Choosing the right venue for your Colorado retreat is as important as any step in your planning process. Have you ever attended an event where everyone sat around staring at each other and the conversation was as awkward as going to your first high school dance? Or attended a meeting at work where everyone gave updates on their projects, but the real issues never surfaced? In both cases, there were missed opportunities. People got together, but the level of engagement could be have been much better.
While getting people together, personally or professionally, is as simple as sending a text or email, making it a meaningful experience isn’t as simple. Like doing anything well, a great retreat requires intentional thought and effort.
Relationships aren’t developed by talking about the weather, sports, or the latest news. Common bonds aren’t created by merely having meals together. Learning and skill development don’t come from lectures. Great experiences don’t just happen by getting people together. To create great memories and deeper relationships, retreats need stimulating activity. For results to be sustainable, there needs to be interactivity or better yet … adventure.
Great retreats are the result of appealing to what people appreciate. Retreats are meaningful because they are satisfying and engaging. They include relaxation, invigoration, learning, fun, and relationship building. They can also include serious topics such as discussing how to overcome an obstacle, strategic planning, and business updates, but the agenda should be balanced.
Choosing the right rental for your Colorado retreat has everything to do with knowing your group’s preferences and location, location, location. It’s hard to please everyone, and equally hard to get participants to commit so you have a solid guest list. Our best advice is start early, at least 6 months in advance, and establish a deadline for guests to commit. Consider getting a deposit from each guest or family to help you pay the venue deposit when due.
When you have 80-90% of the desired commitments, establish a must-have and nice-to-have list of requirements for your retreat venue. Gathering input from your guests is the best way to ensure a good experience for everyone. We recommend using a short survey rather than just an open invitation for comments. There are several easy and free sources for online surveys, such as Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, SoGoSurvey, and Google Forms. We have created a sample survey to help you get started. Some topics to include are: bedroom preferences,, number of adults and children (ages), desired activities (on and off-property), desired amenities (hot tub, game room, home theatre, on-site laundry, parking, full kitchen, gathering space), cooking meals or dining out, food limitations, in-town or away from the crowds and noise, transportation needs, accessibility needs, budget, and any other categories unique to your group.
Using your requirements list, you are ready to begin looking at venues. We recommend using trusted search websites, such as HomeAway, VRBO, and TripAdvisor, looking for both good and bad reviews to help you avoid surprises. Property owners will always promote their venue’s most favorable features with enticing photographs. Use multiple search websites to maximize your property choices. Often, the best venues are a bit off the beaten track. Consider adjusting your dates to avoid premium holiday pricing, or even choosing off-season dates to save money and avoid the tourist crowds.
As a destination, Colorado offers many unique options. Is your group primarily interested in city life? Then choose downtown Denver, which offers several sports venues, cultural offerings, events in every category, nightlife, museums, art, public gardens, concerts, and restaurants to suit every taste. Many people choose Colorado for our amazing mountains and the associated activities. Did you know we have 6 mountain ranges from which to choose? While most offer skiing, hiking, rafting, and fishing, some are easier to get to than others. Colorado’s two main airports are in Denver and Colorado Springs. Both airports are conveniently close to Breckenridge and Summit County (Breckenridge, Keystone, Dillon, and Silverthorne), about a 90-minute drive. Airport shuttle services are readily available. Maybe that’s why Summit County has been dubbed “Colorado’s Playground.”
Having chosen your destination, consider whether a hotel, lodge, condos, or a private home would best suit your group. Is your purpose to create a shared experience or just a vacation? Hotels lack private gathering space and incur the expense and hassle of finding restaurants with group seating availability. Lodges may offer common areas and dining facilities. Condos offer individual living rooms and kitchens. A rental home allows your group to be together with shared gathering space and private bedrooms to rest and relax. Kids have more room to explore and have fun. By cooking or using a private chef or caterer, the total cost of a rental home can be more affordable than other options.
Knowing the desired type of rental for your Colorado retreat will narrow your choices. Using your dates, number of guests, and number of bedrooms should yield a preliminary list of venues for further research. Rather than letting price drive your decision at this point, go back to your must-have and nice-to-have requirements list. Be sure to check the number of bedrooms and bed configurations per room. Some property owners count sofa sleepers and air mattresses as beds. Some may also be in common areas rather than a bedroom. Bathrooms are equally important to a large group. Do any of your guests need a bathtub? An ADA-accessible toilet or shower? An elevator?
What amenities are important to your group? We already mentioned gathering space. Are there multiple areas, both indoors and outdoors? Is there a patio? A fire pit? A campfire area? Besides a large kitchen for cooking, is there a large dining room? Dishwasher? Enough refrigerator and freezer space? Is there a large grill? Did your group mention the need for a hot tub, spa, or fitness center? Improve the together-time with a game room or home theater or outdoor activities? Need to do laundry after your days of fun?
Looking at the activities your guests mentioned, does location matter? In-town is convenient for shopping and restaurants, but not so much for skiing, hiking, biking, golfing, and fishing. In-town parking can be limited and expensive. How many vehicles will your group have? Is there public transportation? Do you need a shuttle service to get to your activity? Need to buy tickets or make reservations in advance? What will you do if the weather isn’t conducive to your selected activities? Consider appointing an activities director for your group.
You should have a manageable list of property options at this point. Now you can compare prices. But published prices may not be the total cost. Be sure to ask about taxes, refundable and non-refundable deposits, minimum stays, cancellation policies, and extra fees, such as booking fees, cleaning, utilities, insurance, parking, linens, etc. Ask for a written quote and be sure to read the fine print in the contract, so there are no surprises. Submit your signed contract and deposit as soon as possible to lock-in your dates.
Now you can turn your attention to the more fun aspects of your Colorado retreat! Need some tips for organizing your retreat? We found this article from Forbes to be helpful. The most useful tip? Establish a group email or text thread or a private group Facebook page to communicate with everyone. You can use it to ask and answer questions, post updates, and generate excitement for the retreat. Posting photos of the venue and activities will spark the conversation. After your retreat, use the Facebook page or set up a photo-sharing site on Google or Instagram to capture and share your memories!
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