When we turned 50, a group of my college friends decided it was time for a girls' trip where we could chill out and kick up our heels. We went to Newport, Rhode Island for a sunny summer girlfriends getaway.
Since then, our group has grown from eight or nine to fourteen, all same-year graduates of Middlebury College in Vermont. We've spent weekend vacations together in Boston, D.C., Chicago, and Montreal. One year, the getaway was a bike trip in Vermont. We're just back from San Francisco, where we enjoyed the brisk, fog-free November weather.
When I tell people that I spend a weekend away with a dozen college friends hailing from places as diverse as Boise and Boston and Bethesda, they're envious and amazed. But really, all it takes is a little bit of planning to have a great big good time.
Each year, one of us undertakes the job of planning the trip – sometimes because our destination is where she lives, sometimes just because. I had an ulterior motive for being the svengali for San Francisco: my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live there. Eleven of us Middleburyites had a wonderful weekend, eating out, visiting museums, and taking a Bay cruise.
So go ahead, round up a group of friends – high school or college buddies, far-flung sisters or cousins. And plan an annual girls trip. We've learned over time that it's smart to keep it simple. Here are some girls' weekend ideas and planning tips:
Pick a Weekend: We've probably spent more time e-mailing our availability back and forth than actually taking the trips! Finally, we've settled on a plan: we reserve Veteran's Day weekend each year. That way, everybody knows from the get-go to keep it open. Since we find ourselves heading south on our weekend vacations (next stop: Charleston), early November is a nice-weather but still off-season choice.
Pick a Place: Since we have East and West Coasters, wherever we go we know at least a couple of people will be flying in. So we look for a city that has quick airport-to-downtown transportation. We'd like to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I suspect we never will because either you drive an hour north from Albuquerque Airport, or you endure an eight- or nine-hour trip from the East Coast in order to fly into Santa Fe.
The other key thing is a walkable city. We're there to catch up with each other and since we like to walk and talk, we spend a lot of time on our feet.
Pick a Hotel: We're united on a preference for value over luxury. Okay, call us cheapskates. We all fondly remember the Boston trip where we stayed for a mere $50 each per night at the beautifully located downtown club one of us belonged to. In San Francisco, I chose the Stanyan Park, a small hotel in a landmark building that is largely overlooked by tourists because it isn't near Union Square or the Embarcadero. But it is across the street from Golden Gate Park and within walking distance of two top museums. And we could stay there without breaking the bank.
Pick Restaurants: The cuisine and grandeur of the eateries is left up to the person who's arranging the trip. Sometimes we eat fancy. Sometimes we eat near the hotel. In San Francisco one night, we commandeered the hotel's breakfast room and ordered in pizza. To me, what's key is choosing a cuisine that suits everyone (one of our party vetoed my favorite Indian restaurant, and that's just fine), and making sure we won't have to wait.
Pick an Event: We sometimes like to split up into smaller groups and explore different parts of the city, so it's fun to have one key event that everyone participates in. For San Francisco, it was an Alcatraz tour. I bought the tickets two months ahead for the popular evening tour, and it was fascinating to land on the prison island by day, and debark toward a city of glittering lights.