I hadn’t been on Spring Break since I was but a naive college kid some, er, years ago. But my mom wanted to celebrate my sister’s last week of (semi-)freedom—she finishes her masters of accountancy in June, takes the last part of the CPA in August and starts her full-time job at a Big Four firm in Charlotte in October—so we left the boys at home to fend for themselves, packed the Enclave and all caravan-ed down to the Florida Panhandle for a week.
Here’s how I recommend planning the ultimate (adult) Spring Break getaway:
1. Sift through the masses of vacation rentals to find a place that works for you.
We had planned to stay at our usual haunt, Sandestin, but when our rental fell through a week before we were set to leave, I hopped on HomeAway and frantically started searching for a back-up. There are plenty of house rentals in South Walton, Destin and Panama City, but we’re more condo-type people when we vacation in Florida. I’ve generally had decent luck finding places on VRBO in the past, and this time was no exception: There were loads of places available, but most had just two bedrooms and slept a maximum of six. We had eight, and in the end, I booked a three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo right outside of Grayton Beach for a total of $1245 for the week. That’s less than $200 a night and just $155 per person for the whole stay—and in peak season at that. I’m telling you, vacation rentals are the way to go if you want to score a deal.
2. Invite the right people.
In our case this meant one of my mom’s best friends Ginny, who came along as our comic relief; my cousin’s wife Kelly, who is about the most laid-back, pleasant individual to ever roam the planet; and my sister’s three grad school friends, Stephanie, Allie and Kaitlyn, who were not only barrels of fun, but were responsible, clean, thoughtful and all-around delightful. Our condo stayed pretty impeccable given we had eight people dragging in sand from the beach on a daily basis.
3. Leave the go-doers at home.
Have you ever had friends who are incapable of relaxing and doing nothing but sitting on the beach? (I married such a person. Just ask how long he was able to sit still on our honeymoon in Borneo. Half an hour, max, is the answer.) The eight of us were not those people. Many days we stayed by the pool until 5pm, and I think I might have put on clothes that weren’t my bathing suit three times the entire week. My kind of vacation.
We brought several movies, as well as board games, and didn’t break any of them out once. (That could also be due to the fact that at least half of us were glued to our phones playing each other in Draw Something for much of the week.) As usual, I also brought loads of athletic gear that went unused (other than one seven-mile run down the coast), but oh well: There’s plenty of time to work out now that I’m back.
Oh, and there might have been a whole lot of cocktails and wine involved. I’m just sayin’.
4. Bring along friends who love to cook.
Kelly and my cousin Andrew are the types who have pasta-making parties at their home in Birmingham, bake their own bread and do other sorts of kitchen-y tasks I can’t even imagine, so Kelly showed up with a full bag of spices and other accoutrements. This meant we didn’t go hungry, and even though our oven was broken all week, we still had a number of feasts such as red snapper tacos. Kari’s friend Allie, a vegan and master chef, also whipped up some meals for us when the rest of us were too lazy to do so. I love surrounding myself by people who can cook; it makes my life that much easier (and more delicious).
5. …but still plan nights out.
We did go out to eat twice, first to Poppy’s at Baytowne Wharf, then to the popular Red Bar, which we’ve been visiting for the past 15 years and which was conveniently located a mile and a half from our condo. (Personally, I think it’s suffered a case of getting too-popular-for-its-own-good—my food wasn’t nearly as tasty as in the past—and next time I’d like to check out Louis Louis, owned by the same management company, instead.)
And naturally we hit up the Donut Hole for breakfast on the way back out of town. Not to do so would be a sin.
6. Work on your tan.
This was my main objective for the week, and I’d say I accomplished what I set out to do. Before you skin cancer-phobes jump down my throat, I applied SPF 30 all over at least three times a day (I still burned, oops) and wore a hat the entire time.
7. Don’t forget the nail polish.
It’s not a girls’ trip, after all, if manicures aren’t involved.
8. HAVE FUN.
Duh. That one is pretty self explanatory.