Top tips for group getaways
Harry Marsland of Brackenrigg Holiday Cottages in the Lake District says organising – and enjoying – a celebration break with friends and family is simple. All you need is a little planning…
There’s no better way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary than gathering with friends and family members in a beautiful location. And if it also gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy fresh local food, so much the better. In fact, why wait for an excuse? Planning your group getaway needn’t be hard – simply agree a date and escape to the country. Here are my top 10 tips for how to make it a success.
Who’s coming? How many beds and bedrooms do you need? Be clear about this; even if your nephew is accustomed to crashing out on the floor, many cottage owners are unable to allow extra occupancy. Don’t embarrass yourselves by turning up with more people than you’ve booked for.
2 When to go
If you want to be away for a specific date, book early. Flexibility will give you more choice, as will avoiding school holidays. And book for three nights, Friday – Monday. Even if you intend to leave on Sunday, you don’t want to have to clear up and vacate first thing Sunday morning.
First impressions set the tone. If eveyone’s excited by the place on arrival, you’re well on the way to a successful weekend. A stunning location and a well-presented place to stay make the journey worthwhile.
An all-in-one big house might sound ideal, but a few cottages together – as long as one of them is large enough for you all to gather together – will give flexibility and privacy... and extra bathrooms!
Be realistic. To do it for under £20 per night, look at camping barns and youth hostels. These days there aren’t too many ‘basic’ cottages around – owners have responded to expectations and upgraded their properties, furnishings and equipment. A four-star cottage could cost around £60-£75 per person for a weekend.
Plan ahead. You don’t want to spend Saturday morning shopping. Pre-order an internet delivery – but don’t arrange for it to arrive until you’re sure to be there. And enquire about shopping locally.
7 Eating out
Most pubs provide food, but quality and reliability can be unpredictable… and if you turn up with 16 hungry people, aged two to 82, including a couple of vegetarians, you may wish you’d booked in advance. There’s often a pub with a large room suitable for gatherings. Again, ask for advice, especially if your gathering is a Mother’s Day family reunion! If you don’t fancy a restaurant or a pub, your cottage owner should be able to put you in touch with good local caterers.
What are we all going to do? Some families are content simply to spend a weekend in each other’s company. But many, especially those with children, will benefit from fresh air and activity. And, of course, a trip to the Lake District, for example, wouldn’t be complete without a climb, a cruise or a ghyll-side picnic. You don’t have to do everything en masse. The kids can try climbing or canoeing, the desk-jockeys can leave their laptops behind and tackle Striding Edge, and those who’ve been there and done that can explore Keswick-on-Derwentwater before settling in the garden to enjoy the views of Helvellyn. If everyone then reunites full of stories of the day’s adventures, you’re in for a lovely evening and a fulfilling weekend. Ask your cottage owner for suggestions. They probably know and love their region, and can recommend activities and destinations.
9 Who cleans up?
Good-quality cottages should provide starter supplies of loo roll, bin bags and cleaning materials. But it’s worth checking. And who’s going to clear up? If you’re making the booking, do you also want to scrub the bathroom, vacuum the hall and clean the cooker after everyone else has left? No? Well, there’s no universal advice for how to get extended families to sort out these responsibilities, but you will need to find a way, or risk losing your karma!
If you’ve been nominated to plan the break, don’t let everyone else have an equal input. Just agree who’s coming, the budget, the dates they can do and the acceptable locations. If you allow everyone else to approve all aspects of your plan, you’ll never get away. The best cottages get booked early, so if you’re thinking of going any time in the next 12 months, get planning now!