Labor Day is coming up, which means we have a rare opportunity to actually see our friends despite the incessant business of adulting. If you’re lucky and you have the day off, you’ll want to take advantage of this time, plan a truly perfect Labor Day weekend, and this guide will help you do exactly that. My college roommates and I have spent Labor Day weekend camping together for the last four years, and together we have perfected the perfect Labor Day weekend with friends. Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Don’t Expect It to Be Perfect
I know, I keep calling it the “perfect” Labor Day weekend, but the first and most important tip for planning a weekend away with friends once you’re all adults is to have realistic expectations. Even though I desperately wish there was one weekend a year where adult life could stop, and my friends and I could just sit around a campfire for three days drinking wine coolers and talking about memes, adult life persists even on your days off work. Many of my friends have kids and significant others now who place demands on their time that they can’t always control, plus sometimes family members see the long weekend as the perfect time to schedule something you simply cannot miss.
So how do you manage your expectations? How do you keep your spirits up for a proper reunion while still accepting the fact that your get-togethers just aren’t the same as they were in college? The rest of the tips in this post can all help with this, but it also helps to remember that for people with kids, or people who chronically overschedule themselves, spending one out of three days in a three-day weekend with you is a sign that they love you quite a lot, not a sign that something else was more important those other two days. Odds are, they had something they had to do all three days, but they chose to blow one off for you, because you are more important, not less.
It’s hard to grow up with people, because people change and needs change at different paces, but at the end of the day, the fact that you’re putting in the work just to try to see each other is important and makes your friendship stronger, even if it isn’t the same as it was a few years ago.
2. Let Your Other Friends and Family Know You’re Unavailable Several Months Ahead of Time
Part of what makes Labor Day weekend so great is that you have several days to spend together, instead of the usual quick coffee or lunch date. But that won’t work if you have 18 other obligations to fulfill that weekend, and if you’re not careful, that’s exactly what will happen.
You and your friends aren’t the only ones taking Monday off, and if your other friends and family don’t know about your previous plans, they will almost definitely schedule something to take advantage of the free day. Sometimes these plans are optional for you, like a different weekend trip or a barbeque, but sometimes they are more mandatory, like family pictures or an important birthday party. If you let friends and family know that you will be busy for the entire long weekend ahead of time, you’ll have a better chance of actually being able to spend the full weekend enjoying yourself, instead of running from one obligation to the next for three days.
3. Go Cheap, Especially If You’re All Still In Your 20s
As amazing as it would be for my friends and I to fly to a beach somewhere and spend Labor Day weekend renting jet skis and buying fancy drinks with umbrellas in them, that is not the best plan for this stage of life. Maybe one or two of us could afford it if we saved up ahead of time, but for most of us that’s completely impossible if we want to have any groceries or electricity when we get home.
So how do you plan a cheap weekend that’s still fun? The best solution my friends and I have found is camping. Renting a campsite is pretty cheap, camp food is cheap, and there’s always plenty of free or low-cost activities to do while camping, like hiking, swimming, and playing board games (always bring board games when camping, seriously).
A few tips for making your camping trip even cheaper:
- Book your site as far ahead of time as you can. Sites book up pretty quickly for Labor Day, so you may want to start looking as early as April or May to get a better price.
- Plan one spending activity ahead of time, like kayaking or seeing a movie together. Odds are you’ll want to leave the campsite to do something at some point, and you’re more likely to save money if you’ve done your research ahead of time and know the cheapest place to do the thing.
- Borrow supplies where you can. Don’t buy a tent if this is literally the only time you go camping each year. Ask parents, aunts, uncles, or friends if they have one you can borrow instead. Just be sure to clean it and get it back to them in tip top shape.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Little Time By Yourself
As amazing as three days with your best friends in the world may sound, it can actually be a bit overwhelming. I mean, three days straight with anyone starts to take a toll, so in order to have a good time and truly enjoy this precious time with friends, you may need to take a little time for yourself as well.
On our camping trips, I always make sure to bring a journal and whatever book I’m reading at the moment, and once or twice throughout the weekend I will just sit and read or write on my own. I’m fairly extroverted, but even I need a little break from constant interaction with other human beings over the course of three days. I love catching up with my friends on our Labor Day trip, and I love hearing all about their lives in ways that they just couldn’t communicate via text, but I also know myself, and I know I need some time just in my own head or I get crabby and a bit depressed.
This tends to be the case for a lot of people to differing extents, so it can help if everyone knows ahead of time that it’s okay to take some time for themselves. Remember to take care of yourselves so you don’t waste your weekend slowly getting annoyed with each other.
5. Be In the Moment As Much As You Can
I truly loathe all of this advice lately telling people to “be in the moment more” or “be present,” but the main reason I hate it is because it’s actually great advice that I find freaking impossible to follow.
I struggle with planning and organizing, and as a result I tend to spend a lot of brainpower just thinking about how I’m going to get things done. I’m constantly making mental checklists, trying to remember important dates, and thinking through tiny details so I won’t have to worry about them later. And unfortunately, taking a day off work and disappearing into the woods doesn’t quiet all this constant brain chatter. Even as I’m spending time with people I sometimes I haven’t seen in months, I often find myself picking out my outfit for an upcoming obligation, or wishing I had my laptop so I could send a few quick emails.
That’s not at all how I want to spend my limited time with friends. I know I need to be more present, need to actually listen more and just enjoy things instead of constantly planning for the next thing, but that is so much easier said than done. Still, if I want to come away from our long weekend feeling like I actually spent time with my friends, then I need to be mentally present as well as physically present.
I’m not great at it yet, but I’m getting better. Here are some tricks I use:
- In your head, repeat what other people say as they say it. This forces you to really pay attention, and it will make for more meaningful conversation.
- If you’re semi-addicted to planning, trick your brain by planning to take a weekend off. Make “Be Present” an item on your to-do list for the weekend, and give yourself little tasks to accomplish in the way of enjoying the moment, like “Feel sun on face” or “Make so-and-so laugh.”
- If you can’t stop thinking of things you need to do when you get back and you’re worried you’ll forget it all, keep a notebook and write your thoughts down two or three times a day.
So that’s it, those are my five tips for enjoying the perfect Labor Day weekend with friends! Now go out and enjoy your long weekend, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.