Welcome to Dear Here, an advice column from Here Magazine where we tap into the hearts and minds of travelers, working with experts to find solutions to travel issues you can’t always solve with a search engine.
I’m planning my best friend’s bachelorette in a few months—it’s going to be roughly 10 girls, one long weekend. We’re not quite settled on where it’s going to be yet, but I want to get in the right headspace to be able to plan this trip for such a large group. We have a lot of different kinds of people on the trip from different friend groups: the bride’s high school friends from Texas, a couple of new mothers, married women, and single gals. Some are wild partiers while others are more low-key, and one I know of doesn’t drink. Additionally—and what I’m most concerned about—we’re all at different income levels. How is it possible to (try!) to please everyone? What are the best strategies for planning a trip like this?
Dear Party Planner,
We don’t envy you! Being responsible for large group trip planning is a heavy burden—it’s kind of amazing that this tradition of forced bachelor/bachelorette pageantry continues on in the face of such high cost, time spent, and risked relationships. Everyone complains about it, but everyone also wants their turn. We’ve almost always experienced, however, that at the end of an exhausting long weekend with some close friends (and some not) that we were glad we went through with it.
Fortunately, between all of us at Here Magazine, we’ve been through our fair share of large group travel experiences and planning, and with our combined brain powers we may just be able to give you exactly the kind of direction you need to make this an ace bachelorette for your bride-to-be BFF, from how to get started, where to stay, food and itinerary planning, as well as money management and handling group dynamics.
It’s Never Too Early
Start planning as soon as humanly possible. It’s never too early send the initial planning email to set dates, pick a location, and start buzz for the itinerary. A year to seven months in advance is ideal. —Annie Werner; Managing Editor, Digital
Since you have such a varied group of people with equally varied interests, think of places that have it all instead of places that are known for just one thing (Vegas for gambling, NOLA for partying, etc.) It’s hard to go wrong with somewhere versatile that can appeal to different needs and expectations. San Diego is a good example: You get beach and mountains, vineyards and breweries, nightlife and a historic Old Town, luxury dining and hole-in-the-wall taco shops. Other cities with a similar choose-your-own-adventure vibe: Portland, Maine; Denver, Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia. —Emma Glassman-Hughes; Senior Associate Editor, Print
The Group Matters
The smaller and closer the group the more you can turn this into a girls trip vs. the (more obnoxious IMO) traditional bachelorette. If the invites haven’t already gone out, try to whittle down the number of people participating. People are going to so many of these things these days, if someone is a fringe member of the group, they will probably be grateful not to have spend all the money hanging out with a bunch of people they don’t know very well. —AW
Doodle is your friend.
Send options! If I’m planning a group trip, I try to send out a poll before booking anything. Does my group want a hot tub more than a lakeside view? Do they care more about bathroom space or bedroom space? Then take that feedback and make your selections—I usually pick three to cover the full range of prices versus perks. Most votes wins. —Chloe Scheffe; Senior Editorial Designer
Start with budgets first
It would help your planning process immensely to gauge everyone’s max budget before you start making nitty gritty plans. Even better: make your budget ask anonymous to minimize discomfort. —EGH
Have every person share what their budget is for each night as a starting off point and then have each of them give a suggestion on where to stay. This way it’s not just one person doing all the heavy lifting, and you can tell if there’s a clear winner if multiple people suggest the same place. —Eunice Cancino; Associate Manager, Social Media
Airbnbs vs. Hotels
The first rule of group trip planning is to book a spacious Airbnb with plenty of beds and bathrooms. This is not only the most cost effective, it’s also crucial for group dynamics, since home base is where all the best bonding takes place. —Ally Betker; Editorial Director
This is definitely the first place you should start. Find the place, lock it in, and everything else will follow. I find it really helpful when this is done as far in advance as possible to space out people’s budgets, too. I am, however, going to make the case for hotels. Large group houses are great, but they don’t leave as much flexibility if people cancel last minute. It also gives people space to be by themselves if needed and people can group up with the friends they know best on the trip. —AW
Group dinners/meals must be planned way in advance. Restaurants that do a pre-fixe or family style are always better for large groups so you aren’t waiting around forever for people to order, etc. Fun tip: if the restaurant is putting together a custom menu for your group, ask to have “Bride’s Name Bachelorette” or something written on top. It’s a fun (and cheap) surprise for the bride. —AW
If you’re staying at a house, stock the fridge with breakfast, snacks, and booze to cut costs on meals and drinks out. —AB
In the past, we’ve picked-up groceries and alcohol or even had Instacart deliver to the Airbnb. This is more next-level, but I’ve had friends organize guest chefs to make dinner or had restaurants cater at the Airbnb. Someone I know even had a taco truck stop outside the house in Austin. —AW
If I’m hosting the trip, I’ll usually have a few daytime activities selected in advance, but I don’t plan each day ahead of time, instead gauging the group’s energy level and making a plan at the start of each day. If an activity doesn’t feel right, ditch it. Don’t worry about squeezing too much into these big trips. Avoid scheduling anything too early in the day, especially if you’re taking advantage of any local nightlife. —AB
I’m not a huge planner by nature; I like to feel out a city and let my gut lead the way—which I fully admit can be a challenge when big groups are involved. The key is balance and flexibility; think through a few activity options for each day so that people don’t feel totally clueless about things to do, but don’t overschedule so much that everyone feels obligated (read: resentful) to follow a rigid checklist. Don’t overthink it; if people aren’t feeling any of the museums you picked out, swallow your pride and open your web browser. Google is everyone’s friend; you have to work really hard to be bored in a new city nowadays. —EGH
“Good For Groups”
Lounging by a pool, beach days, renting a boat, and workout/yoga classes are good activities for big groups. Avoid vague plans like “explore the neighborhood” unless it’s explicit that people are good to split off and do they’re own thing. —AW
Needs vs. Wants
Put together a list of what you can’t go without doing and a list of what it would be nice do if you had extra time. Think of it as a needs versus wants strategy. It helps you plan out your days around certain activities or stops and gives you plenty of suggestions on how to fill in your free time. It also makes it easier to divide into smaller groups when the people’s choice doesn’t come to a majority. —EC
Make it Accessible
Once you have everything planned out, make sure the group can easily access the itinerary. I find the best way is to make the weekend plan screenshot-able, so they can just go into recent photos and don’t have to search through email for it. If people don’t have access, you’ll just get barraged with questions constantly. You don’t need to write out every bar you want to hop around to in the itinerary, but you need to have that list somewhere readily available. Someone’s got to lead the group and it’s probably going to be you! —AW
Be as open as possible. Forthrightness around money is really refreshing, and will help the group feel that they can share their preferences and limitations freely. —CS
If budgets aren’t the same across the group, it’s worth planning one activity a day, whether it’s a meal or otherwise, where everyone will be together and with the full understanding there’s no judgement for going your own route. —EC
Set Rules; Use Technology
Money-wise, I think you have to just be compassionate about what people are comfortable with financially. Try to plan things at diverse price points, and make it known that it’s totally OK to skip stuff if there’s an activity they don’t want to participate in. Have one person pick up the tab at restaurants and other group activities and calculate cost-splitting at the end. Also, you must get everyone to download Splitwise before the trip so you can seamlessly divide expenses (which people can individually customize and input as they go). Another thing to consider: decide (and make it known beforehand) whether or not everyone else is covering for the bride’s expenses. I hate this part, but it’s an unfortunately reality. —AW
I always have a fear of getting sick of the people I’m traveling with and vice versa, so I would make sure that people feel encouraged to go out and explore on their own from time to time. Scheduling in some intentional breaks in between all the ~intense bonding~ that’s sure to be happening will serve everyone in the long run. —EGH
It’s OK to Opt Out
For the benefit of the introverts in particular, make sure everyone in the group knows that opting for me-time as needed is okay. The cure for any tension around budgets or partying is an atmosphere where peer pressure isn’t a factor and motivations won’t be picked apart. Self-care is group care, too. —CS
It Doesn’t Matter
Though you are responsible for planning, you are not responsible for managing everyone’s emotions. Let’s be real: The only thing that really matters at the end of the day is what the bride wants, and no one else. Beyond that, just think of how you can make the most of your chosen destination and keep the itinerary flexible. Keep that perspective and let people do and feel as they please. —AW