone unnoticed, and may not have been the recipients of some unwanted attention by a couple of guys who were clearly bigger than us and knew the area much better than we did!  Do your homework, and blend in!

Technology…The Blessing And The Curse

Technology is truly the double edged sword in every occasion!  That being said, when traveling alone or with a small group, check in frequently.  Schedule check-ins, or make sure to let someone know when you are leaving your accommodations, where you are going, and how long you expect to be.  I do this whether I’m going shopping. out to lunch, or doing something more adventurous like hiking, zip lining, or going on a boat tour.  If you are traveling internationally make sure that you add international service to you cell plan.  Most companies will charge you a certain amount by the day for data and cellular use…but having access to data while traveling is vital anymore!  Make sure to have at least 1 portable charger.  Other options are here or here.  Technology can not help you if you have no juice!  There are plenty of location finder apps like Find My Family, that you can share with loved ones not on the trip with you.  But, as I said technology can also be a safety hang up.  Technology can be a huge distraction.  Distracted individuals can easily be taken advantage of.  DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY YOUR TECHNOLOGY!  If you get turned around or flat out lost, slip into a store or a coffee shop to use your phone to get your bearings.  Remain cool and confident and let Google Maps save your booty somewhere outside of absolute public scrutiny.  Let your technology help you, not hinder and distract you.

Common Sense

Ah, the dying art of common sense.  This will be my catch all category of things that are just good to be aware of, or ideas you might want to give a try.  Never travel with original copies of important documents except for your passport.  Make 2  copies of things like passports, insurance cards, important phone numbers and credit card info.  One copy can stay in the safe in the room, the other can stay in your purse or day bag.  Another idea for this is to make a document or take pictures of these items and save them to a cloud, like Google Docs or Dropbox.  Then, you can have access to them even if all of your physical information gets taken.  Always keep a little bit of cash stashed back at your accommodations…keep it in the safe, or some suggest stuffing it in socks or in the bottom of a tampon box, just somewhere that isn’t obvious.  I think travel insurance can be a good idea, especially for international travel.  Policies are cheap and there are several good companies out there like Travel Guard or World Nomad.

As for personal safety items…pepper spray is allowed in checked baggage as long as it’s under 4 fluid ounces.  Items like a personal alarm or a whistle can be life saving!  I know that there is a stigma with selfie sticks, but there is an element of safety that comes with not giving you phone to a stranger for that perfect instagramable picture.  Lots of women whether single or married wear fake wedding rings as an easy deterrent for unwanted attention.  Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume.  Also, if someone wants to buy you a drink, get that drink directly from the bartender.  Stay in control.  Most of all, try to use some common sense, trust that feeling in your gut, don’t put yourself in isolated situations…meaning, stay with crowds, don’t sit on the empty train car or in the part of the bus that isn’t crowded.  There can be safety in numbers, even if they are not your numbers.  Do all that you can to put yourself in good situations.  Do your homework before hand, and then go and enjoy your trip!

I hope these 5 items have brought some awareness to you, and that they get you thinking about  incorporating safe habits into your travel!

Magnolia Market From A Part-Time Fan

IMG_3035A little over a week ago, I went to visit Magnolia Market down in Waco, TX with two of my oldest and dearest friends…I kind of hate using that term, oldest and dearest….makes me feel like I’m calling my friends old, however, when you’ve been friends with someone for 30-ish of your 40 years of life…it just is what it is…old and dear!  I think I can safely say that this road trip down I-35 was way more about just hopping in the car for road time with no distractions and less about the actual destination.  I’m not immune to the “love all things Joanna Gaines” movement in America…I am just not her…so, as much as I’d like to pretend that I could possibly just go and buy a few items from the Magnolia Market, place the items in my home and magically think that I can pull her esthetic off…well, I’m not that good…and I’m ok with that.  We all have our strengths…decorating is not mine!  But, the trip was just the excuse that us girls needed to get together, celebrate a birthday, and just reconnect with each other.  I’m telling you right now, it’s therapeutic to be with your people…the ones who have been witness to ALL the parts of your life…that know you at your core.  Our friendships and relationships get lost in our day to day hustle and bustle, or in being a mom, or a wife, or girlfriend, or being a (fill in the blank with your profession).  I will shout it until my dying day…travel gives you the opportunity to step away from all of that and just be.  You don’t have to go to some far away magical place (although it doesn’t hurt)…you just need a break from your daily distractions and time to focus on the things that are important to you…like your friendships, your family, your relationships.  Ok, I’ll hop off my soapbox and get down to the reason your here…All things Magnolia Market!

IMG_3040I mean, super fan or not super fan, the Market is just cool!!!  And in typical Joanna Gaines fashion, every detail has been meticulously thought of!  It’s a beautiful shop, the esthetic of the whole compound is amazing, and all of it has good flow!  It’s everything that you would want to make the drive to Waco for.  On the property is the Market, a bakery, the famous silos, Magnolia Seed & Supply, and a large lawn with picnic tables and front porch swings.  Magnolia Market is in Waco, Tx, which about an hour south of Dallas.  Waco is a college town, so basically, you go to Waco either to visit Baylor University or Magnolia Market.  I think the Gaines’ knew this and they wanted make your trip to see them worth your while…so, like the amazing hosts I assume that they are,  they invite you into their market, feed you, and give you a place to sit down and partake in a meal, a snack, or just enjoy being there…because honestly, it’d be a bummer to make the drive to see them, be in and out of the store in 20-30 minutes and then be back on your way.

IMG_3041The market is crowded!  Amazing, but definitely crowded.  The research I gathered before the trip advised to either be there right when they open or just about an hour or two before they close.  The bakery opens at 7:30am, the market opens at 9am, and everything closes at 6pm. And, nothing is open on Sundays!  My friends and I got there at about 3:30pm on a Saturday.  Everything was still hopping at this time…the store was shoulder to shoulder and the bakery line was wrapped way around the building and down the block. I think the way to do this trip properly…is to come in the middle of the week, and start early.  Do breakfast at the bakery (there are very few other options in town, more on that later) and then hit the market as soon as it opens.  The market is fabulous and rather large. There is just so much to see, and if you’re like me…I like to take things in as a whole. Like I said, I’m not a decorating guru by any means.  I can’t just look at one item that I like and go…yeah, I can do something with that.  I need to see the whole vignette, and then try to figure out if I can afford the whole thing! Ha!  One super cool feature in the Market though is that they have a shipping station right inside the building!  Talk about convenient!!  No detail left out!

KEIUE0035As for the rest of the Magnolia experience, I was not about to stand in line for 40 minutes for a lemon lavender cupcake or chocolate chip cookies at the bakery. I am fans of both of these items, and from what I understand these are the two most popular items in the store…but I wouldn’t wait 40 minutes on anything…so we passed up the Silo Baking Co.  IMG_3050We did, however, hit up the food trucks.  My research pointed all signs to Co-Town Crepes…it was “meh” at best.  We didn’t want to spoil our appetites for dinner so this was the only truck out of the 7 possibilities that we tried.  I was underwhelmed to say the least, but the idea that you can grab a quick bite and enjoy the Magnolia experience at a picnic table on the lawn is quite nice.

IMG_3046So, here’s my real take on it.  Am I glad that we visited Magnolia Market?  Yes, I was curious enough to want to visit, and I’m glad we did.  Would I go back?  I would go back if someone invited me to go with them.  I would not go back because I thought it was the greatest place in Texas and just had to go visit again.  Is there anything else to do in Waco?  There were a handful of really cute boutiques.  Most close at 6pm just like Magnolia Market, and very few are open on Sundays.  What would I do differently?  As I stated earlier, my best guess would be visiting right when they open on a week day. I probably would stay in Dallas for a couple of days instead of staying in Waco. Then just tack Magnolia Market as a quick day trip or outing.  Anything surprise me about Waco or Magnolia Market?  Waco has some super cool art murals on their buildings downtown…like an absurd amount for the type of town I think it is.  And, I was impressed with the amount of jobs that I’m sure that Magnolia Market has brought to the area.  How was parking?  We were able to find parking really easily…not sure if that is normal or not…but there were plenty of parking lots around, and there is also a hop-on/hop-off trolley that is super easy to use.  There is info here on parking and the trolley.

As for the rest of our girls trip weekend, it was so fun!  We had big plans for Waco…I mean any town that basically shuts down at 6pm is perfect for a group of mommas, right???  We checked in to our hotel after we left Magnolia Market…the plan…rest and freshen up just a bit, grab some tacos and margaritas and just see where the night takes us.  And, with this group, there is no telling where that might be!  Well, let me tell you, it took us to CVS…in our comfies.  In our younger days, it would have taken us country line dancing or cruising or truth be told,  a softball field…but we are moms now….we are tired…and we covet our downtime where we are not making 1,000 decisions for everyone in our household including ourselves!  So, we hit the CVS for facial masks, and readers (ya know, those cheater glasses they sell at drug stores), and girl scout cookies…tis the season!  We went back to our room got in our pjs and proceeded to put on our masks and munch on girl scout cookies and laugh until we cried!  We got caught up on apps we didn’t know we needed like “LiketoKnow”, and people we should be following on Youtube and Instagram and shows we should be watching on Netflix…it was all make-up how-to’s and the newest skin care treatment that we should be using to get rid of all the impending wrinkles.  It was like we were 16 again…all things hair, make-up, and boys, or in our case…husbands.  Hehe!

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The next morning we got up and tried to have coffee at Common Grounds.  It looked super cute and rustic.  But….it wasn’t open!  What kind of a coffee shop isn’t open in the morning????  So confusing!  We scratched that idea for good ol’ IHOP because there were no other options…like none! We did hit a Starbucks on the way out of town for coffee to go.  Our trip felt a little short sided on the shopping end of things…so on our way back home we made a pitstop at NorthPark Mall in Dallas.  We don’t have a Nordstrom in Oklahoma, so of course we had to go there!  A couple of hours and a couple hundred dollars later and we were back on the road. Girl time, In and Out Burger, and a little shopping…that was pretty much the perfect girls trip for us!  We have vowed to try to take a quick girls trip at least twice a year….such good therapy!!!  I can’t wait for our next trip!

What’s your perfect girls trip look like?