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!

Family Ski Trip Money Saving Ideas And Prep

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Almost yearly, hubs and I take The Things skiing.  This is easily Thing 3’s favorite trip of the year, as he fancies himself a mountain man,  dreams of living in a log cabin somewhere remote…which if you know this child, you know how much he talks…this would never really work out for him I’m afraid.  All the boys love this trip and we’ve been going to the same mountain for 7 years, so they know the mountain and the area like the back of their hands.  In this post, I hope to give you a few tips and tricks that could save you big money in the long run, and a little money in the short run!

Ski/Snowboarding trips are expensive…there is no way around it.  Lift tickets are expensive, equipment is expensive, lodging is expensive, even food costs are high.  The first time hubs and I traveled to the Vail Valley in Colorado, we were hooked!  This area of the Rocky Mountains is just breathtaking!  Most pictures can’t even do it justice.  Anyway, the first time we went to the area we bought into the Vacation Ownership condo unit that is in our network because we just knew that the boys would love it, and that they would want to ski and snowboard at least once a year…if not more.  I’m so glad we bought in when we did…the inventory at this particular property is sold out now, they do not even an option to buy into this property anymore.  Let me get to my couple of points here…

Tip #1.  If you have a place that you love and you know you want to return to yearly…invest in a property there…be it a timeshare, or a condo or vacation property.  This is a save money in the long run tip.  The prices for lodging in most of your popular vacation areas is never going to go down…it usually increases year over year.  So, if you know that you will want to come back somewhere year after year, make the investment early…then, as soon as you know it, you’ll have the property paid off, and will enjoy your trip that much more because you are no longer paying for accommodations.  We go the Vacation Ownership route because we usually have the property paid off in around 5 years, sometimes more…but, we made the same payment for 5 years, it didn’t increase…and now we get to enjoy it forever…it’s ours…we own it…we can deed it over to our kids when we die and they can continue to use it.  Not all “timeshares” are created equally.  This works for us because we are not interested in becoming landlords.  We do not want to mess with the upkeep and rental headache of owning our own condo or house in a place that takes 12-ish hours to get to, nor are we interested in paying a managing company to manage a property for us.  You could make money if you bought something and listed it on Air B&B when you are not using it, but it’s not a guarantee, and while we talk about this idea frequently, we just don’t have time to do this kind of investing.   So, long term savings accommodation tip…invest in accommodations of your own if you plan to return to a particular location year after year.

Tip #2.  Purchase, do not rent, your own ski/snowboard gear.  This is another long term savings tip.  This was the second smartest thing that we did the very first year we took the boys skiing.   This investment has worked particularly well for us since 2 of the 4 boys were basically done growing.  I’ll admit that we had that strategic advantage there, but even still…I’ll break down some costs so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.  If you were even going to just go skiing/snowboarding twice ever in your life…it would be a better value to buy your equipment than to rent it.  My hypothetical scenario will be for outfitting a junior skier.  If I rented skis for a junior skier on rentskis.com, it would run around $50 a day…that is for skis with bindings, poles, boots and a helmet.  If your junior skier skied for 6 days like mine typically do you’re looking at $300.  To purchase skis, a good pair for non-expert skiers, runs around $150, bindings $75, poles $20, boots $120, helmet $50.  Buying the equipment will run you around $415.  So, the roughly $115 difference should easily get you 2 to 3 ski seasons out of the equipment…that’s actually going to save you anywhere from $175-$600 in the long run!  The equipment that we have purchased the most of over the years have been boots…darn kids never stop growing!  Lots of junior equipment and even clothing have the ability to expand!  The first pair of boots that we bought for Thing 4 lasted 2 seasons because they had the ability to expand.  Thing 4’s skis and bindings lasted 3 seasons!  We definitely got our money’s worth out what we bought.  As an extra bonus, when you own your own equipment you don’t have to waste a day of your vacation getting fitted for your rental! If this has your wheels turning and you are not sure that I am the expert, check out this article from SkiMag here.IMG_E0685Tip #3.  Buy your lift tickets online at least 2 weeks prior to your trip.  There is no advantage or disadvantage to buying it more than 2 weeks out, but less than 2 weeks out you lose out on discounted pricing.  We just purchased out lift tickets last week for our spring break trip this year…by doing this early and online we saved a little over $1100.  Cha-Ching!!!  If you know that you will be skiing more than once in a season, the best value is a season pass.  Where we ski it’s called an Epic Pass.  It’s a great value that comes with perks like buddy passes and no restricted days, and gives you access to something ridiculous like 61 ski resorts.  As the ski season approached the price of the Epic Pass increases…best time to buy for the upcoming season is at the end of the current season.

Tip #4.  Stay in accommodations that have a kitchen and bring your own food.  This is an easy way to save money!  Meals out are expensive and meals on the mountain are like meals in an airport…rediculously expensive!  Before our yearly trek to the mountains, we meal plan and freeze a couple of our favorite crockpot meals to take with us.  Most days we eat lunch on the mountain or in one of our favorite restaurants in the village.  Often times, lunch is a cheaper meal than dinner, and our boys are often more hungry during the hours that they are snowboarding than when we are finished for the day!

The bring your own food tip is by far my favorite tip for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s a money saver, but the best part is that if you have meal planned, and put your dinner in the crockpot before you leave to hit the slopes for the day, when you get back to your room after skiing/snowboarding you can take a shower, throw on your jammies and just be done for the day, with a great meal ready for you with little to no work!  We are all usually exhausted after a full day on the slopes and want nothing more than to just go back to the room to veg and relax and rest up for the next full day on the slopes!  We bring lots of pantry staples with us…anything we need that is non-perishable for our crockpot meals, and lots of snacks for the snack hounds!  There are a couple of restaurants that we like to eat at that are not in the village of our ski resort.  Those places are our dinners out.  On those days, we try to do a bigger, later breakfast and tell the boys that they can heavily snack that day…so they usually stuff some snacks in pockets and somewhere along they way they grab a bottle of water and something light from Starbucks or somewhere on the mountain where they can sit down for a couple of minutes to take a break. (Side note: Starbucks has a great app where you can load money or gift cards directly to the app. All the boys have this app, and it enables them to pay for their purchases from their phones. Which means I don’t have to worry about making sure they have cash on them, I only worry that they don’t drop their phones while they are on the ski lift! 😉)

IMG_1575Speaking of dinners out…make sure to make your reservations before your trip if you are Tripping during popular vacation times…winter break, spring break, Thanksgiving break…any school break.  People are vacationing more and more.  I’m afraid that gone are the days when you could just wing it at a restaurant for dinner with no wait times.  We live by the make your reservations early rule, especially because often we are considered a large party…Trip Advisor and Open Table are two apps that make making a reservation super easy.

I think the moral of my ski trip money saving tips is to PREPARE. This trip will be expensive no matter what, but if you know it’s going to be something that you do at least yearly, invest the money up front.  Year 1 will be the most expensive, but if spend the money early, it has the potential to save you big time for years to come!  I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite crockpot recipes to use on this trip or just an evening at home.

Pot Roast Sliders

Easy Chicken Tacos

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

What are some of your money saving ski trip tips?                                                               Or what is one of your favorite crockpot meals?                                                                   I’d love to here from you!

Are you curious about the way we travel and what Vacation Ownership is?  Ask away and/or click here to gather a little information.