How to plan a personal retreat or the ultimate personal retreat guide


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As you may know, a personal retreat is a fantastic tool to recharge and set your life in a new direction.
I absolutely love personal retreats, they have been one of my best tools to get unstuck fast when life got rough.

And you don’t need to wait until you’re in a tight spot to take a personal retreat. They are also extremely useful for periodic check-ins to allow you to reconnect with yourself and check on your goals.

Personal retreats give you space to rejuvenate, recharge, recollect yourself and also allow you to reflect, gain new insights, brainstorm innovative solutions.
They feel good on your mind, your body and your soul.

What is there not to like about personal retreats?

While you may need no more convincing that personal retreats are powerful, you may be still be wondering where to get started and looking for some guidelines on how to plan your own personal retreat.

Well, keep reading because I am going to share with you some of my best tips to plan a luscious personal retreat.
Whether you’re looking to DIY a rejuvenating self-care personal retreat or create a personal planning retreat to take your life to the next level, I think you’re going to love this post.

The ultimate guide to planning a perfect personal retreat. Click To Tweet

planning a self-care personal retreat

How to plan a personal retreat: 3 essential phases.

First, I like to think of the retreat in 3 phases:

  • the foundations,
  • the transformative practices
  • and the closing practices.

The foundations are all the steps you need to take to plan you retreat and begin relaxing. They help you set the mood and prepare yourself to reach a deep state of well-being.

The transformative practices are all the practices that allow you to create a shift.

The closing practices are all the practices that allow you to gently transition back into your routine and integrate the wins of your retreat into your life.

These steps sort of build on top of each other so it’s important to maintain this order. Transformative work doesn’t work so well when you’re stressed out, a poorly planned retreat will prevent you from relaxing and having no plan to go back to normal life will make you waste the benefits of your retreat.

Now that this is out of the way let’s look at how to design your personal retreat.

A perfect personal retreat should includes these 3 phases. Click To Tweet

I. Perfect personal retreat: the foundations

Like I have just mentioned, these steps allow you to gently slip into the mood of your retreat and leave the chaos of the world at the door.

1. Plan your personal retreat

I did in the past just wing my personal retreats. I went to the seaside to take a few days off and realized I really didn’t want to go back. I was in the extremely fortunate position to be really flexible time-wise, so I ended up changing my plans to stick around longer and created my retreat right there and then.

I do realize that this is a highly unusual situation and that most people don’t have the luxury to take off for weeks at a time on a whim. But they still need a retreat. The best thing to make the most time is to plan head so you can buffer yourself from stress during your retreat.

First: set time aside.

Figure out how much time off you can take.
Some of you might be super time-starved and only manage one afternoon.

Ideally you want to start with at least a day.
A week-end is ideal.
A whole week is luxury.

Figure out how much time you have and schedule it.
Clear your calendar, let people know you won’t be available.

Put systems in place so you won’t be disturbed:

  • get a baby-sitter,
  • drop the little ones at their grand-mother’s,
  • hire a VA,
  • get someone to cover for you if you’re on call at work.

Do what it takes to make sure you won’t be disturbed.

Upgrade your life personal space
Second: find the perfect location.

You could have your retreat at home, check-in into a nice hotel (you can use a day stay if you only have a few hours) or take advantage of one of your summer breaks to hide away.

Make sure the space is inspiring.

  • If you’re staying home:

Tidy up your space (even better: hire someone to clean up your home, that’ll get you in the mood), quickly decorate your space, move into your guest bedroom, cozy up in your home office, glamp in your backyard. Find a way to work with what you have to make things fresh and uplifting without too much effort.

  • If you’re going away (even on a stay-cation retreat 2 blocks away):

Find a inspiring and quiet space where you can really let go and relax. As I mentioned, you can find a fancy hotel for a day-stay. It’s really affordable and if your home is teeming with hyperactive little people or roommates, that might be a great way to find some real peace for a few hours.

  • And if you’re have a few nice trips planned this summer that might be a perfect opportunity to go on a retreat.

Extend your stay for 1 or 2 days and enjoy!

2. Personal retreat essentials

Things that feel good, things that inspire you, things to take notes!

  • Think comfy stylish clothes.
    You want to feel comfortable lounging around but the sweat pants slob look is not great at making anyone feel fab.
    So you may want to consider dressing it up a little. Think tailored pants with elastic waist, plain tees with nice jewelry.
    Something that’s easy to wear and makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Think mood boosters.
    You could take essential oil mood roll-ons, an uplifting pillow spray, some affirmation cards, your favorite message mug, an inspiring book to read, some uplifting music (classic, smooth jazz, spiritual,…) or meditations.
    Little things that makes you say yes inside all day.

hands holding empty journal

  • Think inspiring stationary
    Even if you’re only planning for a self-care or fitness retreat, you’re probably going to get some insights that you will want to record for later.

Don’t skip the soul-searching part because you’re not planning a personal growth retreat per se.
Taking breaks from our  daily routine has a way of creating shifts in our minds whether we intend it or not…

When soul-searching, I recommend staying away from tech, I doesn’t work as well as pen and paper even if you are fast typer.
For some reasons writing with a pen helps you really connect with your brain.
Therefore, bring your planner, a fancy notebook, some blank cards (they are useful to write affirmations, prompts or reminders), a pen you enjoy writing with, some pencils and highlighters.
Anything that helps you take notes in a pleasing way.

(Bring your tablet or your laptop as well, if you’re planning on making a vision board that could come in handy. It’s also useful to watch inspiring resources like a workshop or some video.
However, do plan to take notes by hand.)


quote: spending time alone can help overcome most challenges

3. Detach from the world

The point of a personal retreat is to recharge and reconnect with yourself so you can feel refreshed. Therefore plan to have your phone on plane mode and stay away from social media.
Your feeds can wait for a day or 2.

If you really need to stay connected for work, plan to delegate, get a VA, use a scheduler for your posts or in last recourse limit time online to the strict minimum.

4. Make it fun

For a personal retreat to serve its purpose, it’s really important to keep things fun and inspiring.
It’s now clear that having fun has many health benefits  and that playing enhances the life of adults in many ways. Make good use of this knowledge and indulge in guilt-free fun.
It’s good for your health, it’s good for your mood, it’s good for your soul.

It should not need to be said (but experience has proven that it sometimes does): have fun in a healthy, positive, constructive way.
If your idea of fun is to get trashed on cocktails, cheat on your partner and act irresponsibly in any way then you got the concept wrong.
This is not a license to feed your brand of dysfunction.
This is an invitation to engage in holistic, health-promoting, life-giving, soul-igniting ways to have fun.


personal retreat detox juice

5. Be good to your body

The health and the fitness of your body will help you on your journey to access insights from your soul.
You probably know how hard it is to think straight when you’re wired and exhausted. That’s why part of your personal retreat should focus on restoring some balance in your life.

Is there a cleanse you have been tempted to take for some time?
Like a juice cleanse for instance…?

Your personal retreat is the perfect time to try.

Or you could just eat a healthy detox diet full of hearty, healthy, nourishing and cleansing food.

Making food can be a huge time sucker.
To make the most of the limited time your personal retreat, it really makes sense to arrange for healthy deliveries or to check into a hotel that offers a great variety of healthy food options and order room service. A
fter all, you’re not here to prep food, you’re there to relax!

Only exception to that of course is if you’re a foodie for whom prepping delicious food is like therapy. Then, it’s a whole other story…

Get or give yourself some facials and some massages.
Use healthy, organic body and room scents, like perfumed body oils, relaxing pillow sprays.

Plan for some gentle exercise (long walks in nature, stretch, Pilates…) and for some rest periods: feel free to take naps and stay in bed late!


personal retreat: woman reading on a bed

6. Make it work for you

Now depending on how much time you can find for yourself all of this may not fit into your retreat, so select the key elements you’d like to add.

Here are some ideas on how you could structure your personal retreat:

  • If you’re exhausted and need space to think, grab a relaxing pillow spray, check into a nice hotel with deluxe bedding for a few hours and treat yourself to a luxurious morning nap, room service lunch in bed, followed by a meditation and an afternoon of journaling with some fancy tea.
  • If you’re in need a inspiration and only have a few hours, grab some food and juices at a healthy local spot, a comfy blanket, take off to a park with a journal, a list soul-searching prompts and recharge all day in the sun.
  • If you have more time and the budget to splurge, get on a plane, pick a location that inspires you, gorge on healthy food and massages, and connect with your coach for personally-tailored soul-searching sessions. (I offer a bespoke retreat support coaching package)

No matter where you are in life, find a way to work with what you have!

personal retreat: woman taking long walk on the beach

7. Begin your retreat

On the day of your retreat, start with a meditation to clear your mind and set an intention.

The goal is to release your parasitic negative thoughts, tune in to your inner guidance and focus on whatever aim you want to reach.
This could be finding clarity on your relationship, finding your center, what to do with your career, how to grow your business or anything else that is the center of your attention now.

It’s your retreat you know what it needs to accomplish.

To get your body relaxed start with a good stretch, a good nap or a massage.
Spray your scents in the space, take your time getting ready and send love and appreciation to yourself.

Basically, do whatever you need for your stress and tension to go down a few notches.

Be present in your body.
Express gratitude.
Use affirmations.

A successful personal retreat should always begin with a clear intention. Click To Tweet

Creative brainstorm with Paper on desk

II. The transformative practices

This is the core of your personal retreat. These are the practices that will allow you to reach the insights that support the intention of your retreat.

Don’t force anything, be easy.

You don’t have to get all the answers during your retreat, the point of your personal retreat is to re-engage the process of self-enquiry and restart the connection with yourself.

Here you want to let the intention of your retreat: guide you

Choose material to support where you want to experience a transformation:

  • Bring some worksheets with insightful prompts or a couple of blog articles for guidance.
  • Pick up a personal development book you’d like to work with.
  • Use an online workshop with some prompts to guide your transformation (I offer workshops to help you get unstuck and build your dream life).
  • Connect with a coach for a few hours of deep soul-searching.
  • Have a journal to collect your insights.
    It’s a good practice to start and finish the day writing in your journal. This way you can record the transformation.

  • Keep it fun and playful.
    You could also bring some adult coloring books. They are a great way to release stress and free your mind. You could also make a vision-board which is a great way to get clarity and get unstuck in any situation in a creative way.

For this transformational phase it really makes sense to start with some guidance.

There’s no point in wasting all the time you’ve set aside for your retreat struggling to come up with insightful questions or useful exercises. Your only job should be to dedicate the time to answering those questions and being involved in your practice.
Therefore make sure to choose and collect your supporting material ahead of time according to your objectives.

Also note that the transformative process should be light and easy.

I really recommend alternating the transformative periods with the relaxation periods.  Relaxation is your friend in this process.

During your personal retreat make sure to alternate between relaxing phases and transformative phases. Click To Tweet

Personal planning retreat: closing ritual with book facing the ocean

III. The closing practices

A personal retreat is not a hit-and-run affair.

For a personal retreat to truly be successful it should continue to have repercussions into your life long after the actually retreat is over.

To make sure you reap the most benefits from your personal retreat, here are a few steps that I recommend you follow.


quote: learn to appreciate the gifts you give to yourself

1. Thank yourself

I know it sounds woo but gratitude is a key aspects in any personal development process.

In these day and age, finding the time for a personal retreat is not a given, there are some many ways you could find excuses to go along with life, with the stress, with whatever is broken in your life.
All those things your personal retreat allowed you to address.

You should recognize this and honor yourself for this proof of self-love.

Nobody likes their gifts to be ignored.
And that probably means that the part of yourself that made the effort to pull this personal retreat off could need a show of gratitude.

You gave this gift to yourself you deserve to be thanked for it.

Take a moment to appreciate yourself and see if you can come up with a symbolic present to yourself to commemorate your retreat, something that helps anchor your new turn of mind.

2. Gather your insights

This should be an on-going process during your retreat.

You should always have a journal at hand to write your thoughts.

At the end of your retreat take a moment to review everything and capture the essence of the transformation you have achieved.

3. Make a commitment and plan for change

After gathering your thoughts, establish an action plan to make transformation last.

  • Your afternoon seeking inspiration in the park should lead to a concrete plan to implement those ideas that came to you.
  • Your rejuvenating hotel day stay to catch up on much needed rest should lead to a plan on how to stop your chronic exhaustion.
  • A personal growth getaway to reinvent your life, should lead to a concrete action plan to make a real change. (In my life reinvention workshop, I provide you with a planner to help you break down your transformation and keep yourself accountable for a whole year. That’s because big transformations require solid plans.)

In any case, whatever your personal retreat objectives were, you owe to yourself to commit to concrete steps to make the transformation last.

 personal retreat returning to your routine

4. Gently slide back into your routine

Once the retreat is over, slowly return your life.

I like to wrap up a personal retreat with a meditation, some intentions for life after the retreat and take it easy for a few days afterwards.

No need to dive right back into the social media drama or open your email right away.

Instead get acquainted to your space first and let the contrast between your retreat and your home inform you.

Sometimes there’s a bit of a back-to-life, back-to-work blues.
There’s a message in there too. Make sure to take that in as well. It’s also part of the power of a personal retreat.

Collect your thoughts in your journal first. Then do what needs to be done in the ‘real’ world.

5. Have a check-in system in place

Check with yourself a week after your retreat to see how you are doing.

  • Are you still on-track?
  • Are you getting overwhelmed by life?
  • Have you identified any new short-comings you need to address?
  • Do you need support to implement your insights?

If you don’t take the time to check in, you can be sure that’ll be back to square very soon.
This is a non- negotiable element for the success of your retreat.

pink watch on a pink journal with coffee cup

6. Wash-rinse-repeat

Life is an on-going process.
We grow, we changes, there are challenges.

Therefore a personal retreat shouldn’t be a one-time event, it should be a foundational tool in your success toolbox.

  • Summer/ Mid-year personal Retreats

I love summer check-ins.

Since we’re half-way across the year, it’s the perfect time to re-assess yearly objectives. Also, there are always impromptu events, new opportunities: basically things that side-track you or unplanned things you’d like to integrate into  your year plan. A mid-year personal planning retreat is the perfect time to address that.

A personal planning retreat is also very easy to schedule at this time of the year.
Everything slows down, life is quieter and the sun is shining.
It’s easy to improvise an impromptu mini-retreat in a park on a sunny day.

  • End-of-the-year planning personal retreats

Towards the end of the year (late October or early November, before end of the year madness) is a perfect time for a personal planning retreat to assess the year, put the turbo on a few crucial projects that need to be completed by the end of the year and re-schedule projects that can wait until the following calendar year.

That’s also when I like to plan the next calendar year so my action plan is ready by January 1st.

  • Spring cleaning retreats

During the spring, you may discover aspects of your life that you’re no longer so enamored with.

That’s the perfect time for a spring-cleaning personal retreat to shed the dead weight and give your life a boost.

  • Personal growth retreats when you’re feeling stuck

And of course, things happen in life every day.

A personal growth retreat can help you process any crisis, figure out if a big life-changing opportunity is for you (such as should you move to another country where you have never been to accept you dream job) or if you need to sever connections (quit your job, end any kind of relationships), get insights when you feel lost, stuck, demotivated, overwhelmed.

Basically, a personal growth retreat is an invaluable tool to weather the storms in life.

A personal growth retreat is an invaluable tool to weather the storms in life. Click To Tweet

Support during your retreat

Soul-searching can feel overwhelming especially if you have limited time to plan and enjoy your retreat.

As mentioned earlier, I have winged retreats in the past, but I had weeks at my disposal.
I could spend hours pondering my questions and researching soul-searching prompts, it didn’t matter.

Now, if you are on a tight-schedule, that’s a whole other story.

If you’re already stressed-out, planning your personal growth retreat shouldn’t become a project onto itself. You want to that part covered.

You want a few easy-to-follow, time-tested tools to guide you.

I have a few resources that can help you there.

  • Feeling completely stuck? DIYing personal planning retreat to gain clarity and solve an issue that’s bothering you?

    This vision board workshop includes all the guidance and the prompts you need to get to the core of the issue and create a vision board to manifest the perfect solution you need.

  • Planning a personal retreat to figure out your life? Ready to start over?

    This reinvention workshop includes all the tools you need to completely turn your life around, including 12 months of daily prompts to manifest and implement the transformation you crave.

  • Don’t feel like looking for prompts? Looking for truly personalized guidance during your personal retreat?

    I also offer 1-on-1 coaching support during your personal retreat wherever you are in the world.

Enjoy your retreat!

Planning a personal growth retreat shouldn't become a project onto itself. Make sure to get support to reap the maximum benefits without stress . Click To Tweet

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Edited on Dec. 26th, 2019

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I am Dominique! I help smart, sassy, successful (but unfulfilled!) women create soulful lives. (You can learn more here)

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