8 Destinations For Your Next Girlfriends’ Getaway

Something I look forward to every year is a girl’s getaway with my best friends from high school.  We have been friends for over 25 years, some of us over 30 years, and we’ve continued a tradition of girl’s getaways that started the summer we graduated. So much has changed (marriages, babies, moves) but these ladies are a reliable constant in my life and are like sisters to me.  We’re now scattered from the Midwest to the East Coast, and have added 4 husbands and 9 children to the mix. (Although, girl’s getaways are husband- and kid-free, otherwise it’s not really a getaway!)

Graduation - Julie, Lisa, Jenny, Olivia and I

Our first “official” girl’s getaway was a short road trip to the Chicago-land Great America where we all crammed ourselves into 1 cheap, dingy hotel room.  There were a lot of those low-budget trips early on, followed by destination weddings, hometown reunions and honest-to-god vacations.  Not everyone can make it every year, but we’ve managed to keep this tradition going for 24 years now.  (yeah, do the math, we’ve been out of high school a while.)  Each year, we vote on the following year’s destination and we’ve racked up some pretty good miles over the years.

Annual Girls weekend to Great AmericaAmy, April, Olivia, Jenny, Andrea, me, Lisa

Looking back on those trips, here are some of my favorite places we’ve gotten together.  We all agree that it’s the company that makes the trip and it doesn’t really matter where we are, but for a travel junkie like me, seeing a new place is the icing on the cake!

Chicago, IL – I’ve lived in Chicago for most of my post-college life. As a major airline hub, and the 3rd largest city in the US, it’s an easy meeting spot, so I have hosted several girl’s weekends.  We have done street festivals, dinner cruises on Lake Michigan, Cubs games, bar hopping and museums.  Most recently, we got together to celebrate a Cubs World Series win, along with 5 million other fans.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – Lake Geneva is a weekend destination a few hours outside of Chicago.  The lakeshore is lined with mansions once belonging to Chicago’s elite families, like the Wrigley’s.  We used VRBO to rent a house in town, and spent the weekend grilling out, imbibing on many cocktails and cruising the small town looking for trouble.

08/04 - Beach at Lake Geneva

Las Vegas – Every gaggle of girls ends up in Vegas at some point, usually for a bachelorette party.  One of our girls held a destination wedding in Vegas so it was a great excuse to meet up in Sin City.   Everyone needs to experience Vegas at least once, why not grab your best girls and check it out!

Screaming time

Arizona/Utah Road Trip – I was planning a solo road-trip through the Southwest US and to my surprise, the girls wanted to come along.  We hatched the plan in the wee hours at a bar and still laugh about the drunken phone call one girl received well after midnight, with 4 of us screaming into the phone: “WE’RE GOING TO THE GRAND CANYON”  Instead of our usual weekend trip, 4 of us managed a full week, and a 5th joined us for a few days at the end.  We flew in and out of Vegas, hitting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Zion & Bryce National Parks. They even joined me for an overnight backpack down into the canyon. You know it’s true friendship when someone is willing to schlep a 40 pound pack with you!

9/7 - Bright Angel Trail - Jenny, Amy, me, Olivia

Austin, Texas – one of our girls lived in Austin for a few years so we took the opportunity to head down and check it all out.  We were shocked by unseasonably cold and wet weather, but still had fun in this city known for live music and BBQ.

Lake Austin from the top of Mt Bonnell(photo by April)

Vermont – our Austin girl later moved to New Hampshire and we all agreed we wanted to see Vermont in the fall.  We spent two days up in Stowe, at the Green Mountain Inn, exploring country roads and this small ski town, stumbling upon the Trapp Family Lodge and hitting up the Ben & Jerry’s factory for a tour and free samples.  We also spent a night in Burlington to check out the foodie scene.  There is so much to do here, I would love to come back and spend some time around Lake Champlain.  I was surprised how short the flight from Chicago was, too!

Asheville, North Carolina – Asheville was a great location, centrally located for those of us in the Midwest or East Coast.  We used VRBO again to find a cabin in the woods where we could kick back and catch up.  We visited Biltmore, which was super fun, but I think we spent the rest of the weekend in our PJ’s.  With this well-stocked kitchen, can you blame us?

A well stocked cabin in the woods!

Ft Lauderdale, Florida – we actually had two trips to Ft Lauderdale – first for a wedding, and again a few years later when our Miami friend had twin babies at home and wanted to stay nearby.  FTL is a calmer, more casual alternative to super-hip Miami, although we stayed at “The W” last time and I remember feeling a little old for that scene, haha!  We were more interested in the dessert menu at the Cheesecake Factory than the clubs on that trip!

Up next…

Santa Fe, New Mexico – I’m adding Santa Fe because it’s our 2017 destination and I think it’s going to be awesome! It’s new for all of us, so we’ll get to explore together and those of us who enjoy travel planning will get to do tons of research ahead of time.  I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s looking like it might be the first time all 6 of us have been together in 11 years!!!  Check back in October for more posts on that trip and feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments!

Girls Trip Bryce Canyon

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Product Review: Ruffwear Palisades Pack

When it comes to outdoor adventure, being able to bring my dog along is always a plus!  Bailey’s first backpacking trip was an overnight winter trip in Wisconsin.  Carrying her bed, food and blanket in addition to my own heavy winter gear was just too much! After that trip, I decided to purchase the Ruffwear Palisades Pack for our outdoor adventures. I’ve always trusted the Ruffwear brand, as their products are high quality and well tested for outdoor adventure.  My favorite dog training guru, Cesar Millan, also recommends a pack for your dog as a way to tire them out.  (A tired dog is a happy dog!) To that end, I have used the pack for long city walks, too!

Outdoor Adventure Dog Backpack

The Palisades Pack comes with a separate harness to which the pack clips in.  It’s a good idea to start out with just the harness so your dog can get used to wearing this.  I’ve read of other dogs getting hot spots where the harness rubs.  This hasn’t been an issue for us, thankfully, but definitely something you need to watch out for.  There are plenty of straps you can adjust to get just the right fit.

The pack itself then attaches at 4 clips on the harness.

Outdoor Adventure Dog Pack

Each side has a large main pocket, plus small zippered pockets on the outside.  The smaller pocket is good for things like treats and poop bags.  There are also several lash points on the pack, which I’ve sometimes used to attach an extra blanket if we’re expecting low temps at night. Inside the pack, Ruffwear also includes two plastic water bladders.  These are awesome and eliminate the need to get out a water bowl at every stop.  I let Bailey drink from streams along the way, but it’s always important to have backup water on hand, as we learned from a very hot, dry hike in Colorado.

Outdoor Adventure Dog

The biggest issue with the pack, which I suspect is the case with any pack, is that it’s tricky to get the bags balanced out exactly even on both sides, especially as you use up water and food throughout the day.  You can see in this pic that the saddles leaning to the right. I have to fidget with them quite a bit when starting a hike until I get them just right.

Outdoor Dog Backpack

From what I’ve read online, a dog should not carry more than 10% of their body weight, and it’s very important to check with your vet, especially if you have a puppy as strenuous activity can affect development.

So, what’s in our pack?  Bailey carries her own food (pre-portioned into 1-quart Ziplock bags.)  Her food dish is a plastic Tupperware container with lid (the kind lunchmeat comes in) and she has a collapsible water dish. When we’re camping in bear country, I just string the pack up with my own food bag to hang from a tree.

So, even though my dog’s backpack actually cost more than my own,, it was money well spent as the quality is quite good and I think this will last us for many years of outdoor adventure.

Dog Backpack Review


What outdoor adventures does your dog join you on?

Note:  I paid full price for this pack and was not compensated for the review.

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