Packing List for the Girls’ Weekend


An excerpt from You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship

Twenty years ago, my friend Sarah sent out an email to her college buddies to get together for a women’s weekend. Newly single with two young children, she wanted time with her friends. A smallish group showed up for support, and we’ve been meeting ever since. I couldn’t make that first meeting and missed a few others while living abroad, but my friends have always saved me a place.

In the early years, we couldn’t afford to fly or take time off from work, so we’d gather at someone’s house or in a cheap B&B on the East Coast, where most of the group lived. It wasn’t always easy to show up—we had to move heaven, earth, husbands, birds, dogs, and children to make it work. Since that first weekend, Sarah, Carol, Betsy, Lisa, Jan, Leslie, Linda, and I have met every year, usually in the fall and sometimes again in the spring. Our time together is precious, and over the years we’ve learned what is really important to bring to a women’s weekend. Here’s our list.

Packing List for the Girls' Weekend - tips from the Satellite Sisters

A name

You’ve got to give your group a name. We’re the Aging Models. One day, early on, we were all lounging outside in the spring sunshine, relishing the brief respite from our jobs, young children, and (in a few cases) problematic husbands. A fellow hotel guest asked if we were all there for a class reunion. Lisa replied, “We’re here for a convention of aging models.”

Party favors

One time, Jan arrived from Paris with Eiffel Tower earrings for all. Sarah has supplied romance novels. And on a fall trip to Massachusetts, Lisa delivered Wal-Mart-orange hunting vests, glitter, and glue. We decorated our vests and had a more confident tromp in the woods during hunting season.

A culture infusion

You need to show up with a recommendation list of books, movies, and TV shows. I’ve had some lean years when, between work and family, my list was short and weak, but Lisa’s and Leslie’s reading habits always stayed admirable. While I’ve never read all the recommended books, I feel smarter just having the list pinned to my bulletin board.


No sexy nighties needed. Locate your ancient Lanz nightgown and get flanneled. Carol leads the subgroup that rises early to drink coffee and talk. Socks, slippers, and bathrobes are essential gear.

Don’t bother with makeup...

unless it’s some new product that’s going to make us all look younger. The year mineral makeup burst onto the scene, Linda led a mineral makeup tutorial. By the following year, we’d all abandoned the miracle minerals, but for at least one weekend, we glowed.


Lunch and dinner reservations with seven highly opinionated women can be problematic. I think our picture is still on the kitchen wall of a Portland, Maine, restaurant that served us questionable hanger steaks one year. Believe me, that waiter won’t try the explanation he gave the Aging Models again. (“The chef says the hanger steak is located next to the kidney and that’s why it tastes funny.”) We eat in, not out-—because it’s more fun, and Linda makes a better meal anyway.


Oh sure, there’s some of this, but, honestly, a lot less than you’d think. The last couple of years, it’s been more seltzer, less sauvignon blanc.

Your issues and your opinions

Want to quit your job? Problem with a teenage son? Wondering how to plan an out-of-town rehearsal dinner?

No worries

We’ll talk you off that ledge, shore up your confidence, or send a detailed floor plan on Monday. Our group comes to the weekend with plenty of advice and experience, plus the confidence to tell you exactly what you need to do with your life.


We’ve worked out the perfect program, so we’re sticking to it. Pre-weekend, texts and emails fly regarding modes of transportation, arrival and departure times, menu options, supplies, and planned activities. We always cook the Friday-night dinner and plan a big breakfast for Sunday morning. Saturday is walk/hike/activity time.

No spa appointments

Individual treatments take away from group conversation. Walks, runs, apple picking, museums, group exercise, garden tours, and county fairs will work. We prefer activities that promote group harmony and fun. Shopping is okay, but only if you all buy the same thing, like the woven napkins we all bought once in Petersham, Massachusetts. And remember, if you try on clothes, we’re going to tell you how you really look in them.

Occasional guests

We’ve had great times with special guests who attended one of our weekends, but you should proceed cautiously, as a guest may tip the harmonic balance of the group. As for spouses and partners, we’ve come dangerously close to planning a weekend with them but then stepped back from that edge. We’ve been meeting for only twenty years, and maybe it’s just too soon to bring our other halves.


We lost Betsy to cancer two years ago. There was a strong showing of Aging Models at her funeral, and she’s left a big hole in our group. Since then, weekends away always include some reflection about the conversations and adventures we shared with her. Now that we’ve reach the twenty-year mark, Sarah is working on a photo album to chronicle our friendships. And we’re all trying to remember if we went to Cape May in the spring of 1999 or ’98.


Julie Dolan Smith, one of the Satellite Sisters, is the co-author of You're the Best: A Celebration of Friendship. Julie is an experienced world traveler, having lived in both Thailand and Russia and made "girlfriend trips" to Peru, China, North Korea, Iraq, Jordan, and Uzbekistan. She is also an experienced friend and never misses a weekend with the Aging Models no matter where she is in the world.