It might begin with a text like “I NEED A GIRLS GETAWAY!” that pops up in a group chat at just the right time, when, say, you’re late for work and realize mid-commute that your laptop is exactly where you left it: at home.
Then comes a flurry of “Count me in,” “Yessss” and “Heck, yeah” affirmations.
Then comes the planning. Then the packing. Then, before you know it, the smiles and hugs and tears-rolling-down-your-face kind of laughter that ensues when friends reunite and reminisce about all those fun remember-whens.
This is how things often unfold among my circle of 10 college friends. What started mainly as randomly matched roommates through school has evolved into nearly 35-year friendships through the school of life. While we don’t see each other frequently nowadays—packed calendars and long distances can get in the way—we try to stay close with an annual girlfriends’ getaway to reconnect, relax and recharge. And laugh. A lot. It’s the kind of therapy that only your closest friends can dispense.
Study after study shows that such getaways can contribute to your overall well-being by providing an escape from everyday stress, a means to cope with change, and an opportunity to temporarily shed routine roles and simply be ourselves. By nurturing friendships and strengthening social bonds, girlfriends’ getaways can even help reduce the risk of heart disease and extend life expectancy.
Talk about a guilt-free trip!
We may not need science to tell us that girl time is good for us, but sometimes we do need inspiration on how to spend that time. While my friends often joke that we could have fun in a box, the travel industry is constantly creating out-of-the-box experiences that go beyond those clichéd images of poolside piña coladas. Here are a few ideas for adventures worthy of precious girl time.
Friends toast to their travels in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. Photo courtesy of African Travel, Inc.
GLAMP IT UP
Love the idea of camping but not the reality of sleeping on the ground or sharing a bathroom with strangers? Consider glamping (glamorous camping), which combines getting back to nature with creature comforts. Accommodations might range from wooden structures or treehouses swathed in canvas drapery to fully stocked Airstream trailers, cabins or villas. Amenities may include proper (even king-size) beds, private baths, bubbling hot tubs, plunge pools, butler and spa services, air conditioning—and the list goes on.
Glamp big with a once-in-a-lifetime African Safari replete with a luxurious tented mobile camp ready to both embark on drives to spot the Big Five and then stay put for alfresco dining under the stars. Or have your sleepovers in a private treehouse or villa smack-dab in the middle of open plains, with space to roam—and to laugh as loud as you’d like. Tour providers such as African Travel, Inc., can create a custom itinerary that takes you on a bucket-list journey to your choice of more than a dozen countries on the continent. Along with wildlife encounters, you might experience cultural interactions, history and art tours, shopping excursions, local volunteer experiences and more.
Want to safari in the USA? Stay stateside at one of the many glamping resorts near our national parks. California’s Sequoia High Sierra Camp, tucked between Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, for example, comprises 32 canopied cabins outfitted with artisan furnishings and posh bedding and offers easy access to park attractions, including those iconic giant trees.
Or combine a trip to the Big Apple with glamping via an eight-minute ferry ride away on Governors Island. Here, Collective Retreats features a village of luxe tents with dreamy beds layered in 1,500-thread-count linens, farm-to-table dining, garden tours, bike rentals, lawn games and spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline from the comfort of an Adirondack chair.
A hats-off celebration at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Brush Creek Ranch
BLAZE A TRAIL
If your cowgirl boots and Stetson hat have been collecting the wrong kind of dust, make hay and hit the dusty trail to any number of all-inclusive dude ranches in the American West.
Among the most regal ranch resorts is Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, which earned several top spots in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2021 and 2022. Set on 30,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains, this working cattle ranch invites you to saddle up for cattle drives, trail rides and horsemanship lessons led by expert wranglers. Or enjoy fly fishing, skiing and rock climbing as well as spa treatments, cooking classes, art tours, wine tastings and more. Pair your seed-to-table meals with exclusive wines or small-batch spirits, and then settle into rustic-chic accommodations in the central lodge or a variety of cabins.
You can also kick up some dust at the Lost Valley Ranch in Sedalia, Colorado, a AAA Four Diamond Award winner since 1976. With access to the 26,000-acre playground of Pike National Forest, the resort offers guided horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, trap shooting, archery and more. Back at the ranch, partake in campfire singalongs, hay rides, professional photography sessions (to commemorate your vacation) and—break in those boots!—line dancing. Dig into hearty meals in the main dining room, or dine alfresco in a meadow or on a mountaintop. After a day’s play, rest in style in a spacious cabin decked out in Western décor.
Envisioning you and your gang riding into the sunset on a longer adventure? Several tour providers can guide you there. Both Tauck and Member Choice Vacations, for example, offer cowgirl-inspired itineraries that serve up some of the best of the West with visits to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial, among other highlights. Along the way, delight in sumptuous accommodations, plentiful dining options and authentic ranch life, which on one itinerary even includes observing the art of horse whispering.
A festive finale to a girlfriends’ getaway on Seabourn Cruises. Photo courtesy of Seabourn Cruises
If your idea of the perfect girlfriends’ getaway is somewhere by the sea (as it is for my crew), why not get out on the sea with a celebratory cruise? Whether you’re partial to an ocean voyage (perhaps a jaunt to the Caribbean or the Mediterranean?) or a river adventure (how about sailing on the Mighty Mississippi or Europe’s Rhine River?) cruise lines are continually reinventing their offerings with a wide mix of interests for a wide mix of passengers.
On most cruises—including popular lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruises, AmaWaterways, Uniworld and American Cruise Lines—you’ll take in multiple ports of call and exciting shore excursions, an eclectic array of onboard amenities and activities, and a smorgasbord of fabulous dining venues—all in one package price to fit big and small purses alike. Plus, you’ll only need to unpack all those new vacation clothes once.
Need a quick getaway? Many cruise lines offer three- to five-night Caribbean cruises brimming with shows, wine tastings, spa treatments, fitness classes, dining and dancing, pool butler service—you get the picture. Interested in spending more time discovering lesser-known ports in a more intimate setting (with typically no more than 200 guests on board)? The rhythms of a river cruise may be your group’s jam.
Whether you’re looking to learn a new skill—does cooking, photography, glass blowing, ice skating or a new language appeal?—to conquer new adventures—ziplining, skydiving, surfing or rock climbing perhaps?—or just lounge by the adults-only pool and soak up the atmosphere with your gal pals, a cruise can be however thrill or chill you make it.
And while you’re poolside, why not cap off the day with that postcard-perfect piña colada? As you raise a glass and recall the good ole days, you’ll be creating new memories for all those wonderful remember-whens to come. And, don’t sweat the laugh lines; after all, they’re telltale signs of a life well-lived with great friends and great times—including great getaways.