What's on YOUR bucket list?
If “birthday celebration travel with friends” isn't on there, it should be. I just returned from such a trip and I can tell you---it rocked!
I guess it was no surprise that the intersection of three of life’s greatest pleasures—birthday celebrations, friends and travel—was bound to be wonderful, but it truly was an experience unlike any other.
Hopefully, some of things I learned along the way can help you plan YOUR TRIP sooner than later, including:
- How to Rally Your Friends
- Planning the Birthday Celebration Trip
- Benefits of Friendship
- What I would do differently next time
No matter how old you're turning, a birthday celebration trip with friends is sure to make you feel like a kid again. Now get packing!
LET'S GET THIS (BIRTHDAY) PARTY STARTED
My college girlfriends and I had floated the idea of a trip to celebrate our "big" birthdays a while back.
We each would turn 50 within a few months of each other, so celebrating together seemed fun...though not easy. The five of us were scattered in different states, had various work obligations to consider and we needed to make sure our kids were covered.
In each of their Christmas cards I'd written, “What are we doing to celebrate turning 50?”
One by one, my friends replied. Each message started with a variation of “I can’t believe we’re turning 50!”, but everyone was up for doing something to mark our milestone birthday. Yay.
A GREAT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION TRIP STARTS WITH GREAT PLANNING
To get an idea of what sounded best to people and to come to a consensus quickly, I created a survey.
People answered questions on possible locations, activities, budget and dates. I asked for each person's top choices, as well as what items to avoid.
I tabulated the results and a few rounds of emails later, we had a plan! It definitely helped that everyone returned their information quickly and that there were many overlapping interests. Not a total surprise given we were friends, but it certainly made planning the trip easier.
DESIGN QUESTIONS THAT HELP YOU
FIND THE EASY ANSWER
One of the questions in the survey, “Do you have access to a house or property we could use?” turned out to be incredibly useful.
As I read the survey responses, I learned that the parents of one of our friends had a beach house on Hilton Head Island and were gracious enough to let us use it.
As hanging out at the beach was among the favorite activities everyone had expressed interest in, it was a no-brainer.
FOR CELEBRATION TRAVEL,
COMMIT TO YOUR CALENDAR EARLY
We started looking at calendars almost 6 months in advance of when we thought we’d travel. By starting so far in the future, people had greater availability.
Locking in on our dates so early also meant we had reserved time on our respective calendars, reducing the likelihood of various work and family commitments.
COORDINATING TRAVEL PLANS
DELIVERS MORE TIME TOGETHER
At the risk of stating the obvious, coordinating flight arrival and departure times made it easy to share a rental car and saved trips to the airport.
I also enjoyed the added benefit of having my friends waiting for me at the gate when I got off the plane. It felt so...retro...to have people excited to see me as I walked through the door.
A NEUTRAL LOCATION MEANS
EVERYONE CAN RELAX
In years past, my friends and I had gotten together in New York City because several people lived in the area. Being away from home meant everyone could leave their day-to-day behind and we were far enough away that we all had coverage on the home front.
HAVE SOMEONE TAKE THE LEAD ON
One friend volunteered to be our very own Julie McCoy (cruise director from the 1970’s TV show, The Love Boat), which was wonderful for the rest of us.
She very generously made dinner reservations, had suggestions on activities and much, much more. We were incredibly fortunate that the beach house we stayed in was outfitted with everything we needed, from towels to beach cruiser bikes to sunscreen.
OUR 50TH BIRTHDAY TRIP WAS GIRLFRIENDS ONLY
One of the survey questions had asked whether we should include others in the trip---spouses/significant others and/or kids. The feedback was unanimous: girlfriends only.
This ended up being one of my favorite aspects of our trip. It was positively decadent to enjoy extended time with friends without having to worry about what would the kids have for dinner and other responsibilities.
We were able to talk late into the night about the big things like aging parents, the delights and challenges of teenagers and various new jobs.
We also had enough time to compare and contrast the more mundane aspects of our lives: how recycling differs radically depending on where you live, how much we pay for haircuts, what recipes our kids will and won’t eat and more.
Exclusively girlfriends also meant we could relive college days without having to explain our stories in detail to our families. Such a luxury!
TIME MAY PASS, BUT
GOOD FRIENDS DON’T CHANGE
One of the biggest takeaways I had from our birthday trip was how little people had changed.
The friend who was the most outgoing in college is still a social butterfly. The friend who had stayed up many late nights studying at the library is now a finance executive who still burns the midnight oil.
Sure, we had some gray hairs and wrinkles, but it was comforting to know that we were largely the same as we had been 30 years earlier. It was really a cool feeling to be able to pick up where we left off at our last gathering.
SOCIAL MEDIA MADE FINDING
OUR CLASSMATES A SPORT
During the different times we’d been together from college, we’d often play what I called the ‘Name Game.’ We’d discuss different classmates that we’d recently seen and share updates we knew.
As we continued remembering others, from old roommates to boyfriends to crushes, someone looked up something online. Suddenly, it was the Name Game on steroids as we realized that we could answer many of our questions by checking Facebook or LinkedIn.
No more wondering whatever happened to Dave? He recently moved to Texas where he runs a private equity fund. Hugh? Former investment banker turned artist. He and his wife live on a tropical island. And on and on it went,
It was wonderful to check out these blasts from our pasts and in many cases see what they looked like now. In more than one case, we reconnected with a old classmate. Who knows? Maybe some of these old relationships will bloom anew.
START PACKING YOUR
OLD PHOTOS AND YEARBOOKS NOW
If I had a “do over” for this birthday trip, I would have started looking for old college photos and yearbooks as soon as the trip was calendared. The thought occurred to me several times, but unfortunately I didn’t act upon it.
In a similar vein, we wished we had a “Pig Book” (a photographic student directory) from freshman year as it would have been much easier to remember names and faces.
One friend did bring a photo of us from the weekend of our college graduation. It was surreal to collectively look at our younger selves. A few comments were made about hairstyles and clothing, but mostly we just stared. What would we tell those 21-year old young women if we could?
PLAN AHEAD TO HAVE A BIRTHDAY CAKE
AND CELEBRATION WAITING
While the purpose of the trip was to celebrate our birthdays, I wish we’d had a moment when we all gathered around a cake with candles.
We did take a few pictures with a birthday banner a friend had brought and enjoyed a champagne toast at dinner one night. We debated ordering desserts that night, but the menu just didn’t grab us. We went in search of ice cream instead, but had to settle for frozen yogurt.
Next time, we’ll plan ahead and make sure there’s a birthday cake—with all our names on it.