My name is Kelsey, and I am obsessive and neurotic about planning party trips.
There’s nothing I love more than bringing my friends together for a group vacation to celebrate a birthday, engagement or just the awesomeness that is us, but I also tend to get a bit carried away. I saw these traits in myself this past weekend, as my partner and I hosted 20 of our closest friends at his parents’ lake house for his 30th birthday. While some may see my incessant list making and job-delegating a bit over the top, I believe a destination party can be properly executed only when one has planned ahead. After all, we don’t want six people showing up with hamburger buns and Tecate, do we? I say come fully prepared, so I’ve laid out some tips on how to best plan and execute an epic journey with, say, a dozen or more of your closest pals. Let me help you be the MVP who has thought of everything.
I must first disclose that I learned many tricks of the trade from a dear friend of mine, Sean, who has traveled extensively across the country with friends in his personal RV. Many years ago, a group of around 22 of us rented a beach house in Gulf Shores for the Hangout Music Festival. My need to be in the know and to help has always been in my blood, Sean took his Director of Operations role to the next level. He woke up early to make the entire crew biscuits and gravy. He packed a tarp and a few tent walls to set up between a couple of palm trees in the middle of the festival to create a meeting spot for the crew, and a nice resting oasis. He’d walk to the beach from the house with a pitcher of some sort of new concoction and fill everyone’s half-empty cups.
I was hooked, and began helping him execute those large-batch cocktails for the whole crew.
The first item of business for any destination party is, of course, booze. Your friends will surely bring the basics, just as mine did this past weekend: cases upon cases of PBR, bourbon, vodka and champagne. You know those are on lock. But make a trip to Old Town Liquors (the best, in my personal opinion) and grab a few items to really shake it up. For example, a bottle of Velvet Falernum, a liqueur hailing from Barbados, with flavors of lime, almond, vanilla and clove, is delightful in tiki cocktails. Grab some coconut cream and fresh fruit — and wow the friends with a delectable Caribbean concoction. Snag a few bottles of affordable, extra-dry rosé to freeze in ice cube trays for blending.
Variety and execution are key, so don’t be afraid to play with the cocktail shaker and surprise the crew with something interesting and refreshing. Don’t forget to confirm that your rental property has a blender, or you’ll need to bring one from home.
Menus are a crucial component of the well-executed group trip. While some may find it odd that you’ve assigned them to bring guacamole, tilapia and corn tortillas, they’ll understand when the spread of various tacos comes together with appropriate fixins for the entire group. Planning menus with themes will allow for the family-meal component to shine. While folks may plan various activities (some may want to rent kayaks and paddle out to a sand bar, and some may want to hit the literal bars), everyone knows — dinner time means togetherness. And when everyone contributes, the spread is legit AF. Themes for future excursions? Low-country shrimp boil, Italian or grill night. Just don’t forget to plan the cocktails to coordinate.
While some may see the planner role as additional work — after all, we are going on vacation — I find joy in the execution. I love delivering a freshly-diced watermelon to my friends who are tossing a Frisbee around the beach. I absolutely adore cooking with, and for, my friends. I love sampling batch cocktails and straining shots into those tiny Solo cups. I get a strange high off making reservations and booking Airbnb’s and finding cool excursions.
Come to think of it, maybe I should do this for a living.