The Friday - Organise a Buddy Holiday with friends

Viewers watching the final, tense moments of the Premiership relegation battle last May will have noticed that Phil Brown, manager of struggling Hull City, was sporting a freshly cultivated goatee beard. This facial tonsure was, he claimed, not a Borg-esque good-luck charm, but an accessory for the motorcycle holiday he was about to start. Phil was about to go on a buddy holiday – heading for the south of France astride a meaty 1000cc machine with a group of like-minded, like-bearded friends.

The jeweller Stephen Webster, a married man with two children, has a thing for a “buddy holiday”, too. In the past couple of years he has taken two driving trips across America with fellow jeweller Jeff Ferro: one coast-to-coast via the Blue Ridge Mountains; the other on the wilderness route from Boulder, Colorado, to Canada, taking in Yellowstone and Idaho. Their vehicle? A boat-sized 1959 Thunderbird.

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These two trips have been among well-travelled Webster’s greatest-ever adventures, galvanising his friendship with Ferro – and that is the very point of a buddy holiday. Keeping in touch with friends gets harder as you get older. Hence trying to organise a quality-time holiday with friends can be a nightmare.

But the benefits are obvious and are, no doubt, the reason GMTV’s Penny Smith has chosen to go white-water rafting in Colorado with a pal, rather than sit on a sunlounger in the Algarve this year. At a certain point in life, people who do the daily school run, have working lives dominated by PowerPoint presentations and who drink double espressos to get through the day need to get away for a bit.

It could be to a countryhouse rental nowhere more exotic than West Sussex, a self-piloted barge on the Kennet and Avon Canal, hiking in Snowdonia, or horse riding in southern Spain – the actual destination really isn’t as important as the idea of going off with a bunch of friends to reacquaint with each other, talk nonsense and have a laugh before retiring to a blamelessly unmade bed.

“The real appeal is getting away and spending time with people you don’t see very often,” says Lucy Buckley, a marketeer from London. “We’ve been to a house we found in Devon several times – this year there were 16 of us. It’s a beautiful place, near a lovely beach with cliff-top walks and an organic farm nearby where we buy food for the weekend. It’s cheap in winter, too – about £40 per person.”

Despite the location’s charm, getting that many people in the same place at the same time is not without its challenges, Buckley says.

“Someone has to pay for it upfront, and sorting out food can be tricky. But it works, because the person in charge takes the initiative and people are a lot more relaxed when they’re a bit older.

"There’s a bit of a race down the M5 on Friday night to get the best rooms – it’s first come, first served,” Buckley adds. “But it’s all fairly jovial. After all, you don’t go away for the weekend to spend time in your bedroom, it’s about doing stuff together.”

Going away with old friends is merely an excuse to unload, kick back and switch off for a while. The buddy holiday is, essentially, a holiday free from responsibility. When you are young, single and carefree this sort of thing is easy to arrange. As you get older it becomes increasingly problematic – there are the complications of a busy social calendar, work commitments and other buddy holidaymakers to chivvy along.

Do it right, however, and much of the fun is in the organisation: choosing the destination and accommodation, and making sure that someone brings the Trivial Pursuit.

“We have a real mix of clients from all over the country: extended family, groups of friends,” says Charles Millward, CEO of Rural Retreats, which rents out large cottages across the UK. “A lot of people book months ahead. Some come for a holiday to catch up with friends, some for a special occasion, but they all like to treat the property as their own.”

Tom Barber started off his business – Original Travel, a bespoke, adventure-centric outfit – by organising cricket tours for groups. He thinks that pre-planning is the key element in getting a buddy holiday off the ground. He does warn, however, that volunteering as amateur tour operator (or “point man” as he terms it) may also have the odd and annoying effect of infantilising the rest of the group.

Once you show that you are the one who is organised and in charge – pinging out group emails, drawing up an itinerary and holding a clipboard – other members of the group may start acting like needy children.

Barber’s sage advice for any budding buddy-holidaymakers hoping to organise something similar, is to commit only to doing all the necessary work right up until everybody has arrived safely at the destination.

By all means, he agrees, badger people by email and make sure they pay up in advance. “After that,” he says, “it’s everyone for themselves.”

What's your idea of a perfect weekend? Let us know how it went in the comments box below.


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