Whether it’s a milestone birthday or anniversary or a big work promotion, why not mark the occasion with a destination celebration? “Instead of a three-hour party, you can have a three-day celebration where you connect with your closest family and friends and create everlasting memories,” said Jack Ezon, who plans destination celebrations and is president of the New York City travel consultancy Ovation Vacations.
Here he offers advice on planning a successful group getaway commemorating a special occasion.
Know Your Budget: It’s essential, Ezon said, to plan your trip with a budget in mind. “Many people I’ve worked with have no sense of what they want to spend and are surprised at all the associated costs,” he said. In his experience, 25 percent of the budget goes toward accommodations and 40 percent is spent on the events; the rest includes extras such as airport transfers and welcome baskets for guests.
Be Upfront About Who Pays: Some hosts cover the cost of everything for their guests, including airfare, accommodations and meals not part of celebration events. Others spring only for events associated with their celebration. When you’re inviting guests, clearly convey which costs you’re picking up. “Money is a sensitive matter,” Ezon said, “and I’ve seen instances where some guests assume that every part of the trip is covered but get socked with an unexpected hotel bill. A scenario like that can hurt your valuable relationships.”
Have a Representative: Destination celebrations involve a lot of logistics, such as travel, the needs of your guests and the details of your different events. Managing all these aspects on your own is a headache and will leave you little room to enjoy your trip, Ezon said. A representative, either from your hotel or from a party planning company, can help lighten your load. Also, some travel agencies, including Ezon’s, have employees who are experts in planning large group getaways and can play the role of a representative. Expect to pay a representative around 10 percent of the celebration cost; hotels usually don’t charge for their representatives.
Pick the Right Destination: An easy-to-reach location reduces disruptions and is respectful of your guests, Ezon said. You might dream about a party in St. Barts, for example, but the Caribbean island has limited nonstop flights from the United States. Stick to a destination that is within a three-hour drive from where most of your guests live or is a manageable nonstop flight away.
Consider a Hotel Buyout: Taking over an entire hotel for your celebration has several advantages. “The mood is more intimate, you’ll get better service and you don’t have to worry about disturbing other guests with your festivities,” Ezon said. Whether you have 15 guests or 250, you can find an appropriate hotel, but if a buyout isn’t an option, choose a property with a variety of venues to host multiple events.