Now that we have a renewed appreciation for the freedom to travel, many of you might be making up for a lost time, and planning holidays with both family and friends. I recently returned from one such holiday that I took with my girl gang. Having cemented our bond over the pandemic with quiet get-togethers at our homes and in-depth WhatsApp discussions about our favourite television shows, traveling together was the one thing we had not yet done. And while a carefree trip to Goa sounds easy and breezy, any group trip has the potential for trouble if everyone is not on the same page. Therefore, since most of us have been rusty after the last couple of years, I wanted to share tips for how to plan a smooth and fabulous girls’ trip.
Make it a Collaboration
Chennai is full of friend groups that take trips together, and I’ve observed that each group has 1 or 2 people who act as the main organiser. This is the person who gets the ball rolling, finds the accommodation, and plans the activities and restaurants. If your group has one of those enthusiastic members who are happy to take on these duties, then you are lucky! But for a girls’ trip of 4-6 people, it works out better to make it a collaborative effort by assigning tasks to each person. Booking the stay, making the restaurant reservations, planning activities and entertainment: give each person one portfolio to focus on, while also asking everyone to contribute suggestions. Not only does this ensure that the main organiser doesn’t get overwhelmed, but it gives each member of the group a feeling of agency which prevents anyone from feeling left out or unheard.
Discuss Budgets from the Start
You could meet friends regularly year round and never have budget be an issue, but go on a trip and suddenly find that there is a disparity which can make for awkwardness. This is because people can have very different travel styles; some who travel less often may prefer to go all out and spend lavishly, while others like to keep expenses down so they can justify more trips, or prefer to allot more of their budget towards eating and drinking rather than a fancy hotel. So while you’re in the initial planning stage of your girls’ trip, have a frank discussion about what everyone’s budget is and then honour that. Remember that everyone does not have to opt in for every activity. Some members may be keen to dine at an expensive restaurant, while others would rather spend an afternoon at the spa. With enough planning, you can strike that balance between spending time together and meeting individual preferences. It is also important that everyone is aware of the extra charges that can add up. For example, we stayed in a villa with staff who would go out and purchase whatever we wanted, but there was a substantial charge for each time they stepped out to do so. We ensured that everyone was aware of this so that we could consolidate our requests and not get hit with a delivery bill that surpassed the cost of the purchases.
Decide on the Vibe
Is this trip about sightseeing and adventure? Or is it about sleeping in and seeing where the wind takes you? This is another area where people’s travel styles vary, but even this can be reconciled as long as everyone knows ahead of time what to expect. Years ago I went to Thailand for the first time for a bachelorette. The host sent us a marvellous itinerary filled with cultural activities and visits to famous sites like the Jade Temple. But once we arrived, the planning flew out the window in favour of late nights and unscheduled wandering. Had I known that this was to be the vibe of the trip, I would have relaxed into it, but instead, I was sorely disappointed to be visiting this culturally rich country and not seeing anything more than malls and massage parlours. So I took things into my own hands and booked a solo, day-long tour that gave me some of the best experiences of the trip–including the Jade Temple!
Just like with your budget, be up front about your expectations for the holiday. Clearly state what your can’t-miss activities are, then pledge to be easygoing about everything else. Another factor to consider is the level of partying–are you a two drink gal while your travel mates plan to throw back shots until the wee hours? Are you comfortable heading back to the hotel early while the others carry on? I certainly was! But if it is safer to stay together, you may have to be prepared to stay out well past your bedtime, and without pouting about it.
Most groups start with a bustling itinerary with the understanding that they will not get around to all of it. On the other hand, if the organiser has put a lot of effort into booking activities, imagine how they’d feel if others opt out at the last minute. Therefore deciding on the pace and mood of the holiday ahead of time is a must to avoid disappointment.
Plan Your Looks
Women love to dress up for other women, and on a girls’ trip, they may want to indulge that desire to the maximum, especially without a husband grumbling over how long they are taking to get ready! But some, like yours truly, may want to prioritise comfort over style. I knew before our Goa trip that I would be the only one following the frill-free Goan dress code, while my fashionable travel mates would be beautifully turned out and accessorised. In spite of being prepared for this, I still felt a little out of place and decided to spend more time taking photos of them rather than posing myself. If feeling underdressed would bother you too, make sure you discuss what kind of clothes everyone is bringing! Your beach casual might mean denim shorts and flip flops, while theirs are designer caftans and towering wedges. Of course, you should not feel pressured by this, but ensuring you are on the same level fashion-wise for at least one or two of the main outings is a good idea, and will make for great group photos.
Use Technology to Stay Organised
Start a shared Google document or spreadsheet to keep all the information in one place, especially restaurant reservation timings. WhatsApp groups are convenient, but important information can get lost in all the excited messaging, and you will always have that one person asking for the same info again and again. And for accounts, apps like Splitwise have proven to be a game changer! The delicate issue of money can spoil group dynamics. Remember that episode of Friends in which Joey, Rachel, and Pheobe get fed up with splitting the cheque equally with the other three who earn and spend more? With Splitwise, you never have to worry about getting shortchanged, nor do you have to hand the waiter a jumble of credit cards with instructions on how to split the bill. Simply form your group on the app, and have everyone take turns paying. Enter each payment into the app, noting who paid and if it should be split equally or only amongst selected members. At the end of the trip, the app tallies everything up and shows the final balances of who owes who how much. How convenient is that?!
Girls Trip = Girl Code
The purpose of a girl’s trip goes way beyond partying, shopping, and relaxing. It is a chance for women to step out of the roles of mother, wife, and lady of the house, and to just be themselves for a brief period. It’s also a chance to have deeper conversations without the fear of being overheard or judged. When given this freedom, many women are inclined to divulge more about themselves than they would back home. And when they do return home, they should enjoy a feeling of catharsis from that sharing, rather than anxiety from being vulnerable. If you agree with this, then you must honour the girl code on girls’ trips by keeping your lips sealed! Even your husband should not be privy to any sensitive information shared while bonding. Treat your girls’ trip as a safe space, and watch how your friendships deepen when this trust is developed.
And there you have a guide on how to go about planning an awesome girls’ holiday. We returned from Goa refreshed and ready to dive back into our other roles, with deeper bonds and wonderful memories. I wish the same for you, so go on and get planning!
– By Priyanka Acharya