We’ve been planning the perfect Girls Getaway. It has been a while in the making. Lots of back and forth. Deciding who to invite on this epic girls trip. Searching for interesting destinations and cities. What type of car should we rent? What sort of activities do we want to do? Are there any food allergies to consider? Trying to decide which flights would get us all into the same city when we were coming from three different locations in Canada. Coordinating travel plans is never easy but when you throw in different departure dates, conflicting schedules and multiple cities, you could be in trouble. Fortunately, there were a few factors in our favour: (1) we had travelled together before – though not all together; (2) we had similar tastes and needs to satisfy and lastly; (3) we all came to the table with a healthy dose of humour.
Here’s the thing, if you are going to plan an extended trip away you need to get a few things right including accommodations, good meals, a variety of activities as well as some down time. We like each other a lot but sometimes, you just need to be by yourself to take a walk down the beach in the setting sun!
We are four travel and lifestyle bloggers that have seen our fair share of travel but many of us had never been to some of the areas in Florida that we visited. We worked with Visit Florida to put together an itinerary that would be entertaining, educational, cultural and adventurous all in one week in October! You can read all about Sandi’s impression of the trip on Canadian Blog House, Paula’s highlights of St. Augustine on Thrifty Momma’s Tips and Aeryn’s fabulous food pictures on Geek with Style.
Before you organize your next trip with your girlfriends (or even with other couples) have a read about what we felt were important criteria for making a trip successful.
Consider who you are travelling with carefully. It may be family members or friends, you may have travelled together before or maybe just a few of you have been to a conference together. Make sure you have a good balance of personalities. There will always be the organizer, with a spreadsheet of the itinerary in hand and an eye for details. There will likely be the peacemaker, the person who will know how to sooth possible differing of opinions. There will be the adventurer, willing to try something new be it food or a jumping off a cliff. There will be the easygoing one that will go along with just about anything and there will be a nervous-nelly that will worry about being on time and missing a flight. We also had our share of the joker (seeing the nuttiness in any situation) and the poster – for us social media types – that is the person constantly updating Instagram stories. Be patient. Even best of friends have personality quirks you need to accept or overlook sometimes. Everyone will have a role of some sort and finding the balance is key.
All of these personalities traits came in handy when our flight was diverted and we missed our connection, our accommodations were a bit challenging, and we needed to keep on schedule to get us to our designated meeting with our tourism board rep. On the latter point we found it essential to have an excellent navigator. Play on each other’s strengths share the jobs and keep laughing.
- Download Google maps to your phone or tablet and start the navigation when you still have data or Wi-Fi. This will let you use the navigation without the use of data. Having a person help with the navigations lets the driver concentrate on the road. Also, this person is key to keeping the driver alert, hydrated while spinning the tunes. They help choose the radio station .
- Once you have decided who you are going to travel with, create a group chat in Facebook. This facilitated communication when we needed to make decisions on flights, excursions and final budgeting. It also let us share pictures at the end of the trip. Upon our return, we created a shared Dropbox folder for us to share our pictures. Communication is key to a successful getaway.
- Depending on the car you are renting, you need to consider if you will have one driver or two (I strongly suggest two). Because I did not want to drive a large SUV (I hate parking those behemoths), I choose a smaller SUV. I then asked my travel partners to limit the size of the luggage. This also helped when we had a tight connection and we needed to make sure we were not bumped off the flight because our luggage was not with us. In the end, everyone had a carry-on and a computer bag or backpack. We were all given travel bags and goodies that were helpful when retuning home with our extra towels and t-shirts.
Have a variety of excursions. If someone wishes to do something different from the group, let them (i.e.:go back to the hotel/visit a different attraction). I absolutely love museums, history and culture. I would rather sit in front of a masterpiece than say… go kayaking. That means that it is good to have a smattering of different excursions and attractions. I fell in love with the Salvador Dali and Chihully Collection in St. Petersburg. I was, however, not so keen on the Clearwater Aquarium but that was a highlight for others. I patiently waited through the dolphin show and they humoured me when I squealed with glee when I saw the fashions from Downton Abbey
Travel with an open mind. Try new things and experiences with your girlfriends. I was a bit nervous of kayaking and I was really hesitant. I just didn’t want to do it. My girlfriends were nothing but encouraging and helped me get over the fear. Our wonderful trip with Buddy from Amelia Kayaking was one of the highlights of our trip. This is what creates great memories!
Try to pick a destination that none of your group have traveled to so you can explore it together with a sense of wonder. Consider destinations you would not do with your family. Time to try new things, explore new cities and have a grownup adventure. Choose a wide variety of excursions so there’s something for everyone. Do a bit of research regarding what’s fun and unique to the area you are visiting. Our group took a Ghost Tour one evening that I skipped out on because that is just not my jam. But by token, I didn’t want to kayak again so we switched gears and we did a Segway tour with St Augustine bike rentals. Our guide John went above and beyond and got us around town and home safe and sound. We had a blast. I’m so happy we could switch gears without creating too much drama.
- Know yourself and your travel style. If you need quiet time to decompress find the time to do that so you can be present and enjoy time when you are together. Maybe hit a fitness centre or go read by the pool. Get up early and take a walk by yourself on the beach or go for a drive. I decided to drop by the Fort De Soto State Park for a quick tour while the girls had a fight with a door (that is a whole different story that necessitates drinks and appetizers).
- Eat good food. Life is too short to have mediocre crab cakes! We had a wonderful time eating our way through the state. We had simple breakfasts and lunches but the dinners seem to be the sweet spot for us. One meal at Catch 27 stands out for all of us. Don’t be afraid to consult Trip Advisor, Yelp or even Google and read reviews. I know we have all posted reviews of our culinary adventures. Eat what is local and try and frequent restaurants that are farm to table (or sea to table in this case). You’ll have fresher food and you will also see how different areas integrate local ingredients into familiar favourites.Find out if someone has a food allergy. It’s important to take that into consideration when you are ordering dishes that you are going to share. One of us had an avocado allergy and we became really good about pointing that out. Also establish some eating guidelines. When you are in a group environment and you want to share make sure you have permission to take a bite. We got pretty familiar and had no problems doing this but this is not for everyone.
Also enjoy a cocktail. We had the best mixologist at Catch 27. Our cocktails were so yummy. Don’t be afraid to have a beer and listen to some music. We had the opportunity to listen to an open mic session while we were walking around St. Augustine. It was a great surprise and the beer was nice and cold. On the flip side, one of the girls in the group was not much of a drinker, that is good too. Make sure you take that into account.
- Splurge a little! Don’t be afraid to do a little shopping while you are on vacation. Stop by a shopping mall or outlet mall (one happen to be close to the Jacksonville airport). For some reason we hit the gift shop at the St. Augustine’s Visitor’s Centre hard. We all found something fun and quirky for our family and friends. There were a few choice items that we left behind. Let’s just say, I won’t be wearing this over the holidays.
It is never easy to organize a trip and travel with people that you are not related to. By token it can be a lot of fun because you don’t have to worry about choosing a restaurant that your kids will like. Take a chance and travel with a few girlfriends. Make plans, download a map, check out a review and have fun. There is a whole world out there and funnily enough, Florida has such a diversity of coasts, palettes and attractions that you are bound to find something for everyone. Be sure and follow along on our adventures.
Disclosure: I was the guests of St. Augustine, Jacksonville and St. Peters Beach and Clearwater tourism boards as part of a #VisitFlorida Girls Getaway trip. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and all opinions are my own.