These tips work for any type of small-group travel, whether yours is a girlfriends getaway, sisters break, guy trip, moms and daughters timeout, book club retreat or wine-and-whine weekend. We’re talking any age, any gender and couples or singles traveling in a group — but “girlfriends getaway” gets more Google hits, so that’s what we’re going with.
The women shown above enjoyed a Leelanau Peninsula wine tour weekend offered by Glen Arbor Bed and Breakfast and Cottages.
Before we get to the planning tips, why choose a #MichBnB for your girlfriends getaway? Because you’ll get:
- A wonderful sit-down breakfast that no one in the group has to prepare or clean up after.
- High standards for cleanliness, safety and comfort if you choose a Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association member inn. Our B&Bs are inspected periodically by trained, independent reviewers. (Don’t take cleanliness and safety for granted when you book a place.)
- Minimal or no bathroom sharing, depending on the sleeping arrangements. In a hotel, each room has its own bathroom, of course, but the rooms are sterile, and you won’t feel free to leave your door open if you want to visit another room. Meanwhile, the average vacation rental is a single-family home with one master suite and a number of smaller sleeping quarters, contributing to a “have” and “have not” feeling in your group.
- Welcoming common areas at most B&Bs, where your group can hang out — maybe even in your pajamas.
- Physical amenities that can include: Indoor and/or fireplaces; outdoor hot tubs; beverage centers and kitchenettes; on-site spas; ballrooms; spaces for crafts or yoga, and more.
- Customizable services ranging from bottomless cookie jars and late-night sundae bars to meals other than breakfast to transportation for your wine tour or pub crawl. Discuss the possibilities when you book your stay.
- The likelihood of deals and packages geared toward small-group travel, especially in a B&B’s slower season. Always check out Offers on this website as a starting point.
Planning tips for a girlfriends getaway
“When” is Topic #1. When you first get together or hold a group chat about a girlfriends getaway, set aside for the moment questions such as “where” and “how much?” Focus first on when to go somewhere.
Narrow it down to a couple three-day, two-night periods that work for everyone. Ask everyone to temporarily hold those dates on their calendars.
Better pricing can be had if your group chooses days between Sunday and Thursday, compared to a weekend. Prices and extra services usually are negotiable in the inn’s off-season. In peak times and popular towns, not so much.
“What” is Topic #2. What is the purpose of the trip? How do you want to spend time? Develop a shared sense of the ideal ratio between scheduled activities and free time.
“Where” comes next. That gets easier once the group has identified “when” and “what.” If someone needs to fly in, which airport works best? Rfine the discussion by identifying the maximum distance people are willing to drive.
“How much” and “how many” are the next pieces. Figure that everyone riding in a vehicle will share the fuel expense and that for meals out, it’s buy-your-own. For the accommodations, including breakfast and any must-include extra service, what is the maximum per-person price that group members are willing to pay? As this can be a sensitive topic, one idea is to pass around small pieces of paper and ask each person to write down his or her maximum. Tally the results and report them for discussion.
At this stage, also determine your group’s minimum and maximum number of people and number of rooms required.
Research B&Bs in target area. Now it’s time to identify some inns whose location and size meet your basic parameters. Appoint one or more persons in the group to make contact. This task often falls to one person — and often the same person every time — but it can be a chore, so find ways to share the duties. I recommend this approach:
Check dates. Use the B&B’s own online booking calendar* to see if your dates are available. If you’re planning far in advance, as many groups do, and see no availability at a desirable inn, contact the owners anyway to verify. You may find they haven’t yet set up next year’s calendar.
Contact the innkeeper. If the dates are showing as available, sound out the innkeeper by email to see if he or she is willing to discuss your group getaway. Set a phone date so you both will be organized and prepared to ask and answer questions. Follow up afterward with email to summarize the points covered and to identify open items. (If the innkeeper offers to do this and does so promptly, that’s one sign of an innkeeper who will be good to work with.)
Exclusive booking? Does your group wish to be the inn’s only guests for the duration of your stay? If so, ask what is the minimum number of rooms your group needs to reserve for the owner to block out the inn’s additional rooms.
Pricing. Although the ongoing cost of maintaining rooms is approximately equal, B&B owners set individual room prices based on a perception of each room’s desirability in terms of size, features, location in the house, and how much people will be willing to pay. If your group consists of couples or mother-daughter duos, go along with the variable pricing; who takes which room will sort itself out.
If your group, however, consists of unrelated adults who will share rooms, double occupancy, work with the owner to arrive at per-person pricing for your two- or three-night stay.
Payment and cancellation deadlines. For a group booking, it’s typical for an innkeeper to request a deposit of 50 percent.** Also expect a deadline of perhaps 30 days or more for final payment or cancellation.
It’s recommended that organizers set even earlier deadlines for group members and that group members agree in advance on how to handle late payers and last-minute cancellations within the group.
Plan early for best selection of rooms, but when you can’t, your group’s spontaneity could land you a really sweet deal. Always check our Offers; they vary over time. Just go make memories with friends. Take lots of photos.
* Only a B&B’s own website will show the REAL availability. Those huge online travel agency (OTA) sites play games to steer you to whoever pays them more.
** The deposit is 100 percent if you book through an OTA. Watch out for the 5 to 15 percent service fee some of them tack on. And the owners of that great B&B you’re going to? They don’t see a penny until after you arrive. Here are more reasons to avoid OTAs and book direct.
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