You cherish your girl time, of course. Still, with all of your hectic lives, sometimes getting together just for drinks can feel like scheduling in an appointment. With all of your different schedules, what are the odds that you're all free at the same time for cocktails, dinner or a movie? A luxury vacation is a perfect opportunity to re-connect. Picture this: a full week of self-pampering, savoring exotic eats, sipping tropical cocktails at the swim-up bar & building up your tan on a pristine white beach. As if total bliss wasn't enough of a reason, a trip with your BFFs could also be important for your well-being. Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, author of "A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness," told Woman's Day magazine that medical studies have demonstrated how crucial a bond with other women is to physical & emotional health. Plus, she noted it gives you a chance to help each other address any current issues that you're facing when you get away from daily distractions. Lombardo advises to think of these trips as a "personal tune-up." Here's how to make them work:
Outline your itinerary
By planning ahead, you can make sure that no one in the group misses out on something they really want to do. Have an open discussion about particular attractions, activities & events that are of interest & then prioritize based on how much vacation time you have. National Geographic explained that it's important to keep your schedule flexible, though. You might decide to cancel a tour when you stumble upon a hidden authentic restaurant for lunch, for example. Also, it's OK to split up when you need to. If two people want to see a museum & the rest of the group is disinterested, it's totally fine to part ways & meet up at dinner. Plus, you'll have more to share with one another!
Remember to leave room for downtime as well. Though it's tempting to pack in a ton of sightseeing & activities, you don't want to wear yourselves out. After all, the idea of this ladies' luxury trip is to relax.
Giving everyone a specific responsibility can make for a much more organized trip. Women's Day explained that a friend who is super Internet-savvy, for example, could be given the task of researching deals on flights & hotels. Meanwhile, the foodie of the bunch can look into restaurants. This lets everyone play to their strengths & also prevents any one person from taking over the trip planning.
So that all your girlfriends are on the same page, Woman's Day suggested making a Facebook page for the trip where everyone can post updates, ideas or questions.
The last thing you want to worry about on your girls getaway is money. Therefore, it's crucial that you budget in advance. Women's Day advised being totally up front with one another about your limit & then figure out how the costs will be divided up. Jill Rosenberg, travel spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association New York, told the source that all-inclusive travel is ideal because aspects like meals & entertainment are already paid for, thus eliminating a lot of the financial stress.
One way to deal with budgeting, according to Woman's Day, is to collect all of your receipts for shared expenses, such as gas for the rental car. At the end of the vacation, you can total the costs & divide them up by the number of people in your group to make sure one person hasn't paid more than another.
Newlyweds have been taking honeymoons for over a century, but these vacations have changed dramatically over the years. An ideal trip is both relaxing & romantic, but beyond that, there's no perfect equation. Every couple is different, & their first week of marriage should reflect that. Finally, couples are starting to branch off from the traditional honeymoon & plan a more meaningful getaway that reflects their own personal interests & unique relationship. These are just some of the hottest honeymoon trends that are developing:
Couples who consider themselves connoisseurs of the culinary arts (or simply like to eat) can strategically plan their honeymoon to gain exposure to new kinds of cuisine. Consider taking a cooking class together, which will reinforce your bond as well as give you a few dishes to try out in your kitchen when you return home. Try looking into private sessions, which will allow you both to interact more with the instructor for a more engaging & intimate experience. Alternatively, The Knot pointed out that some couples might be looking for a different kind of gastronomical experience, such as a special dinner by a renowned chef or a wine tasting. Grenada, which is known as "the island of spice," is an ideal location for these kinds of honeymoons. Be sure to visit the Belmont Estate to learn about how cocoa is processed & then sample some confections by the Grenadian Chocolate Company. Top it all off with a trip to one of the several rum factories & you have one tasty trip.
Bridal Guide reported that it has become more common for couples to plan a shorter honeymoon if they can't afford as much time away from their jobs. You can still squeeze in plenty of romance over a long weekend, but you'll want to choose a location that's a shorter flight away to capitalize on time. It's also important to plan as much as possible in advance. Though you may not be able to see & do everything on a shorter trip, you can still manage to make the most of your trip if you schedule certain activities, dinner reservations, tours & other activities in advance. Newlyweds who take a shorter honeymoon should make a list of their top priorities & then consider resorts that are closest to those attractions to maximize on time.
Feeling philanthropic? It's becoming increasingly popular for couples to plan honeymoons that focus on giving back, according to Bridal Guide. These kinds of getaways can offer couples a profound sense of fulfillment, which has the potential to even further strengthen their bond. Not only that, but time spent basking on a beach feels far more rewarding when you've made an effort to help those less fortunate. For example, with Beach Bum CARES, volunteers have the chance to provide impoverished families across the Caribbean & Mexico with the aid & supplies they need. That kind of experience can bring new couples even closer & further offer them a new perspective on life that allows them to appreciate their luxury vacation even more.
All inclusive resorts
There are plenty of perks that come with all-inclusive travel, and many couples are realizing how these benefits can make for a more relaxing honeymoon. The Knot explained that the all-inclusive trend began several years ago with a focus on Mexico & the Caribbean, but now it's expanding even further. Newlyweds who consider these resorts don't have to worry about hidden costs or surprise fees, & they have peace of mind that certain aspects, such as meals, drinks & entertainment, are included. Thus, you eliminate potentially stressful financial situations & are better able to truly enjoy your time together.
Destination weddings can give friends & family a reason for luxury travel to an exotic locale, but there are also some conveniences that must be considered when planning these events. Although you're providing guests with a special opportunity to vacation while celebrating your new marriage, it's important to ensure they have the most comfortable trip possible. The more you plan ahead for your big day at a far off destination, whether it's Cancun or the Caribbean, the happier your loved ones will be. Plus – you'll likely see a higher attendance when you say "I do."
Give plenty of notice
Advanced notice is crucial when it comes to destination weddings. Martha Stewart magazine advises sending out "Save the Dates" at least six months before the wedding, but the more notice, the better. That gives guests the chance to capitalize on lower air fare & group hotel rates. Several weeks after mailing those announcements, you will likely have a substantial amount of RSVPs to give you a clearer idea of who will be attending. Several months before the actual wedding date, send out the official invite with a link to your wedding website, where you can provide guests with all the information they need for planning their trip. It's also helpful to give them some notice about any events you're organizing during their stay so that they're able to budget & pack appropriately.
Help where you can
Couples often wonder if they're expected to shell out for their friends' & family's travel costs. There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to covering expenses for your guests, but Martha Stewart magazine recommended making the effort to help a guest who is truly struggling, whether it's the maid of honor or a relative. According to CNN, Steven Petrow, author of etiquette guides & New York Times columnist, agreed. He stressed that couples should budget for these situations before deciding whether they can afford a destination wedding. All inclusive resorts are ideal because guests have a clearer idea of how much they'll be spending & are less likely to be hit with any hidden costs.
Regardless, it's important to be up front from the beginning so that guests know what to expect & how much to save. There are plenty of ways you can lend a hand to guests that don't involve paying for their flight, however. Consider sending them a guide to the destination, booking a group tour or giving them a credit to the resort's spa as a thank you.
You want to make things as easy as possible for attendees once they arrive. If they're arriving in groups at the same airport, book a shuttle bus or van to bring them to the hotel. Keep guests organized if they're staying at different hotels by arranging for a bus to pick them up on the day of the wedding & drive them to the venue.
Extend a warm welcome
A welcome package is another nice way to treat guests who have traveled a far distance for your special day. Include a personalized note, a copy of the wedding itinerary & other items that will make their stay more pleasant. A list of contact information will reassure groomsmen & bridesmaids that they can get in touch with each other if need be. It can also be helpful to set up email or text reminders for particular events throughout their stay.
Simple items like flip flops & sunscreen are especially useful for beach weddings. Since the temperature tends to drop at night, you could also include a scarf or a light shawl for ladies to drape around their shoulders. Leaving a bottle of bubbly in guests' rooms is sure to bring a smile to their faces & get them in a celebratory mood.
When most people take luxury vacations to Cancun, they spend a lot of their time lounging on the area's soft, white sand, soaking up the sun & sipping on a few ice-cold local libations. However, for those interested in learning more about Mexico's rich culture, a day-trip to Chichen Itza is a must. It typically takes about two hours to drive to this landmark from Cancun, but most travelers would agree the trip is totally worth it.
What is Chichen Itza?
As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is regarded as one of the planet's most awe-inspiring & fascinating sites. This pre-Columbian city was the center of the Mayan civilization from 750 to 1200 AD & featured dazzling pyramids, temples, arcades & other stone structures.
One of the most iconic structures in Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan, a stunning pyramid that highlights the Mayans' dedication to astronomy & powerful architectural knowledge. Each of the four sides of the pyramid has 91 steps, meaning that when the top platform is included, the temple has a total of 365 steps, representing each day of the year. While that's impressive enough, the shadows created by the spring & autumn equinoxes make a serpent-shaped pattern on the pyramid, which shows that the Mayans could accurately predict these natural phenomena.
How can I get there?
If you're staying at a luxury hotel in Mexico, chances are your resort will offer tours to the iconic Chichen Itza, especially if it's located in Cancun's popular Hotel Zone. The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, for example, offers tours of the Mayan landmark three days per week. These tours include round-trip transportation on an air-conditioned bus, a bilingual tour guide & a lunch buffet. As an added bonus, if you simply can't get enough of Mexico's amazing Mayan culture, the Hard Rock Cancun also offers tours to Tulum, a pre-Columbian Mayan city with stunning views.
What should I bring?
If you're planning on visiting Chichen Itza, you'll definitely want to pack bug spray, sunblock & good walking shoes. You should also bring a modest amount of money, as there's a small entrance fee to get into Chichen Itza, while the area also features several vendors selling Mayan-inspired items that might just make the perfect souvenir. Finally, don't forget your camera! Trust us when we say this is a photo op you don't want to miss!
One of the best ways to learn about history is by eating. So though you may not typically consider a luxury vacation to Jamaica to learn – that's just what you'll do as you sample spicy fare & eat your way through cultural tradition on the Jamaica Jerk Trail.
Since the birth of jerk flavor, this style of cooking has become something of a culinary phenomenon. According to Visit Jamaica, it's believed that descendents of slaves developed this method of marinating meat in pimento seeds, peppers & scallions over a wood-lined pit. While the meat slowly roasts, the wood smoke infuses it & gives it a unique flavor. Since then, chefs around the globe have incorporated jerk into a variety of dishes, from pork to rabbit. On the Jamaica Jerk Trail, you get to see – & taste – how it all began.
"Jerk cuisine has made its way onto menus worldwide, but we invite travelers to come Jamaica & sample this dish the way it was meant to be experienced – in our laid back, tropical environment," said Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, as quoted by Visit Jamaica. "The Jerk Trail creates a culinary adventure featuring the distinct flavors of Jamaica, along with its breathtaking natural beauty & truly unique culture, as visitors travel across the island from Negril, through Montego Bay & Ocho Rios, to Kingston, ending in the home of jerk - Port Antonio."
Start at Ossie's Jerk Center in Negril, which locals have been flocking to for more than 20 years to get their fix. The jerk chicken, pork & fish are clearly a highlight – but save room for sides like festival, a sweet fried cornbread, or roasted breadfruit. If you're feeling adventurous, head to the Ocho Rios Jerk Center for conch & wash it down with an all-natural tropical juice. For an ultra-indulgent experience, tantalize your taste buds at the Ultimate Jerk Center, where chefs steam local lobster in jerk seasoning.
While you're at it, do as the Jamaicans do & kick back with a cold Red Stripe beer. Remember – it's all part of your education.