I love to travel.  Sometimes (especially lately), I am on the go so often I feel like a gypsy, and can recite the airplane safety video from memory.  But as much time and money as these excursions tend to cost, I can’t shake my travel bug.  I love immersing myself in different cultures, cuisines and experiences.

On my recent trip to Mexico, I was awed by all the colors and fun little details in every nook and cranny.  And while Cancun and Tulum, the two areas I visited, are very tourism-driven, I still felt an authenticity everywhere I looked rather than the plastic, unimaginative hotel strips found in many tourist-centric areas.  It really got my wheels turning with event planning inspiration.

Travel Survival Pack

A fun twist on a swag bag (check out how I like to put mine together in this post), this giveaway is a useful and inexpensive gift for guests to take home and a creative way to theme your event.

As a thank you to everyone who flew to Mexico to celebrate her birthday, my friend Tamilla hooked everyone up with one of these kits, the contents of which everyone used.  She simply took a gift bag and stuffed it with travel-sized sunblock, a mini bottle of liquor, Advil, and some tissue paper for garnish.  It was a sweet surprise, and an awesome start to the trip.

A Taste of Local Flavors

If hosting an event in a special location, or where the guests are traveling from other places to attend, it’s a nice touch to bring in some elements from the local community.  In Mexico, everywhere we went had a different aesthetic, from the rustic charm of our hotel in Tulum to the bright and colorful furniture of its restaurants, and each area carried with it a unique vibe.

Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms
Taken at the Hotel Posada Punta Piedra in Tulum; photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.


Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms
Colorful beachside restaurant in Tulum; photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.

Speaking of furniture, having enough seating areas is crucial for any event.  It’s important to not let it get too cluttered; I typically like to mix couches with high-tops and stools.  In Mexico, hammocks were everywhere, and didn’t seem to take up as much room as chairs and tables do.  They convey the bohemian vibe of the area and were so darn relaxing.

Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms
My friend Molly relaxing in a hammock outside our hotel room; Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.

And let’s not forget many people’s favorite part of the party: food!  This is the easiest way to get creative with local events.  For a recent client event where many people were traveling to San Francisco, we hired a coffee cart and barista to make local brews to order for guests.  Since coffee is such a large industry here, it was a great way to give people a taste (ha) of the area.

One of my favorite authentic drinks while in Mexico was raw coconut water, drank from a straw straight from the source.

Fresh, delicious coconut water at a restaurant in Playa Del Carmen.

Create Photo Opportunities

#goodtimes should always result in great pictures to post and share on social media.  Not only do people LOVE photo booths (self-professed addict over here), but it’s an effective way to crowdsource promotion for your business or brand.  But photo booths can be expensive and aren’t always necessary to create photo-worthy experiences for your guests.

Designate areas for taking pictures with an interesting backdrop or installation.  You can DIY this – once I had a #flashbackfriday party where I cut a giant polaroid picture frame out of poster board and hung it in a hallway – or use the natural environment.  Our hotel in Tulum had a tower of rocks with a memorable sign that I’m sure was put there for picture-taking.  The crepe shop across the street had an interesting display of Nutella jars hanging from its storefront, which I promptly photographed.  I found these both very clever ways to create Instagrammable pictures that can be tagged and linked back to the businesses for others to view and discover.

Memorable photo opportunity at our Tulum hotel.


Nutella garland outside Tulum creperie.

Creating opportunities for guests to take their own pictures with mobile devices is free.  For a small budget, you can make it easier for them to capture the moment by providing disposable cameras scattered around the party, which my party-planning wizard of a friend Kera did in Mexico.  This is common practice at weddings and always produces a large scope of pictures from throughout the night without needing to hire a professional photographer.

For a more analog and old-school feel, take Polaroids.  Guests will get to take pictures home instantly, and who doesn’t love an Instagram of a polaroid?  So meta.

Photo by Lisa Radespiel.
Photo by Lisa Radespiel.

If you do have the funds, setting up a professional photographer in an area with a backdrop is another way to direct people back to your website when they search for the images later.  This picture of my friend Molly in front of a gorgeous Cancun sunset looks like a fake movie set – but it’s real!

No matter what type of photography you have at your event, don’t forget props.  More amazing contributions from Kera were costumes, temporary tattoos and party hats!

Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.
Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.


Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.
Hats not restricted to humans. Photo by Kera Brittany Bottoms.

I love that Mexico got me so motivated to plan my next big event!  What are some fun ways you’ve been inspired by your travels?