Traveling is never more fun than with your girls.

We all know how important a little time off is. When you spend your days working or taking care of your family, it can be difficult to plan that time. But rest, relaxation, and recuperation are key elements to leading a successful life — a little down time can lead to increased productivity, less stress and anxiety, and overall increased well-being. That is why “Carol’s Girls” (Carol Craighead, Janet Wear-Enloe, Nancy Mathis, Beth Stucky, Beverly Carney, and Janet Sager) make their yearly girl trips a priority.

Janet, director of business development and marketing at SSM Health – Mid-Missouri, is a strong advocate for taking girls’ trips. “I have two adult daughters, and I encourage them both to do things with girls,” she says. “One’s married and the other has a serious boyfriend, and I think that’s awesome. I also think it’s very important for you to have a group of girls to do things with because you share different things.

“I have three different groups that I do stuff with, and one of them is a group I grew up with,” she continues. “We started when our first child was a year old, and we started because we lived in different towns. We just met in our hometown to get together for picnics with the family. It was a way for us to stay connected.”

Carol’s Girls

Carol’s Girls, so named because Carol Craighead is the planner of the group, started getting together for Carol’s 50th birthday celebration. “It was a wild weekend,” she says. “My birthday is in February, and we went to a bed-and-breakfast in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We literally got snowed in so much  that the owner didn’t even show up. We were there overnight because it was so treacherous. But there was something magical about that weekend that was so fun and special, so we just continued on after that.”

After they began traveling together, their trips began to hold extra purpose. After the passing of their pastor, the ladies decided to take his widow, Wilma, to the beach where she always wanted to go. “She was around 80 years old when we started taking her with us,” says Carol. “We were able to take her six times before she turned 90.” These days, Wilma still enjoys the trips through photo albums.

“We would do devotionals in the morning and walk on the beach,” says Janet.

“It’s our faith that has brought and kept us together,” adds Beverly.

“Faith is a really special aspect of our trips because not only do we have our fun times, but we have a spiritual bond that we share as well,” says Carol. “There’s something special about getting together with women who are the same age and same stage of life as you are.” 

 “Since we have started this 15 years ago, I think we’ve had 20 grandchildren between us,” adds Beverly. “We’ve had weddings, parents lost, illnesses, and more.” Through all that, these women find support and comfort in each other and make it a priority to find the time to get together.

“We support each other all the time,” says Janet. “We’ll just text Carol, who will send a group email so we can all keep up with each other between trips and birthday celebrations.”

Key Tips

Over the many years of taking trips with each other and other groups, Carol’s Girls have some advice for planning your own girl trips.

First, pick a group that suits each other well and communicates clearly and often. This cuts down on any drama that could occur. “We seem to know what each other is feeling and we all pitch in,” says Carol.

Second, mix it up. Big trips to exotic places are always fun, but if schedules don’t allow for it, stay close to home. Whether it’s a weekend trip to Branson or the Lake or a weeklong vacation to Aruba, the time away with your friends is the most important part. Carol’s Girls have done everything from visiting quiet seaside towns to going to unusual places like “Club Bed” to being teased by Spanish performers at a flamenco club. They have even participated in trivia nights in New York and food tours in multiple cities.

Third, be smart with your money. This doesn’t only mean budgeting; it means pooling money and having someone assigned as “treasurer.” For some trips “people bring breads and things for breakfast, or we’ll go grocery shopping together on the first day,” says Janet. “That’s an experience.” They recommend renting a vehicle that will fit all your guests in order to cut down on the cost of cabs and gas. If calling a cab is necessary, have one person handle those transactions and keep track of the total to separate out at the end of the trips. They also recommend this for tipping.

Fourth, pack smart. If you’re going to be staying somewhere the night before or during travel, pack a separate bag to avoid having to unpack everything. Also, bring games or movies. The weather almost never fails to surprise you, especially on a long trip. In case of storms, a (objectively) good movie or board and card games can be a saving grace.

Fifth, do your research. Check several websites or travel brochures to find the best places to stay, eat, or patronize before arriving at your destination. “There have been some times when I’ve booked places that were described as ‘quaint,’” says Carol, “and when we got there, they were so bad.” If you do run into that problem, follow these ladies’ lead and make the best of it.

Their biggest piece of advice is simply to make the time for the trip. “Don’t put it off,” says Janet. “It’s really easy to not do it. One year, with the group I grew up with, because of our kids’ schedules, our year was about to come up and we hadn’t planned a trip. This would have been the first time in 20 years, so they all came to my house. We went out to Living Windows and had dinner while my husband stayed in a hotel.”

So no more excuses. Call up your girlfriends and start planning this year’s trip to France, Florida, or through Missouri’s wine country. Wherever you go, bring your support group with you.