Retreat Planning 101: Goals, Vision & Budget.


You’re at the beginning of an exciting and extremely rewarding process, and the ultimate key to a successful team retreat is COLLABORATION.  Whether you are going to attack the planning process on your own or hire an agency like The Offsite, starting with a clear idea of your Goals, Vision and Budget will save you time and provide the utmost clarity to your team before diving into the world of whitewater rafting in Colorado, surfing in Hawaii, or all of the other endless Offsite Retreat options around the world.


So why disrupt the regular work week to haul everyone to a new location for a few days?

Studies show that culture based companies are winning the new talent and retaining it, too. Although it is quite the buzzword in the industry, “culture” can’t always be so easily defined. Company Culture is the personality of your company, which changes in the mind of your employees with every decision, new hire, and encounter you have with your team. It is continually evolving to reflect your values, ethics, and company mission.

With that evolution, you have the ability, and challenge, to take charge and redefine what it means to work for your group. As many companies are learning the blueprint for what it takes to step into their next decade of success, there is no better way to relay this message, from top to bottom, than aligning with your team at an offsite bonding experience.

Maybe your company goal is to run off of completely green energy in the next five years, create stronger partnerships with your community, or reach $1 billion in value. Outlining your larger company goals starts to bring the vision to life, but how is this message effectively passed to your co-workers that will incite powerful change within your organization?

Ensuring that your team truly gets behind achieving your company goals and vision is all about managing the environment that creates an emotional shift. We are masters at this and know that by retreating with your employees and crafting the perfect experience that inspires change gets everyone out of their comfort zone and takes them through a carefully crafted experience that solidifies their stance behind your mission.

By including your team members in the new vision, it allows for a compounding collaborative discussion that makes each employee feel engaged and ready to be a key player in bringing life to the mission.

In taking the time and effort to bring your team offsite, it is an opportunity for your leadership team to show unwavering dedication to both the employees and the mission, solidifying the unified vision for the future. This will build an aligned team with the right members who have not only the company’s best interests in mind but also one another’s success tied to their own. This is collaboration and culture in action.


Now is the time to put pen to paper and make a list of your company’s specific Goals and Requirements for a successful retreat unique to your group. Go wild and wordy here, because you can always refine your list in the future. Here’s a few great ideas to get the ball rolling:


  • Create an organic way for team members to bond outside of work

  • Engage in fun, friendly competition to uncover your team members’ hidden talents

  • Announce the launch of a new internal program

  • Connect new hires with colleagues outside of their department

  • Inspire everyone to understand the importance of their specific role in the new direction and functionality of the new company


  • Meals must include vegetarian options

  • Everyone needs their own room

  • Must be 3 hours or less from the office

  • Workspace needed for 100 people

  • Rooms needed for breakout sessions

  • Venue must be a full buyout

  • Transportation from office is needed

  • Venue must allow hard alcohol

Getting away on a company retreat with your team, you open up Pandora’s Box of new goal crushing opportunities between the leadership team and your employees. Not only does getting out of your current environment spark inspiration, new ideas, and promote strong company culture, it becomes an invaluable journey by creating bonds through a mutual experience that you bring back to the office at the end of your retreat.


What is it that you want your employees to walk away feeling at the end of your retreat? If your primary goal is around seeing team members bond in new ways, there’s nothing better than a glamping experience to bring people close together over some late night s’mores. Are you looking for an exclusive executive experience? It’s hard to beat a spa day followed by a private museum happy hour. Or maybe you want a little mix of adventure and relaxation, for that we absolutely love a great day of hiking or kayaking followed by a relaxing wine tour.

Nailing down the ideal activities that your group would be the most excited about participating in will help to hone in your location as well. A company-wide high ropes course experience is going to yield different search criteria than a bonfire on the beach. A whale watching tour is going to focus us on the coast just as a snowboarding is going to send us searching for the nearest mountain town. Thinking about your specific group and what will entice them to play full out during your retreat will help immensely when getting clear on the vision of your retreat. Here are a few points below to help you start brainstorming the perfect vision for your unique retreat:

Your Retreat Vision:

  • What is the travel time you and your employees are comfortable staying within?

  • What sorts of activities would your team be most excited to participate in?

    • Kayaking, Wine Tasting, Camping, Museums, Hiking, Skiing, Spa, Surfing, Yoga

  • Where do you imaging going to?

    • Beach, City, Mountains, Wine Country

  • Do you envision large scale team building events?

    • Team Olympics, Ropes Courses

  • What kind of meals would your team enjoy?

    • Farm to Table, Vegetarian, Late Night Snacks

  • What kind of workspace would be most productive to your mission?

    • Large Conference Space, Smaller Breakout Rooms

  • How would you like to handle drinks?

    • Full Open Bar, Just Beer & Wine, Non-Alcoholic

One of the principal goals that we discuss early on with our clients is to better understand their ideal mix of work and play during their retreat. How much time would you estimate is needed to dedicate to worksessions throughout your stay? Do these worksessions all need A/V equipment such as a projector, microphone, or TV. How about WiFi and a boardroom for executive discussions? Or would you rather take things outdoors and explore a more creative environment to tackle a specific worksession?


How much time do you envision leaving for play? This, in the early stages of planning, would be considered anytime not specifically working, and rather focusing on the key experiences in your chosen destination.

Are your goals more focused on work, team building, or fun unstructured activities? Let your specific company goals reflect the time you dedicate to each over the course of your retreat. We’ve found the easiest way to do this is decide on the percentage of time that needs to be spent on each of your goals throughout the trip and work to build an itinerary from there.

Thinking about the goals and unique vision of your specific retreat and then designing a rough itinerary before you get excited about the venue search will save you dozens of our hours of venue searching, quote gathering and negotiating.

When building an early draft itinerary, some key things to schedule in are Transportation, Meals, Team Building Activities, Worksessions, Local Experiences, and Downtime. At this stage, it’s smart to keep in mind the number of employees coming and the season, as this often affects the time needed to corral the crew.

We always recommend trying to avoid over-scheduling activities and itinerary items into your retreat. It doesn’t always allow for the most organic, genuine experience for you and your team. Also, you will probably be choosing your destination based on the awesome things that is has to offer, and you always want your team to be able enjoy the location to the fullest.  Pro-Tip: the magic often happens in the natural breaks between activities!


The goals and vision of your retreat are critical, but often times the most difficult topic to address with your team is simply how much to budget for an offsite experience. When meeting with leadership to discuss the financials of planning a retreat, we have found that it is most helpful to have a targeted price per person. Our recommendation for a starting number, for an all-inclusive experience, is $500/night per person.

Once you have the ideal spend in mind, we can reverse engineer your experience based on the goals and vision above. Remember that every dollar saved per person in one area can directly go to fund another more important part of your retreat. Below is some food for thought to further develop your ideal in-budget retreat:

Budgeting with your Team:

  • How much is your team wanting to spend per person?

  • What locations will allow our dollar to go the furthest?

  • Will transportation be handled individually or as a group?

    • Tip: If you plan to travel 2 hours or less from your office, carpooling is a great way to save of transportation

  • Is your team comfortable with single or double occupation?

    • Tip: There are lots of amazing properties with condo-style accommodations that are great on the budget, but provide each guest with their own private room and bathroom, while sharing a kitchen and common space.

  • What meals will be central to the group experience?

    • We have found that a lighter lunch is a great way to splurge on an amazing Happy Hour and Dinner experience!  

Know that even with a smaller budget, there are many ways you can organize an activity-packed retreat that aligns with your goals and vision, and also won’t hit too hard on the wallet such as utilizing local parks, beaches, or hiking trails for an afternoon adventure that are often free or only ask for a small donation to keep up the land.

The main items that drive the cost of a retreat are lodging, transportation, meals, and alcohol. If you find the perfect venue or the ideal team building experience that would be central to your retreat, you can always find ways to cut costs around the next corner. If you are sold on an afternoon kayaking adventure, you can alter your meal plan and save by doing casual boxed lunches to allocate more dollars towards your activities that day.

Finally, before deciding on a venue, it is important to realize your negotiating power with each property or vendor. Venues will be wanting to secure your business, and the more you spend with one location, vendor, or venue, the more leverage and negotiating power you have.

We know the beginning steps of retreat planning can be a daunting task. Once you outline your goals, vision, and budget, you can clear the path to accurately choose the perfect venue!


GuidesMat MacDonell