Before You Get Started Planning Retreats

You know when you have THAT thought…

“I really wish someone would have told me this about (fill in the blank).”

Hindsight 20/20, right?!

We all have moments when we know that having a bit more information, guidance, and knowledge about a topic would have saved us a bunch of time, energy, and money.

Today, I’m inspired to share with you a few of the things I wish someone would have told me straight up about planning retreats (BEFORE I dove in headfirst).

This may seem a like a little tough love, but it’s only because I want to be honest and upfront with you.

I hope this info will set you up for retreat success and help you avoid some of the most common mistakes I see when coaching and helping other retreat leaders.

This is a great article for you if you are just getting started leading retreats, to make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into.

1. You need business skills. Period.

Running retreats are like running any business. You need the right skills to do so.

But before you throw in the towel, please hear me up.

I believe You CAN develop the business skills you need to plan a retreat; you just have to be very intentional about it.

Here are four areas you need to have a good understanding of to pull off successful and profitable retreats (not just one-hit wonders or “beginners luck” retreats).

  1. Finances: budgeting and pricing (it all comes back to this - you always want to start with the numbers).

  2. Marketing and selling (understanding how to put together and execute a marketing plan).

  3. Logistics and group travel (knowing how to organize all of the million little pieces that go into retreats - waivers, contracts, forms, vendors, lodging, scheduling, and more).

  4. Customer service (this is the key to putting together an experience that meets your retreaters’ expectations, and what will determine if they will turn into repeat customers).

Of course, some of these skills are things you learn “on the road,” but it helps to have information and a good understanding of these before you dig in or you can risk to flop it.

Look at these four different areas and ask yourself:

  • What skills do I lack in these 4 areas?

  • What type of guidance, knowledge or information do I need to feel more confident in these areas?

  • Where and how can I get the help I need in each of these areas?

You can go the DIY route, or you can fast track your path by getting retreat strategy guidance.

2. Don’t plan a retreat as Your vacation

Most people I know that dream of leading a retreat start with dreaming up a country or a region on their bucket list.

At first, this may seem like a no brainer.

Of course, you want to lead a retreat at a place YOU want to travel to. I know I do.

The problem is that this can give us tunnel vision.

The most crucial factor that should determine the location of your retreat (especially if you are just getting started and you are building up your reputation as a retreat leader) is where your students WANT to go.

After all, you are planning a retreat FOR your students, not a vacation for yourself.

Many times, the best place to take a group of students is a place you have visited before and you know more about.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I find out where my students want to go on a retreat with me?

  • What type of location is exciting and doable for my students and for me?

  • Where do I feel really confident about traveling with a group?

I talk about doing market research before you plan your retreat all the time.

This is actually one of the most important aspects to making sure your retreat is a total sold-out success.

Do your research, and you will feel a lot more confident about the experience you are putting together. I promise.

I wrote an article about putting together a beautiful retreat experience if you want to dive deeper into this.

3. Don’t know who’s interested? Don’t plan it.

The number one concern for most retreat leaders is to get enough students to fill their retreat spots. It’s what keeps us up at night.

“Will people sign up?” Will I be able to sell out my retreat?”

The truth here is, if you don’t have a retreat ready community, you are better off waiting to organize that retreat.

Retreats are what I consider “premium offerings.”

They are more expensive and “risky” than taking a class or workshop with you.

That means that it will take some time to build up that trust with your students, not to mention making sure you have a community or “following” to begin with.

Here are some ways to determine if you have a retreat ready community. You want to check YES to at least 3 out of 5 of these:

  1. You have been teaching for a while and have a quality group of students that practice with you on a regular basis.

  2. You have offered group programs, workshops, and successful events, and you know people are ready for the next step with you.

  3. YOU are actively asking and surveying your students about going on a retreat with you, and you are getting positive feedback.

  4. Your STUDENTS are actively asking you about leading a retreat and diving deeper into a topic or subject with you beyond the studio walls.

  5. You have some basic marketing skills and marketing tools available to you, such as email marketing and a website.

If you want more on this topic, read THIS POST I wrote about building a loyal retreat tribe.


Don’t be afraid to dive into planning a retreats, just be prepared so that you have the right information and resource at hand when you need it.

I’m here cheering you on, you got this!