Planning the perfect girls weekend away

Motherhood is wonderful, but you can forget who you used to be before you became 'Mum'.

One of the best ways to remember is to spend time away with your girl friends.

It might be with some old school mates, new friends from your mothers' group, workplace, book group or gym. by Dianne McLay

Finding the time

The biggest challenge can be choosing a time that suits all of your friends. Start planning a few months in advance, and you'll give everyone plenty of time to get organised.

Judy and six of her old high school friends have had a girls' long weekend break every year for the past 12 years. During their weekend away, they set the date for next year.

Another option is to be spontaneous. If a few of your friends have a free weekend, and there's someone to care for your children, seize the moment.

A girls' weekend doesn't have to involve a big group. Ruth, who has two teenage children and a demanding job says, "I've tried to arrange weekends away but it's too hard to co-ordinate everyone. Now I stay with friends in other cities, or have them visit my place. It's much easier to organise."

Money

Money can cause tension amongst friends. If you're the organiser of the weekend away, you may not like chasing your friends for deposits.

There are two ways around this. One is to make the booking and have each friend pay their own deposit directly. The other is to start a group fund where everyone puts in an agreed sum beforehand.

Carol, mother of two girls aged 6 and 4 suggests pre-purchasing as much as possible to minimise money issues. She had a weekend away with ten friends at Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast on a package that included accommodation, breakfast, dinner and tickets to one of their spectacular in-house shows. Everyone paid the hotel directly. Carol says, "We only had to buy our own lunches, snacks and drinks so we didn't have to worry about splitting bills."

Check to see if any of your friends can get a discount rate through their memberships. NRMA members and Qantas frequent flyers for example, can receive discount hotel rates and tickets to shows.

Where to go

The location will depend on how much time you have, your budget and how comfortable you feel about being away from your children.

If your children are still very young, you might like to stay within an hour's drive. Stella, who had just finished breastfeeding her one year old son, had a weekend off while her husband cared for their baby. She says, "I felt anxious about leaving my baby overnight for the first time, so we stayed in a CBD hotel only 25 minutes away. I was more relaxed being close, and I still felt like I'd had a real break."

If your group has a bigger budget and time for a four day weekend, you could try a quick international trip to New Zealand for some skiing, or Fiji for some serious resort relaxation.

On a tighter budget, choose an apartment rather than hotel rooms. You'll be sharing the cost, and with your own kitchen, you can eat in. The Meriton World Tower, for example which has stunning views over Sydney, has three bedroom apartments which can accommodate six people, all in single beds.

Are you and your friends outdoor types? Pick a beautiful beach or lakeside spot and pitch a few tents. Imagine being able to laze on the beach without having to make sandcastles or keep watch over swimming children. www.camping.com.au has a comprehensive list of camp grounds including those in national parks.

For an even thriftier option, take turns hosting girls' getaways at home. The downside for the host is that she mightn't feel like she's had a break away, so if it's a regular event, share hosting duties.

There is a huge array of options for the location of your girls' weekend. Have a look at www.Travel.com.au to see which airlines are offering the cheapest airfares and holiday packages. Wotif offers last minute, discounted accommodation. If you're a rowdy bunch, you might prefer a house and you'll find thousands listed on Stayz.

Activities

A lot of girls' weekends away focus on pampering, shopping and eating out. Being able to do these things in the company of good friends and without children is very attractive.

Shopping & Pampering

Most large hotels and resorts have packages that include pampering, so after you've shopped all morning, you and your friends can recover with a massage or facial and a soak in the spa. This is the time to have your eyebrows professionally shaped and your eyelashes tinted without having to worry about school pick ups or rushing back to work for meetings.

For a five star girls' weekend in Melbourne, try the "Balance Package" at the Grand Hyatt which includes breakfast for two, $100 Spa Sanctuary credit, valet parking and late checkout.

Stay with the celebrities at the super luxurious Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast and enjoy their Rejuvenate Package which includes buffet breakfasts, massages and the Salus per Aquum Spa and valet parking.

In Sydney, the Hilton is across the street from the graceful Queen Victoria building which offers five floors of shopping with 200 shops. The Hilton has "Inspired Packages" including massage. There is even a resident 'Bath Master' who prepares luxurious baths with herbal oils, candles and hot towels.

New Experiences

Instead of returning home with new clothes and shoes, what about you and your friends acquiring some new skills?

Wavecatcher runs women-only surf and yoga retreats near Byron Bay. The day starts with group yoga on the beach followed by surf lessons. In the afternoon, you can indulge in some pampering. Don't worry if you can't surf or do yoga - the idea is to learn something new.

Pam Ellis of Wavecatcher says, "I've seen groups of friends create stronger bonds by stepping out of their comfort zone to try new things together."

For more ideas on new and interesting activities have a look at Red Balloon Days or Go Do.

Special Events

Time your break with a special event. If you all share a love of gardening, visit Canberra in spring during Floriade. [http://www.floriadeaustralia.com]
There's the Mildurra Jazz, Food & Wine Festival in November and Perth has its Good Food & Wine Show in July. If you're all books and writing fans, there are writers' festivals every year right around the country. You'll find hundreds of festivals and events listed on the government's Culture and Recreation Portal.

Memorable Experiences

Rydges offers a range of packages that include accommodation and special experiences. In Sydney, try a sailing cocktail cruise on the Harbour. You and your friends can enjoy canapés and cocktails or champagne as the sun sets. If you're all music lovers, check out the Twilight at Taronga Summer concert packages.

Art loving groups can pre-purchase tickets to the Andy Warhol exhibition in Brisbane and share a two bedroom apartment at Saville Southbank which is within walking distance to the art gallery. Try one of the exhibition's free photo booths and you'll come away with Warhol style portraits as souvenirs.

Attending a show can be the highlight of your weekend break, but the popular ones can be booked out months in advance. If you're the organiser of the girls' weekend away, you need an inside contact that has access to tickets not available to the general public.

The Showbiz website's 'Stay & See' packages offer combinations of accommodation, meals and entertainment. Lee Davis, the company's Marketing Director says they can organise VIP experiences for groups on girls' weekends away. "You start with a delicious pre-show dinner, see the hottest show in town in fantastic seats, receive an exclusive gift pack and a glass of bubbly at the show, then stay overnight in a fancy hotel."

Of course, the best break can be where you all sit around, chat and do absolutely nothing....a complete luxury for busy Mums.

Don't Pack Your Guilt

Pam Ellis of Wavecatcher notes that women who go on her surfing and yoga retreats often feel guilty about focusing on themselves.

There's no need for guilt because having time away from your children can help make you a better, happier Mum.

Dr Miriam Stoppard, a leading childcare expert says in her Complete Baby and Childcare Book, "You are your child's universe, so it's best for him if you're not irritable, grumpy and jaded. While you must make every effort to meet your baby's needs, you must also look after your own needs."

Kate, a mother of three, says, "I couldn't wait to head off with the girls on Friday evening, but by Sunday afternoon I was looking forward to seeing my children. Reading stories to them that night was really special."

 
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