Need an excuse to run away with your best buddies? According to the Mayo Clinic, strong friendships can extend your life and reduce your risk of depression and other ills. Even a short vacation can reduce stress, improving your health in multiple ways. A friend getaway can be less stressful than vacations with a partner or the whole family because the main motivation is to play with your peers, minus any ongoing relationship or parenting drama.
We’ve pulled together five ways to plan and enjoy a fun, low-stress escape:
- Choose carefully: If you don’t know which friends are travel-worthy, consider a weekend test run at a nearby resort before tackling a two-week jaunt across Europe. Is this a late-night party-hearty bunch, or a group eager for a pre-dawn hike? Some friends love packing four to a hotel room and sharing every waking minute, while others may prefer more space, with separate bedrooms and plenty of solo time. For easy planning that doesn’t require 200 texts, use the free Doodle app to create a survey about dates, expenses, destinations and types of rooms everyone prefers. Another low-stress option: book rooms on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort, where you’ll have fewer decisions regarding food, activities and shared expenses.
- Ask for discounts: Inquire with resorts about group rates, adjoining suites for groups, or special retreats. For example, Carillon on Miami Beach offers group wellness retreats led by experts including a sex therapist, executive coach, men’s health experts and more, in addition to 160 fitness classes per week. Easy Group Airfare can help plan flights for groups of any size, with extra benefits including the ability to transfer tickets and discounts for 10 or more flying to the same destination. Book activities on Groupon, GoldStar or AirBNB Experiences to get the best rates.
- Play fair: The organizer of the trip should get first dibs on the best bedroom, and anyone stuck with the sofa bed should get a price break. At mealtimes, the friends who don’t drink alcohol or only ordered an appetizer should be paying less on restaurant tabs than the person who ordered wine, entrée, and dessert. It’s also important to plan a trip all your friends can afford. A huge short-term vacation rental with a great kitchen tends to be more efficient than several hotel rooms with all meals eaten in restaurants. Be upfront about potential costs, and set a date when deposits are due. Sign up for apps such as Venmo or Splitwise, a free app that allows you to tally and pay complicated expenses. Low-tech version: initial any receipts you paid, then put in a bowl and figure it out on the last day.
- Put the “social” in media: Photos are great but don’t share them to social media without approval. Instead, set up private albums via your photo app, Google Photos or Shutterfly’s free Share Sites, a password-protected website where you can order prints or gifts, or the free app 23 Snaps, where you can create a private digital journal.
- Have fun!: A friendcation is a great time to try out something new, such as ziplining or a craft cocktail class. Prepare for rainy days with comedy DVDs, rowdy dance music and indoor games including ReWordable, Cards Against Humanity and Texas Hold’em. Or pull together a fun trivia quiz about your shared past, from that old high school fight song to your sorority handshake or the dance steps you all copied from vintage MTV.
A friendcation might not be possible every year or for everyone, but this is your time to step away from your busy life and re-live belly-laugh moments from years gone by, the silly ties that bind you to your squad. And if you’re feeling guilty about leaving work and family duties, remember, it’s good for your health.