SEE YOU NEXT CHRIST­MAS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - HOW I TRAVEL - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

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.

PIC­TURE: ISTOCK

Make an­nual get­aways with far-flung friends hap­pen with easy com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools and good plan­ning.

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