SEE YOU NEXT CHRISTMAS
If I didn’t travel, I’d never see my friends. It’s always been that way. After university, I fled to Sydney for work and spent eight years playing tag with friends on the Gold Coast. I never had any money (editorial assistant wage versus early 2000s flight prices didn’t quite stack in my favour) but the upside was adventure, oodles of it. It made each catch-up not just a barbecue or beach day, but a journey, an experience.
Road trips up and down the Pacific Highway became a ritual – the drive never tedious, even before the deviations. Playlists were plotted with care, giant folders of CDs on laps and the chance to stop off and explore Byron and Nimbin was just as much of a holiday as the final destination.
Now I’m at the all-my-friends-have-babiesand-we-love-Bunnings age and group holidays are the best chance we have to see each other. But planning a group trip can be tough. There are increasingly busy schedules to co-ordinate, anniversaries and work commitments to avoid, and well, everyone else’s individual travel plans to consider. Selfish honeymooners!
A few years back, one (ever-expanding with offspring) friendship group made the call to ban the birthday presents we were buying each other and funnel that dosh into an annual getaway. Just a simple long weekend where we could enjoy each other’s company. We very originally called it, “Weekend Away For Everyone’s Birthdays”, aka WAFEB.
There are no rules about where we go, we decide year to year, but what stands hard and fast is everyone does their best to be there. We will wipe all other commitments from this sacred long weekend. And we’ll have a dressup night and sing Happy Birthday to each other, individually, while eating cake.
We’ve rented beach shacks on North Stradbroke Island, driven a convoy of fourwheel-drives to Fraser Island and taken over houses in Angourie. This year we’re glamping on the banks of Lake Cootharaba on the Sunshine Coast.
We’ve thrown around the idea of Japan ski adventures and Whitsundays bareboating, they just might happen when the kids are old enough to look after themselves.
The first rule of a successful group holiday is to have an easygoing bunch of mates. But there are a few tools you can pop in your travel-planning arsenal to move the chat from, “yeah, great idea” to actually booking the damn thing.
SET A DATE (AND STICK WITH IT)
Everyone’s busy, school holidays are sacred and public holidays bunched together provide the perfect window to jet to Europe. So try to pick a month that works for everyone. If it’s not a long weekend, get that leave locked ASAP.
LOCK DOWN A LOCATION
If you’re working across states it can be a challenge to find the middle (affordable) ground. Take a poll on Facebook or go old school and throw a few options into a hat.
USE GROUP CHAT
Email is archaic and if your crew is fleeing Facebook like a Bachelor contestant from carbs, it can be hard to catch everyone. Try a group chat app like WhatsApp, and see how long it takes for someone to go off topic.
CREATE A FACEBOOK EVENT
Even if you haven’t confirmed your date, creating an event makes it real. Like a domain name for your unborn child. It also doubles as the perfect message board. Not on Facebook? Try an app like Travefy.
DIVVY UP THE DISHES
Set themes for group meals and allocate who brings what. If you’re flying to your destination, do a group grocery order online that can be delivered to your destination. Ah, the internet.
MAKE PAYMENTS PAINLESS
Keep a simple spreadsheet or use an app like Splitwise to share bills and show who owes what so one person isn’t shouldering the “I’ll have 10 rooms, please” load. If you’ve got a Tightwad Terry in your midst, this should make them more accountable.
Make annual getaways with far-flung friends happen with easy communication tools and good planning.