How to Plan a Creative Retreat Weekend

How to Plan a Creative Retreat Weekend via Chrystina Noel

In early March I had the pleasure of attending (well, and planning) a creative retreat weekend for three pretty fabulous ladies. We spent the weekend in Lancaster, PA – only 1.5 hours of Philadelphia, but it still felt great to get out of the City for a while – and to have some ladies to chat with about blogging and business troubles that we’re currently facing these days. And you know what? It was really quite easy to put together, I highly recommend it if you’re stuck in a rut and looking for a little more inspiration in your life. Here’s how to make it happen:

Choose a location

Admittedly, every part of me wants to be the person who emails a group of people and then decide all together where you want to spend the weekend, that’s just the kind of girl I am. I knew that was going to be really complicated though, so I went ahead and chose the location: Lancaster, PA, which turned out to be perfect. Here were my criteria:

  • Close enough to the city that it made sense to go for a weekend.
  • Not super expensive.
  • Must have cute coffee shops.

How to Plan a Creative Retreat Weekend via Chrystina Noel

Figure out a loose budget

Before you invite people to something, you need to know how much it’s roughly going to cost, that way people will know whether or not they’re able to financially commit. Break down your costs into the following categories:

  • Hotel/Lodging: Find a boutique hotel, an AirBNB, or stay at a friend’s house who lives in the area. Admittedly, I had a bunch of hotel points that were going to expire soon, so we used points to rent a hotel for two nights, which made this part of the trip $0.
  • Transportation: How will you get there? Will you need to rent a car? Is it cheaper to take public transportation than to have to park a car over night? What will gas and tolls cost?
  • Meals: Every individual has her own control over this, but have an idea if you want to go out for expensive dinners or stick to the basics ahead of time.

Figure out a loose itinerary

This will help provide some framework around what people will expect to do, what they will get out of the weekend, and what kind of logistics they should be planning for. Questions to consider include:

  • When will you arrive?
  • How many nights will you be staying?
  • What type of meals will you be eating?
  • What will you do each day?
  • When will you leave?

 How to Plan a Creative Retreat Weekend via Chrystina Noel

Send out your initial email

Choose some people that inspire you to come on the adventure. Keeping the list small will keep it manageable (in my brain once your group is large enough that you can’t all stay in the same location, you’re making it too complicated for yourself). Here’s what my initial email looked like:

Hi guys,

…I have 2 nights at a Holiday Inn that I need to book before Friday. I know some of you live in that area already, but I thought it would be fun to do a blogging retreat type thing at the Holiday Inn in Lancaster/Litiz. We can stay Friday and Saturday night. We can find a cute café to visit, we can set aside a bunch of time for blogging stuff we want to get ahead on, we can go out to dinner, and the stay itself will be free. I’ll be more than happy to itinerary it out if people are into that. And we can all drive there.

Upcoming dates that work for me:

  • February 3-5…

Thoughts?

xo

We found a date that worked (2 months out) and put it on the calendar all within 3 days.

Finalize some of the details

Once you know you’re going and book a place to stay, you have some time to figure out the details. I said in my email that that I would “itinerary it out” if people are into that. It turned out everybody was into the idea of a loose itinerary, and I would highly recommend it just to make sure the weekend has some forward momentum.

  • How will you be splitting the costs? Know this information ahead of time. Will one person be paying and everybody else will Venmo them. Should people come prepared with cash?
  • Structure your itinerary. Here was our plan: Arrive Friday night, have dinner at Bull’s Head, go to a café Saturday morning, mastermind conversations, lunch, go to the West Elm Outlet in the afternoon, have a nice dinner at Luca, wine in the hotel room, Sunday brunch, and head home. It was a loose enough itinerary to have a plan, but vague enough that we could decide things as we went (like what coffee shop to choose, where we would eat, and how long everything would take).
  • What will people need to bring? Sure, there’s toothbrush, toothpaste, underwear, etc, but should people also come prepared with specific questions? In doing my research for how to plan one of these, I found a great freebie from Sarah von Bargen at Yes and Yes called How to DIY a Creative Mastermind Retreat, where she mentioned having everyone give a small presentation on a topic to everyone else. I decided to keep it simpler for the first time around and ask everybody to come up with something they were struggling with right now to talk about.

 How to Plan a Creative Retreat Weekend via Chrystina Noel

Don’t forget to:

  • Exchange phone numbers (and consider starting a group text message to get people excited and coordinate logistics).
  • Make dinner reservations ahead of time.

Things I would do differently next time:

  • We had some really great conversations, but we didn’t accomplish much on the getting shit done front. There was time in the afternoon we could have planned better to be work session time.
  • Don’t be doing the Whole 30 before you go to a really great bar. (Ha, this was my own personal problem.)

My biggest worry before we got there was that people weren’t going to get anything out of it. It was actually really stressing me out. All of my worrying turned out to be pointless though (as worrying usually does). The weekend went wonderfully. Four people was just the right amount. It was amazing how effortlessly the conversation flowed from blogging to life to business ideas to shopping to internet culture. This is all to say that so long as you choose people that you’re excited to spend time with on your retreat, it will all turn out fine in the end.

Let me know if you end up planning a creative retreat weekend – or if you have any additional questions about planning your own. I’d love to help you out.

As for me? I’m definitely thinking about planning other one. I just need to choose the next location. I’ll keep y’all posted.

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  • “must have cute coffee shops” haha yessss. A creative retreat is such a good idea. It sounds like a dream to spend a weekend just doing creative stuff and leaving all the rest! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    PS: your Whole30 link is broken! I think there’s an extra hyphen between the Whole and 30 in the URL

    • It was definitely a good time. Highly recommend it if you’re ever stuck in a creative rut. I also totally think it’s possible to do locally to cut down on costs.

  • Haven’t really thought about this, but it makes a lot of sense. Something I’ll definitely look to set up with some like-minded business/blogger types. Still gotta find my people. Tough finding locals, though PHL Bloggers is a great start.

    Thanks for the idea and inspo!

    • Yeah, some days Philly seems like a huge and lonely city and some days you know everybody around you and realize it feels more like home. If there’s anything I can do to help, absolutely let me know!

  • You (or I guess I could, but you know so many people!) should do this in my neck of the woods for the next one, we can stay at my house, or rent a house on the lake. Or the catskills are beautiful.. just saying!

    • Oooh. I’ll let you know. 4 hours is a little bit long for a weekend road trip (unless you can take Friday/Monday off), which was my issue with bringing people to Connecticut, but I’ll let you know if I can figure something out.

  • Thanks again for planning this! I always love these more loose “retreat-like” blogging weekends with a small group. I get so much out of them, just from the conversation that naturally flows. Robert and I are buying a house so maybe we can do another one in Lebanon and you guys can all crash at my place! xoxo

    • Ooooh. Congrats! That would be awesome. Absolutely keep me posted. I need to go back to that place and get a beer and some pretzels, so I’ll definitely be back in that neck of the woods sooner than later.

  • Lisa

    It was such a great weekend! Thanks for putting it all together and coming out my way!