When a milestone birthday was around the corner for my high school girlfriends and me, someone brought up the idea of celebrating in Las Vegas. The visual of way-too-high-heeled shoes, beauty pageant sashes and tiaras popped into my head. I thought, “No way am I going to be a walking cliché.”
But when everyone loved the idea but me, I thought I’d step outside my comfort zone, pack my heels and go with the flow. Since moving to Los Angeles, I don’t see these girls nearly enough, so I decided to suck it up.
We’re certainly not the same people we were in high school. We’re moms. We have careers. We’ve faced hardships, tackled illness and experienced tragedy. But when we reunited in Vegas, to each other, we were still the cheerleaders, student council members, track stars, prom queens and honors students from San Mateo High School.
So we let the fun begin.
We booked suites at the Palazzo, which gave us daily access to the VIP lounge for complimentary hot breakfast, snacks throughout the day, happy hour with hot and cold appetizers and – the one thing we thought too good to be true – free-flowing cocktails from 5-7 p.m.
Free. Flowing. Cocktails. Also included was use of the state-of-the-art fitness center, but whatever.
The suites were beautifully decorated and large enough to accommodate four girls to a room, plus luggage and shoes, of which we averaged seven pairs per person.
Happy Birthday to Us
Dining options in Vegas are plentiful, and the restaurants world-class. Our first stop was a celebratory dinner at the Venetian’s Pan-Asian restaurant, Tao. The Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Wok Vegetables was the table favorite, along with the Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce. (Insider tip: For those looking for a rave, the TAO nightclub waives its cover charge for all restaurant patrons.) Other favorites were Palazzo’s Lavo, an Italian eatery with world-famous meatballs; and Bellagio’s Olives, where one of the birthday girls from our group surprised us with a Celebration Cake from Jean Philippe Patisserie, delivered to our table overlooking the dancing fountains.
O So Good
One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing Cirque du Soleil’s “O,” a mesmerizing theatrical performance set on a stage of water. Cirque’s acrobatics and performers captured the audience as always, but the addition of aquatics takes the show to a new level of amazing.
While we did parade around Vegas in way-too-high-heeled shoes, there were no tiaras or sashes, thankfully. We did make a few late-night visits to the ’80s bar, where we got our Super Freak on and Whipped it Good. So, yeah, maybe we were a bit cliché. But I was in Vegas with my lifelong friends, so I didn’t mind a bit.
Tips for Group Travel
- Assign one person to be in charge of the itinerary and reservations. Decisions can be made collectively, but have one person take the lead in the planning.
- Put all group charges (dinners, show tickets, hotel expenses, etc.) on one credit card, then divide the total at the end of the trip.
- Split meals. You’ll eat less and pay less.
- Create an iCloud photo stream or Dropbox folder so that everyone can upload and share their photos.
- Make time for down time. This allows people to do their own thing, whether it’s spa time, shopping, working out or simply chillin’.
- Be flexible. Plans often change on the fly when traveling in a large group.