Sometimes traveling and vacations aren’t as much about the destination but instead is about the people you share it with. One of our favorite things to do at least once a year is have a friends-cation.
The essential details of these trips involve an easy to get to location (but somewhere no one lives so you still feel like you’re getting away), a Costco trip to fill up on delicious food, a large house or campsite, the appropriate amount of alcohol and a dozen or so good friends. For those of us in Northern California, you can do Tahoe, down on the coast in Monterey or Santa Cruz, or camp on one of our many bodies of water.
Now it’s time for Traveling Nine to Fivers steps for a successful friends-cation:
Step 1: Choose a date and location
If you are trying to get a group of 10-20 friends to go away for a weekend together you are going to need to plan ahead. Our friends now have a standing weekend for our annual Tahoe trip, and we all know better than to make other plans that weekend.
Next choose where you want to go. Are you looking for a summer camping trip? If so how far is everyone interested in driving? Would you prefer a lake or a river to hang out in?
Renting a house? Do you want a secluded beach town where other than the beach you’ll won’t go out much? Or are you looking for a place where you can go out on the town in the evening?
Make sure that the group is on the same page about the expectations for the weekend as you decide what type of location you’re looking for.
Step 2: Reserve a place
Now that you know when and where it is time to book your actual rental. We have a tendency of going away on holiday weekends which means planning ahead and booking four or more months ahead of time. This may not be necessary if you’re going on a quiet weekend or in the offseason, but to get the best location plan early.
For rental properties check out Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. Also, look to see if the local area has their own rental property management sites. This can be common in places with a significant rental market. Such as in Tahoe, you will find Tahoe Accommodations and Tahoe Vacations.
While looking at accommodations make sure you know the groups needs. How many beds? Do you want a hot tube or a big screen tv? What is important to your group?
Step 3: Research Group activities
Do your research and learn what is available in the area and what you’re friends are interested. While you don’t need every detail worked out it helps to have a plan. If people want to go hiking make sure you know where trails are, how long and strenuous they are, and any supplies that might be necessary.
In Tahoe, we now book a shuttle to and from the casino to limit the number of cabs we are taking. It also is an adventure in itself. We also learned that our group wasn’t interested in paying cover fees to get into clubs and had found alternative options with live music and dancing.
Also, encourage your friends to look into small group activities. It can get to be a lot for most of us to be in the same house with 20 people for a weekend. Whether it’s grabbing a few people for lunch, doing a girls’ shopping outing or anything else, having small group activities doesn’t hurt.
Step 4: Menu planning/recruit volunteers
One great way to have a five-star culinary weekend without breaking the bank is having a friend cook their best meal once over the trip. This easily fills up the four to six major meals (breakfast, dinner) and can be a lot of fun for the chef. Five years into our annual trips people are now fighting over who gets to cook what meal, but that wasn’t the case in the beginning.
Ask for volunteers who might be known for a special pasta dish (easy for large groups), Mexican food, breakfast special or pretty much anything. The less prep the better, but if you have a few assistant chefs each meal you can get things done quickly. You can even prepare things like lasagna or enchiladas ahead of time and just put them in the oven to bake.
As you’re choosing meals, keep in mind the cost of ingredients. If you need to get something unique and expense to make the meal that might not be worth it. There are tons of crowd-pleasing meals that can stay low budget. Pancakes and bacon in the morning or carbonara pasta with chicken for dinner are great crowd pleasers.
Also, don’t forget snacks! We typically don’t plan lunches since breakfast tends to happen late and we make it through to dinner on snacks. It is a great help to have a variety of trashy and healthy snacks. We always have some chips and dip but also some veggies and fruits. Sometimes while you’re spending the weekend being gluttonous a couple carrots can refresh your palate. Stuff to make sandwiches can also be a success so those who need lunch can get one.
Easy breakfast foods are great to have on hand as well. We typically plan these for the last morning since you are packing and cleaning up. Also, if some people are up earlier the most they can still grab a bite without cooking breakfast before everyone is up.
Step 5: Shopping and packing
Now make a big list! Have each of the friends who are in charge of meals send you a shopping list. The first goal is to figure out what goes on the bulk buy (Costco) list and what you need to buy smaller portions of at the grocery store.
Get a few people together to go on the actual shopping outing with you. While it can be a lot of fun to do with the big group it can also lead to people throwing random items in the basket and make it more stressful.
Keep track of what you are spending. You’ll end up adding it all up including the rental costs and splitting them all attendees. For camping, you can do a weekend under $100 per person. For rentals, we’ve never spent more than $200 (for three nights). For an all inclusive weekend, it’s pretty affordable.
Outside of the food make assignments for who is to bring what supplies. Such as any additional cooking things you might need, camping tends to require more things and then, of course, activities to stay busy. We always make sure to have a handful or indoor games, such as cards, dominoes, and apples to apples, as well as outdoor ones like corn hole and ladder golf.
For alcohol, our group has everyone bring what they like to share with the group. Make sure to have a plan for whatever level is appropriate for your group.
A few things you might not remember, but it never hurts to have more of:
- Extra toilet paper and paper towels.
- Extra shower and pool towels.
- Aluminum foil and the aluminum pans from Costco. These make clean up much easier and they are cheap.
- Coffee, coffee, coffee! If you’re camping bring instant and if you’re staying at a house they may not have enough or good quality so bring your own.
- Some of your own knives and pots. They likely won’t have good quality so if you’re planning a big menu it’s worth bringing up a few.
Step 6: Have a great time
Once you’ve planned and packed all that is left is to have a great time. Enjoy a weekend away, explore the area as much as you want and create some great memories with your friends.
Make sure to keep in mind as fun as these trips are everyone is going to operate at different speeds. It is best to respect everyone’s individual levels. I tend to spend most of the days binge reading books, this year I finished two. Clashes occur when people don’t respect that not everyone wants to do the same thing, and can be easily avoided.
With that is mind have a great time! What tips do you have for people going on a friends-cation?