When I turned 30 a few years ago, decided to do a destination birthday(s) bringing my friends together for an amazing afternoon in Napa. Fast forward to today I have put these on for a few years now and eager to share my experience and learnings with everyone!
The big 3-0
A few years ago I turned 30. I had been in my first pre-sales role and enjoying the spoils of commission. Early on I got advice to treat my salary as my living money and my incentive/commission pay as “luxury” money. With that, I had be doing well my first year in sales and wanted to do something nice for my friends. I spent the last weekend of my 20’s in New Orleans eating everything in sight with a friend. Ironically I spent my actually 30th birthday on the road with Red Hat in Birmingham and my sales rep and another architect had a great night out together. Six months before my 30th took a trip to Napa for the first time being actually able to drink (I went with my parents when I was a senior in high school) and really enjoyed. The “adult” destination to usher in my 30th would be Napa.
If you Build it, They Would Come?
A challenge with a group in Napa is just that, the group size. A lot of wineries require reservations well ahead of time. Decided to use a tour group for only transportation the first year. Since I and several of my friends don’t live in the Bay Area, we decided to stay in and around the St. Regis San Francisco in SoMa. Got a pretty swank party bus to take a dozen or so of us around to different wineries in Napa and Sonoma County. The first challenge is hammering down a guest list and deciding how to split the costs (later years I would cover more as I did better). Early one would split everything evenly. The second challenge is building the itinerary and getting folks to commit to a Saturday. For the first birthday, a long e-mail thread was the voting and confirmation. Later trips and later birthdays refined the strategy. The first birthday was a total success and loved having my friends around eating and drinking our way through Napa Valley. Set the tone and thanks to social media, others would join in the subsequent years.
Refining my Approach
Emotions can run a little hot trying to balance venues and attendees. For the second and third birthdays that I did in Napa, let the tour company handle the reservations and food. Since you are paying a good hourly rate and the tour company has relationships with the wineries, they make the process easier. Can’t say enough good things around Wine Country Limos , highly recommended for your event. Each time we went to Napa the group got bigger and the event became an institution with my friends. The picture above is from 2017, what a great time! Taking feedback from the group, for 2018 and 2019 decided to expand our horizons to other parts of the country. In 2018, we hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky which was much easier for those on the East Coast to make the trip. Leveraged Mint Julep Tours for the Bourbon Trail which was totally awesome.
All of my Learnings for my big 3-4
Use E-Vite or a similar platform to send out invites. Getting a yes or no is easier on a platform like E-vite.
Plan early, for my birthday I typically send out invites 90+ days in advance for those to make travel arrangements and to build excitement.
Leverage the tour company as much as you can for recommendations and RSVPs.
Birthdays can be a little fluid, more so than a wedding. People will add and subtract throughout the process. Engineer the transportation to be a little bigger and give ranges of folks e.g 10-15 to venues for planning. Worst case, you have more space!
The magic number is three-four stops in total for a Saturday. Any more would get really tiring. Make sure to include food in one or more of those stops.
Have fun and make memories. Been really blessed and looking forward to future birthdays!