Every autumn, I take a long-weekend trip with three girlfriends from college. Throughout the years, we’ve visited a host of cities along the East Coast, from Boston to Orlando. Next year, for our 30th birthdays, we hope to go overseas. As budget travelers, we tend to plan our trips on the cheap, preferring low-cost airlines, vacation-rental apartments, and economy rental cars.
My friends and I have been ahead of the curve: As Weekend Getaways editor here at SmarterTravel.com, I’ve noticed more and more marketers putting together pre-planned “girls’ getaways,” with themes ranging from spa retreats to adventure outings. The hook varies little between providers: indulge, reconnect with female friends and family members, leave the guys at home.
That indulgence, however, sometimes is an outright marketing ploy to get your travel dollars, and many times, these getaways are ridiculously overpriced. The problem is often threefold:
- Girlfriends’ getaways are usually based on a per-person charge, not a per-room charge (unlike most couples’ getaways). Structured in this way, two girlfriends traveling together often pay twice as much as a couple does.
- Many girls’ getaway packages contain items similar to couples’ getaways (massages, spa treatments, dinners, desserts), but at higher rates.
- Many of the “specials” included in these packages are, frankly, pretty lackluster. Oftentimes you can put together a similar (or better) experience on your own for less.
Take a look at the following to see what I mean:
The Arsenic & Old Lace Bed and Breakfast Inn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, offers both romance and girlfriend getaway packages. Both contain similar amenities, but the pricing differs a bit. Here’s the breakdown:
- Two nights’ accommodations
- A luxurious robe
- One-hour facial
- $30 dinner voucher
- Souvenir coffee mug
Cost per person: $445 for weekends, October weekdays, and holidays.
- Two nights’ accommodations
- Bottle of champagne or sparkling cider
- Two champagne flutes
- One hour massage for two
- $65 dinner voucher
Cost per double occupancy: $589 for weekends, October weekdays, and holidays (or $295 per person).
In this case, girlfriends get charged about $150 more than couples for similar or (when you factor in the dinner voucher) lesser amenities. If you’re traveling with multiples of two, you might want to consider the romance package—you’ll get comparable services for less money.
In another instance of overcharging, consider the Hilton Boston Financial District‘s Girls Night Out package. Starting at $335 per night per room (double or single occupancy), it includes accommodations, a snack basket with pretzels and cookies, martinis at the hotel bar, a breakfast buffet admission per person, and a late checkout.
When I called for a price quote, autumn weekends came in at $406 per night for the package versus $311 per night for just a room. The package essentially costs $95 more for snacks, breakfast, and a few martinis. You and your girlfriends will get a better deal by booking just a room, then hitting the local convenience store for your snacks, a diner for your breakfast, and a corner bar for drinks.
Meanwhile, Omni Hotels has a Get Your Glam On package for girlfriends at participating hotels across North America. Packages include accommodations, nightly turndown service, a “chick flick” DVD, two candles, a bottle of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, and lip gloss.
When I checked the glam package prices against standard room rates at several Omni hotels, I found the package typically cost $50 to $60 more than a regular room rate. $50 or $60 extra for wine, lip gloss, and a DVD? I think you could put this together on your own for less.
For comparison, sample per-night prices are:
- Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West: $99 lowest per-night rate, $159 Get Your Glam On rate. Package costs $60 more.
- Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza: $169 lowest per-night rate, $219 Get Your Glam On rate. Package costs $50 more.
- Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate: $199 lowest per-night rate, $254 Get Your Glam On rate. Package costs $55 more.
- Omni Chicago Hotel: $329 lowest per-night rate, $384 Get Your Glam On rate. Package costs $55 more.
- Omni Berkshire Place: $359 lowest per-night rate, $415 Get Your Glam On rate. Package costs $56 more.
Doing your research, however, proves that sometimes you really can find a good deal. I initially balked at the “Lap of Luxury Ladies Weekend” at Dream, Night, and The Time hotels in New York City, at first seeing only the (seemingly) steep price tag. Costing $895 per person for king bed accommodations or $995 per person for a suite, the package includes two nights’ accommodations, cocktails with a sex educator, a pre-set menu dinner with Champagne, brunch with a Bloody Mary cocktail, a mani-pedi, a 70-minute massage, and choice of a facial or mud/steam experience at The Chopra Center & Spa. This package also requires a group of six to eight female friends.
However, when I looked into what each item costs, I discovered that a king room at Dream starts at $469 based on double occupancy (autumn weekends). Split between two friends, that would work out to $235 per person for a room (or $470 for two nights). Essentially, the package charges each girlfriend an additional $425 for the extras.
Sounds like a lot, right? Consider that the Chopra Spa at Dream charges $100 for mani-pedis, $185 for massages, and $150 for facials. That totals $435. With the package, you’re not only getting a discount on the spa treatments, but essentially the two meals and drinks and the sex educator discussion for free.
Can you find cheaper alternatives elsewhere? Of course. But comparing apples to apples, this package actually does save you money.
The short of it: While girlfriend getaway packages can often save you time—one phone call to book everything—and occasionally save you money, the sad reality is travel providers often are making a good profit. However, by doing your research ahead of time, you can ensure you’re the one who gets the good deal. And that’s something worth celebrating with friends.