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Guilt-free getaways for moms

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  • A few days away is a great gift for a busy mom
  • The key for moms is to go someplace you wouldn't want to go with your family
  • "Girls only" trips are becoming more popular
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By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Media Services
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(Tribune Media Services) -- Talk about a leap of faith.

A group of women tour Yorkshire, England, on foot.

A group of women tour Yorkshire, England, on foot.

Ali Bogner, a Brooklyn, New York, mom, left her husband and son for a rare girlfriends' getaway -- with a group of women she'd never met.

Yet, Bogner explained, she felt closer to some of these women than she did to her friends back in Brooklyn. They'd met and bonded as part of an online support group when they were pregnant and after their babies were born.

"The Amazing Mommies," as they dubbed themselves, decided they all wanted to meet. That first weekend in Dallas was such a success that the women now meet every year -- most recently in Colorado. "For a lot of the girls, this is it. They don't do anything else without their families and they save all year," said Ali Bogner.

"The women range in age from late 20s to early 40s and come from all around the country for a few days for just one reason. "We don't have to take care of anyone else!" says Bogner. "We can just be girls. It's so much fun! And affordable." Their most recent Colorado weekend cost just $600 a person, including food.

I can't think of a better gift for a busy mom than a few days away, or even an overnight, with her best buds. "Our getaways allow us to stay up late laughing and crying and celebrating our friendship and sisterhood," added Kimberly Bercun, who lives in New Jersey.

I know how she feels. For the past several years, my two oldest friends and I manage similar getaways -- most recently to the Fairmont's Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Miami. (Check out the new Power Shopper deal that includes discounts, a foot massage and more. Look for new girlfriend golf getaways too.)

For a few days anyway, we're no one's mom, or co-worker, or wife, though being moms we're reachable by cell phone and e-mail for "emergencies." And it doesn't matter whether you're at a ritzy resort, as my friends and I were, or in a rental house, as were Ali Bogner, Kimberly Bercun and the rest of the "Amazing Mommies."

"It's more about the company than the journey," observes Carrie Sloan, editor of Girlfriends Getaways magazine. Sloan notes that 86 percent of women polled for the magazine said they'd taken a girlfriend getaway in the past three years. And these trips are becoming increasingly popular.

These are grandmas, mothers and daughters (my daughter and I met them hiking with Backroads in Italy), as well as sisters and friends (two of mine are going on a short, post-holiday cruise after visiting aging parents in Florida).

"Life is so serious, you just want to giggle," says Sloan, adding that increasingly, women will attempt something they wouldn't have otherwise done because they have the support of other women. That includes daughters. I wouldn't have made it up Mt. Kilimanjaro without the support of my hiking partner, my daughter Reggie.

The dynamic is entirely different when it's "just girls," whether its moms and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, sisters or simply good friends. Nor is it necessary to wait until Mother's Day. Two close friends are going with their mom to Israel in March. My friend recently took her grown daughter to Las Vegas.

This winter, you're bound to find something you can afford, especially when you're splitting a room and costs. The key is to go someplace you wouldn't likely want to go with your entire gang.

Take advantage of the many packages for girlfriends (no matter what their ages) -- everywhere from the brand-new Gansevoort South Hotel in South Beach, Florida, which offers private poolside yoga classes to Vancouver, B.C., to take advantage of the winter restaurant weeks and inexpensive hotel rates.

Do something you've never done -- whitewater rafting anybody? (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists, OARS, will arrange a group trip.) Visit Yellowstone in winter, or next summer hike hut to hut along the Appalachian Trail with the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Tour wine country, meet in your favorite city or sign on for cooking classes. Chef Susana Trilling told me she often hosts groups of women friends on her weekend courses and culinary tours in Mexico. It doesn't have to be expensive or far from home. Some moms tell me a night away in a nearby hotel when you've got a couple of little kids at home is a terrific respite. We've reconnoitered at a ski condo in Vermont, at a spa in Massachusetts and in Boston -- all within a couple of hours of home.

It's easy to see why 90 percent of women surveyed by GirlfriendGetaways.com want to go on a "girls only" vacation. "What better way for mother and daughter to bond than to be spending time away from dad and siblings," said my friend Sue Tober, who took her daughter, Jamie, to Las Vegas. "Spending time alone doing our fun things together is worth the price. Wouldn't trade it for anything!"

My friends and I chose Turnberry Isle for our getaway because it offered all we were looking for (besides sunshine, of course). An easy flight to Miami, golf course (there were two), a spa (newly expanded), a pool (newly expanded), shopping (Aventura Mall -- South Florida's largest), and good eats, especially at the resort's Bourbon Steak. Check out their new prix-fixe dinner menu or trek across the street to Aventura Malls' New Ocean Prime.

We indulged in a special trio of mini backrubs, facials and foot scrub treatments at the Willow Stream Fairmont Spa, and took a golf clinic together. We managed some long walks, shopping therapy and a foray to South Beach where we toasted our long friendship with Mojitos at Ola and noshed on "millionaire" tacos with king crab and ceviche.

We became part of the frenetic Saturday night South Beach scene on Lincoln Road, eating dinner outside at the oh-so-trendy Sushi Samba, which, incidentally, has recently introduced a kids' menu and, locals tell me, is not nearly so frenetic during the week.

We talked about our kids, of course, and ourselves.

"I cry when I first see them," said Kimberly Bercun, "And I cry when it is time to say goodbye."

I felt the same way. We're already planning our next trp. So are the Amazing Mommies.

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