How to Plan a Special Occasion Group Travel Experience
Think about it, there are very special birthday milestones, wedding anniversary milestones, retirement celebrations, as well as multi-generational family travel experiences. On an annual basis, baby boomers are investing untold millions building important lifelong memories through travel.
Pictured to the right are the ladies from our group posing with our dear friend Karen (2nd from the left) as nine of us enjoyed a long weekend getaway to celebrate Karen’s 60th birthday.
Carol and I have planned scores of these types of experiences and thought you might enjoy a few tips on how to plan a fabulous special occasion group travel experience.
The first decision to be made is to determine who will be traveling, or invited to travel on your celebratory getaway. Things that can complicate an experience like this are a large group size, widely disparate age ranges, the physical agility of the group, financial considerations, as well as the general interests of the group. The needs of a multi-generational group are going to be significantly different than those of a bunch of boomers on a long weekend getaway. In particular, young children will require a much higher level of activity than those of an older group.
Our personal experience: in our most recent special occasion group travel experience, as we were planning to get away for the birthday of a good friend, we kept the group to close friends of the birthday girl. Further, we decided to keep the size of the group to no more than 12 +/- people. If you get larger than 12-14 people, it becomes a little more difficult for the group to get around. Plus, twelve or less lends itself to a more intimate occasion.
Provided that your special occasion doesn’t lock you into a specific date, you should give a fair amount of consideration to when your group will travel. Certainly the weather is a major consideration, but you should also put the “herds” typical travel patterns into consideration as well. For example, if you plan to travel around the holidays, or during the busy summer travel months, you should be aware that you’re going to be paying top dollar for your special occasion group experience. If you can, plan to travel in a destination’s “shoulder season”. Here, you will find that desirable weather is still available, but the crowds are generally gone. Therefore, you can find significant savings for your group. A good example of this can be found in our hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. If you travel to Scottsdale in the busy winter months, your hotel room is going to cost you significantly more than if you wait until the shoulder season that arrives each year right after Easter. The weather is still nice, and the nightly rate for a hotel room is likely to drop as much at 60% or more per night. This will give you a LOT more bang for your buck, and allow you financial resources to invest in more destination experiences.
Our personal experience: our special occasion group travel experience was centered around our friends 60th birthday in early November. Therefore, we were locked into a date and needed to find a spot in the U.S. that would give us nice weather and experiences that would cater to our group. We settled on Santa Barbara, California and enjoyed sunny 75º weather every single day.
Where to travel really depends on how much time you have to celebrate your special occasion, the financial resources of the group’s participants, and how long it will take for everyone to arrive at the destination. A 60th birthday European river cruise, for example, would require at least 10 days and a larger financial commitment for the group, than a long weekend getaway to one of our nation’s wine country destinations. Further, you would want to have a fairly good idea of the group’s general interests. Golfing one of the world’s best golf courses would be a dream come true for some, whereas, a long-weekend wine tasting experience would simply be the cat’s meow for others. Further still, lodging is one of the “where” considerations. Are you looking for a posh luxury resort, a boutique bed and breakfast, or simply a clean budget hotel to rest your head each night. Another option that we’ve found popular with special group travel experiences are some of the wonderful all-inclusive resorts that are available in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii.
Our personal experience: as I mentioned above, our special occasion group travel experience was driven by our friend’s 60th birth date. So we settled on Santa Barbara to give us a nice November travel experience. Santa Barbara has a host of lodging options from fabulous 5-star resorts to the typical budget hotels that you can find in most places across the country. As we were looking for a more intimate lodging experience that would also give us some of the luxury options that boomers have come to enjoy, we opted to lodge in The Simpson House Inn, America’s only AAA 5-Diamond Bed & Breakfast.
Carol and I stayed at the Simpson House Inn back in 2011 (our article link) and we knew that this B&B would not only give us the touch of luxury that we desired, but also an intimate atmosphere where we all spend some time together. As you can see in my photographs below, this updated 19th-century mansion provided us beautiful spaces to congregate, an absolutely fabulous complimentary breakfast each morning, a wonderful spread of hors-d’oeuvre with local wines each night, a crackling fire in the living room each night, as well as wonderful nooks around the property to spread out for a little quiet time.
When planning your special occasion group travel experience, we recommend that you have a least one very memorable destination experience that your group will be excited about, and one that will also give them a wonderful lifetime memory. If you’re doing an ocean or river cruise experience, this alone would qualify as a destination experience. But if you’re headed to a particular destination, look high and low for the area’s most wonderful experience.
Our personal experience: as I mentioned above, we settled on Santa Barbara with our lodging to be at The Simpson House Inn. But as Santa Barbara also has a fabulous wine country region adjacent to the town, the highlight activity for our group was a day of wine-tasting. We found a fabulous company, hosted by a sommelier, that drove us through the wine country in a comfortable and safe Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van. It was a glorious day, and one that we’ll all cherish for a lifetime. To read the article about our wine-country experience, click here.
Just for grins, I thought you might like to see the before and after group shot from our day of wine tasting. First slide, everyone’s all excited for the day. Second slide, nearly everyone’s snoozing from a long day of wine tasting. Hah. 😀
Use a Professional Travel Advisor
OK, here comes a shameless plug. Sure, you can absolutely plan a special occasion group travel experience on your own. But, as you might imagine, putting this all together and making all of the bookings is a lot of work. Why not, for a very reasonable fee ($195 for the whole group), hire us to do all the work for you?
Not only do we have insider contacts not available to you with our affiliation with the $15 billion Virtuoso Travel Network, but, we’re also likely to score some complimentary VIP perks for your group as well. Like we say, “We do the work, you have the fun!”. Sound fair?
For a no-obligation conversation about using our travel agency to put together all of the pieces for your upcoming special occasion group travel experience, call us at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here), and we’ll reach out to you.
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