Now here's a novel idea for that next trip with gal pals: themed girls getaways. The upshot is to get creative when getting together with friends and make the trip memorable and a hoot to boot! Read the full list via the link, but here are the highlights. Love them all.
- TV show themes: Think Charley's Angels (mystery dinners, etc.) or "split into tribes and pull a Survivor." Perhaps Saturday Night Live skits and performances instead of charades?
- History: Think about decades (20s flapper, 60s hippie, 70s disco, 80s valley girl) or go way, way back in time to the Renaissance or ancient Egypt with room for creative costumes.
- It's a small world: Budgets can be tight, so rather than blowing your whole savings on one trip, rent a vacation home and pick a country or region and cook meals from Italy, France, Mexico, Thailand. You can also choose the appropriate music and activities to match the culture.
- Out of this world: Space is vast, and so are the possibilities with this theme from Star Trek to superheros!
- Classics: Put a new twist on classic themes such as carnivals (games?), westerns/cowgirls (pie-throwing contest?), or pirates (treasure hunt?).
Any other great ideas out there?
For the ultimate girls getaway with a mission, I say take your gal pals to a town full of entertainment and plenty of good shopping to give a little something unique for Christmas this year. Find the perfect gift for your sister, mom, friend, cousin, boyfriend, husband, and so forth. Getting away before the holidays (when sales are on, travel deals abound, winter temperatures are at bay) can be worth the trip.
1. New York City
- For him: The basic I Love New York t-shirt or luxury items such as shoes that turn into roller skates or a watch that doubles as a remote control (for the James Bond in your man).
- For her: A handbag from a discount shop or designer shirt from quaint boutiques. Heck, if you can swing it, drop the credit card at a 5th Avenue store.
2. Los Angeles
- For him: Universal Studios paraphernalia for the kid in him or hat that makes him feel like the fly boy he wants to be. If he likes fine arts, grab him something from a museum or gallery. Or get your picture taken by his favorite Hollywood star handprint and frame it.
- For her: Anything from a store on the fancy, famous Rodeo Drive such as designer jeans or sunglasses the size of her head would be good. You'll feel like a star shopping and she'll feel like a million bucks receiving.
3. San Francisco
- For him: Go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your man is an earthy dude, find a trippy tie dye Grateful Dead t-shirt, a drum, or incense. Wine from Napa Valley (to grab on a leisurely day trip) is always a good gift as well.
- For her: Again, go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your female friend is earthy, find Haight-Ashbury District candles, incense, a woven purse, patchouli oil, the works. There are also outlet stores downtown for more "typical" shops. Wine works wonders for women as well.
- For him: Find the rare book or gift he loves at flea markets in areas such as Notting Hill. Bring back some of the best tea from Fortnum & Mason (arguably the world's most expensive and best grocery store for specialty foods).
- For her: What's not for her in London? Flea markets with jewelry, books, household items, scarves, etc. And shopping boutiques and high fashion stores. Then there's always Fortnum & Mason for cookies, pates, teas (expensive but worth it!).
- For him: Cubs, White Sox or Bears paraphernalia (jersey, balls, bat, mug, etc.) if he's a sporto; if he prefers fine arts, the Chicago Art Museum is world-renowned and the gift shop has a bevy of nice gifts (I can attest).
- For her: Home to the Magnificent Mile, Chicago, does indeed have magnificent shopping such as numerous department stores (Lord and Taylor, for instance) and shops for everything from leather gloves to perfume to cashmere wraps.
6. Washington, DC
- For him: Smithsonian books or paraphernalia from the museums, books for the history buff, or a framed photo from your trip to the U.S. capital. Sunset from the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the U.S. Capitol includes the reflecting pool and Washington Monument - a classic shot with your signature all over it.
- For her: Antiques and collectibles at the weekend Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, non-fiction books for the history buffs, arts and crafts at either the flea market or any of the numerous art galleries or museums.
7. Whistler, BC
- For him: Any ski gear possible (guys dig this), including poly shirts for insulation. Find stores with sales if need be as there are plenty of shops at this big ski resort with Blackcomb village and Whistler village.
- For her: Ski-themed t-shirts, ski gear or just about anything goes. Whistler has a slew of different shops such as soap shops, coffee houses, and more.
8. Las Vegas
- For him: Win big and bring him back some dough.
- For her: Outlet malls galore are here to offer discounts on major clothing, shoe, home and gear labels. Two major outlets: Premium Outlets and Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas.
9. San Diego
- For him: Get him a couple 22-ounce bottles of micro-beer from local Coronado Brewing Company, and top the gift off with a logo'd pint and sweatshirt.
- For her: A cuddly stuffed animal from the San Diego Zoo or arts and crafts from boutiques around town. If a Tijuana day trip is on your agenda, there are plenty of arts and crafts to buy in Mexico from wool blankets to woven baskets to sculptures.
- For him: A classic belt buckle (if he's into that sort of thing) or leather belt for the hidden cowboy within.
- For her: A nice leather belt is a wonderful gift for women also, but Denver also boasts several boutiques in addition to major shopping stores. And there's always the Southwest art scene if you want to splurge and purchase some hand-crafted jewelry or art.
TripAdvisor issued a list of its favorite "vineyard vacations" - which are, of course, ideal for groups such as extended families (sans kids), girls getaways, bachelor parties, birthday parties, wedding events, or just getaways with friends.
This top 10 list includes all the usual suspects, and a few notable newbies. So raise a glass of chardonney or merlot and bring back new bottles of wine to dazzle your friends (or yourself) when you return from vacation.
- Napa Valley, Calif.
- Tuscany, Italy
- Bordeaux, France
- Santiago, Chile
- Sonoma, Calif.
- Burgundy, France
- La Rioja, Spain
- Hunter Valley, Australia
- Champagne-Ardenne, France
- Constantia, South Africa
A while back, I posted about vinotherapy (new wine spas) and chocolate treatments. Travel + Leisure now has a list of three new spa trends, all geared around getting back to the basics by being healthy through well-being:
- Holistic living: Residential villa communities where people can access spa facilities year-round.
- Hawaiian wellness summits: Well-being and healthy lifestyle sessions such as organic cooking demos or "intimate seaside sessions" with local wellness experts.
- Bamboo treatments: Crushed fiber from bamboo shoots is being used at eco-friendly spas for treatments.
Take your pick. The evolving spa industry has its choices from detox programs, to quick day spa treatments, aromatherapy, nutrition-based spas, hot stone massages (my personal favorite), indulgent treatments such as wine or chocolate soaks, and new eco-holistic wellness treatments. Spas really are branching out to all kinds of travelers. There's likely a spa service that even the most old-fashioned "I'm not letting anyone touch me who I don't know" grandparent of yours would appreciate.
I say take your pick and stay with a safe treatment within your comfort zone, or branch out and try something new. I'm adding to the above list mobile spas, a growing trend for those who can't seem to make it to the spa, but still crave the pampering.
Travel + Leisure released results from its annual readers poll for their World's Best Awards 2006. Since I'm enamored with spas, massages, and the relaxation they offer, I tuned in to the best spas list. There are several awards, all rated by T + L readers, including best destination spas, best Europe spas, and so forth. While those are great for honeymoons and special travel occasions, here are the U.S. and Canada spas that might be a shorter plane ride or drive away and, therefore, a little easier on the budget:
||Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Florida
||Mandarin Oriental, Miami
||Park Hyatt, Toronto
||Four Seasons Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
||Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek, Colorado
||Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Little Torch Key, Florida
||Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina
||Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
||Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida
||St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, Dana Point, California
||Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina
||Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Asheville, North Carolina
||Enchantment Resort, Mii Amo, Sedona, Arizona
||Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas
||Auberge du Soleil, Spa du Soleil, Rutherford, California
||The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
||St. Regis Resort, Aspen, Colorado
||American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin
||Four Seasons Hotel, Philadelphia
||Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, Houston, Texas
||Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai, California
||The Peninsula, Chicago
||Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Florida
||Four Seasons Resort Aviara, North San Diego
||Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, Vancouver Island
Spas are an ideal activity for girls getaways, even an option for a guys getaways, or a way to sneak away from a family reunions for solo time.
Source: Travel + Leisure
Spas offer a respite from daily stress, a transformative means to health, and boost the spirit. Massages melt muscles with seductive aromatherapy, perfect pressure points, and release knots, putting your body and mind at ease. Nothing beats a good masseur or masseuse. For a girls getaway, guys getaway (er, mancation?), or any other trip, here's a list of some of the best spas in the world.
- Best destination spas ranked by Travel + Leisure's readers in 2004
Destination spas offer a complete immersion in pampering, with setting, food, ambience, and treatments all aimed at making you feel as relaxed as imaginable (or unimaginable).
- Best resort spas ranked by Travel + Leisure's readers in 2004
Resort spas are normally connected to luxury hotels or resorts, often in locations with great natural beauty, offering a wide range of spa treatments.
- Best spas for hikers by About.com
For active vacationers who like adventure mixed with pampering.
- Best spas for detox by About.com
For travelers in need of a spiritually cleansing or healthy vacation.
- Best spas on a lake by About.com
For spa lovers who find as much peace on a lake as during a massage.
But are any of these really the best? Such a subjective word: best. What makes a spa ideal for you? I've heard amazing things about Mii Amo in Sedona, Ariz., but from my personal experience (so far!), the best spa I've gone to was in Calistoga, Calif. Here's why it was amazing:
When I walked in, the clock was at least 10 minutes slow and the front desk clerk smiled, "Welcome. No worries about the time, we're on spa time." My shoulders dropped with relief. No stress here. After calmly slipping into a robe in the dressing room, I drank cucumber-flavored water before the masseuse brought me to my sea salt soaking tub. After the soak, I had the massage of a lifetime. The masseuse was a magician with strong, experienced hands who worked every knot out of my back and shoulders, then had me doing a breathing exercise while she released tension from my neck and left my body and mind dizzy with delight. Being on vacation in Napa Valley also helped with the carefree mood. Still, I highly recommend Indian Springs Spa. As part of your appointment, you even get free use of their outdoor swimming pool. Another cool perk.
I recently wrote about culinary tours and just read a CNN article about the trend in culinary tours and cooking classes, shedding light on why we travel for food. Here are some excerpts about the growing popular movement to experience culinary delights up close and personal while on vacation.
"I think that the foodie market is related more or less to the baby boomer demographic," said Dr. Rich Harrill, director of the International Tourism Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. "You have people who are retiring, people with lots of discretionary time and income, some level of sophistication. They're educated, they're interested in wine, they're interested in food."
The article goes on to suggest that while countries like Italy, France, and Spain are "hot spots for culinary tourism," you don't have to travel too far off the beaten path or make a major time commitment to participate.
One culinary class pupil reminisces fondly, "When you travel through the world exploring food, you get this interesting window about the culture and the environment because food is the bridge between the land and the culture."
Courses are limited to Arizona, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California, Carolinas, Florida, and Mexico but those are golf hot spots anyway. The descriptions, photos, par stats, player ratings all come in handy. But the fact that you can actually book a tee time is highly convenient. Now all you need to do is practice your putt.
Food and wine touring is one of the best methods of travel, and a growing trend. You meet locals, often take the road less traveled, taste exquisite regional cuisine, sample rare wines, and try a culture on for size. These scrumptious tours come in all flavors and cater to groups.
Cooking classes abroad
My mom and I participated in a group cooking class while in Florence for a destination wedding. 20 guests from the wedding bonded, made new friends, and spread the spirit of the wedding through the days leading up to the ceremony. With the chef supervising, ingredients prepped, and kitchen utensils at hand, we broke into smaller groups and worked on our respective culinary assignments. Mom and I were with the tort table following a simple recipe for a lemon tort while others prepared a beef entrée, appetizers, and salads. After baking and cooking, we all feasted on our homemade Italian food and drank vino at a big banquet table. Bonus: We all got to take home the recipes and aprons. To this day, it's still one of my most memorable meals. Thanks to Apicius, the Culinary Institute of Florence.
The same destination wedding trip to Italy also gave me the opportunity to take a small group wine-tasting tour. We visited quaint, lesser-known wineries and stopped for lunch at a local restaurant in a rural village just outside of Florence. Chianti's 300 acres between Florence and Siena are filled with hills and various wine-growing conditions, producing a range of bouquets. We sampled soft wines, dry wines, and robust wines not marketed in the U.S. Apparently, the American market demands certain grapes and types of wine, but often the local vintners shake their heads in wonder because they know the superior bottles don't sell well on the mass market. Reason alone to do a wine-tasting tour: rare finds. These tours are a great way to meld with the rural areas, sample the fruits of its earth, and pass the time with a little culture.
Pick and choose your favorite culinary tour. Your body, mind, and gut will thank you for it, and it's ideal for group trips. A few suggestions to whet your appetite:
Bordeaux wine tours
Napa Valley wineries
South Australia wine-tasting tours (source: travelgirl magazine, Sept./Oct. 2006)
Guinness tours in Dublin
Anheuser-Busch Brewery tours
Redhook Brewery tours in Washington state (near Seattle) or New Hampshire
Samuel Adams Brewery tours in Boston
Food & culinary tours and classes
Cooking classes in France, Spain, and Italy
Mexican cooking tours
Food & music tours (eat 'til you ache, dance 'til you drop)
Chateau St. Michelle Winery concerts in Woodinville (near Seattle)
Celtic music and food tours in Ireland and Scotland
Taking a culinary or wine tour with family or friends is a priceless experience, great for girls getaways, bachelorette parties, wedding guest activities, and so on.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Traveling is no exception. Vacations are more enjoyable with buddies from college, girlfriends from home, friends from life (soccer or baseball teams), and any other groups.
Reconnect with old friends, reminisce about the good old days, and make new memories that make you laugh 'til you cry with these getaway tips.
Ladies, start your engines. The games, the energy, the synergy, and the drinks are about to begin. Take a wild or relaxing vacation with your gal pals on a spa getaway, wine-tasting soiree, birthday celebration, or anything goes. Can't go far? Try a mini girls getaway?
Hit the beach year-round (and more heavily in the summer) at your favorite beach. Try a nude beach, join your friends at your most memorable beach, or find a new beach while on a weekend away. Here are TripAdvisor's top 10 U.S. beaches.
Road trip planning guide
Zoom, zoom. Friends, families, and other vacationers are hitting the highways and dusty roads for campgrounds, national parks, family reunions, and zero obligations. Along with sunblock, prepare for a stress-free road trip with these tips. 10 gas and money-saving tips should help as well.
Golf trip meccas
Swing and putt your way down the fairways, slugging beer and making bets against your comrades the whole time. Golf is a great way to relax and visit with friends while working on your game. Also, here are quick tips for planning a group golf getaway.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties
Are you the best man with no clue how to honor your pal with a party? If the only thing that comes to mind is a stripper, see these bachelor party tips first. Ladies, looking to make the bride smile and proud to call you her friends? Here are helpful hints for bachelorette party planning.
Just say ahhhh. Spa vactions are on the rise and spas are increasingly catering to groups (girls getaways in particular). Before you go, brush up on some basic group etiquette (so the spa invites you back!). Try vinotherapy at a wine spa, chocolate massages, or any other spa treatments for you and the gang.
More Tips for Group Getaways with Friends
Best of the Web (Getaway Related Links)
After my recent girls getaway post, I discovered some helpful tips for women who need to get together, but can't travel (whether for budgetary reasons, weather, work, or other mishaps). That shouldn't prevent women from planning outings closer to home, perhaps as a way to discuss longer-term vacations together.
GirlTrip.org has 10 mini girls getaway tips when you're squeezed on time, but still need a time out. Here are my 3 favorites:
- Mental Health Day
If everyone's working hard then take a day for hardly working. Notify all the ladies that you're taking a collective mental health day. Meet up at the spa, the beach or the best shopping strip in your area and enjoy a day out of the office together.
What a delicious way to spend a day! Mental health days should be more normal for a country built on hard work and two-week long vacations per year (what's up with that?).
- Friend Spread
If your friends aren't all as close with each other as you are to them, then bring them together. Plan a night out with all your gal pals who don't know each other well and get everyone acquainted!
I love this idea. I can't tell you how often I've gone to the movie with my "movie friend" or walking with my "walking friend" or dished on guys with my "gossip boy-crazy friend" or philosophized about the state of the world and the inter-relatedness of chaos and order with my "deep friend" and I've drunk like a fish with my "party friend." Nice to gather them every so often to find the surprising similarities.
- We'll Always Have Coffee
When all else fails and you just can't squeeze in a date with the ladies, find a quck thirty minutes for a cup of java or a smoothie. It just enough time to do some quick catching up while getting out of the house or away from the office for a breather.
Everything's better with coffee. I couldn't agree more.
Men are hunters. Women are gatherers. This is who we are by nature (just ask Rob Becker in his Defending the Caveman comedy act). Women have long been highly social beings, capable of multi-tasking (something that mystifies men to this day) and nurturing. Doesn't it then seem natural that we'd also want to travel together? We can talk freely, giggle openly, be our silly girly (or rugged, not-so-girly) selves together. We accept each other for who we are, emotionally supportive and all.
Part of the fun for me in going on a girls getaway is the gossip. I don't mean the bad gossip. I mean the good gossip. The dish. The latest. How my friends are doing and how they feel about their jobs, relationships, life, hobbies, etc. And while I also enjoy vacationing with guys, girls (only) getaways have their merit. Girls can be 100% unabashed girls.
Here are some special types:
1. Dude Ranch - The men are gone, but the dudes aren't. What better way to reconnect with the girl friends than by riding horses just like you know you all did in your dreams. Make it even more fun with cowboy hats to match - they'll shade the sun, you'll look about as country chic as can be, and you can knock your man over with a nod of your cowboy hat head and a wink when you return.
2. Spa Haven - As cliché as "girls getaway to the spa" is becoming, I say turn that word into an acronym for each girl who fully deserves the pampering. CLICHE is Caress Lovingly: I Can Have Everything. Make this your motto. There are countless services and an increasing number of spas recognizing the girls getaway trend as a way to offer discounts, special accommodation, etc. Work it. Call or book well in advance and shop around until you find the atmosphere, cost, and spa services just right for your group.
3. Theater - There are three premier places to see sophisticated, highly elaborate shows. Take Manhattan by storm on a theater extravaganza and walk down Broadway cherry-picking your shows (better yet, plan well in advance to ensure you get a good seat to Spamelot or other shows). London is another world-famous theatre-going city. The theatre district is a bustling, gentrified area with restaurants, bars, and a bevy of classic plays as well as long-running popular shows such as Phantom of the Opera. Las Vegas seems to be Cirque du Soleil central with Mystere, O, Zumanity, as well as other shows and concerts.
4. Shopping Spree - Take the ladies to outlets that make wallets squeal with delight (or at least the girls clutching them). There are plenty of outlets in major metropolitan areas, usually just a quick road trip out of town. Or go glitzy on New York City's Fifth Avenue, Los Angeles' Rodeo Drive, at Chicago's Marshall Field's department store, along London's streets, inside Las Vegas resort casinos shoppies, and nearly anywhere else. Do a theme and take your friends antique shopping, or to flea markets in the Big Apple, Washington, DC, or Sunday markets in other cities such as Seattle or San Francisco.
5. Outdoor Adventure - Take a vote and decide on which outdoor sport suits your crew best. Whether toting firewood from car to campsite is recreation enough or white water rafting is desired, find the activities you love but have little time for, and plan a weekend escape from everything - work, men, bills, cars, cities. Live in the elements by biking, kayaking, canoeing, or parasailing. Rent a cottage or house by a lake or water body and spend all your free time swimming. Whatever the group energy level, a girl trip like this inevitably brings friends closer together, leaving great stories to tell for those who couldn't make it (ahem, or weren't invited). When the boys aren't around, there's less tension about looking good or not screwing up. Especially if bathing suits are involved.
I've adored traveling with my friends for get-togethers over the years. I raise my glass to any girl planning a getaway with friends. May traveling with girl friends bring you great joy, a wee bit of luck, no hangovers, and many reasons to continue staying in touch. What other types of girls getaways are out there?
I'm not sure if it's the thrill of traveling, alcohol shared among friends, a romantic new setting, or the free feeling of being away from home and responsibilities. My guess is it's a combination of all that can convert travelers to accidental romantics, leading to travel trysts and even some long-lasting relationships.
But be careful. Traveling can also raise toxic levels of flirtation. Enough to make any travel companion gag.
How can group trips increase your chances of meeting that Mr. or Ms. Right Now (or, better yet, that special someone for longer)?
- Meeting up for drinks or activities with other like-minded travelers is a great benefit of traveling when you're still single. When traveling solo (especially as a woman), it's not necessarily as easy to meet someone (or safe). However, when with a group of family or friends, you can meet other travelers, knowing you're in the safe comfort of traveling with those you trust.
- Destination weddings are naturally themed with romance. Attending a destination wedding as a singleton is a sure fire way to meet at least one eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Be proactive or non-chalant. Ask your friends to introduce you to anyone "special" they know who's attending. Or casually scan the ceremony for singles, and then find yourself next to them in the buffet line at the reception.
True story: A bride groom and groomsman at a destination wedding of a friend of mine met at the wedding and struck up a long-distance relationship for over a year. They also toured around the destination immediately after the wedding day with other wedding guests. Last I'd heard, after taking a 6-month break, they are back together and may try to live in the same city.
3. Vacationing with friends opens doors to meeting someone. Whether camping, skiing, road tripping, gambling in Las Vegas, or just doing a weekend getaway, friends of friends usually come well-recommended or at least well-researched.
True story: A good friend met a woman who was equally as crazy about skiing as he was. Shortly after they met through friends, a big group of them planned a European ski trip in January, where they got closer and have been dating seriously ever since.
4. Friends serve as "wing men." If you're single and traveling with a group of friends and you meet someone intriguing, chances are your friends will be encouraging. And they'll have your back in case things go awry. This makes it all the more fun to flirt and get to know someone at a bar in a different destination than when at home, you may be more likely to play it safe and stay in your comfort zone of just visiting with friends. If nothing else, you can come home and brag about the best kiss you've ever had while on the London Eye with a saucy Brit you and your friends met while on vacation.
True story: Being as vague as I possibly can be to protect a friend of mine, let's just say I've heard the Italian Riviera is a great aphrodisiac. Limoncello helps.
5. Travel where singles travel. Club Med caters to groups such as golf pals, sewing cirlce (many singles, too). Hedonism resorts in the Caribbean have singles activities and welcome groups. And we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Beaches around the world are also laden with possibilities. Plus, ski resorts and towns during the winter months are group gathering meccas and ideal for warming up with a cozy kiss.
In general, when traveling with friends or families, have fun, be yourself, and get into the groove of the trip. Play it safe. And be cool. In no time, the natural relaxation of the destination and comfortable group could lead to a romance of a lifetime.
Any other ways group trips can add a little romantic spice to a trip?
Don't get me started on the appeal of this massage treatment. It's as if my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fantasy of living amid treats and sweets grew up with me.
If you're in love with chocolate (enough to smother yourself in it), head to The Spa at The Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania for chocolate treatments sure to melt the soul. Perfect for a birthday party celebration or girls getaway (think bachelorette party). Men with chocolate fever can also enjoy spa treatments there as well.
Health benefits of chocolate are good news. Here is more information from Fine Dark Chocolate on wellness attributes such as possibly staving off heart disease, high blood pressure, and helping with anti-aging. Hmm... perhaps there's more to cocoa beans than meets the mouth?
Wine spas. Chocolate spas. What's next? Snickers spas with peanut wraps and nougat facials? Why doesn't the spa industry just splash us with Chardonnay and dip us in dark, dreamy, drippy chocolate syrup until we're so sick of our guilty pleasures that we seek wholesome, back-to-the-basics activities like dinner with the four food groups or jogging.
A European trend is quickly spreading. Two heavenly pleasures - spas and wine - are now joined in a marriage of grape bliss. Vinotherpy is the new term for bathing in wine-infused baths, cocoon wraps of grapeseed oils, grape extract facials, massages with oils and grapes. Perfect for a group girls getaway.
Les Sources in Bordeaux, France, was the pioneer in vinotherapy. Kenwood Inn in California was the first United States spa to dedicate all spa services to the grape and its derivatives. Why drink the elixir of centuries when you can swim in it? I say dive in. The water (bubbly, blush, red, or white) should be divine.
Ladies, this bud(get)'s for you. There's a lot of buzz lately about Budget Travel's new magazine for ladies only. That's right, men. Step aside. This doesn't mean women don't adore traveling with you - it just means quality girl friend time is like nothing else; so when women gather in giggly gaggles or small, serious groups, the travel industry takes notice and rewards women with a nice glossy periodical to peruse for travel ideas. (A higher end magazine for "savvy, sexy, and sophisticated" women "and the men who travel with them" is Travel Girl.)
Budget Travel's 40 Best Girlfriend Getaway Packages is an enticing start for their launch. Summer 2006 edition is on newstands now or available for online order after May 23 (I can hear the clip clop of heels and shuffling of hiking boots now). My guess is this magazine will attract working women, college chicas, and a range of ages alike.
Men: who knows? You just might find your girlfriend becoming more passionate about travel (and life) on her adventure away with the girls, which should spilleth over to your relationship. Concerned about couples traveling separately on vacation? Here are tips on how healthy it can be.
Nothing is worse than going on a group trip and discovering an incompatibility with your roomie. Traveling can become a bit of a petrie dish for issues, psychology, life - you never really know someone until you've traveled with them (or shared a room on a trip).
How do you survive an escorted group tour or trip with close traveling companions without throttling each other? For starters, it goes both ways. You may be a perfect travel companion in your own mind, but not in someone else's. Your passion for shopping might be bore or exhaust others. Their passion for fragrant perfume may give your gag reflexes a work-out. What to do?
- Communication is key.
- Honesty imperative.
- Listening skills are a must.
- Compromise when you can.
A quick way to ruin an otherwise fabulous trip is to find resentment building as you throw pillows, socks, apples at a roomie who snores, or roll your eyes each time your travel "buddy" wants to settle in late... showering and/or loudly fumbling through luggage and bags to find some long lost earring at 2 a.m. while you are jet-lagged as hell trying to nap.
Here are some helpful hints for common problems faced when sharing rooms and space. While Women's Travel Club wrote these for women travel, they also apply to any group travel scenario (co-ed and all). I've replaced most of the "she" pronouns to "they" and so forth.
Solution: Ask if this is an issue. Caveat: if your friend lives alone he/she might not know or agree on what to do if either of you snores. Consider ear plugs, window ajar for street buzz, a scarf around your ears, or take a new room. Proper etiquette is for the person who wants to change to pay for their new room.
Solution: Strong cologne or perfumes can be intrusive to others; best left at home. Go through routine personal products to make sure you are both happy with the steam wafting from the shower or the acetone from the nails.
Sharing with a smoker means a smoking room, a smoking floor and smoking tables at meals. Smokers will also be handicapped even isolated on tours as buses do not allow smoking.
Solution: Take separate rooms and talk about the consequences; there is no other way out.
Solution: Compare walking, step climbing, ability to carry luggage, deal with lack of sleep or dietary changes. Compare how long you like to linger over meals, need to get organized each day etc. Toleration works to a point, but if you are a marathon walker and she is taxi-er, this trip will not end in friendship. Spend a long day together to see where you differ and work out compromises. Example: if only one of you is taxi dependent, she should pay that expense. Same with porterage, excess baggage on tour, etc.
Solution: Be honest about the budget. Do you use porters? Always tip? Expect to take taxis instead of public transportation? Order expensive drinks? Each choose 2 splurges that add up to the same money and time. And compromise on those. Put all your joint expense money in a zip lock bag and pay from the bag. When the bag is empty, refill it together. Do not keep a ledger and settle up later on complicated overseas trips, either both use frequent flyer tickets or neither use them; if a flight is changed, you will at least be in the same situation.
Seeing vs. shopping
Solution: Every one hopes for different things from a trip. What you expect should be agreed on before you book. "Walk" through the trip, decide how you will use the free time. You each get to choose two options. If shopping annoys either of you, make a specific time to reconnect and part ways for a bit. Do not ask your room share to help you with your additional cumbersome packages. You bought it, you carry it.
Scared or feared
Solution: Make a list of your fears and absolutely 'will not do's'. You really don't want to find out your friend will not use elevators when you arrive at a high rise hotel!
ShmucksPeople who don't pay their fair share, who drink most of the wine, order the most and pay half.
Solution: Share expenses in a zip lock as above and speak up the very first time it happens.
Are you a woman of adventure? Love traveling to remote areas, stepping off the beaten path, but prefer the comfort of a group for safety and comaraderie?
Women-owned tour operators such as Adventurous Wench might just be for you. This company offers escorted, small group tours tailored to women's adventure cravings. The company seems to have a solid mission of putting private tours together around the world (from Costa Rica to Tuscany and Sedona to Patagonia) where women can relax while experiencing new cultures and invigorating activities. Adventurous Wench, saucy name and all, arranges everything from lodging and meals to activities; plus, they customize trips for groups of 5 or more.
If you're looking for an escorted group tour or planning a group vacation and incorporating tours into the mix, you can use TripHub's planning tools to coordinate the trip, gather RSVPs, organize money matters, even book other components of the trip that escorted tour operators may not arrange such as airfare, airport transportation, extended stays, etc.
When getting together on a spa trip with your friends for a bachelorette (or bachelor) party, birthday, or general getaway with friends, you'll want to make sure the group is aware of some basic spa etiquette.
Nothing is more certain when a group of good friends gets together (at least with my friends) than lively conversation and side-splitting laughter. But spas offer a place of tranquility, and sometimes we all need a gentle reminder that other guests are also paying for that peaceful away-from-reality setting.
Here are a few etiquette tips (so your group is welcome at the spa next year):
Schedule spa stays (at resorts or destination resorts) and/or appointments for service several months in advance to ensure your group has enough room, can secure rooms next to each other, and can schedule appointments together (steam room, wellness classes, etc.). Scheduling massages and other treatments simultaneously or around the same time allows you to go into the pools, steam rooms and ante rooms ahead of time together.
By scheduling appointments in sync or timed closely together, you can plan other activities before and after the spa service time. That way the whole group can continue to enjoy the trip together. You can set each day's agenda for the group loosely based around spa appointments.
When entering treatment areas and rooms, you'll get the most out of the experience (and so will others) if you stay quiet. Breathe deeply, absorb the relaxing air to its fullest, bring a good book for down times, and save the chit-chat with friends for meals (a time when others at the spa are likely to be more social), drinks out at a local restaurant or bars, on hikes or while doing activities outside of the spa, or create a happy hour haven for the gang in your room.
If you're organizing a group for a spa vacation, don't assume everyone has the same tipping policy in mind. While individuals can pay for individual massage or other appointments (and tip accordingly), you may want to remind the group before the trip to tip therapists (or if you as a planner are collecting money, be sure to collect enough to cover a 15% tip). While individuals can vary their tipping amount depending on service quality, when in a group, it seems especially polite to tip at least 15%.
Be sure to check with the spa for their general policy and ambience on nudity to prepare the group. Most likely there will be varying levels of comfort and familiarity about spa services within your group. Some destination spas or resorts offer services where you and others may be partially or fully nude, such as steam rooms, mud bath areas, etc. Phone the spa before scheduling appointments for the group so you can communicate clearly and set expectations, and the whole group can relax in their own comfort zone by choosing whichever spa services they prefer.
Whether your group travel plans take you on a getaway weekend with friends to a luxurious destination spa, spa appointments while golfing with the guys, or a visit to a day spa for a bachelorette party, spa etiquette is paramount.
While there are no set "rules" for spa-going (other than to lie back and relax while getting the pampering you deserve!) here are some etiquette hints from Spafinder.com that apply to groups:
Mixing activities and spa-going
On the day of treatment, try to stay out of the sun and avoid alcoholic beverages. Also, don't schedule a physically demanding endeavor after a spa appointment. When in doubt, contact the spa to ask whether it is advisable to engage in a particular activity prior to your appointment.
Some animals are welcome at certain resorts (likely not at day spas) but should not be brought to the spa. Be considerate of others by keeping your pet quiet and following the spa rules.
Cell phonesLeave phones and pagers at home or in your room; or turn them off before entering the spa.
PerfumeBecause the emphasis should be on relaxation and others may be allergic, it's best not to wear perfume to exercise classes offered at the resort or destination spa.
SmokingFor the most part, smoking is not allowed at any kind of spa. If it is, there are usually designated areas where you can smoke.
TherapistsIf you prefer either a male or female therapist, but the spa fails to ask, don't hesitate to let your choice be known. Also, if you have enjoyed the services of a particular therapist on a prior visit, feel free to request that person.
Punctuality at day spasArrive on time or early. If you are late, your treatment time will need to be shortened since the treatment room (and therapist) is generally booked after your session. After a treatment, it's customary to vacate the room within five or ten minutes. However, you are free to spend additional time unwinding in the day spa's relaxation or waiting rooms.
Socializing at destination spasMeals can often be arranged at shared tables, activities and evening programs foster interaction, and in general a sense of community is encouraged in a destination spa. Feel free to engage fellow spa goers in conversation, though try to stay away from stressful topics: Guests generally use spa visits as an opportunity to get away from the pressures of everyday life. If, on the other hand, you choose to maintain privacy, that can also be arranged. Though it is easy to form cliques in such surroundings, be considerate of engaging others as getting to know many of your fellow spa-goers is part of emotional wellness. Celebrity guests should be treated just like other guests and not disturbed by requests for autographs or other mementos.
Advance booking at resorts or destination spasAs resort and hotel spas often fill up quickly, book as far in advance as possible. Some resort/hotel spas can accommodate the group if you reserve treatments at check-in; others suggest booking prior to your arrival. Want to avoid the crowds? Try reserving a treatment during off-peak hours or during the week. If you do, you may also receive a discount. Favorite spa treatment times are usually in the late afternoon and mornings are the favorite times for more strenuous activities that many resort and destination spas offer.
CancellationUnexpected things do happen, and sometimes it's impossible to keep an appointment. If you must cancel, give the spa as much advance notice as possible. Be sure to ask if your money will be refunded; cancellation policies vary widely.
Many spas may offer group discounts, especially for special occasions (bridal showers or birthdays). Simply call and ask.
For more spa etiquette tips, visit spafinder.com.
Spas are my life. OK, not exactly. But if I could afford a massage daily, I'd schedule them. My favorite massage thus far was at Indian Springs Spa. The raw talent of the masseuse, the relaxed, unpretentious setting, outdoor pool, and fact that I was on a Napa Valley (read: wine country) vacation all helped bliss me out like never before. Closer to home (in Seattle), the Zen-like spa at Salish Lodge & Spa offers tranquility amid a mountain setting. And overseas, I sampled a famous eastern European-style spa in the Czech Republic (a little more clinical than I'd expected).
Nothing's better than experiencing a spa get-away with friends. Pedicures, facials, decadent settings, cucumber eyes, laughing and relaxing all at once. Ah, that's the life! The spa industry is finally catching on and offering deals and packages just for small to medium groups.
Spafinder.com recently partnered with a handful of luxury spas to offer deep discounts just for girls getaway weekends. Details:
More girls getaway spa specials:
Ready to plan a girls getaway at the spa of your choice?
Know of others spas that specifically cater to groups or offer special deals? Let me (and others) know by posting a comment below.
She's engaged. Your best friend. Your sister. Your cousin. Hard to believe the day is coming when she may take a new last name, have babies, and will settle into a home with her husband.
Send the bride-to-be off to married life with a bang or celebrate quietly. You be the judge of her taste. Ask her for input so you don't find her yawning through a theater show when she'd rather be doing Jell-O shots and giggling at "pleasure props," or vice versa, rolling her eyes at strippers when she’d rather have gone for pedicures and wine-tasting with her best girlfriends.
Here are some ideas I've seen (or helped organize) to punctuate the bride's last days (or night) being single with an all girls get-together.
1. Go gambling – Take the girls to Vegas with themed hotels, jackpot potential, concerts and shows galore, spa splendor, and outlet shopping. Walk down the Strip and take your pick of pleasures in Sin City. Book a hotel in any of the themed hotels on the Strip such as Wynn Las Vegas (newest Strip hotel with 18-hole golf course, spa, Cirque du Soleil shows and more), MGM Grand Hotel (tropical oasis created with multiple pools, and a river for tubing), Caeser's Palace (a tribute to the Roman Empire's decadence) and others. Find a Vegas hotel that's right for your group.
Other gambling hot spots with casinos, entertainment, restaurants, bars, and more for the bridal gathering include Atlantic City, New Jersey or Reno.
2. Spa day – Spending a day at a spa is one of the best ways to bond. Many spas offer packages with a multiple services combined (pedicure, massage, facial, manicure, etc.) for a discount. Still a spendy affair, but worth it for a special occasion like this and a great way to let girls be girls. Ask a spa if they have specials for bachelorette or bridal groups.
3. Swanky slumber party – Plan a weekend "get-away" to a local, luxury hotel for a night. Rent a big suite-sized room (or two, depending on your group size) to split costs while still enjoying luxury. The concept is ripe for variation. When I helped organized an event like this, my friends opted to bring food to the room and our own spa accoutrements to cut costs. We painted our nails, toes, and rented chick flicks, then swam in the hotel's pool before drinking and visiting in the room.
4. Wine-tasting – Women are a sophisticated and silly lot. Nearly every woman I know roars with wisdom on every subject under the sun: life, men, work, current affairs, gardening, the latest fashion fads, whathaveyou. All we need is a few good bottles of wine and the company of other women to let the laugher and conversation unfold organically. Give the bride a night (or entire weekend) of this quality time with the girls. Napa Valley is ideal for this flavor of weekend get-away.
5. Pub crawl in style – Create a map of the top five (or so) pubs, designate a limo driver for your group, and hit the town. Don't forget the playful props that will properly embarrass the bride (you know, that candy necklace for guys to take a bite of and pay her a dollar, or a tiara worn proudly to direct attention to the bride, and so forth). This tends to work best for younger brides and bridesmaids, of course.
6. Do lunch – Simply pick a favorite local restaurant of the newly engaged woman and make reservations. This is a classic way to involve co-workers or family friends and multi-generations. Create a festive air by making arrangements with the restaurant to decorate the table an hour ahead of time so when the bride walks in, the seating area is festive with streamers, her favorite colors, etc.
7. Camping and the great outdoors – Ahhh, the great outdoors. I've always found that camping with a group of my girl friends is a great way to relax, get some much-needed time away from city stress and obligations, and focus on each other. Some of the best friendship bonding time has been while camping or doing something else outdoors such as kayaking, hiking, or biking. If your bride is highly active and her closest friends are, organize an outdoor adventure. The options are endless. Ask her for suggestions and then plan the trip or day excursion. Campgrounds: http://www.koa.com
8. Lingerie party – Prep the bride for her new bedroom and give her something pretty in pink or bad-ass black. You know her personality – pick something fitting. Careful not to embarrass the poor girl too much if her mom or grandmother is attending the shower.
9. Dinner theater – Options here are nearly endless, but are best geared for something that suits the bride's tastes and can offer a chance for group interaction. Do dinner before a show (Cirque du Soleil, comedy club, or a touring Broadway show), or find a dinner theater event such as a cabaret (Teatro Zinzanni in SF or Seattle) or restaurant that has live entertainment. If you're anywhere near New York, I highly recommend Mamma Mia! on Broadway. The wedding theme and disco dancing lend themselves perfectly to a bridal party. Check for the latest news on Mammi Mia!
10. Traditional bridal shower – Shower the bride with stories (funniest story about her), photos (funniest picture – everyone brings one and tells the story behind it), and focus the day on the bride. Whereas the wedding is all about the couple, this event should be solely focused on her and why she's such a great friend, sister, cousin, roommate, person. Traditional showers usually include a lunch or appetizers by the hostess at someone's house. Silly games are played like creating wedding dresses out of toilet paper and having the bride be the judge or opening gifts and tying the bows together to create a faux bouquet for her to hold while walking through the dress rehearsal. It's always a bonus when small door prizes are given out.
If you're organizing a bachelorette party or bridal shower before your friend's wedding, TripHub's group planing tools work well for collaborating and coordinating the event in one central location (or "hub"). You can discuss hotel options, talk timing of itineraries, plus plan event details.
I'd love to hear other bachelorette party ideas. What's hot? What's not? What's worked well? Any comments?
Ladies, long to spend a get-away weekend of massages and wine-tasting with your friends? Guys, want to play unlimited golf with your old college friends guilt-free on vacation? Even while you’re in a relationship, it can be important to get some space.
Maintaining friendships outside of a relationship are often healthy ways to sustain not only the friendships, but your relationship or marriage. How comfortable are you taking off to join friends on a vacation without your honey? What are the best types of vacations with your friends vs. your mate?
Dr. Ruth Peters, Ph. D., in an article on MSNBC, offers advice to anyone considering taking a separate vacation from their spouse or partner. She also notes that “there is safety in numbers — group travel is significantly more secure than traveling alone, especially in locations foreign to you.”
Traveling with friends in a group is a safe way to go exploring and return home feeling rejuvenated, ready to share the excitement of your travels and plan the next vacation with your sweetie.
What works? Any tips on ways to get away with friends, while still preserving happy coupledom? Any ideas for group "girls only" or "guys only" get-aways? Post a comment below.
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