Remember the fun of slumber parties? It was a totally "girl" time spent watching movies, shopping, snacking, gossiping and otherwise staying connected. As lives change, and schedules get busy with growing families, it can be harder to keep in touch. More and more, women are making time to enjoy each other's company and renew their friendships through girlfriend getaways.
For Chris Gedde of Talent, every March for the past 11 or 12 years has been a time to meet with two special friends. They met in Portland years ago when they shared a neighborhood, drove the same type of vehicle and had the same number of children. Now they continue to meet in Portland every year to catch up with each other. "We know every year in March that we're going. And our husbands know, too," Chris smiles.
Sometimes when planning a group outing, it can seem like a maze of choices, and trying to get everyone on track can seem almost impossible. From airline ticket availability to picking a destination spot to comparing website offers, the choices can seem overwhelming. Add in the passport challenges currently facing travelers, and it might seem easier just to stay home.
Micki Summerhayes, owner of Carrousel Travel, describes a travel agent as "that buffer to take care of you and help you with those extras." She suggests talking to your travel agent for options that you and your friends may not have considered. For example, "There are some places that people don't realize you don't need a passport," says Summerhayes. Key West, Guam or American Samoa still offer an island adventure without requiring a passport.
"A full-service agent has access to everything," she adds. If you see a particular package deal that looks interesting, take it to your travel agent. "We can almost always match it or beat it," says Summerhayes.
From last seat availability, to current local and international specials, to safety information, a travel agent can help you and your girlfriends plan a trip to remember.
A shared interest can also be a great reason to plan a getaway. For Sandy Cathcart, writer, artist, and wilderness guide from Prospect, a love of wild horses prompted a trip with two friends, also artists and photographers. When a friend brought back photos from a recent trip, "[we] begged to join her before the snow set in." They packed up a Jeep with a cabin tent and supplies, and headed to the Nevada wilderness. No stranger to camp cooking, Sandy regularly takes groups of women that she affectionately refers to as her "wild women" into the wilderness.
So what are areas to consider when planning a getaway with your girlfriends?
Micki Summerhays, owner of Carrousel Travel in White City recognizes that timing can be a challenge, particularly for working women. "We only get a set number of days off," she acknowledges, but she points out plans generally work best the more planning time you have. If you're thinking of a cruise or a trip to Costa Rica, advance planning allows you time to collect passports, find special offers and package deals or even to save for the trip once the deposit is paid.
While Chris and her friends have talked about meeting in a different place, she admits they are comfortable with the same location. "It's a safety thing," she says. "We know the city and we know the neighborhoods. When planning a trip, check with your travel agent or ask around for safety issues in your destination area.
If you're leaving the country, go to www.travel.state.gov and read about the country you're planning to visit. The site will show crime statistics and travel alerts around the world and offer safety tips for tourists in a foreign country. This is especially important for women.
Chris laughs, "You've got to be able to put up with each other's quirks." Are you comfortable sharing a bed with someone? What activities do you want to include? What if you mix night owls and morning glories?
"Find out what's important to each person involved and accommodate as much as you can," encourages Sandy. Whether that's a shopping trip or a shower in the wilderness, a round of golf or a karaoke night, stay open to suggestions. Allow a little space, she says. "When making plans, be sure to leave some open space for people to get away from one another ... even if it's simply to sleep in."
Set a budget
Not everyone may have unending funds to spend. Sandy's suggestion? "On all my trips, we split the costs, keeping it as low as possible — usually leaving room for at least one spendy night or item to make the trip special — and bring a little extra for emergencies." In smaller groups, it may work to take turns picking up the tab for dinner, as Chris and her friends do. Or book a group package that has each person responsible directly to the travel agent to avoid any concerns about costs working out fairly. Don't forget to ask your travel agent about inclusive packages or special offers that might help you get more for less, says Summerhayes.
Prepare for fun
For Sandy and friends, their trip was "one of the most exciting things [she] has ever experienced "¦ None of us will ever forget that trip." For her "wild women" too, their trips leave them wanting more. "They always want to come back. The camaraderie is unmatched. If we weren't life-long friends before, we certainly are when we return." Chris appreciates the same sense of friendship, renewed by their annual get-togethers, "Every time I go, I'm so happy that I did. That kind of friendship is very rare."
Whether in the wilds or the mall, nearby or overseas, enjoy the time together on your girlfriend getaway and come back refreshed, reconnected and ready for more.