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How I Quickly and Easily Hosted A Lean Retreat with Rave Reviews

I remember walking on a sunny day in Alabama with a neighbor friend. I discussed my vision for hosting retreats–a seed was planted. 
It would be 2 years later before I would host my first retreat. Retreats are fun and they’re a great way to share space with people who are aligned with your values. 


As I was researching and planning for my retreat, I’d read about women needing more insight prior to hosting and facilitating retreats. I followed suit and searched all the things to host a retreat as well. Looking back, I still needed to research and plan but I didn’t realize my unfair advantage was my Operations skillset. At that point, I didn’t fully realize that I could manage this project just like any other project. 


Being project manager for my retreat was an easy undertaking. However, I did start small because I didn’t fully know what to expect.
Here’s what I learned from hosting my first couple of retreats. 


Management of the Retreat


I managed all the details for the retreat in Google sheets.  I reached out to different destinations to gather information.  I priced amenities at a few hotels and spas, local villas on the gulf coast, and destinations abroad. The hotel paired me with an events manager to navigate the hotel’s amenities.  I had to gather my own data through calls and emails for other less resort like locations as they didn’t have designated event managers on staff. 


I narrowed down my location options to a villa near the beach and a local hotel and spa. I ultimately chose the villa. 


I itemized retreat expenses in Google sheets. Other data that was logged into Google sheets included the retreat agenda, meals that would be included, the guest list (and any known food allergies), and retreat deliverables. 


Google sheets was definitely robust enough to help me manage this retreat. 


Retreat Destination and Proximity


The location of the retreat can be quite the selling point for a retreat. I learned quickly to do what felt comfortable and manageable.
Since the retreat location was a villa (where we were staying in close quarters), it was important that our values were in alignment.
I iterated that all retreat events were optional. We had a few house rules in the welcome packet and they were well received. 


Because we were living in a villa, I was really clear on the meals that would be included. I also added a disclaimer that things were subject to change.
I did not provide all meals or their retreat ticket would have been much higher. We ate together at local restaurants for 90% of our meals. 


I provided light snacks for meet and greet (the first evening of the retreat), and breakfast twice and lunch once. I was clear as to what type of breakfast would be provided. I cooked quiche one morning–I observed diets without restrictions, vegetarians and my bandwidth to serve breakfast.  


Quiche is quick and rather easy and I didn’t feel pulled in too many directions. My quiche was a hit and I felt good about that! There was nothing super special about the recipe. I grabbed a recipe from the web and made it my own.


For the planned lunch we had a crawfish boil. Catering to different diets can take effort (unless it’s being catered). There were no food allergies as I made sure of that before finalizing the event.




Retreat payment should be finalized long before you travel. Hotels that accommodate events will lead by example and request a percentage of money in advance. The best way to feel comfortable about booking a location without fear of losing your personal funds is to have the funds to pay for the retreat in your possession. Resorts will give you the specifics on payments so that you can plan accordingly. 


Refunds are only given up until the location is booked. At that time, no refunds can be given. 


Every guest received a welcome packet and swag when they arrived at the retreat. I placed a welcome packet and a personalized towel on each bed. 


In the welcome packet, it’s important to communicate the events of the retreat clearly. Additionally, we posted the next day’s agenda on a cue card on the kitchen counter and dining table so that the guests had a reminder of the agenda. 



Retreat Guests


My retreat was a small boutique feel. Eight women were invited and six came to the retreat. The retreat days were Thursday thru Sunday. 


If you are entertaining moms with school age children, please note that their best times of availability will be Friday thru Sunday during school. They may be able to swing a Thursday without feeling like they are ditching their mom duties. 


Ask for feedback


The mark of good customer service is asking for and acting on feedback. Feedback allows you to improve upon and maximize your rave worthy experience. 


After collecting feedback, I learned that some of the ladies wanted more time to venture out alone to see the city. On the other hand, another lady planned to and slept in through our early morning workout session. 


Even though I stated all things were optional, it’s my job as the retreat host to make sure they know this and actually take time away from the group if they need to. 


Below are some affiliate links, which means I may get a commission or reward if you sign up or purchase. Don’t worry, none of the fees of these resources have been increased to compensate me.


What I would do differently


Each guest will be responsible for their living space. I had an amazing time at the villa but I felt responsible for the condition of the villa. Again, we were all in alignment and things went well, but I want to relieve myself of that responsibility in the future. 


Use ClickUp as my project management tool. Google sheets was 100% adequate but my business hub is now in ClickUp so I would want to manage all of my events from there. 


I will make sure to remind each guest that as much as we would want them to participate in the community experience, it’s up to them to create the best experience for themselves to include planning extra down time and smaller group excursions. 


Although I am a minimalist I would like for my retreats to have more amenities. I had this thought that if the cost was too high, fewer people would come. Who knows, but I’m aiming for a more pampered experience in the future. 


I’m a handmaker and I love to share my work with others. I’m still on the fence on swag–will I create it or outsource it? I know, I know straddling the fence hurts but what can I say, this has yet to be determined. 


Looking Ahead


Your retreat experience is just that, your experience. There is no one way to host and facilitate a retreat. Do what makes you and your guests happy. 


Use these tips to get you started! If you have any questions, send me an email at mary@marystewart.net  


As far as my retreats, memories were made. There were rave reviews. Friendships were forged or deepened and as a result my retreats are requested. So that’s a win in my book. 



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