The ultimate retreat planning checklist

The ultimate retreat planning checklist

by Sarah McCunnMay 20, 2024
The ultimate retreat planning checklist

Are you thinking of embarking on the journey of planning a transformative retreat for the first time? Maybe you have some experience leading workshops or circles and are looking to expand your offering but need insight and guidance?

Discover why a strong vision and thoughtful planning is the cornerstone of a successful retreat—from cultivating a sense of community to achieving your vision and embracing the magic that can arise on a well-structured retreat.

Silhouettes of a group of people watching the sun go down in the distance, arms raised in celebration.

✅ In this article, we take the confusion and overwhelm out of the retreat planning process by offering you a comprehensive downloadable retreat planning checklist that to guide you through the whole process!

We provide insight for each stage of planning and execution—taking you from articulating your vision and goals to your post-retreat celebration!

Get ready to create an unforgettable retreat experience with our insider tips, templates and guide to using our budget-friendly registration and payment platform, Checkout Page.

Why is good retreat planning so important?

So, why is great planning so important when setting out to host a transformative retreat?

Attention to details maximizes the chance of a stress free and fulfilling experience for both you and your guests, by helping to ensure:

🧿 Achieving your vision: A well-organized retreat is paramount in achieving your retreat vision. If your project is a ship, then your vision is the sails. Whether it's deepening skills, enlivening creative practice, or personal growth and reflection, your goal for creating this experience requires time, effort and seamless structure to give you and your team the space to be fully attentive to guests and bring the vision to life.

⚖️ Delicate balancing act: It may sound counter intuitive, but the more well structured the logistics, the more space there is for the kind of magic you can never plan for. Whilst a lot of what happens on a retreat can feel a million miles from project plans and spreadsheets, setting everyone up for an experience free of confusion, mistakes and frustrations paves the way for calm, presence and the extraordinary.

💫 Smooth execution: Thorough planning guarantees that all logistical details such as accommodation, transport, dietary requirements and activities are taken care of—minimizing disruptions for guests, creating a great impression and allowing you to focus on the retreat's purpose and your connections with the guests.

🫂 Community building: Thoughtful planning helps create a cohesive environment that fosters connection and meaningful interactions among participants—leading to deeper insights, personal growth, lasting relationships and loyalty.

For a transformative experience that leaves a lasting impact, investing time up front so that you show up well resourced is essential!

Man and woman sit cross legged on yoga matts with hands on their hearts in a meditative fashion.

The ultimate retreat planning checklist

If you are feeling like there is a lot to factor in—from workshops and menus to budgets and insurance—don’t worry, we have your back!

🧩 We’ve created a retreat planning checklist which can act as a project plan to guide you through the stages of retreat planning. And, we are going to dive into more detail below—examining the pieces of the retreat planning puzzle!

In this downloadable document, we’ve consolidated all the stages and tasks into one checklist, helping you to stay organized and ensure nothing essential slips through the cracks using our retreat planning checklist template.

Screenshot of a section of the retreat planning checklist document


✅ Move through each stage of the document, checking off key tasks as you go!

Breakdown of the ultimate retreat planning checklist

Below, we take the key sections of the retreat planning checklist and provide you with detail and context, enabling you to feel more resourced as you begin your retreat planning project.

1. Vision & goal

Your vision is going to form the pillar of your whole retreat journey—anchored in your passions, skills and values.

Authenticity is what will bring people to your retreat and what will keep you motivated and driven even when things get stressful.

When starting to formulate your vision, it’s helpful to think in terms of values, benefits and outcomes rather than features.

Closeup shot of a woman's eye

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

🧿 Feature based vision

“My vision is to provide a wide variety of yoga classes to guests over 7 days, with access to a hot tub, nature trails and luxury accommodation”

This is a vision, but it only describes the retreat features and you can bet there will be thousands of options available to people searching for those features alone.Let’s look at another example…

🧿 Intention and value based vision

“My vision is to create a space free from inner and outer distraction for people that feel a little scattered by life. We will learn to cultivate deep attention through yoga & nature connection with a commitment to safety, gentleness, and acceptance.”

This says much more about the atmosphere, ethos and the organizers’ desired outcomes for guests. It is more personal and will entice people on a more emotional level.

🧿 Retreat vision template
It can be a helpful exercise to begin formulating your vision using a formula which will then come to life further.

As a foundation to inspire you, try filling in the blanks below for your idea. You may put up to three words in for each blank, but limit it to three so that you distill your vision:

My retreat will be a space for people who are currently experiencing __________________ and are interested in attending because they want to feel more__________________. To help them achieve this we will be doing __________________. in a space that offers__________________. My greatest gifts and skills which I’ll be using to support this vision are__________________What matters to me most about doing this work is__________________.

Woman sits at a table reflecting and writing into a journal.

2. Define the target audience

Defining your audience is deeply tied in with your retreat vision. A successful retreat leader attracts guests who’ll most benefit from and resonate with what they have to offer.

🧘🏽 Let’s take the example of an aspiring yoga retreat organizer…Simply trying to attract “people who enjoy yoga"—by showcasing the number of classes you offer, or the accreditations of your teachers' teachers—will likely fail to capture the right people by not speaking to them on an emotional level.

Instead, by tapping into your own journey with yoga, why you fell in love with it, what challenges it’s helped you overcome and what it continues to mean to you will speak far more effectively to your potential guests when shared with your audience.

🕯️Authenticity and openness is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to attracting guests!

A woman sits on  a yoga mat crossed legged with her dog by her side

Consider these questions:
What is something my future guests likely all have in common?
What are the ways they will be diverse?
Who are the people/students/followers who most resonate with me right now?
What do I bring to this field that’s unique and what can people receive from me that they might not from another facilitator in my field?

Reflect on your answers because by developing a clear picture of the needs and characteristics of your target audience, you’ll be in a strong position to understand who you want to entice in, as well as ensuring not to mislead those who are looking for something different!

3. Retreat budgeting and costs

The budgeting and costing out of a retreat can often feel like the most stressful part—but it needn’t be!

Retreats range widely in cost and level of luxury, and retreat organizers will have different desires around the profit margin they wish to make, especially when starting out.

A woman sits at a desk on a computer with a calculator and money next to her

Every retreat is difference, and the balance of costs across the factors below do vary, but let’s take a high-level look at the main costs to take into consideration when planning:

  • Accommodation
    Typically, this will make up the greatest portion of your costs, usually around 35-50%.
  • Staff costs & transport
    Paying your staff and getting them to the retreat location is another large portion of your costs, usually around 25-30%. 
  • Catering & food supplies
    Good food is vital on a retreat, but the percentage of costs that it will make up can vary a lot. A luxury retreat offering a number of dietary options with a team of chefs will obviously cost much more than serving up a family style simple dinner by a non professional with a passion for food. Plan for this to cost from 10-25% of your budget.
  • Insurance
    Insurance costs will vary depending on retreat activities but you can expect to pay around 3% of your budget on insurance.
  • Excursions
    Some retreats feature many excursions built in and other’s have one day trip as an added extra which guests pay on top. Consider what fits your retreat style, program and budget!
  • Workshop materials, photographer, decorations and goodie bags!
    Don’t forget to take into account smaller items - they all add up!
  • Contingency
    It’s always wise to plan in contingency to a budget, especially when you are first getting started and are less familiar with the kinds of unexpected things that crop up! Try for a 10-15% contingency in your budget plan.

A key consideration to bear in mind when thinking of the range of your total cost is what price range your target audience can pay and how important it is that your retreat is accessible to people with less disposable income.

It's important to be realistic about what your target audience can pay, and what you’ll be able to command in retreat costs being new to the arena!

A silver piggy bank sits next to a phone, a clipboard and a magnifying glass


Some ideas for keeping things flexible are:

💡Choosing accommodation that offers a range of options—from dorms to luxury en-suite.

💡Offering simpler food that feels like a more family style dinner rather than a buffet with numerous options.

💡Offering a space to a trusted work-exchanger who gets to come for free in exchange for being on the staff part time.

💡Offering activities that are paid extras—such as massages or day trips—to keep costs down for other guests while opening up added luxury for those with the budget.

💡Recruiting talented people who are starting out in their professional careers and therefore cost less—such as photographers or chefs. Do be careful to check you love what they do first!

A good spreadsheet is your friend when it comes to working out different variable and fixed costs and considering what’s feasible for you in terms of staff, food and accommodation:

To help get you started with a comprehensive budget tracker which you can adapt to your needs, WeTravel offers a good template which you can download for free and adapt.

Screenshot of retreat budget calculator document

4. Promoting your retreat

Creating compelling promotional material for your retreat means speaking to your target audience and conveying the essence of your offering as well as its features.

Whether or not you already have a following online, there are many ways to share your vision and ensure the people who’d benefit from being at your retreat get to hear about it.

Woman records herself talking about her retreat
  • Social media: Utilize platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn thoughtfully, in line with your vision.
  • Community events: Participate in community events, fairs, or workshops that attract the kinds of people you are appealing to.
  • Teasers: Create some teaser material that gives people a taste of what it is you offer. This could be a free video, meditation or piece of writing that gives people a flavor of your style, approach and uniqueness.
  • Testimonials: Sharing written and video testimonials from past guests or people that have benefited from what you have to share will bring a human aspect to your promotional activities. Ensure you gather these from people who are authentic, heartfelt and able to communicate well.
A man sits in front of a studio light recording a video of himself, smiling.
  • Collaborations: Partner with other businesses, influencers, or organizations that align with your retreat's theme to boost each other’s visibility.
  • Early-bird specials and competitions: Reward people who are prepared to sign up and pay a deposit early on in the planning process by offering them discounted costs and retreat payment plans. Create a prize draw for a free or discounted place on your retreat for people who share and tag your posts to be entered into.
A rainbow party streamer and confetti against a plain backgroud.

For some really good tips on marketing a retreat, check out Retreat Rockstar’s YouTube channel for her Retreat Marketing Bootcamp series.

5. Booking accommodation

The retreat venue you choose will play an integral part in every aspect of your planning—from your budget to your itinerary. Your choice of venue will be informed not just by cost, but by what your retreat vision is.

A person in a canoe sits on a lake with sunset colors reflected off the water

Beyond the accommodation itself, the locality may also play a part in your vision. For example, if nature connection is a big part of your ethos, the land surrounding the venue will be important for your activities.

With a range of dedicated retreat venue booking platforms such as Retreats and Venues as well as trusty Airbnb, there are many options available to a retreat organizer both locally and abroad.

Screenshot of a selection of luxury villas on Airbnb


Factors to take into account when considering a venue are:

Dedicated retreat venue: There are venues that cater specifically for retreats and include catering, cleaning staff, equipment for yoga and various other amenities.

The benefit here is that it takes a lot of stress off your hands! This comes at a cost however, and may not be manageable when just starting out with your retreat business.

Non-dedicated venue: Airbnb places an array of incredible properties all over the globe at our fingertips, and choosing to host a retreat abroad can make a more luxurious property far more affordable.

If you are considering this route, bare in mind the following:

👍 Be transparent with the owner about the fact you’ll be hosting a retreat. They may be very supportive, but you don’t want any last minute stress.

👍 Get a detailed account of equipment available to you at the property, both in terms of catering and activities such as yoga.

👍 Ensure there is space for all of your workshops and that every room is of a good standard relative to the price point.

👍 Remember that not having house staff means there will be a lot more for you and your team to oversee. Plan up front, and ensure that the retreat leads are not spinning too many plates during the retreat.

Home or away: Deciding whether you are going to host your retreat in your home country or abroad is a key decision for many.

Factors like cost, weather and affordable catering can make going abroad appealing, but don’t forget to factor in the added travel costs, insurance and surprises such as power cuts and loud construction work into the equation…

🌪️In short, do your research!

A woman walks along the side of a balcony over the ocean, next to an infinity pool


Whatever your choice, know that the property you choose could make or break the success of the retreat, so be sure to visit it ahead of time or go with a recommendation from a trusted and experienced peer.

6. Planning your retreat itinerary

Take care to craft a well-balanced retreat schedule that allows for a sense of flow—combining activities with ample relaxation time for meaningful connections and impactful moments.

A color coded schedule that allows you to get a visual picture of the balance between activity time and downtime can be really helpful and is easy to set up in a Google Sheet or a calendar:

Screenshot of a color coded google calendar showing the events during a retreat


💡 Separate staff retreat schedule

A great tip for first time retreat organizers and something that gets overlooked is to have a separate staff schedule that aligns with the guest schedule but factors in activity preparation, team meetings and very importantly, rest time!

7. Communicating with guests

If you have a social media platform or an existing client base who may become future guests, what you share online or in newsletters will form part of your initial communication with potential guests.

The registration process is where you’ll set the first impression of your retreat for those seriously considering signing up.

Getting this right is really important for building trust up front and our article, How to create a retreat registration form will get you off to a flying start!

A woman sits in front of a computer waving on a Zoom call

Once your guests have signed up for the retreat, great communication will not only ensure they can relax feeling like they have all the information they need, but also feel welcomed and excited about the retreat.

Consider the following points of communication and ensure they contain pertinent information:

  • A post registration welcome pack containing all key information
  • A weekly countdown to retreat email with ideas for preparation
  • Set up a WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal group a week before the retreat to allow guest to chat
  • Send out a thank you communication once the guests have left post retreat
  • Follow up a couple of weeks after the retreat to see how people are doing
  • Arrange an online get together one month after the retreat to share how the experience has impacted each person’s day-to-day lives.

8. Tips while on your retreat

As the retreat unfolds, a leader’s biggest responsibility is to ensure they are energized, present and calm—to create that environment for their guests.

A woman receives a head massage


Some tips for a smooth and enriching time for all are:

Team check ins:
Gathering with your team each day, even for 10 mins, ensures things run smoothly, everyone is on the same page, and there is a chance to share any important information about guests that need attending to

Log issues for review: Have a place to log issues and items to reflect on in real time. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget things that could really help you grow and improve.

Adapt: Be prepared to adapt things as the retreat progresses. It’s common for things to move a little bit in relation to the original plan and being able to flow seamlessly without drama is a great skill to have!

Rest: We cannot emphasize this enough! Carving out time for rest will serve you as the days progress and the cumulative energy expenditure catches up with you!

Enjoy: Being fully engaged with your guests and enjoying the experience will create a memorable, connected and authentic time for all involved.

A group of women sit on the grass laughing

9. Post retreat activities

🎉This is a time for celebration and to get together with your team to thank them and share how you are feeling while it’s all fresh—the joys, the challenges and everything in between.

Have a meal or gathering booked with your team ahead of time so that people have it diarized. Often people’s energy levels are low immediately afterwards so this is not the time for a detailed post mortem—but do check in on your team's feelings about the highlights, learnings, growth points and challenges.

Once people have had some days to rest and take stock, arrange a more formal meeting to review how the retreat went—leaning in on the notes you and the team made as the retreat was underway.

Set yourself up for personal and retreat business growth by making time for the following in the days and weeks after your retreat:

🌟Guest feedback: Either at the end of the retreat, or in the days following departure, provide your guests with a retreat feedback form. Try not to make it overwhelming, but ask open questions that enable people to add more detail in some places and be briefer in others

🌟Team feedback: It’s important for genuine improvement to give each of your staff a chance to provide individual and confidential feedback on their feelings about the retreat team.

🌟Testimonials: Getting guest testimonials in writing or by video is a fantastic way to showcase the effect your retreat has had. Send out an invitation for submitting a testimonial while things still feel fresh!

🌟Ratings: If your company is set up on a retreat hosting platform like Retreat Guru, a social media platform like Facebook or any place that allows for ratings and feedback, invite your guests to do this in order to support your work in the future.

🎉 Guest reviews are the biggest driving force for bookings!

The commitment you put into reviewing feedback and letting your guests know that their attendance and trust in you was valued will build you a reputation for authenticity, trustworthiness and a true dedication to your craft.

How to create a retreat registration and payment page with Checkout Page

With its array of flexible and customizable payment options, including the ‘Payment plan’ option, Checkout Page is a great option for those who want a seamless, intuitive and user friendly platform to use for retreat registrations and payment.

Let’s take a look at how simple it is to create an attractive no-code checkout page that will create a professional and visually pleasing first impression for your guests!

Step 1. Create your checkout page

Title your page and select from a number of payment options in order to create a plan that works best for you and your target audience, including a set-up fee deposit option:

Simple Checkout Page form enabling you to crate a page, title and select a payment type

Step 2. Choose your page type

Checkout Page allows you to select different page layouts, as well as either a hosted page option or embed code for a website

Checkout Page form enabling you to select your page layout

Step 3. Add a description to your page

Add a description for your event that will grab peoples attention and give them a flavor of what to expect.

Checkout Page form enabling you to add a description for your retreat

Step 4. Add images to your page

Add an image that works for your branding and retreat theme. Checkout Page enables you to add multiple images:

Checkout Page form enabling you to add images to your page

Step 5. Adjust colors to suit your branding

Checkout Page allows you to customize various elements of your page, so that you can tailor it to your brand and set the right tone for your event!

Checkout Page form enabling you to choose colors to suit your branding

Step 6. Share your page

When you are ready to share your event with the world, you can select from a hosted payment link, embed code for your website and a QR code option too for posters, flyers and more.

Checkout Page popup enabling you to share your page with your potential guests

Step 7. Preview your page

Checkout Page shows a preview panel the whole way through the creation process.When are you happy with the feel and setup of your page, you are ready to share it with your audience!

A screenshot of the completed checkout page

Conclusion

Planning a successful retreat involves careful organization and thoughtful consideration at every step.

In this article, we’ve looked at setting a clear vision and understanding your target audience, managing costs, promoting your retreat, choosing the right accommodation, creating a well-balanced itinerary and making the retreat and post retreat phases fruitful and supportive of growth.

We’d love to support you further in your retreat planning journey! Our retreat planning checklist template will keep you on track with your tasks, and if you’d like to check out our platform, our retreat registration and payment page template will get you up and running in a few clicks.

It’s free to sign up to Checkout Page and start creating—no card required!

We wish you a fruitful and exciting journey bringing your vision to life!

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Sarah McCunn

Sarah McCunn

Sarah is a content writer with a passion for helping businesses grow. She enjoys creating content that helps businesses succeed and grow.


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