Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Packing for a Retreat: Part 1 - Venue

I'm pretty excited because I will be leaving soon for what has become an annual crafty retreat!  It has definitely become one of my favorite events of the year.  Not only is it a good chance to catch up with some pretty rockin' lady friends, but its also time to think about big projects and crank out some work that I've been putting off.

I attend some smaller work sessions throughout the year as well, but this is definitely the *big* trip.  As such, it requires a little more planning and packing than normal.  I'm grateful to have a space at home where my crafting supplies can always stay out, but it also means I'm able to accumulate a LOT of stuff.  And that I'm used to having everything accessible to me when I craft.

Therefore, I've developed a method for packing supplies for retreat/project weekends that works pretty well.  I thought I'd capture some of my process here throughout the next few weeks.  Maybe you'll find some of it useful!


So first I thought I'd talk about venue.  We are pretty lucky to have a large group of people and an amazing property all within reach.

Anyone in the Minnesota area looking for a retreat center, or family vacation/reunion venue - I definitely recommend this place!  It was built with large events in mind and it is GORGEOUS.  

Retreats work for all kinds of hobbies: scrapbooking/rubber stamping; quilting; woodworking; family reunions; woodworking/hobby craft; etc.  Here are a few things to consider when looking for a location:
  1. What is the purpose of your event?  What facilities do you need to have on-hand?  That can definitely determine where you can meet, and what type of facility you'll need.  Most crafters are looking for space, power outlets, and a place to sleep - but what else might be important?  Should the location have extra tools you can use?  Should they provide extra services (like massage, or product sales)?   Little things like cable tv or wireless internet may also make/break your weekend.   
  2. Where can your event be located?  Are people in your group willing to travel?  Do you need to be closer to an urban center or can you be cut off from the world a bit?  How close is the nearest supply store -- you will definitely need a break, and probably crave a special product to put the finishing touches on a project.
  3. What type of group are you with?  Does the building need to be chair accessible?  Does there need to be fitness equipment or walking trails available?  Is there enough space?  Are people comfortable sharing rooms?  Talk with your group - even though people likely won't admit it at first, everyone usually has a few "can't live withouts" that should play into your planning.  This also might help you root out whether you think you can survive an entire weekend cooped up together!
  4. How do you want to handle food?  This has changed for us every year.  At first we were all very diligent about saving money and splitting up meals - one person would take care of dinner the first night, someone else planned for the next night, etc.  When we moved to this venue, though, the owners offered a pretty good deal on preparing all of our meals for us -- and let me tell you, it was pretty awesome!  This year we're striking a balance - the owners will bring in/clean up dinner each night, but we'll be responsible for our own breakfast and lunch.  This gives us the freedom to operate our day on our own schedule, and then have a great dinner all taken care of for us.  This will almost always cost extra money, but sometimes its worth it!
  5. When???  Sometimes its all in the timing... and places that cater to our type of crowd often require reservations nearly a year in advance!  We choose dates for our next retreat each year as we're checking out of our current retreat!  Even then we don't always get our first choice.  If you can't get the venue you want, also consider renting a conference room at a local hotel - you can often work out free room rentals or facility fees if you also book a few nights at the hotel.  You even have the option to spend the night in your own bed...  

Once you have a general feel for this, start Googling!  The site above (VRBO) is a good place to start, depending on your area.  I would also check out property listings in your newspapers or Craigslist.  Also make sure when you find a venue that you clearly understand their check-in/check-out procedures, property rules, and any fees that could be charged if you leave a mess (as tends to happen in crafting!).

If you can establish a good relationship with a renter or property owner, you'll be able to keep coming back year after year!  Make sure to stay tuned as I start talking about some of my packing tips and tricks!

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