By Sadie at Cover Story Media
So you want to have an offsite planning meeting with your team but don’t have a big budget. Hotel rooms can cost an average of $200-400 per night per room and add up quickly, especially as your team size grows. That’s why renting a vacation home is a perfect idea for how to not only save money but also create a more relaxed environment for team building. It’s a great value that will also add value to your time together. As a virtual team, Cover Story Media, Inc. has rented multiple vacation homes from VRBO and its companies over the years. Through our firsthand rental experiences, we’ve collected a number of tips for creating a successful company retreat at a rental property. Here are a few things to keep in mind before and after you book.
Before You Book:
Location, location, location - Pick a destination that is not only accessible for everyone to get to, but also centrally located to other activities, restaurants, etc. That way people can explore the local area and get a taste for the culture without having to stray too far from “home”.
Evaluate amenities - Make a list of the space requirements needed to accomplish your goals during the get together. Do you need a big living room for brainstorming, a quiet space for important conference calls or maybe separate breakout areas for small groups? Do you wish for a game room, swimming pool or beach to amp up the fun? If there are not enough bedrooms in most homes, you may want to consider renting in a condominium complex, adjacent townhomes or multiple houses close to one another. An added bonus: If you are staying for a week, most homes include a washer and dryer so you can bring half the clothes (save $ on your carry-on bag) and do laundry there.
Get connected - Unless the goal is to unplug, make sure there is good wifi so people can be productive. Nothing is worse than being stranded without a signal when you are trying to get work done. Read the listing and comments carefully to see if previous guests had any complaints about slow internet or praise for the high-speed streaming they were able to achieve for Netflix!
Read the fine print (especially reviews) - While a listing might include stunning photography that seems too good to be true, most people will let you know how their stay really was in the reviews. Heed the big red flag if there is negative feedback or a host that doesn’t respond to issues or inquiries. And make sure you find out the refund policy in case things come up and you have to reschedule or cancel. You may even want to consider investing in trip insurance if your trip is subject to change.
After You Book:
Request early check-in and late check-out - To give your team members more flexibility and allow everyone to maximize their retreat time, discussing your true time limits with your host are always good to know upfront and can allow for someone with an early flight arrival to settle in and prepare for the team before the whole group arrives.
Use your host to your advantage - Just because you don’t have a hotel concierge doesn’t mean you are on your own to plan things. Home owners will usually recommend nearby favorites on their rental page or in a book inside the property. If you are still a little lost for good tips, feel free to ask them for suggestions since they are familiar with the area.
Pack accordingly - You might not be near a CVS or a place to buy office supplies, so pack an extra bag of items you anticipate using. Sharpies, sticky notes, note pads and surge protectors always come in handy. Bringing a spare phone charger and a small first aid is always a good “just in case” idea! Lastly, plan your clothing in layers so you can adjust to the unknown local conditions since weather can change and your co-workers may have different ideas about the thermostat temperatures. ;)
Stock up - Arrive early if you can to stock the fridge and pantry with a variety of healthy snacks and beverages that way your guests feel welcome and have food and drink to quench their thirst and hunger right from the start. Make sure you take into account everyone’s dietary restrictions and personal preferences (doing a survey ahead of time for special requests is a good plan).
Wine and dine - Save money on fancy, expensive dinners by creating a home-cooked meal. Not only is it a great bonding activity to make meals together, it’s also a great way to take advantage of having a full kitchen (which you won’t get at most hotels). For an extra special experience, contact a local chef to come cook for the team.
Set the ambience - Most rental homes offer a way to plug in or use bluetooth via your phone to play music. Some even have record players to jam it out, old school-style. Having subtle, background music while working is a nice way to drown out background noise and break any awkward silences. You may even discover some new music from your colleagues!
Have fun - Most of all remember to enjoy the time together. Use the destination as a chance to relax your minds and focus on the big picture. The retreat offers a rare chance to step away from the daily grind. Having an agenda set ahead of time will allow everyone to know when the work time is vs. the play time so boundaries and schedules can be planned accordingly. Do group yoga on the patio, go on walks, work outside and make the most of your getaway.
Read more at Exploring Life’s Mysteries in our in-depth review of vacation rental sites where VRBO’s HomeAway is the top pick for best American Travel vacation rental site: http://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/vrbo-vs-airbnb-vs-homeaway-vs-flipkey-vs-windu/
About the Author
Sadie is the Director of Marketing for Cover Story Media, Inc. where she leads the charge on all brand management, graphic design, social media strategy and marketing initiatives. She has more than a decade experience in digital and traditional media for a wide-range of companies and industries, having managed social media for dozens of major companies including STA Travel and Alliance Abroad Group. When not working from home in Washington, D.C. you can find her visiting friends and family around the world including her hometown of Kansas City and adopted hometown of Austin.