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How to Plan a Girls-Only Vacation

You're swaddled in a robe, lounging with your pals, fruity beverage in hand, watching the sun set over a pool. No, this isn't a dream, ended by the wallop of your kid throwing himself on you. It's your next vacation. Here's how you can make it reality:

Set the date. It'll never happen if you don't! Strategically pick a downtime with your partner, taking his schedule into account, and he'll be less likely to balk later. A long weekend is a good choice, so you won't worry about whether the homework's getting done or who's picking her up from preschool. But lower midweek rates may justify the trouble of working out those details. Whatever time frame you settle on, consider making the trip a tradition, so it becomes an annual question of where you're going, not if.

Sort out finances. The earlier you plan, the more money you'll be able to save. Or target Mother's Day, your birthday, or Christmas: "My husband treats me to my getaways instead of buying me something material," says Cathy Hayes of Lakeland, FL, which makes her feel like everyone's on board. "And it tells the kids how important it is that Mommy have time away, so she can be a better mom!"

Consider your companions. What if your pals want to dance until 2 A.M. -- and your idea of heaven is eating dinner in the room while watching (in peace!) Ugly Betty? "Get everyone to talk out her expectations beforehand to create a mood of compromise," says Casey Wohl, blogger at GirlsGetawayGuide.net. (It's easy to do in an e-mail chain.) Urban romps and quiet retreats lend themselves to small groups. Outdoor pursuits are fun with a crowd; it's easy to break into subgroups, then hook back up for dinner. And think even numbers: Five probably won't fit in one room, so everyone's bottom line will climb as you divide up the cost of two rooms. Four works better in restaurants, too.

Plan right. Seek destinations that offer variety: beach horseback riding for active types, say, and a pool with a swim-up bar for laid-back ladies. Holly Miller, concierge at Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, AZ, suggests taking advantage of a concierge as the point person. Or use that e-mail chain again to divvy up jobs: "Ann, get cheap airfare"; "Dana, research restaurants"; "Jen, look into that show."

Brace yourself. "I dreaded having my husband give me a rundown of everything that went wrong," says Chris Bein, a mom of four in Babylon, NY, who made a foray to The Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos. Will clutter engulf the house? Probably. But, as Traci Mason in Lakeland, FL, says, "Not having to be on duty for 72 hours makes it well worth it!" Her only regret is not leaving paper plates and plastic cutlery. Bein made a timeline of everything that had to happen in her absence. "It made me feel more sane to know it was there," she says. And it worked. She came home to relative calm. The only thing she'd have done differently? "Make the trip longer!" she says. {C}

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