Sometimes, a hotel serves the single purpose of sleep on your way from point A to point B. Other times you can step out of your room into a soul-healing Adirondack forest with 40 acres and all day to explore.
Although group travel often comes with the reputation of keeping guests moving too quickly to enjoy the hotel, many groups are increasingly planting roots at accommodations that are destinations in their own right, with some planned time for the group members to just roam as they wish.
These resorts or all-inclusive accommodations often sit on large tracts of land and offer groups both freedom from strict itineraries and opportunities to create custom experiences travelers couldn’t book on their own. Consider these group travel planning tips before you send your group to a resort destination.
This One or That One
Even if you’re convinced that your group would love the flexibility of a resort destination, how do you start to choose from the multitudes of potential locations across the country and around the world? First, decide what type of group travel resort trip you’d like to start with.
If you want only a weekend getaway with your group, find a venue within driving distance. Skytop Lodge, a Poconos mountain retreat that combines luxury with 5,500 acres and numerous outdoor activities, prides itself on its location, a two- or three-hour drive from many cities that retains a remote atmosphere.
If you want to include a resort as part of a longer trip, search for a site that would fit into a larger itinerary, such as Camp Orenda. The all-inclusive glamping, or luxury camping, retreat in the Adirondack State Park could easily turn into a two-night stay on a tour through New York’s Adirondack region.
Though at first glance, a “camping” trip might not appeal to many of your travelers, Camp Orenda weaves luxury into the experience to offer guests the comforts of a regular hotel, such as canvas cabins with upscale bedding and an on-site spa, as well as the connectivity to nature that draws many to camping in the first place.
Camp Orenda and Skytop Lodge appeal to a wide range of travelers, as both combine luxury and the outdoors and offer a range of activities, from adventurous whitewater rafting trips to relaxing short hikes through the woods.
A final consideration: Make sure your chosen resort is accustomed to working with groups. For example, Skytop Lodge has its own groups department.
“We have a trip planner that we can set you up with, so you can plan out however much you wish with your group,” said Jeff Rudder, general manager for Skytop Lodge. “We have nature trail walks that are guided. So whether it is in a group setting where the group can learn about nature or on your own, it is a wonderful experience.”
Talk, Talk, Talk
Though it may seem tempting to simply show up at your hotel destination and turn your group loose, it’s better to discuss what type of experience you envision with the management beforehand. Determine how much downtime and how much “together time” feels right for your group, then arrange the details.
Camp Orenda often organizes activities outside of the retreat’s borders for groups wishing to whitewater raft, take an introductory rock-climbing class or go on a horseback-riding excursion together.
“We are the concierge to our section of the Adirondacks,” said David Webb, owner of Camp Orenda. “People can come here and feel they are in a backcountry setting, but they don’t have to worry about the hassles normally involved in planning. They can just enjoy.”
These guided activities sometimes aren’t available to individuals, which makes your tour more valuable for their inclusion. Skytop Lodge will custom create cooking classes for groups looking for an experiential activity to do together.
“In one class, guests can pick their own vegetables and create their own food magic,” said Rudder. “The culinary team will assist them in the process. All our interactive culinary experiences are extremely popular for us.”
Whether it’s custom activities or custom meals, these venues whip up one-of-a-kind experiences on a regular basis. Many resorts offer groups private meal venues that enhance their stay and prevent them from growing tired of the site’s main dining locations.
Prepping the Group
Once you’ve finished prearrangements with the site, continue to prepare your group for the experience. Hand out information on the accommodations’ amenities, included activities and nonincluded activities. Make sure travelers begin thinking about what to do during their free time before they arrive, so the options aren’t overwhelming.
“We give people the opportunity to come to a beautiful retreat and mountain setting where they can explore the area or just stay at the camp and relax,” said Webb. “We can customize the experience for each person or arrange activities based on what the group wants to do. They just have to sign up.”
Walk them through the process of signing up for activities, in case they want to kayak on Skytop Lodge’s lake or arrange a mountain biking excursion with Camp Orenda. Handing out the itinerary ahead of time with the unstructured time noted helps group members know which activities they might have time for and which they won’t.
Even on a trip where the entire day is unstructured, be sure to let the group know what your personal plans are for at least a good portion of the time. That way they can tag along with you if they wish, since some travelers would always rather stick with the group.
However loose your schedule, your group can always unite at the end of the day at mealtimes when you can all reflect on the day’s adventures you had alone and together.