‘I organise huge hen dos abroad – here’s how to keep it budget-friendly for everyone’

By Staff


Kirsty Mallan, a senior project manager, has organised a number of large hen parties for her friends including to European destinations such as Marbella, Barcelona and Albufeira

A professional ‘spreadsheeter’ who loves to organise has pulled off some devilishly difficult holidays.

Kirsty Mallan is a self-described ‘super hen’ who has organised a series of large prenuptial bashes for her friends over the years. The biggest the 34-year-old has taken on involved 24 ladies, all of them hyped up and ready for a massive weekend abroad.

When not plotting how to ferry great gaggles of bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-brides and assorted relatives to bargain European destinations, Kirsty hones her organisational skills in her day job as a senior project manager.

“Organising anything is my bag, I love a spreadsheet. I’ve organised three large hen dos abroad – one for my sister Rhona in Portugal and also hen weekends for my two best friends in Marbella and Barcelona. I’ve done several in London too. The largest group of ladies I’ve staged a hen weekend abroad for is 24… that was an experience,” Kirsty told the Mirror.

Kirsty – who argues that brides should host their hens abroad to keep costs low, having herself found it more cost effective than celebrating in the UK – has offered some advice for those who find themselves having to book a large scale holiday for friends or family.

Check out her top tips below…

Find bargains abroad

Although travel costs may be an extra upfront expense, Kirsty believes such holidays abroad end up costing less overall. She explained: “When you stay in the UK, you often need to create a jam-packed itinerary, meaning lots of activities need to be booked in, which really increases costs.

“But when you’re abroad, you want to maximise time outdoors and can spend a lot of the daytime relaxing in the sun. For my sister Rhona’s hen weekend, she wanted to chill by the pool, so we chose Albufeira in Portugal as it was warm enough in April. I found a great First Choice package for the eight of us in Vale de Parra that was really spacious with a lovely pool, so we spent a lot of the days chilling there which saved us. When I have set up hen dos in the UK, I have found that accommodation for a large group is usually very expensive.”

Keep a kitty

Savvy Kirsty is a fan of splitting the cost of the hen holidays across the group, with everyone contributing to a kitty, which covers meals, drinks, accommodation and the cost of the bride’s experience. The collective purchasing power of the group means you can end up getting more bang for your buck.

The biggest hen do Kirsty has staged is a trip for 24 to Barcelona for one of her best friends, Katie. She sorted out the accommodation and organised a large supermarket shop so they weren’t forking out too much for every meal.

“It was a huge group. We had spreadsheets. The logistics of this took months to organise. We stayed in three apartments in Eixample, splitting the group into 7 or 8 per apartment which worked out well. It wasn’t too expensive as it split the cost. We chose not to have breakfast included.”

Look beyond booze

One of the most enjoyable activities Kirsty set up for the group of 24 in Spain was yoga on the sea on paddle boards. She is generally a fan of organising day time adventures so the time away isn’t wasted nursing hangovers.

“It was a great bonding experience as everyone got to try their hand at it, and we took loads of pictures. Every hen needs a fun bonding activity – so booking with a firm like First Choice is a great option, as you can pick from loads of brilliant local experiences for the whole group. They have so many options from paddle boarding and mosaic making to wine tasting – which are guaranteed to go down a treat with the hens,” Kirsty said.

After spending the morning on the boards on the beach, the group then went and got ready and enjoyed a late afternoon lunch of tapas, which Kirsty had pre booked. Being a big group they had to do a lot of research to find venues that could accommodate them, as well as booking pretty far in advance.

“We went back to the villa after lunch and enjoyed festival themed pre-drinks. Everyone had wrist bands saying ‘Katie’s Hen Fest’, flower bands on their heads, and we had glitter stations so everyone could get in the spirit of it, before we went out,” Kirsty continued.

Kirsty has also compiled some general tips for keeping the cost of the holiday as cheap as possible.

  1. Compare flights: Look at different airlines for price differences and be flexible about what airport you travel from – prices can really vary
  2. Midweek booking: Check on a Tuesday morning as the prices go down, or book well in advance
  3. Use different devices to book: Some sites can know your IP address, so each time you check it gets higher. So if you look up prices first on your computer, next time look up on your phone, which is a different IP address – otherwise if you use the same device, they’ll automatically put a price increase on it!
  4. Organise payment via instalments: Ask all hens to pay in two or three instalments – and put this in the spreadsheet – spreading it across two or three payments spreads the cost. Agree that deposits are non-refundable – this prevents the organisers from having to shell out if someone drops out. With First Choice, you can now spread the cost and secure your summer 2024 hen with a £30pp deposit – and absolutely no admin fees. Win win.
  5. Choose accommodation wisely: Consider your priorities and what the bride wants – the cost of where you stay should not be ALL of your budget. It should be lower down on your list. If you are going abroad, you can do other things which cost nothing, such as sunbathing on the beach, whereas in the UK, you will have to factor in activities.
  6. Large group accommodation: If booking for large groups, check on different platforms to compare prices – as they can vary.
  7. Have a strict budget: Use Google Sheets Spreadsheets with tabs at the bottom to log costs and to keep on top of how much each participant owes. Use this to do an itinerary so keep everything in one document, and link to each of the locations and accommodation. This will allow everyone to see the costs, and help you work out the cost per person. Get people to pay instalments – and put this in the spreadsheet – spreading it across two or three payments spreads the cost.
  8. Paying for the bride: I’ve always included the bride’s share of the hen do in terms of covering activities, decorations, meals and drinks within the cost each participant pays. If you want to include the bride in the cost, ensure you budget it into everyone’s payments in advance to avoid any surprises.

With all of these tips in mind, you’ll still need to choose the right place for your holiday. First Choice, an online travel agent, has suggested budget alternatives to more famous, often more expensive hen and stag party destinations which may end up breaking the bank.

Instead of Barcelona, choose Lisbon

Lisbon is a beautiful city with an awful lot of charm and wallet-friendly vibe. Swap pricey cocktails for Portuguese wine and soak up the rich history, jaw-dropping architecture, and buzzing arts scene. From picturesque neighbourhoods to sun-kissed beaches, Lisbon is a great location which won’t leave your purse feeling empty. The Real Palacio hotel offers chic accommodations in the heart of the city, with buzzing bars and restaurants just steps away. Treat yourself to some post-party pampering with a sauna, jacuzzi, and steam room.

Prices from £370 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing a Standard Twin Room on a Bed and Breakfast basis for three nights. Flights departing from London Luton airport on 26 April 2024. Hand luggage only and transfers not included.

Instead of Amsterdam, choose Sofia

Amsterdam is currently looking to deter rowdy hen and stag parties, even launching an advertising campaign designed at warding the unwelcome lot away. Why follow the crowd and go where you’re not wanted when you can blaze your own trail in Sofia? This cool capital offers all the excitement of Amsterdam without the sky-high prices. From stunning architecture to buzzing nightlife, Sofia has it all. The City Avenue Hotel By HMG is a stylish home base which has its own bar and nightclub for round-the-clock fun.

Prices from £343 per person, based on two adults sharing a Double Standard Room on a room only basis. Flights departing London Heathrow on 20th June 2024. 2x 23kg luggage included and transfers not included.

Instead of Ibiza, choose Montenegro

First Choice suggests trading Ibiza’s crowded clubs for Montenegro ‘s laid-back vibes and breathtaking scenery. From beach clubs to historic towns, Montenegro has something for every hen. Dance the night away in Budva, soak up the sun on pristine beaches, or explore ancient monasteries by day.

Hotel Fagus offers chic accommodations just minutes from the beach, with a rooftop pool. Prices from £399 per person, based on two adults sharing a Standard Double Room with Balcony on a Bed and Breakfast basis for three nights. Flights departing from London Gatwick on 2nd May 2024. Baggage not included. Transfers included.

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