By Beth Buehler
Planning a vacation for four people is tricky enough. What if your mission is to plan a family reunion, wedding, anniversary celebration or a men’s/women’s retreat in Colorado for a fairly large group? Here are tips for breaking down the process into a few steps and remember to start early to get the best attendance, options and prices.
Identify the primary planners of the trip – When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, things get bogged down and complicated. Figure out who will lead the charge in planning the details. It could be one or two people with helpers who take on individual tasks like finding a photographer, researching activities and lodging, and creating a T-shirt or sweatshirt design. If no one has the time, turn the process over to a professional event planner.
Figure out the destination – Next, the vacation location needs to be identified. Good ways to narrow it down are looking at where everyone is traveling from; considering the potential cost for things like transportation, lodging, food and activities; and considering what vibe you are looking for in a place. Is urban, active and things found in a city setting appealing or is a laid-back mountain getaway with lots of time outdoors more your group’s style? Or maybe it’s something in between or a combination of city and mountains (for example you can take a train from Union Station in downtown Denver to Winter Park for a day of skiing). A great place to start browsing is Destination Colorado’s website where you can search all the destinations or sort by region.
Look at lodging and venue options – It is important to have a few dates in mind when looking at accommodations and venues. If the group vacation involves families, you’ll be working around school schedules. If there isn’t that kind of calendar constraint, you may want to look at times when Colorado destinations are not already super busy, so there is more availability and prices are lower. Destination Colorado’s website also is a great place to look at lodging and venue options and quickly connect with representatives from these entities for pricing and availability. Colorado has all sorts of great options from YMCA of the Rockies camps in Estes Park and Granby and Wine Country Inn set next to vineyards in Palisade to guest ranches and full-service hotels and resorts throughout the state.
Inform your group of the details – When you have a couple date options, circle back with your group and land on one as quickly as possible to secure lodging and any additional venues, such as a restaurant for an off-site dinner. Consider if everyone will be booking their own transportation or if you want to get a travel agent involved to secure flights and car rentals. At this point, you might want to recruit helpers for all the smaller details as mentioned earlier.
Figure out the activities – Colorado’s local destination marketing organizations (e.g., convention and visitor bureaus, tourism offices, Chambers of Commerce) have helpful websites and visitor guides to make reviewing the options easy. Perhaps plan one group activity a day like horseback riding, ice skating, tubing, hiking, etc. Staying at a resort, ranch or camp where all sorts of dining and activity options are all in one place can make planning a snap.
Relax and enjoy – The key word is vacation. Don’t over schedule and make sure everyone involved, including the planners, have the opportunity to pursue some of their own passions. For some that might be sitting with a good book by the pool and shopping the boutiques while others may want to blaze down a mountain bike trail or ski slope and wrap up a local microbrewery.
Happy planning and plug into the many outstanding options in Colorado!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.