No matter how much we plan, special occasions and holidays aren’t always convenient to celebrate at home or even in our home town. Whatever the reason for being away from home, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up your celebration! Here are some ideas and things to consider when planning your party away from home.

Keep it simple.

If you have a guest of honor, you can still keep it simple and to their tastes. The venue is the first thing to decide. Family or friends’ houses are great as long as they are willing. Entertainment and sports venues are also good choices, as well as restaurants. Whatever you pick, have a back-up plan in case the family or friends cancel, the venue closes for repairs, etc. Once you have that picked, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty.

Meals

Picked a restaurant? Meals are always a good time to celebrate and they’re easy to organize because, HEY, you were going to eat anyway, right? Find out what their favorite restaurant is and then look to see if there are any open in the area. There are a lot of small ways to make a big impact, such as:

Reservations. These are very helpful if you have a lot of people attending, it’s during peak meal times, and / or the restaurant is popular. You don’t want to show up for the party only to have everyone’s energy fizzle after waiting for an hour for a table. Additionally it is helpful for the staff to know in advance that a large party is coming, not just for getting the table ready, but also to help plan their supplies (ex: rolled silverware, water pitchers, salt & pepper shakers, etc.).

Table(s). Does the guest of honor have a favorite table? Maybe there are more scenic views for certain tables? Or would you prefer to have a private room? Don’t forget to ask when making the reservation or talking to the hostess. Most restaurants will try to accommodate your wishes if they can… and usually at no extra charge.

Food & Drinks. You can’t go wrong with a favorite dish, and you can plan on other fun foods, too. Ask the restaurant if they have any special-order dishes or drinks that aren’t on the regular menu. Some have separate menus for larger parties, and you can ask for the “family-style” dishes (if that isn’t their secret code, try asking for the catering menu), which are larger servings of appetizer samplers or entrees. If you want to bring something special like a birthday cake, ask the staff if they allow outside food with prior approval. They might even be willing to store it in their refrigerator if you ask really, really nicely.

NOTE: Before you tell the waitstaff the cause of your celebration, you should first consider the feelings of your guest of honor. Some people hate – and I do mean hate – when they are the center of attention because the wait staff is circling around their table to sing “Happy Birthday”. Don’t think, “I know they said they don’t like it, but it will be great!” They won’t like it and it won’t be great. Please remember the party is about what they like, not what you like. Don’t embarrass your guest of honor. HUGE party foul.

Decorations

Being on the road means these aren’t your walls and doors, so decorations that have to be hammered, stuck in, or taped on are not a good idea. Instead plan your decorations for other surfaces: balloons (you can buy these at local grocery stores and florist shops), table centerpieces, and chair decorations (streamers, ribbons, signs, etc.). If you can tie it, then you can untie it. Better yet, if it lays or stands on its own, then no attaching is needeAnother thought when planning an event away from home: to bring or to buy? Buying helps because you don’t have to travel with it (a valid argument if you are traveling by plane), but you have to have back-ups in case you don’t have time or can’t find the needed supplies at a store. Bringing means you have it all there, but you are using valuable luggage space. I am a HUGE fan of using both options (hybrid party planning?) to make it work best for you. For instance, for my daughter’s third birthday I ordered a cake ahead of time from a local chain bakery and picked it up there, along with stopping by a party store on the way and buying balloons. A themed tablecloth and themed favors traveled with me in my bags, though, as they were previously purchased and didn’t take up much room.

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Ask for help.

The biggest mistake that most people planning a party make is not going over budget (although that is pretty common!). It’s you not asking for help. You have more willing assistants than you realize, whether it is family and friends or staff at your venue. The closer the relationship they have with you, the more likely it is that they want to help you. Why not let them?

Hotels

We mentioned in the meals section how wait staff at a restaurant can help you, especially if you give them early notice. How about hotel staff? Depending on your budget, they may even have packages you can purchase where special items can be delivered – sometimes set-up, too! – for your occasion. Birthdays, honeymoons, and anniversaries are pretty common packages. Resorts and cruise ships are the most likely places to offer them, but it’s worth the extra time to ask when you’re booking any hotel room. You never know: they might throw in a package discount if they think it will encourage you to stay at their hotel. We did this for a birthday / first time visit to DisneyWorld (see below) and our family is still talking about it long after the vacation has ended.

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Family & Friends

The people who are most likely to be reliable are the hotel / venue staff, particularly if you are paying for their services. Planning on a tight budget may mean you don’t have that luxury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use family and friends who live in the area. These people have some definite advantages, with one huge caveat we’ll mention at the end.

  1. They know people and places in the area, which means they can make recommendations about who has the best cupcakes in town and where you can find the cheapest or closest party store.
  2. They know the quickest route from the stores and / or hotel to the venue, because they are more familiar with traffic patterns and potential construction zones.
  3. They know local, current events, and they can warn you if there is a huge college football game that same night or a large music festival that weekend.

CAVEAT: Relying on people to help you when they aren’t being paid to do it can be tricky. You will have to remember that you are not their top priority, so other things my come up. These other things could delay them or cause them to cancel at the last minute. This is why you have a back-up plan for the important stuff and roll with the punches on the rest of it. Will it really, truly matter if you don’t have balloons? Probably not. Don’t lose a loved one over a disagreement about something that won’t matter a year from now. People will always be more important than things.

Plan ahead when you can.

Whether it’s a day’s notice or a year’s notice, start making phone calls to venues and people as soon as you know what you need and when you need it. This will help keep costs low and make things easier for you when you arrive at your destination. Worried about deadlines and extra fees? Calling ahead helps with that, too. It also can’t hurt to start putting those party supplies in your luggage, too, to make sure there is enough room for everything.

TIP: Don’t forget the necessary but not-fun supplies, like scissors, a pen, tape, etc. You’ll be glad you have them!

Now that you’re ready for your party away from home, enjoy yourself and let us know how it goes!