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How to plan an affordable girls’ weekend getaway

“Almost every life event for a woman is an opportunity to travel, and who better to share those events with than your girlfriends, mother, daughter, or sisters,” says Valerie McDermott, co-founder of Million-Dollar-Mama.com, an online resource for women’s travel. Hotels and other providers are well aware that girls’ getaways are one of the hottest trends in travel, and many promote packages and special offers for women traveling together. Consumers should investigate before buying, however: Sometimes packaged getaways can be a good deal, and other times they can be a rip-off.

Our tips will help you put together an affordable girls’ getaway—either a package or an a-la-carte escape you arrange yourself—with an emphasis on savings strategies and customizing a unique itinerary for your experience.

Possibilities

There’s no one definition for a girls’ getaway nowadays, although “getaways” are usually limited to weekends or other short stays, as opposed to full vacations. There are packages for college friends, reading or scrapbooking clubs, female family members, bridal parties, sorority reunions, and other groups of women. And, perks have moved beyond spa treatments, chocolate, and shopping discounts (although those are certainly still available in abundance). Today’s getaways can include adventurous activities such as hiking and surfing, beach escapes, wine and culinary tours, and even stargazing.

Lauren Darden, a recent law school graduate from Waynesboro, Virginia, just got back from a trip to Freeport, Bahamas, with two girlfriends. “We all wanted to have a good time, but also relax, and wanted something warm that involved lounging in the sun for a good portion of the trip,” she says. “I wanted some time relaxing with my friends where I did not have to answer as a law student, wife, or mother. We all had just completed graduate programs, and it was the perfect excuse to celebrate.”

“Groups of traveling women range in age, marital status, economic level, and reason for travel, but most have in common a multi-faceted life,” says McDermott. “We see college/high school friends using getaways as a way to indulge in things they enjoyed growing up together, sisters pampering themselves, book club members looking to deepen their literary experiences, and even gym buddies looking to step up their daily workout routine.” As a result, today’s getaways can be tailor-made to fit such varied travel tastes.

Package deals

“Package deals are especially attractive if you’re going to a destination you have never been to before,” says McDermott. “The proprietor has taken all the guesswork out using their experiences and knowledge of the area and making connections with nearby spas, wineries, restaurants, to get special pricing for their visitors. It’s just a nice introduction to an area you may not be familiar with.”

Some options currently available for girls’ getaways packages include:

  • Escapes just for women from participating inns at BedandBreakfast.com. Destinations across the country are represented, with activities including shopping, spa treatments, beauty consultations, and pajama and pizza parties.
  • “What Women Want!” packages at Kimpton Hotels, an upscale boutique hotel brand with properties in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other major cities available. Perks can include massages and spa treatments, consultations with a personal shopper, complimentary bottles of wine or Champagne, theater or movie tickets, and dance classes.
  • Women Only Weekends” in the Finger Lakes region of New York, with eight area lodging properties taking part in the promotion. Possibilities cover wine getaways, scrapbooking weekends, or art escapes.
  • Spa packages at Omni Hotels, with Atlanta, Montreal, Orlando, and Tucson hotels, among others, offering getaways.
  • The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission offers girls’ getaways ranging from fine dining escapes to packages including in-room movies, chocolates, and wine.

While deals like these may make planning easy, sometimes a [% 277413 | | getaway package %] may cost more than the sum of its parts, offer lackluster perks, or just not appeal to all the women in your group. In these cases, you may find it more valuable to put your own getaway together.

Building your own getaway

If you can’t find an affordable girls’ getaway in the area you wish to visit, consider the following steps.

  • Take into account what you and your fellow travelers would like to do given the amount of time you have, the types of activities that interest your group (do preferences lean toward the rugged, pampering, or no activities at all?), and the anticipated budget. “Some groups may not want the restrictions of a package,” says McDermott. “Part of the group may be looking to pamper themselves while others would like hiking. If this is the case for your group, you may want to consult with a travel professional to help you personalize your own getaway.”
  • Once your interests and activities are narrowed, do some research to see what your chosen destination offers. Inquire with the local convention and visitors’ bureau (CVB) and any hotels that interest you to see if there are any current specials or discounts.
  • Compare package prices with the cost of a getaway you could arrange yourself to see which option is the better deal. In some cases, you may find the package has savings over a-la-carte rates; other times you’re better off purchasing items individually.
  • See where you can trim costs or find extra discounts. Is it cheaper to travel during the week, rather than stay over a weekend? What seasons are the least expensive to visit? Does anyone in your group belong to an association such as AAA that might entitle you to a discount? Inquiring about the cheapest times to go and membership discounts can often provide some extra savings or perks.
  • Start saving early. “Planning nine to 12 months in advance can afford you the opportunity to start a ‘Girlfriend Getaway’ fund,” recommends McDermott. “My sisters and I are planning a trip, so as a group we opened a money market account with a great interest rate and we send [in] a check each month. That way we won’t be hit with a big bill when we have to put down the deposit, and if there is any left it is brought along for entertainment.”

Being flexible can pay off. Darden originally looked into cruises in the Caribbean for her girls’ getaway, but ultimately decided “getting on and off the boat each day and being restricted about the time we were in port was a turnoff. So, we aimed for the Bahamas—it is not too far of a trip for [three] East Coast girls, and airfare is reasonable as well.”

Whatever shape your trip takes, remember to weigh what’s important to your group, and leave time in your schedule to relax and reconnect. “Though girlfriend getaways are driving the latest trend in travel, many women are still struggling with allowing themselves the opportunity to actually go on trips,” says McDermott. “They need to acknowledge that their getaway is not about leaving their family and responsibilities behind, but it’s about empowerment, growth, and entitlement.”

“A long weekend was the perfect solution,” says Darden. “Enough time to forget your stress, but not so long that you become homesick. This was a perfect mental health break for me.”

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