How to plan your budget and price a retreat (with examples)

The new year marks a fresh start for many companies. New year’s resolutions don’t just apply to individuals. Now is when many companies set goals and share their vision for growth. Employees are particularly productive after the winter break.

The new energy that marks the beginning of the year can fade after a while. To keep your momentum going, start planning your next company retreat. A company retreat can:

Now is the time to prepare and approve the budget for your next company retreat. As you build your overall operating budget, set aside some funds to be used for an offsite retreat. The budget you need depends on a variety of factors. These factors include:

  1. The purpose of the retreat (work or team-building)
  2. The location (Europe or US)
  3. The venue
  4. The number of people
  5. Transportation costs
  6. Team activities
  7. The length of the retreat

At Surf Office, we’ve hosted dozens of company retreats. We have a ton of firsthand experience in planning and pricing retreats. We’ve learned that the biggest expense is usually the accommodation costs. As a result, we start by considering the location, team size, retreat length and price per person per night.

You don't have to be a retreat planning expert to estimate the budget. There’s a simple formula that can give you a good estimate from which to work.

Use the basic formula:
price per person per night x number of nights x number of people = first estimate of the budget.

Then add transportation estimate and an extra 20% buffer to get a final estimate. Or, just use Surf Office’s free retreat budget calculator to get started.

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How to plan your budget

There are a number of factors to consider when budgeting for your company retreat. Our retreat expert, Danche, recommends starting with the location.

“Picking the right location is probably the most important decision you make. There are many locations in Europe that are budget-friendly while still offering an amazing offsite experience,” says Danche.

The right location for your team offsite depends largely on where your company is located. For example, consider what these real companies spent on retreats with Surf Office (price does not contain flights/travel costs):

Scenario 1:
EU-based team traveling within EU

Scenario 2:
US-based team traveling within the US

Scenario 3:
US-based team traveling to EU

Scenario 4:
Fully-distributed team traveling to EU

As you can see, European locations often make more sense budget-wise, even for fully (or partly) distributed teams. Even remote US companies can save on costs, after adding transportation expenses but having their retreat in Europe. For help choosing a location, try Surf Office’s Location Finder tool, which can recommend where people from a distributed team should meet.            

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Other factors to consider when planning your retreat

Obviously, location is the biggest factor that will impact your retreat budget. The location will drive your spending in these other important categories:

Transportation

Transportation is another big expense, along with accommodation. European companies can avoid air travel within Europe if they’re concerned about their carbon footprint. US companies from Silicon Valley can decrease their retreat prices by going somewhere close like Santa Cruz.

Likewise, it’s possible for US companies to travel to Europe for the same budget as if they were traveling within the US – and get more from the experience (see Scenario 2 vs. Scenario 3, for example). California is generally a more expensive location than Portugal, for instance. Therefore, California’s more expensive accommodation, food, workspace, and activities will outweigh the more expensive plane ticket to Portugal.

Don’t forget to factor in airport transfers to your budget. Your team members will appreciate help getting from the airport to the retreat venue. For just a little extra money, you can ensure everyone comes in on time and your agenda can be completed.

Accommodation

The type of accommodation you choose for your retreat matters. Start by estimating how many people are going to be on the retreat. Then you can see what options are available. Do you need a 5-star hotel? Could you use that money instead of a team dinner or bonding activity? Look into Surf Office’s retreat venues to explore apartments, villas, hotels and more. If your budget is very limited, sharing rooms is the simplest way to cut down costs.

Workspace

If you are planning to do some work during this retreat, you might need to book a private workspace or a conference room. Surf Office has workspaces with capacity for up to 40 people. Each space is equipped with fast internet, meeting rooms, and phone booths. Decide what the goal is of your company retreat. If you wish to host a hackathon or focus on innovation, factor workspace into your budget.

Food and fun

Team-building retreats may sound like a vacation, but they can lead to better business results. Even in a work-focused retreat, build in time for fun. Budget for team meals to bring your employees together for bonding. When budgeting, figure out if you need a full catering service or just a few group meals. Plan your team’s meals ahead of time and decide whether you want to book restaurants with seafood, traditional Spanish tapas, vegan options or any other cuisine your team would love!

Food is just one thing we can all bond over. Retreats are much more fun when colleagues spend time making memories. Explore beer flavors of Prague with a micro-brewery tour, take surf lessons in Europe’s best surf location in Gran Canaria, or even go hiking in the Catskills Mountains. Team activities are the quickest way to improve team spirit during your offsite experience.

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Conclusion and next steps

Companies planning a retreat should know: your budget will go further in Europe than in the US. There are ways to plan a company retreat on a tight budget in the south of Europe and still have a good quality experience.

Take, for example, the cost of Lisbon vs. Santa Cruz. Surf Office in Lisbon can host companies for 80-250 USD per person/day, depending on the time of year and agenda. Surf Office Santa Cruz, on the other hand, estimates costs at 190-350 USD, which is significantly higher.

Bottom line: you can go more high-end in the south of Europe for the fraction of the price that would cost in the US. If you’re budget-conscious in the US, there are great options close to technology hubs that we can make work for you. Get in touch with Surf Office to get started.

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budget retreat spreadsheet

Retreat Budget Spreadsheet

Are you organising a company retreat and want to make sure you have all the costs under the control?

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