By Irene S. Levine, Special to Tribune Newspapers
7:14 PM EDT, March 12, 2013
LOS CABOS, Mexico — Nonstop laughter resounded from the round table of nine seated in the corner of a fine-dining restaurant at an all-inclusive resort. To further pique my curiosity, each woman had a brightly colored silk flower pinned in her hair. I couldn't resist approaching them to find out their story.
"We call ourselves the Traveling Ladies," one said. They were single, married and divorced; working and retired; and ranged in age from 40 to 60. They met while employed in different offices of the same federal agency in Washington, D.C.
Clearly, these women worked hard and played hard: This was their sixth-annual girlfriend getaway, this time to the Zoetry Casa del Mar resort at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Each five-day, four-night trip had been scheduled for mid-February, taking advantage of the long President's Day weekend and tacking on another day or two of vacation leave. Prior jaunts had taken the ladies to beach resorts in St. Lucia; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; the Dominican Republic; Curacao; and Turks and Caicos.
How do they decide on a destination? "A travel agent helps us narrow down our choices," said Janice Uthe, of Bowie, Md. "She finds options, prices them, and then we make a decision."
"The bonding starts on the plane: meeting up at the airport, adjusting seats to sit together, having a mimosa or two and getting a head start on relaxing," Uthe added.
The group prefers all-inclusive resorts so they don't have to labor over splitting meal bills or worry about who drinks and who doesn't.
The Traveling Ladies choose oceanfront properties in warm, sunny climates, preferably in locales most of them have never visited. Some book single rooms, and others double up to reduce costs. They book early to lock in favorable hotel and airline rates and to secure rooms next to each other.
They boast about another cost benefit of traveling with girlfriends: They can haggle when shopping, usually very successfully, and get "group rates" for clothes and jewelry purchases.
Though this was the most expensive trip they had taken, the boutique property with only 63 units meant not having to save beach chairs or fuss with dinner reservations.
Plus, cooking lessons, tequila tasting, afternoon tea, access to the spa and wellness assessments gave them activities to bond over.
"The larger group broke up into smaller groups during the day, and everyone did what they wanted," said Jeannine Schroeder, of Arlington, Va. "I like to paint or read on the beach, some went shopping, some visited the spa, and others went snorkeling, etc."
A whale-watching excursion in nearby Cabo San Lucas added a "wow" factor to the trip. "We also saw whales surfacing just off the beach from the patio of our room," Schroeder said. "It was amazing."
Every evening the ladies met at dinner to share experiences and plan the next day. They lapsed into "shop talk" only occasionally.
"People often comment on what fun we're having," said Amy Lakroune, of Arlington, Va.
For these ladies — and many girlfriends — being together is more important than the destination. Girlfriend getaways are a welcome escape from the stress of juggling careers, caregiving and other responsibilities, allowing women time to nurture their friendships.
"Traveling with friends is easier than traveling with family," Schroeder said. "On a trip with friends, everyone is on their best behavior."
When they return home, the ladies share memories again by posting digital pictures on a photo-sharing website — and planning their next getaway.
If you go
Zoetry Casa del Mar Los Cabos, Baja, Mexico; 888-496-3879; zoetryresorts.com/casadelmar
Promotional rates start from $288 per person per night double occupancy.
The Traveling Ladies paid about $2,400 per person for their four-night trip, including airfare.
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