How to Plan a Girls Getaway in Europe

I’ve traveled with lots of different people in lots of different situations: From exchange student weekend trips to the Algarve with way too many drinking games to a family vacation with my grown-up sisters in Croatia; from a 12-person-pilgramge to attend a wedding in Romania to spontaneous city getaways from Bruges to Budapest with the boyfriend.

I traveled with people I’ve known all my life and with people I’ve barely known at all. I’ve traveled with annoying couples and people who need hours to get ready in morning, but also with people who don’t mind spending the hottest summer days in museums and churches with me.

But there was one kind of trip that I took for the very first time when I was 26: A real girls’ getaway.

And I mean one of those girls’ getaways you’d see in a movie: Girls abroad painting each others nails while chatting about their amorous adventures with handsome strangers with sexy accents. Something like Sex and the City in Dubai meets The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets The Lizzie McGuire Movie.

Julika of Sateless Suitcase in Madrid, Spain

I simply never had the oppurtunity to take such a trip before, but I also dreaded it: Too many girls multiply the chances of bathroom drama. And was a pillow fight really going to be necessary to fulfill all the girl trip clichés?

Back in March though, I met up with three other girls in Madrid. For the first time ever, I experienced what a real girls’ trip can be like, and I learned a few things along the way that that I wanted to share.

And just to give you a heads up, yes, we thought of the ambiguous hashtag #GirlsGoneMAD for a reason — and yes, the first photo I took on this trip shows makeup and cheese on our kitchen table:

Cheese in Madrid, Spain

Yep, we definitely had our priorities straight! In many ways, we were the girly movie cliché you’d expect from four girls in their mid-twenties on a trip abroad. But before I get into that, let me introduce you to the three hilarious blogger ladies who made my time in Madrid extra special:

Ashley of Ashley Abroad in Madrid, Spain
Ashley of Ashley Abroad, the multilingual French cheese and arugula expert

Amanda of Farsickness in Madrid, Spain
Amanda of Farsickness, the craft beer lover with the world’s coolest tattoo

Jessica of Curiosity Travels in Madrid, Spain
Jessica of Curiosity Travels, the Californian who has been an expat on three continents

And whether you’re just curious about potential girl drama and pillow fights or you’re here to find inspiration for planning your own girly getaway to Madrid, or any other European destination, here’s how the #GirlsGoneMAD did it in Spain and what you can learn from us:

Rent an apartment — but talk about responsibilities

For a group of four, there is only one way to create the perfect fun accommodation setting: Rent an apartment! If we had booked a hotel we would have needed at least two different rooms, which would have been totally anti-social. A hostel wouldn’t have been right for us either, because we wanted to get to know each other (after all, we had been digital friends for two (!) years!).

Of course, we also wanted to share a few drinks and go a little crazy, but without hostel bindge drinking games, awkward late-night conversations in the shared bathroom, and limited breakfast hours (I like hostels, but there definitely are a few undeniable downsides).

Renting an apartment with GowithOh in Madrid, was just perfect for us though: We had a cozy kitchen to spend hours drinking coffee in, comfy couches and everything else we needed. Plus: The apartment was travel-themed with a giant map and skylines painted on the walls and thus it immediately made us dream of moving in and play roomies for good!

GowithOh in Madrid, Spain

GowithOh apartment in Madrid, Spain

However, one thing you have to be prepared for when renting an apartment in Europe, is that there is no cleaning lady and no room service staff stocking up your minibar. There might be a few things there like dishwashing detergent or a roll of toilet paper, but most of the necessary supplies have to be bought once you get there. Luckily, our wonderful Madrid apartment was located literally right next to a supermarket, so stocking up the fridge was a very easy task.

Breakfast in our GowithOh apartment in Madrid, Spain

And regarding tidiness: It’s good to talk about who takes care of cooking, buying groceries, setting the table, or doing the dishes — especially if your getaway is longer than just a weekend, you should have something like a rotating cleaning/cooking plan. I know a cleaning plan doesn’t sound very much like you’re on vacation, but trust me, it makes things so much easier!

Living like a local in Madrid, Spain

And one most important thing you can learn from us: Choose a key person! We had two sets of keys for our apartment, but one afternoon all of us left the house thinking one of the other girls took the key. You’d think the chances that one of four girls would think of taking one of two keys are pretty high, but — nope.

Luckily, our rental apartment landlord was super nice when Jessica called him and immediately offered to meet with us in front of the apartment a few hours later to open the doors. Good thing no one of us had a full bladder or was wearing a bathrobe when we locked ourselves out. But learn from our mistake and always make sure at least one girl in your group feels responsible for bringing the keys!

Prepare meals together — but keep it simple

Having a perfectly equipped kitchen waiting for you is such a luxury when traveling: We could stock up on juices and yogurts, because we had a proper fridge, and we could drink as much coffee as we wanted, because we could always make fresh one. We were absolutely excited to be preparing meals together, but we quickly decided that we weren’t aiming for cooking three course dinners. Spain had so many delicious savory foods waiting for us to try them, it would have been almost stupid to cook our own dinners with so much gloriously greasy and salty tapas right under our noses!

Breakfast in our GowithOh apartment in Madrid, Spain

But we still found a way to have many delicious meals in our apartment — thanks to our epic long breakfasts! We spent up to three hours just eating breakfast, sipping liters and liters of coffee and talking about all the girly things. And honestly, these breakfasts in our apartment are still my favorite memory from my time in Madrid. It doesn’t get better and more relaxing than strawberries, fresh coffee and girl talk, right?

Girls getaway breakfast in Madrid, Spain

Explore a foreign culture — but don’t stress yourselves out

We had just a weekend in Madrid together before Amanda had to be on a flight to Berlin. And two and a half days is really not a whole lot of time for sightseeing, partying and squeezing all the much need girl talk in.

Granted, we didn’t do any museum-hopping together. Instead though, we strolled past the most iconic buildings and squares together and went crazy for all the gorgeous balconies of Madrid. And we also declared culinary exploration of the Spanish capital as our kind of sightseeing so we had the best excuse to eat as much tapas as humanly possible (ahem, which we totally did). And craft beer and café con leche also count as cultural sights, right?

Strolling through Madrid, Spain

Oranges in Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Craft beer in Madrid, Spain

Girls getaway to Madrid, Spain

Churros in Madrid, Spain

For us, strolling through the picturesque streets, taking photos of pretty lamps and indulging in all the Spanish deliciousness, was the best way to experience Madrid: We wandered around with open eyes, sipped tinto de verano on a rooftop with spectacular views over the city, and walked past Palacio Real and its gardens.

Maybe we didn’t manage to see Picasso’s Guernica, but we all felt like we hadn’t missed too much: After all, it was getting to know each other and the experience of living like a local in Madrid that we had come to Spain for — and this just included way more extended breakfasts in our PJs than sightseeing among tourist crowds.

Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain

Balcony in Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain, from above

Savory bar food in Madrid, Spain

Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain

Old books in Madrid, Spain

Have group adventures — but include a little solo time as well

Given we are all rather independent women, we weren’t really used to spending that much time with other girls. Don’t get me wrong, we really got along perfectly (sorry, no drama here!), but every once in a while it’s absolutely okay to split from the group you travel with for a bit.

Whether it was a little nap or half an hour of checking our social media without talking to each other, we automatically found a way to combine group activities with a little solitude when necessary. With two different bedrooms, two couches and one big dining table, taking a little solo time (even though we still were in the same apartment) was never a problem. And after a while we would still all meet up in the kitchen for a cup of coffee (or three).

GowithOh apartment in Madrid, Spain

Just because you live, party, and sightsee eat together, you don’t have to spend every single second taking or entertaining each other. Maybe this even was the secret why there was absolutely no drama between us.

Go clubbing — but watch out for each other

Spain is famous for its nightlife and of course you have to go out to party on a proper girls’ getaway! Honestly, I was a little scared and wondering if I could keep up with Spanish nightlife, because I’m just not 21 anymore and dancing until sunrise does sound a bit terrifying to me.

But after meeting up with the Madrid blogger scene for rooftop bar cocktails and post-cocktail pregaming in our apartment, I was definitely ready to hit the dance floors to channel my study-abroad-on-the-Iberian-Penisula-self.

Cocktails in Madrid, Spain

Cocktails in Madrid, Spain

We hit the club rather early (that is what 2:30 am is considered in Spain), but it gave us a good chance to look around — and there was definitely a lot to see in the seven story mega club Teatro Kapital, which used to be a fancy old theater. Every floor had a different music style playing, and the main floor even had electric violin players, dancers in feather bras and raining balloons: It was pure insanity!

Teatro Kapital, Madrid, Spain

Obviously, the drinks were horrendously expensive (as was the 17 Euros admission fee!), but it was a once in a lifetime experience — and I honestly think Spanish nightlife is something everyone should have experienced at least once in their twenties!

Just one quick note on safety in clubs though: I never felt unsafe partying in Madrid, but in a giant club like Teatro Kapital, it’s way too easy to lose someone and not find them again. With ridiculously loud music in the background and hundreds of people dancing and pushing their way through the crowds, it’s pretty much impossible to notice if your friend is going to wait in line for a drink for 30 minutes or if she is just off to the bathroom.

#GirlsGoneMAD partying in Madrid, Spain

Teatro Kapital, Madrid, Spain

Before we entered Kapital, we thus made a just-in-case plan: In case we lost each other, we would meet up at a certain spot in the foyer.

And even if you’re having the time of your life: Try watching out for your friends and never venture off alone without telling someone where you’re going. (I know I might sound like a granny who’s never been clubbing before, but trust me: I partied from Lisbon to Prague, but this Spanish club was unlike anything I had ever seen before!)

…and don’t forget the mirror selfies!

The fun thing about the four of us is that we all are really passionate about photography and we loved taking each other’s photos in Madrid. But naturally, since this was supposed to be a group trip, we needed photos with all of us in it: That’s why we took all the mirror selfies we could get. And honestly, what is a girls’ getaway without mirror selfies?!

#GirlsGoneMAD in the GowithOh apartment in Madrid, Spain

So take as many fun mirror selfies as possible, because these photos — and your girls’ getaway trip — will be the best kind of travel memories, I promise!

(Oh, if you’re still wondering if there really were any pillow fights and strangers with sexy accents — well, you know, what happens on a girls’ getaway…)

#GirlsGoneMAD in Madrid, Spain

Have you ever been on a real girls’ getaway in Europe?
What are your best tips to plan such a trip?

Note: GowithOh kindly hosted us #GirlsGoneMAD in Madrid, but all opinions and meticulous breakfast displays are 100% my own. GowithOh has apartments in 24 amazing European cities and I honestly recommend renting an apartment with them if you’re planning your own European girls’ getaway. 

  • This looks like such a fun trip! I’m with you on only eating breakfast in and trying the local food out… but back when I was boken in hostels I would cook my own pasta to save! So now, I’m always making up for not trying new foods by trying EVERYTHING!

    • JulikaSarah

      It was seriously the most fun weekend ever, Rachel! I’m so over cooking pasta in the hostel kitchen, too! 😀

  • AWwwwwwwww <3 <3 <3 this is so great Julika! A girls getaway to beat all other girls getaways!

    • JulikaSarah

      Yes, take me back please!!

  • Hi Julika! Found your blog on Facebook 🙂 I just gave you a like.
    Your blog is pretty cool and I love your photos!!
    Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the World 😉

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much for reading and following along!

    • The pleasure is mine 😀

  • ASH

    First off, this sounds like so much fund and such a great experience. I rarely get girls weekends because I travel With Husband In Tow 😉 And, this apartment looks fab!

    • JulikaSarah

      It was really the best weekend ever, Amber! I love trailing with my boyfriend, but every once in a while it’s so much fun to switch the guy for the girls 🙂

  • This looks like such a fun time! I definitely know what you mean about no losing your friends in a club. I helped run a campaign in college about watching out for your friends when you’re partying. Our slogan was, “You wouldn’t leave your cell phone, so why would you leave your friends?”

    Anyways, it sounds like you had an excellent trip. I hope to meet my digital blogging friends in the future too 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      I’m sure you’ll meet your digital friends sooner or later, Mike — that’s the best thing about travel bloggers: They end up everywhere eventually! 🙂

  • Shing

    Loved reading about #GirlsGoneMAD in Madrid! It’s the perfect place for a girl’s weekend with the food, the sights and the nightlife! I went back in May for a friend’s hen party and was surprised at what time the clubs get started – I’m usually finished for a night out in London by 2.30am – not starting it!!

    • JulikaSarah

      Madrid was just the perfect city for a girls’ trip, Shing! I’d definitely go back for a bachelorette party weekend (if I’m not too old to handle the late night dancing by then!) 🙂

  • This was so fun to read! It sounds like it was such an amazing weekend… and I am envious of those breakfast spreads! But I remember reading about this on a couple of the other girls’ blogs and I just thought it sounded like so much fun! Glad to read your perspective on it too! 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      It really was the best weekend, Erica, thanks! I want to go on a girls’ trip every year now! 🙂

  • Kelly Ross

    This looks like so much fun! I would love to do this with some of my girls one day! At the moment it’s so hard to get us all together in the one place and kick out the partners 😛 Love the mirror selfies x

    • JulikaSarah

      I know what you mean, Kelly — we had to fix the date months before to make sure we definitely had nothing else planned! But it was absolutely worth it! Really, girls’ trips are so much fun! 🙂