GirlsWeekend1Last weekend, one of my best friends and I went on a trip together. It wasn’t to anywhere exotic (we didn’t even cross state lines), we didn’t spend a ton of money, and we were only gone one night. But, for us – it was the vacation of a lifetime. Or at least half a lifetime.

Mary and I met back in college and have stayed close friends ever since. This fall we both turned 40, and she brought up the idea of trying to have a “Girls Weekend” away as a celebration. As we were discussing the idea, we realized that this fall is also the 20 year anniversary of when we met – meaning that we have literally been friends for half of our lives now.

With reasons like that, we just had to make some time away together happen. So we plotted and planned, and talked to our husbands – since traveling without the kids in tow generally involves lining up someone back at home to care for them. And with limited budgets, that left only a couple of options – the dads. Thankfully we were able to choose a weekend that Mary’s husband had off anyway – which just coincidentally happened to be the very weekend of my 40th birthday. My husband was able to get the extra day off, and so he and my kids celebrated my birthday at home together – without me.

Mary and I both live in Michigan – me on the west side of the state, and her down near the Indiana border. The Detroit area was a logical option for a weekend getaway – there’s a lot to do, it’s about an equal drive for each of us, and I grew up over there so I know the area fairly well. We couldn’t afford more than one night away, and we couldn’t afford to fly anywhere – so options were limited. But we knew that no matter where we went, we’d have fun together. Even so, here are a few tips that we figured out, or learned along the way. I hope they can help the next time you’re planning a “Girls Weekend” of your own!

  • Although it’s fun to splurge on a hotel with lots of extras, sometimes just the basics are all you need. We ended up spending a lot less time at the hotel than we’d thought, so were glad that we didn’t overspend on amenities that would’ve gone unused over the weekend.
  • One amenity that’s a must though – if the hotel offers breakfast as part of your rate, it’s usually a much better deal than buying breakfast later on either at your hotel or elsewhere. The Courtyard by Marriott in Dearborn, MI has an excellent breakfast buffet that includes eggs, sausage, waffles and more that made sitting down for breakfast a very enjoyable experience.
  • Good shopping is also a must – try to find an area that has hotels, restaurants and shopping destinations close together. Although we planned our getaway near a large regional mall, we realized after we got there that one of our biggest shopping destinations (Ikea) wasn’t as nearby as we’d originally thought. We ended up spending more time driving that day and that left less time for shopping or relaxing.
  • Have a generic plan in mind – but be flexible! We knew we wanted to hit Ikea, but left the rest of the shopping fairly open and decided at the time what we felt like doing. We’d planned to spend an afternoon at Dearborn’s Greenfield Village – but never did make it over there. Instead, we spent a couple of hours walking around nearby Fairlane Mall – which was open later on a Sunday, so ended up being the better option.
  • GirlsWeekend2Bring lots of snacks and munchies! Mary is queen of snacks – and she had us well provisioned with cookies, leftover Halloween candy, water bottles, banana bread muffins, and even brought me a birthday cake – complete with candles to blow out.
  • If you can afford it, a spa treatment or even just a foot massage would be something fun, especially after a long day of shopping and walking around on your feet. In retrospect, I wish we’d tried to squeeze something like that into our weekend plans.
  • Take lots of pictures to commemorate your time away – memories fade, but photos posted on Facebook or elsewhere will always be a reminder of the fun times you had together. Unfortunately, we never did get a good picture of the two of us together that weekend, which I really regret. The best we did was one taken at arms’ reach with my phone. But it’s a picture that I’ll always treasure anyway.
  • Sometimes the most random choices can bring great rewards. Due to the time change that weekend, we arrived at one store ten minutes before it opened (I hadn’t reset the clock in my van yet). We wandered down the strip mall just on a whim to see if anything else was open – and I ended up finding the perfect birthday present for my daughter, $30 cheaper than I’d seen it anywhere else!
  • Above all else, just enjoy the time away – and with each other. Mary and I always have fun together, but it was so nice to go where we wanted, not basing our choices on what the kids needed or wanted. Or being held to any timeline but our own.

In the end, I think the getaway was exactly what we both needed. And I’m hoping that it won’t turn out to be just a one-time thing, but the start of a new tradition for over the next 20 years of our friendship!