Two of my girlfriends and I got back from Brussels the other week. A super-chilled, no stress weekend that we organised in a day for less than £120. Brilliant! We had such a wonderful time too, sitting in the spring sunshine, sipping Belgian beers, contemplating whether to go for a waffle with cream and chocolate or banana and sprinkles. Putting the world to rights basically.
I thought I’d relay my top tips on organising a super-easy, stress-free weekend with your mates (or maybe your better half, your mum, anyone!). It needn’t be a big deal; in fact, its more about not doing any planning than actually planning! I hope it inspires you to get out and about and make more memories with your girls or boys. Enjoy!
- DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHERE YOU GO
Why Brussels you may have been asking. The simple answer? It was the cheapest option on Skyscanner for the weekend we wanted. I couldn’t give two hoots where we’d ended up; I was looking for a cheap weekend, away from the hum drum of home whilst Maz was away on a stag do, so I just searched for the cheapest option. And up popped Brussels.
It’s a beautiful city; very like Paris but slower and more friendly. It’s easy to navigate, plenty to see and do if you’re that way inclined with beautiful architecture and history and with the picturesque city of Bruges just an hour away, you can explore more of Belgium in just one weekend.
If you’re not fussy about where you end up, this certainly takes the stress out of planning. However, beware! Cheap flights often mean landing in some obscure airport outside of your destination. Whilst our shuttlebus to Charleroi Airport was easy to find and pretty simple to negotiate, it was pricey, costing nearly as much as the flight itself! Make sure you factor this into the cost so your cheap weekend away doesn’t spiral out of control.
- HAVE A KITTY
Having decided how much cash we were taking with us, we pooled our money when we got there and bought everything out of the kitty. This works brilliantly and means you spend more time exploring and less time faffing with the bill.
It also means everyone gets a round in. You know how annoying it is when someone announces they’ve got money left at the end of a holiday and you know it’s because they didn’t get the drinks in the night before. Cheeky!
It does become a problem if you’ve got members of the group not drinking, but in that case, we’ve had the drinkers contribute more to the kitty than the non-drinkers. It isn’t fool-proof but the time and hassle it saves you is worth it.
- KEEP THE PLANS VAGUE
This isn’t a hen do. You don’t need to fill every second of the day with organised and enforced fun. You’re meant to be chilling out and spending time together and you can’t enjoy each other’s company if one of you is charging off, stressed you’ll be late for the chocolate tasting you’re booked on to!
We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do. And by rough, I mean the vaguest of the vague! We knew we wanted to head into Bruges on the Saturday and explore Brussels on the Sunday before our flight home. We also knew we wanted to weekend to revolve around food and drinking, and that was pretty much our plan. And we stuck to it!
If there’s things you want to see or do, have them on your list and work them into your day. I fancied exploring the St Catherine area of Brussels, with its fashion and vintage boutiques and lots of Instagrammable shops. So we headed up there before wandering back down to the city centre, finding a delicious brunch stop called Chicago Café on the way. Sometimes, you find the best places when you aren’t even trying.
Be relaxed about your plans and go with the flow. It often makes for a much more relaxing break.
4. IT’S NOT IMPORTANT WHERE YOU STAY
We stayed in a gorgeous b&b called Serpentin. The apartment was in the loft space of the house, with a sunny kitchen dining area and practically a double bed each! The decor was totally up my street, chic, rustic and a bit thrown together and our continental breakfast of homemade granola, fresh fruit, coffee and pastries each morning was delicious. Best of all, it was £30 each a night.
However, we really didn’t spend that much time there. We were too busy out exploring. Try not to put too much emphasis on finding the perfect accommodation. Somewhere clean, central and great value for money is the most important thing. You don’t need a big communal space if there’s loads of you; if you all wanted to hang out in someone’s lounge, you could do that at home. Just somewhere comfy to lay your head is fine by me. I mostly use Booking.com or Air B&B for my holiday accommodation.
5. DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH THE PACKING
My essentials are always a comfy pair of shoes, a good pair of sunglasses, a packet of face wipes and a mini guidebook. As long as you’ve got those things, you’re set.
I love the Lonely Planet pocket city guides. I always invest in one before I go away. They’re packed full of handy hints, little day plans, restaurant recommendations and maps. £6 well spent before your trip I’d say.
Part of your trip being relaxed is travelling light and fuss-free. But a couple of essentials really help everything run smoothly. Don’t go mental with packing; plan a few outfits in advance, don’t bother with shower gel (every hotel has it!) and decide which one of you will bring the hair straighteners!
I can’t wait for the next girlie holiday me and my friends go on. Spending time with my friends in new places is one of my favourite things to do. I’d love to hear if you have any girls’ weekend suggestions or your top tips for Brussels, or anywhere else, in the comments section below.