Board Game Vacation Planning Guide

The idea of a board game vacation is pretty simple: you and a group of boardgame-loving friends all agree to travel to a location for a vacation. During the day or early evenings, folks can go out and do whatever they wish. They can take their kids to an amusement park, chill out at the beach, or go check out a restaurant or bar that they’ve been hearing about. But once night falls, that’s when the board games come out and with it, the fun and excitement of sharing a hobby with those whose company you really enjoy.

The concept of a board game vacation is appealing. For most people who are working or have kids, finding the time to get friends who love board games together is daunting. It’s especially hard if the games you’re looking to play are lengthy. How many people can say that they’re able to get games like Eclipse or a heavy 18xx game to the table regularly when juggling a job, life, and kids? A board game getaway solves that problem by setting aside that time and space to get together with friends and game to your heart’s content.

So the question is this: how do you plan a successful board game vacation?

Step 1: Figure out who wants to take a board game vacation

To do that, I chose to send out a survey. Here’s what I wanted to learn:

  • Who is interested and how interested are they in a board game vacation? The key focus is on their passion level. Do they think the idea is merely cool or are they ALL IN? The level of excitement on display is indicative of who will actually show up when it comes time to book the trip.
  • How long are people expecting this trip to be? An entire week? Or is the preference for a long weekend (about 3-4 nights)? This helps you with the planning process and helps you set expectations. If this is your first time planning such a trip, you might want to keep it to 3-4 nights. That way, it doesn’t require an all-in commitment, especially when people are unsure if it’s their thing.
  • To help with planning, understand what methods of transportation people are OK with and how long are people willing to drive/fly.
    • If people are down to fly, make sure you have plans on how to pack board games into your luggage. You’ll really need to plan well to satisfy people’s preferences.
    • If they’re going to drive, is 2-3 hours right in people’s sweet spots? Or are they OK doing an 8-hour drive? For me, I found that keeping it to a 3-hour drive works well. I also prefer driving since that allowed me to bring more games. Plus, my kid doesn’t really fly well (yet).
    • Once you know, you can hit Google maps to scout out possible locations.
  • What kind of settings are people potentially interested in? Do they prefer a spot with beaches or do they like hiking in the mountains? Is city life more suitable or is a cabin out in the middle of nowhere perfectly acceptable?
    • You’ll also want to see what activities people are interested in. Not everyone is interested in lounging around a swimming pool or attending an amusement park or going bar-hopping. Find out what activities people enjoy to pick a location that offers plenty of options for those interested.
  • See how long people require advance notice before committing. Some people have a lot of flexibility and can drop things on the fly to travel. Others, like those with kids, require a longer heads up to plan accordingly. It’s especially important that you give people enough time to schedule time off from work.
  • Find out how much people are willing to spend. Not all of your friends are driving Teslas (probably), so get their budget ballpark before you decide where to book.

Step 2: Figure out when and where to host the board game vacation

Once you’ve collected the general information in step 1, it’s time to start planning. If enough people are interested, you should send out a second survey. Here, you’ll need to to pick a few spots that you’ve considered and a few dates that work for you and present that to the group. From there, figure out the following: 

  • Who’s going and how many people they’re bringing along. This will help you to figure out how big of a place you’d need to book so that you can house them all.
  • Find out what potential dates are viable for them so you know when to book and can set your travel alerts for good deals.
  • Figure out what places your friends find appealing.

This last part requires a scattershot of both locations and price ranges. This helps you get an idea of what works for people. I wouldn’t put out more than 5 different combinations because people might be paralyzed by indecision. So try this when choosing potential locations:

  • Pick out some rentals that are representative of the spots you’re looking to book. If your plan is to rent a house through AirBnB, throw 5 of those. If you’re just opting for a hotel, then put those up. Add links so people have an idea for what the accommodations look like.
  • Try different combinations of locations and price points. Then, follow up with some additional questions about what they like about the place. 
    • Do they hate the location but are fine with the price? Now you know how to narrow down the price range. 
    • Price is too high but the location is fine? Now you know in which locale to book. 
    • If there are no further objections, you’ll now have an idea as to which combinations of price and location work best.

Step 3: Collect the money and make the reservations

Before you book, you’ll want to get a confirmation of who’s in and then collect the deposit. I think a non-refundable deposit of $50 is good because it’s high enough that people who aren’t committed to going will balk and also high enough that people will not want to back out in fear of losing that deposit. Announce it about 6-8 weeks before the trip to give people time to make whatever work arrangements are necessary and then make the deadline to send the deposit 5 weeks before the trip to give you plenty of time to find deals.

  • Here you provide the details of the trip.
    • What general location the trip will be.
    • How much the deposit is.
    • Require that people pay that deposit by a certain deadline.
      • DO NOT budge on this. The last thing you want to have happen is to book a spot and have someone bail out on you. That just makes things more expensive for everyone else and it’s not fair.
      • I’d say 6-8 weeks before the trip is a good deadline. It allows people to get the vacation time they need and make arrangements. It also gives you the time you need to book a place.
  • Then you ask them what games they want you to bring. Conversely, you can also ask people what games they’ll be bringing along.

Tips to make the vacation enjoyable

AirBnB was the best venue to host it.

I found that booking an AirBnB gave the biggest bang for the buck. Your group will have the accommodations all to yourself and you can then use that property to set up all the games you’d want to play. When searching for a place, keep in mind things like the number of rooms and beds that are available so that everyone gets to a good place to sleep. Also, don’t be shy to see who’s OK sleeping on a couch or in a sleeping bag in return for a small discount. Lastly, make sure that the AirBnB has a large enough table to accommodate all the gaming that you’ll be doing!

Be flexible

One thing that worked really well was to allow for the maximum amount of freedom in how people could spend their time. Don’t force people to partake in activities that they’re not interested in. It’s a vacation after all.

Not everyone wants to go to the zoo.

What does help is to set up an online bulletin board where people can share schedules. This way, people can coordinate whether they want to tag along and join others if there’s an activity they’re interested in. 

Running the board game night

Night time is canonically game time. Sure, people might play during afternoon downtimes, but I find night time works best since the non-gamers and smaller children will have fallen asleep. I find that it’s good to have some games picked out ahead of time to decide what people should play. 

For the first night when people first arrive at the hotel/AirBnB, a few light games or a medium game like Splendor or two might work better to ease people in, especially when not everyone knows everyone else. Subsequent nights are where you can bring out the big guns. It’s good to get buy-in for some of those longer games so nobody winds up playing something that they despise.

The way I sorted that out was to ask them what games they’d want me to bring and pack 2 bags full of games to cater to their requests. Then, designate certain games to be played on certain days. For example, we had one day where our big game was Terraforming Mars. Another day, we opted to try Imperial 2030. And so on. Get people involved in picking games so everyone has a game they can look forward to on the calendar.

If I had to make a suggestion on what games to bring: I’d say bring 1 heavy game for every full day that you’re planning on staying there and 3 light or medium games for every 2 days you want to stay. So if your trip is 4 nights long, 3 heavy games and 6 light/medium games should be enough. If you want to bring more to have a good selection, then go nuts, but be mindful of how much luggage space they take up.

Tell us what you think about the game!