"Ladycations" Keep My Head Above Water—Here's Why I Make Them a Priority and You Should Too
A getaway with my girlfriends is a well-being game changer. Here are the benefits and basic how-tos of planning—and nailing—a "ladycation."
I awake with a low rumble of stress that I cannot shake. A current of irritation shadows me during the out-the-door rush, throughout my workday, into the after-school shuffle, through dinner prep and consumption and cleanup, into my son’s seemingly interminable bedtime routine. The anxiety, sticky and gnawing, finally peaks around 9 p.m., when my partner and I should be connecting, disconnected from our devices, but instead are sending off final emails, signing class forms, fretting over bank statements and kid transportation needs and, oof, schedule snafus for the next several days.
I am depleted. Exercise and SAD lights and meds and therapy help (sorta), but still: I am a matted snarl of shared responsibilities and time-straddling worries: “Did we actually send those last thank-yous?” and “Is this the camp/activity/volunteer sign-up week?”
At some point, my husband, bless him, asks gently, “Ladycation?”
And like that, the haze clears. The thrum dulls. I send my besties a text: “Where to? When?”
Why Should You Take a Ladycation?
Ok, so maybe it’s not just the suggestion of ladycation, a portmanteau of “lady” and “vacation,” that cures me. (Though science says traveling with female friends is super good for our health.) For me, it’s the reminder that connecting with my pals—old or new or both—for longer than the length of a meal in a place that is not my living room. And this re-realization soothes me every time. I ask myself, "Will a getaway with my girlfriends…"
- Get me out of my rut routine? Check!
- Validate some universal truths of being a woman/partner/parent in this complicated, often confounding sociopolitical climate? Yes!
- Expose me to a place and people and ideas I am not immersed in on the daily? Sure can!
- Offer me the breathing space or emotional closeness I am lacking? Yup.
- Underscore that I do, indeed, have agency over my own actions, and that the pressure-release valve is mine to deploy, anytime? Sigh. Yes.
Who Should You Bring?
The person (or people) you invite to join you depends on what you need from your getaway. I’ve rented a cabin in the woods with nine other mothers, in which we shared queen beds and puppy-piled on rugs. I’ve slept on a cot in the kitchen of a studio apartment with my two besties on air mattresses across the room. A pal and I have splurged on a two-bedroom suite. Bring who you need. Just know whomever you choose, you’ll know them much better afterward—even if that person is just you.
Where Should You Go, and for How Long?
Spoiler: Ladycation destination and duration doesn’t matter. To combat the aforementioned February blues, I plan a weeklong getaway with faraway pals yearly. Depending how flush with funds we feel at the time, we’ve booked luxury spa weeks in Mexico, day spa passes in a city between us, strip mall pedicures in the village where I live, and at-home face masks in their towns. All get the job done.
Go wherever gives you what you and your pal(s) need, for as long as you can, without putting any of you out. Once I scheduled a trip to spend the night with a friend who loves to cook in a town 30 minutes from me: We ate her incredible soup and watched HGTV until midnight. I bought breakfast the next morning before we took a lingering trip to Target together. Ladycation!
You've Selected a Spot. Now What?
Your ladycation itinerary couldn’t be more subjective. In my best-case scenario, I get to wake when I want; eat relaxing, slow meals; have sweat, reading, and nap sessions; and sustain core-aching belly laughs with beloveds. My trip should encourage me to think on and/or talk through becoming a better friend, neighbor, mother, partner, daughter, and human. Regardless of what my pals and I plan, my dream ladycation should reinforce the truths I am encountering as a woman in her late 30s that continue to surprise me with their simplicity and profundity:
- Money does not solve everything. Financial privilege may afford me access to considerable options for addressing my problems, but it does not guarantee a solution to what ails my mind, body, or spirit. A vacation of this nature should feel indulgent but should not create additional dollar woes upon return, period.
- I cannot run away from my problems, perceived or otherwise. They will stow away in my duffel, no matter how overfull it is already. A ladycation will not solve my issues, but it will offer chances for me to get that work started.
- I can take time to concentrate on my health. I can work toward good mental and physical health now or spend effort addressing it, eventually, later. Both times are the right time—so the answer to “Wanna take a walk?” during ladycation should always be yes.
There are as many reasons to get away as there are excuses not to. And an equal number of girlfriend getaway city guides: Read one, or assign several pals to peruse Pinterest and achieve consensus for a future trip. Or call your crew and arrange to meet, stat. Together, pick a direction, pack up those road trip essentials, and start driving. Take turns playing DJ. Or switch off the stereo entirely and start working through stuff—even if it’s just where to stop for dinner. It doesn’t matter how you ladycation: You really will be better for it, regardless. Take my word.