If you’re planning a trip for a large group, it can seem like a daunting task. But, there are some things you can do to take the pressure off, making it an enjoyable Vegas experience not only for your party but you as well. I’m sorry, can we all just sit and bask in the beauty of that transition? Anyway, there’s going to be the inevitable headache from getting the plans together. People have different tastes, budgets, and vacation desires. However, whether it’s a bachelor or bachelorette party, a family vacation, or random trip with a group of friends, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the planning pangs.
Getting dates secured as early as possible helps every stakeholder. Most of these tips are for groups of 8 or more. If you’ve got less than 8 folks in your party, you may want to crowdsource potential dates for the trip among the group. If you’re at 8 + people, let the party leader (whoever the trip is for: the bachelor, bachelorette, birthday-haver, divorcee, etc.) choose the date. You’ll never be able to agree on days that work for everyone; it’s too much of a headache to even try. Have the party leader get a list of invites, choose the trip dates that works best for them, then send it immediately.
There’s no such thing as too soon. When I was putting together my bachelor party plans, I sent out the dates and the general Vegas proposal about 10 months in advance. This gave my group ample opportunity to put in time for vacation and, most importantly, to save some money if they had to. We had a great opportunity to look ahead for deals and it gave us a boat load of time building up Vegas anticipation, a fun part of the experience. I had several buddies thank me for telling them so far in advance and I credit the forward thinking for the reason I had so many show up. It certainly wasn’t my charming personality. I had 11 buddies in two during the memorable trip. Of course, sometimes we have Vegas whims and can’t always plan that far in advance, but just do your best to get the word out as soon as possible.
Pick a Host Hotel
Think of it like planning a conference. Every conference has a host hotel, but the planning team is never upset if individual attendees choose to stay in different accommodations. Give the same respect to the people in your Vegas group. After all, people have different budgets or, sometimes overlooked, loyalty. During my bachelor party, I was lucky in that all of us were pretty much on the same budget and I picked a hotel, the Flamingo, which was very wallet friendly. So, that hotel luckily worked for all of us. This may not always be the case, though. For instance, I’m helping plan a Vegas bachelor party for a July trip. The big boy was looking to stay at either Aria or Cosmo. For both, we were looking at a little over $200 a night for the room. The grand total would have been close to $700 total per room, if not, more. That was just fine for a few of us, but not everyone may have been comfortable spending that much money on a bed they’ll only spend a few hours in a night. It is a bachelor party. It’s important to remember that finances can be a touchy subject for some people and many may not speak up if they feel uncomfortable. I’ve seen some comments on low roller itineraries on the various Vegas message boards that say “If you can’t afford Vegas, you have no business going”. I may be dressing those comments up a bit, they’re usually not that elegant. Vegas, despite the proliferating fees, is still a great budget destination. We, as planners and Vegas fans, simply need to remember that bankrolls vary.
So, let the leader pick a hotel. It’ll serve as the daily meeting place for the group, but offer different suggestions for all the guests. My needs changed in the middle of our planning process. As I said earlier, thanks to a tip from Justin, I had a deal at Vdara that would have been too good to pass up. Knowing that our group was going to be around Aria, staying at Vdara, a short walk to Aria, isn’t a big deal. Another suggestion I offered to the group in Monte Carlo. It’s a cheap option and quick walk to the Aria casino. There’s no good reason to limit people’s choices. Unfortunately, those are all MGM properties. Understandably, Vegas veterans might not be too keen on supporting those properties with the new parking fees. This speaks to the idea of brand loyalty. Maybe a person in the group doesn’t care about the price, but they’ve built up some equity with a certain property or chain. Perhaps they simply don’t want to stay at MGM out of principal. Let them. Any money they save adds to their perceived value of the trip, potentially freeing up funds to spend on the bachelor or bachelorette later in the trip. The goal is to stay in the same general location. Lucky for us, every area of the Strip and downtown has a variety of hotel options. Let everyone accommodate themselves.
Use A Spreadsheet
Excel nerds can unite around this. Now that we have some dates and a general location, we can get rooms all set up. Control freaks and excessive planners may want to get very hands-on here. I wouldn’t. This is partially due to the fact that I’m lazy. Mostly, though, it’s because everyone in the group is an adult and they can handle it themselves. Well, maybe not completely. They’ll need a little help. This is where the spreadsheet comes in. Make an accessible and editable spreadsheet available online, my group uses Google drive. Here’s a template you can use.
On the sheet, list the names of all the confirmed attendees and their contact info. Also, list the days they are attending. Some may not have time off for the entire trip, but are still coming out for part of it. Next to that there is a column that will only house a check mark, confirming when they’ve booked a room. As people book, the next column will list the room pairings. The final column simply lists the hotel the pairings will be staying at. So, it’s 6 columns total. You put the spreadsheet out there and let the group contact each other and fill in the spreadsheet as they go. You’ll be spinning your wheels trying to coordinate everything. You can, of course, give a gentle nudge and suggest room pairings, but let those big boys handle most of the work. Leave the onus on them to do a majority of the work.
Also in the document is a brief list and description of other hotel options. Not everyone is as excited or knowledgeable about Las Vegas as we are, so this will be quite helpful. On the form I created, I also listed a range of expected room rates, resort fees included, for the other hotel options. If you use the simple template I created, it won’t take more than 30 minutes to set up. After that, it’s like cooking a rotisserie chicken, just set it and forget it.
Can you tell that I’m big on not doing a lot of work? Really, it’s for the better of the group. If you don’t plan anything at all, it can be hard to get a large group to come to a decision. If you plan to0 much, you lose the opportunity for those organic and seemingly random Vegas experiences to come about. My suggestion is to plan one thing for the group per day. Anything beyond that starts to become troublesome. Planners will spend more time looking at their watch trying to move the group to the next activity instead of just enjoying the moment. It also limits people’s chances to enjoy the activities they like. Further, it’s hard getting reservations for a big party. Stop stressing, it’s Vegas. Here’s of singular planned activities from my bachelor party:
Day 1 – Group dinner at Batista’s
Day 2 – Cabana at MGM
Day 3 – Scooter fun
Naturally, we did many other things as a group, but we didn’t put pressure on it. For instance, after our day 1 group dinner, I told the group that I was going to go downtown to gamble. Naturally, the everyone went along. Once downtown, the group split into smaller pairs based on what and where we wanted to play. This is a great part of going to Vegas with a group of friends. It sounds cheesy, but everyone creates their own memories. It’s really fun to see the different, smaller groups come together, especially if you have a mix of friends from different social circles. Plus, it’s really entertaining meeting up later, sometimes the next morning, and hearing about everyone’s stories from the night before. Vegas was made for these little adventures and people will have more fun if they don’t feel constricted to the big group at all times.
All this being said, if you’re the group leader or the reason for the season, be sure to let them know where you’re going or what your plans are. People sacrificed time and money to celebrate you, so keep them up to speed. I typically send out a group text in the mornings telling them my general itinerary for the day. If the whole gaggle wasn’t together, I’d send general updates like “headed to Golden Nugget with _____ and _____ .” Some may not want to join depending on how they fell, but they’ll appreciate being kept in the loop.
Make Day 1 the Big Night
One of the biggest Vegas mistakes I see happen all too often is parties going all out on their final night. I get the temptation. It’s likely your last day in Vegas for a while- you want to go out with a bang. Unfortunately, if you do that, you’re likely headed home with a hangover. Looking at the departing tourists at McCarran is simultaneously amusing and sad. It’s not fun flying with a pounding head or a turbulent stomach. My suggestion is to make night one the big Vegas romp you want to tell stories about. Your group is fresh off their flights and excitement is at a high. Use that energy and go all out. Most of us have trouble sleeping that first night anyway, we might as well use insomnia to our advantage. This also gives you the opportunity to soothe your hangover in relative comfort. You won’t have to worry about packing, checking out, and getting to the airport concerned about a cab cleanup fee.
The final day of the group trip is a perfect time for relaxing. A trip to the spa or a cabana rental is perfect. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a quiet night, but try to keep it a bit tame. This helps ease the transition back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Grab Some Supplies
You’ll want to grab some accoutrements before that first big night. You’ll be happy the next morning if you stock your room with ibuprofen, Gatorade, and the like. It helps if someone has a car, but with Uber or Lyft or one of the 287 CVS locations on the Strip, you can still do it fairly cheaply without renting a vehicle. Obviously, things will be cheaper and you’ll have more of a variety if you head to a store away from the action, but you have to balance the value of the items with the time and money it takes to get there.
If you only need some simple things like a few bottles of water and Advil, just walk to a CVS. If you’re looking to stock up on some non-standard beer or liquor, a journey may be worth it. Either way, hungover you will appreciate the planning you did the day before.
Don’t Meet in the Room
This is a mistake I’ve done and, in my experience, is just a waste of time. You’re seemingly always waiting on an individual or two to get ready, leaving most of the group twiddling their thumbs in a tiny room doing nothing. You’re wasting precious Vegas time. Instead, meet at a bar in the host hotel. This lets people get their night started with some choice cocktails and saves people staying in other hotels the hassle of navigating the different resort towers. There’s better people watching on the casino floor, so your inevitable wait for that one person who just can’t seem to get ready on time is much more enjoyable.
If one of the party members has a suite, then this all goes out the window. Any suite with a large kitchen area and full-size fridge makes for a decent meeting space. It allows for a much cheaper pre-gaming opportunity. If you paid for the big room, try to get your money’s worth.
You’re in Vegas. You’ll have fun if you allow yourself to, no matter what you’re doing. I know traveling and planning trips can be stressful, but once you’re there, just let Vegas takeover. If you don’t go to heavy preparing “perfect” activities, you won’t be disappointed when they inevitably go awry. And, trust me, they will.Let the group do what the group wants. There’s no preparing for the goofy things that can happen. Make one firm plan for the group per day, then enjoy the rest of your Vegas adventure.
I would love to hear what you think. Have you ever planned a big group outing? What worked? What tips do you have?